Sumatran Orangutan Ecotourism Development Programme in Bukit Lawang
Bukit Lawang, North Sumatra, Indonesia, was once the site of an orangutan rehabilitation project, and continues to provide the opportunity for visitors to view both semi-wild and wild orangutans on daily excursions into the Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP). Although it is forbidden to touch, feed, or disturb the orangutans, such practices continue to occur for the enjoyment of visitors. These practices present a major cause for concern with regard to the orangutans being exposed to human sickness and disease. Furthermore, food given to the orangutans by the guides and visitors can hinder the semi-wild population from becoming free-living in the wild, discouraging them from reducing any dependence on humans.
Ecotourism has the potential to contribute to both conservation and development goals through its self-generating administrative revenue, and can thus provide a sustainable livelihood opportunity for the local community. However, it must be carried out responsibly and managed correctly to function to its full potential. It is therefore crucial that measures are taken to intervene at Bukit Lawang to raise tourism standards, including setting new visitation protocols that best protect the orangutans and other wildlife, as well as the local community and visitors. Even with the problems presented through tourism, experts have recognized it as a potential strong force in helping to save the orangutans.
AOP is providing financial support to assist the Orangutan Ecotourism Development Programme. The goal of this programme is to transform Bukit Lawang into a world renowned ecotourism site and centre of conservation learning and education. Elements of this project include:
Marike Ecotourism Development Initiative, North Sumatra
The Marike Ecotourism Development Initiative (MEDI) is a grassroots programme to promote the protection of the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) and their rainforest ecosystem, working with communities living next to the Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP) in the Marike region of North Sumatra. The GLNP Authority has expressed its desire to develop Marike into an ecotourism site, and has requested the assistance of the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) due to the progress made in their analogous programme in Bukit Lawang. The forests at Marike host a population of purely wild orangutans (as opposed to rehabilitants in Bukit Lawang), as well as many natural wonders that can be viewed on jungle treks, such as stunning waterfalls and old-growth primary rainforest trees.
The overall aim of the Marike Ecotourism Development Initiative is to link sustainable development initiatives with a developing ecotourism industry based on the natural beauty and biodiversity hotspots of the area. With financial support from, SOS will train the community with the skills needed to manage and implement true, sustainable ecotourism. Tree nurseries will be established to support the restoration of national park forests which have been damaged by illegal encroachment. The MEDI will promote conservation amongst communities living adjacent to areas of high biodiversity, helping them protect and improve their livelihoods and, in the process, safeguard an ecosystem of vital importance in the global fight against climate change.
AOP Sponsorship provides:
- Village school programme with a focus on eco-tourism development.
- Capacity building including eco-tourism guide training and English lessons.
- Conservation camps offering educational experiences for school groups and visitors.
- Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP) Restoration including the restoration of degraded forested areas and a tree adoption programme focused on the tourism market.
Training the tour guides
New, professional uniforms provided to the eco-tour guides
New pocket guide book to Gunung Leuser National Park