WHY 
VISITING SUMATRA

START YOUR ADVENTURE IN THE SUMATRAN RAINFOREST

The Gunung Leuser National Park is one of the richest tropical rainforests in South East Asia and is located in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and placed on a list of world heritage sites in danger in 2011,

the Gunung Leuser National Park covers around 1,095,000 ha in northern Sumatra and has amongst one of the most diverse

biodiversity in the world by housing thousands species of indigenous animals, insects and plants.
This amazing rainforest provides also a home for endangered and protected species like the Sumatran Tiger, Rhinoceros, Slow Loris, Elephant and of course the wonderful people of the forest, the Sumatran Orangutans!

 

A rainforest with a unique biodiversity

The rainforest covers around 1,095,000 ha and peaks at 3,404 m with the summit of Gunung Leuser which gave the name to the National Park ! Its unique eco-system hides rivers, volcanoes and lakes. This rainforest is the most  biodiverse in South East Asia with an amazing fauna & flora. It hosts approximately 750 different animal species – more than 200 mammals, 580 birds, 300 reptiles and amphibians. It is the only place in the world where you can see the big Sumatran mammals Tiger, Rhino, Elephant & of course the Sumatran Orangutans. Amongst these 200 mammals species, there are 8 species of primates living in the jungle : the Siamang, the Thomas Leaf Monkey, the White-Handed Gibbon, the Pig-tailed Macaque, The Long-tailed Macaque, the Silver Leaf Monkey and the Slow Loris. The Gunung Leuser National Park also has an enormous richness of plant species. The flora contains approximately 10.000 plant species, including the spectacular Rafflesia Arnoldi and Amorphophallus titanum, the biggest and the highest flower in the world.

Threaten by palm oil plantations

The wonderful Gunung Leuser National Park is an UNESCO World Heritage Site (listed 2004). In 2011 it was placed on the list of world heritage sites in danger. Scientists estimate that 98% of Indonesia's forests will be destroyed by 2022 and Greenpeace estimates that Indonesia destroys about 51 square kilometers of forests every day, equivalent to 300 football fields every hour.

The biggest threats to the rainforest in North Sumatra, are of course palm oil plantations, mining concessions and induced road development, agricultural encroachment but also illegal logging and poaching. In recent years efforts are undertaken for conservation purposes including attempts to establish community forests as well as other community development activities, and many tropical forests are now under government protection. However the extinction of endemic species especially plants and some of the world’s most endangered animal species remain a great threat!

Home of many endangered species

The 1,095,000 hectares of tropical rainforest which make up Gunung Leuser National Park is one of the last places in Indonesia where the increasingly endangered Sumatran Rhinos, Tigers, Elephants and Orangutans all live. Due to the increasing threats (deforestation, forest degradation, loss of habitat, etc.) to Sumatran rainforest ecosystems, all these endangered species and other fauna & flora species could disappear in the year to come. 

Visiting Bukit Lawang is a good way to save the rainforest ! 

UNESCO and Gunung Leuser NP are collaborating to improve the Gunung Leuser National Park conditions and local capacities for ecotourism market development, as well as promoting the National Park as an international ecotourism stop. The example of Bukit Lawang has shown that tourism can make a difference in changing the attitude of communities towards the rainforest. Once local communities start receiving incentives from the presence of tourism, they will support and protect the biodiversity in the Park and significantly reduce forest crimes in these areas. 

Let's visit us to PRESERVE the rainforest

MEET THE SUMATRAN ORANGUTANS

There are only two places in the world where you can still find Orangutans in the wild rainforest ! One of this two place is the Gunung Leuser National Park, home of the last Sumatran Orangutans (Pongo abelii). (The other remaining orangutan species (Pongo pygmaeus) is found on the island of Borneo.) Around less than 6500 Orangutans still live in the ca.1,095,000 ha of the Gunung Leuser National Park.

The "people from the forest"

Orangutan is the world’s largest arboreal mammal and means “people of the forest” (Orang means people & Hutan means forest) in Indonesian. There are only two species of Orangutans in the world, both located in Indonesia : the Pongo Abelli is coming from Sumatra & the Pongo Pygmaeus from Borneo.  

If they are called "People from the forest" it's because Orangutans share 96.5% of their DNA with humans ! 
Indeed if you just have a look at them you will notice it directly!

  • They spend 95% of their time high in the rainforest and have adapted their lifestyle according to the canopy changes. They spend most of their lives in the tops of the trees and climb from branch to branch. Orangutans can make several kilometers per day when they looking for food. That's the reason why they are making a new nest each night in another high tree. They mostly eat vegetarian stuff and insects. Orangutans love leaves and fruits including jack fruit, but they also often eat bird eggs, termites or ants.

  • Compared to other primate species, they are living alone and have minimal social interaction, generally meeting only during love season ! Orangutans have the longest inter-birth interval of any land-living animal as they are giving birth to a single baby only once every 8 years. The baby Orangutan stays with its mum until he is 7-10 years old. A female Orangutan will usually have no more than 3 babies in her life!

  • Adults Sumatran Orangutans are around 1.4 meters tall and males can weight up to 80 kilograms. Females are smaller, being 0,9 meters tall and weighting around 40 kilograms. Orangutans have a long life compared to other primates as they can often live around 45 years in the wild. 

Our guides will let you know more about this amazing species during your trek! 

An endangered species

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists Sumatran Orangutans as a critically endangered species. With less than 6500 remaining Sumatran Orangutans in the wild, current estimates suggest that they could be the first great primate species to extinct in the world!

 

The Sumatran Orangutans are living in the fragile rainforest what makes them vulnerable as habitat loss is by far the greatest threat to them but they are also threaten by other human activities. Here are the different threats they are exposed to: 

 

  • The expansion of unsustainable oil palm plantations is the most important threat to their survival as it destroy the rainforest, their natural habitat ! Indeed, huge areas of rainforest is destroyed and converted into huge palm oil plantations. Palm oil is used by many manufacturers and is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet. It can be identified in half of all packaged products sold in supermarkets, from pizza dough and instant noodles, to detergent, shampoo, lipstick and biodiesel. In an attempt to combat global warming and climate change it has also been suggested that palm oil can be used as a biofuel BUT the amount of carbon dioxide released by converting forest to industrial plantations is 10 times that released by burning fossil fuels. Plus it destroys the Orangutan's natural habitat what makes them even more endangered ! Greenpeace estimates that Indonesia destroys about 51 square kilometers of forests every day, equivalent to 300 football fields every hour, leaving Orangutans homeless and often found wandering outside of protected areas, in forests under management by timber, palm oil and mining companies.

  • Another major threat for Orangutans is both legal & iIllegal logging of timber as it contributes to damage their natural habitat. 

  • Pet trade also add to their decline even if many efforts are undertaken by organizations to reduce this trend. The capture of Babies Orangutans for the pet trade are mostly found on land when they destroy and burn the rainforest during conversion to palm oil plantations. The mother Orangutan has to be killed in order to get her baby because she will NEVER willingly give it up! Orangutans are often kept as pets by local rural people but also politicians and military/police staff even if it is forbidden by the Indonesian Law to possess an Orangutan.

  • Illegal mining of alluvial gold, silica, quartz is also becoming an important threat to Indonesia’s National Park and thus Orangutans. 

  • Forest fires (to clear land for palm oil plantations, human induced or uncontrolled) also have a devastating effect on orangutan habitat. During the terrible fires of 1997-98 the Orangutan population of Borneo decreased by 33% in one year! 

Bukit Lawang & its rehabilitation program

In Bukit Lawang, between 1973 and 1991, around 230 orangutans have been brought back into the forest from captivity in the framework of a Rehabilitation Program. Some of them have become wild-living animals in the primary forest. However, most of them remain semi-wild and keep coming back to the secondary forest close to the village. 

JOIN US FOR TREKKING TO MEET THE
SEMI-WILD & WILD ORANGUTANS ! 

Follow our jungle guidelines when you enter the rainforest & meet orangutans !

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​© 2018 by Sumatra Orangutan Explore.

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Picture by the guest Ryan Eliot Nelson