Sumatra: Forest Home the Orangutan
Known largely 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 8,000 km² in northern Sumatra, this mountainous forest sustains populations of orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos.
Indonesian National Park
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.
More intrepid travelers can take a challenging hike deeper into the forest where they have the opportunity to spot these ‘people of the forest’ moving 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 nature-loving travelers. 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 – more numerous and much easier to spot than the large elusive orang-utans.
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), from 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!
For more information about Gunung Leuser NP, trekking in northern Sumatra and orangutans, please contact [email protected]