Sumatra: Orangutans in their Forest Home
Mostly known for its former orangutan rehabilitation center, Sumatra’s Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP), together with two adjacent national parks, is a World Heritage-listed tropical rainforest and the largest area of wilderness in SE Asia. GLNP hosts an amazing biodiversity of forest types and exotic species, many of which are critically endangered. Stretching for nearly 8000 square kilometers in northern Sumatra, this mountainous forest sustains populations of orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos.
Two Swiss zoologists, Regina Frey and Monica Boerner, together with German and American conservation societies established the Sumatran rehabilitation center for orangutans in 1973. Taken over in 1980 by the Indonesian authorities, the center no longer admits rescued orangutans for rehabilitation and release. Since 1996, the center recognized the high number of orangutans released into the wild was not sustainable as the rehabilitated individuals risked importing unnatural disease to their wild relatives. However, it is still possible to observe semi-wild orangutans at a feeding station inside the national park. Your more intrepid travelers who can take a challenging hike deeper into the forest have a great opportunity to spot these “people of the forest” moving up in the trees or preparing a nest for a nap.
But it’s not only about the orangutans! GLNP has so much to offer for your nature-loving traveler. The ecosystem is home to 85,000 plant species including the world’s largest flower, the enormous and brightly colored rafflesia. Gunung Leuser is also home to more than 127 mammal species, including several types of primates (monkeys) more numerous and much easier to spot than the elusive big orange ones.
There are three prominent, non-volcanic peaks in GLNP: Mt. Tanpa Nama (3466m), meaning mountain without a name, is the highest mountain in the park and second tallest in Sumatra, Mt. Loser (3404m) and Mt. Leuser (3119m), for which the park is named. Mt. Loser is not the highest but is the most accessible and gives trekkers some spectacular views that will certainly provoke that invigorating feeling of being on top of the world!
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