Gunung Leuser

Gunung Leuser (Mount Leuser) National Park is a national park covering 7,927 sq km in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, straddling the border of North Sumatra and Aceh Provinces. The National Park named after 3,381 m height of Mount Leuser, protects a wide range of ecosystems. An Orangutan sanctuary of Bukit Lawang is located inside the park. Together with Bukit Barisan Selatan and Kerinci Seblat national parks it form a World Heritage Site, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra.

Gunung Leuser National Park is 150 km long, over 100 km wide and is mostly mountainous. 40 % of the park, which is mainly in the north, is steep, and over 1,500 m. 12 % of the park only, in the lower southern half, is below 600 meters but for 25 km runs down the coast. 11 peaks are over 2,700 m and the highest point is Gunung Leuser, which 3,466 m high. Temperature 21o- 28o C, rainfall 2,000 - 3,200 mm/year, at the geographical location 96o35' - 98o30' E, 2o50' - 4o10' S.

Gunung Leuser National Park is one of the two remaining habitats for Sumatran Orangutans (Pongo abelii). In 1971, Herman Rijksen established the Ketambe research station, a specially designated research area for the orangutan. Other mammals found in the park are the Sumatran Elephant, Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhinocheros, Siamang, Mainland Serow, Sambar Deer, and Leopard Cat.

The Leuser ecosystem lists over 382 species of birds, 105 species of mammals, 103 species of reptiles and 35 species of amphibians. The flora contains some 3,500 plants species, and in one hectare you can find 130 different tree species.

It is believed to contain around 300 elephants, 60 tigers and 40 rhinos, but the chances of seeing one of these is slim. There are also around 5,000 orangutan as well as gibbons, the white breasted Thomas leaf monkey, the long and pig tailed macaques, the white handed gibbons, and the cuddly black siamang. Also living in the park are clouded leopards, marbled cat, crocodile and sun bears and over 300 birds species including the rhinoceros hornbill and the helmeted hornbill. The Rafflesia Arnoldi, largest flower in the world, can also be found within the park.

Gunung Leuser National Park represent several ecosystem types, from coastal forest ecosystem through tropical lowland forest ecosystem to montane forest ecosystem. Most of the park area is covered with thick Dipterocarpaceae forest with rivers and waterfalls flowing through it. There are some endangered and peculiar plants, namely Daun Payung Raksasa (Johannesteijsmannia altifrons), Rafflesia Flowers (Rafflesia atjehensis and R. micropilora), and Rhizanthes zippelnii, the biggest flower, with a diameter of 1.5 meters. In addition, there is the one plant unique to the area : The Ara, a strangling plant.

Endangered and protected animal species which inhabit the park include Orangutan (Pongo abelii), Siamang (Hylobates syndactylus syndactylus), Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus), Serow (Capricornis sumatraensis), Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis), Sambar Deer (Cervus unicolor) and Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis sumatrana).

Gunung Leuser National Park has been declared a Biosphere Reserve. Under a cooperation program between Indonesia and Malaysia, the park is also designated as a 'Sister Park' to the Taman Negara in Malaysia.

Agriculture is a major source of income for the local communities around Leuser. Large rubber and oil palm plantations in northern Sumatra play a major role in the national economy. Almost all remaining lowland forest has been given out officially for oil palm plantation. Yield decline has been recorded, however, in several Leuser regencies. This decline can be ascribed mainly to a deterioration of nutriens in the soil, along with soil erosion, drought and floods, and an increase in weeds. Clearly, these causes of decline are linked to the deforestation of Leuser. For example, the logging of water catchment in Leuser is found to be responsible fo taking 94 % of failed irrigation areas out of production.

Declared by Minister of Forestry No. 276/Kpts-VI/1997. May 23, 1997.