Welcome to responsible travel in North Sumatra
Gunung Leuser National Park
The Gunung Leuser National Park, GLNP (Taman National Gunung Leuser) is located in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, spanning two provinces of North Sumatra and Aceh. It covers an area of 7,927 km2 and is one of the largest national parks in Indonesia. It protects many ecosystems and is one of the richest tropical forests in South-East Asia.
The park gets it name from its highest point, Mount Leuser at 3,381m and is settled in the Barisan mountain range, known as the 'Andes of Sumatra'. It is mostly steep and mountainous terrain which is mostly inaccessable. However, Bukit Lawang and the surronding areas are the main gateways for entering and exploring the fabulous national park.
The rainforest is extremely biodiverse and known as 'the last place on earth' because its the only place that still has some of the most endangered animals co-existing in the wild; Sumatra Orangutans, Tigers, Elephants, Rhinos and Sunbears. While you are unlikely to encounter a Tiger or Rhinoceros in these forests unless you hike for many days and go deep into the jungle, it is possible to see the Sumatran Orangutan and Elephants in these forests.
The Gunung Lesuer National Park contains many different ecosystems including mangrove forests and peat swamp forest on the Western side to the lowland forest in the East, where the high mountains are covered in thick, dense tropical rainforests.
The national park is actually a group of nature reserves and forests distinguished by these various ecosystems. Along with Kerinci Sablat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park they form a UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 2004), known as Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra. This due to its range of biodiversity and importance to the world.
The GLNP is one of the last remaining biologically diverse rainforests. It is home to an estimated 4,000 plant species, including 3 species of the spectacular Rafflesia flower, the largest flowerin the world. One of these species, the Rafflesia arnoldi can be seen in the national park from the village of Batu Katak. It is also home to the Titum arum Amorphophallus titanum, the tallest infloresence flower in the world. The region respresents one of the last remaining stretches of lowland dipterocarp forests in Indonesia. These dipterocarp trees are family of hardwoods and can reach up to 70m high.
The National Park is known to support many different animals. 129 of 200 mammals species live in the GLNP. Other than the Sumatra Orangutan, other species of primates can be seen in the forests: The Thomas-leaf Monkeys (Presbytis thomasi), endemic to North Sumatra, White-handed Gibbon (Hylobates lar), Siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus), Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) and the Pig-Tailed Macaque (M. nemestrina).
There approximately 350 bird species in the national park, thats one-third of all species in the world. One of the most majestic birds can be seen here, the Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) with its spectacular horn or "casque". Another is the Great Argus (Argusianus argus), which can be mostly heard in thte surrounding jungle.
Reptiles and amphibians are dominated by snakes, with an estimated 190 species within these groups. Insects are dominated by butterflies.
Tropical Forest Conservation Action says that around 89 species of animals are classified as rare, mostly endangered and are protected win the Gunung Leuser National Park.
Declaration Date: 1981
Administrative Division: Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and North Sumatra Provinces
Surface area (terrestrial and marine): 5,290,761.64 ha
Core area(s): 1,094,692 ha
Buffer zone(s): 1,494,877.52 ha
Location Latitude: 2°55'S - 4°05'S
Midpoint: 3°30'S - 98°30'E
Taken from http://www.sumatraecotourism.com/leuser.html
Valuable Resource for Humans
Both humans and wildlife depend on the National Park and surrounding forests to be preserved for survival.
The Gunung Leuser NP is the life support for more than 4 million people who rely on its water, soil erosion control, natural medicines, and most importantly flood and drought prevention.
In 2011 the national park was declared as being in danger. It is threatened by local and economic interests and although protected, suffers from illegal logging, encroachment by residents and deforestation for an ever-growing population.
The rate of deforestation in GLNP is 0.135% every year, which doesn't sound much, but in the past five years, the park has lost over 20% of its lowland forests.
With the Nation Park abundant in valuable resource; Dipterocarp hardwood trees (damar trees), medicinal plants and wildlife are threatened by illegal logging and deforestation for oil palm. The main threat to biodiversity is conversion to small and large scale oil palm agriculture. This threatens the already critically endangered Sumatra Orangutan. People bordering the national park are converting their small scale agro-forests to the more profitable oil palm, which often brings the orangutan in close proximity to humans. Local people see them as pest and often shoot them or take them from the area for the illegal pet trade.
Illegal poaching is also a major threat to wildlife, with many elephants and tigers are killed for tusks and skin. Birds are trapped and sold in the illegal pet trade market.
However, moving towards well-managed ecotourism development can have a role in safe-guarding the national park and bordering forests. This development does not depend on the extraction of natural resources or damage to the environment. Through education we can bring a better appreciation for wildife and the natural world and give opportunities to local people. We are working closely with Green Class - Bukit Lawang to educate children about the local wildlife and environment and the importance of saving it. Once local communities start receiving incentives from the presence of tourism, they will support and protect the biodiversity within the park and surrounding areas. With the hope of significantly reducing forest crimes in these areas.
By offering eco-treks and tours, along with community-based ecotourism in the National Park and bordering forests, visitors will see the amazing beauty these forests offer for both human and nature. With a continuous flow of visitors and with responsible tourism, it has great potential for both conservation and economy for local people.
Taken from Researchgate.net