20.02.2014 - UNESCO Office in Jakarta

Protecting Critical Sumatran orangutan Habitat

Human-orangutan conflict and mainly habitat destruction constitute serious threats to the orangutan conservation inside and surrounding the park.

Under the Spanish LifeWeb grant, from September 2011 to March 2014, the Great Apes Survival Partnership GRASP/UNEP-UNESCO has been working to support the Indonesian government’s efforts to address environmental threats at the Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP) and adjacent conservation areas. These challenges were approached  through effective management and protection of critical wildlife habitats including a scientifically-sound ecosystem restoration in Sei Serdang (Gunung Leuser National Park. The aims of the project are to recover degraded forest areas by applying a natural forest succession process; an economic wellbeing of local communities living adjacent to the park by applying community-based ecotourism; and human-orangutan conflict mitigation. We cooperated closely with the GLNP authority, Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA) and Forestry Research of Development Agency (FORDA) for coordination, joint project implementation, monitoring and sharing of lessons learned. The coordination with these agencies will influence and improve national policy on protected area management and in particular Sumatran orangutan conservation. Together with Desma Center, UNESCO carried out a capacity building activity for the national park staffs. UNESCO also worked closely with Orangutan Information Center (OIC), Sumatra Eco-Explore (SEE), Simpul Indonesia, and Tangkahan Ecotourism organization (LPT) to promote the community-based ecotourism program in Tangkahan. In addition, we collaborated with FORINA (Indonesian Forum Orangutan), organizing the national platform for orangutan conservation that gathers all main stakeholders (research institutions, conservation NGOs, government bodies, international partners, etc.)

Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP) and adjacent ecosystems remains one of the biggest and best preserved habitats of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan. An orangutan census carried out in GLNP in 2011 has confirmed the presence of orangutans in habitats previously known to host populations of this species. Nevertheless, the pressures (mainly habitat destruction) and conflict between orangutan and local community (orangutan killed) constitute serious threats to the orangutan conservation inside and surrounding the park.

To address this issue, the project has restored and re-established ex oil plantation in Gunung Leuser NP through equipment provision and capacity building. Well-equipped park with enough capacities, continuous monitoring and patrolling efforts has imposed a real and psychological pressure on the continuation of illegal activities within the park. The project has further developed the capacities of the NP staff in protecting the integrity of the park and its species through equipment provision and capacity building.

At the same time, under this initiative, in cooperation with GLNP and FORDA, UNEP-UNESCO has carried out an ecosystem restoration approach, by accelerating the natural forest succession process in 27 ha of degraded low-land forest area in Sei Serdang, North Sumatra which was identified as a critical orangutan habitat. The project built a fully equipped hut to host the restoration team on a permanent basis and developed a nursery area. The permanent presence of the team was proven to be the key for the success of the project, providing intensive care to the seedlings, regular monitoring to the areas and increased visibility of the area as national park, acting as a deterrent to forest crimes. Based on this experience the initiatives expanded the scientifically sound ecosystem restoration approach in Sei Musam. In collaboration with FORDA, this project also developed a restoration guideline for scientifically sound ecosystem in Gunung Leuser NP, which has a practical approach and is supported by scientific facts.  

The project also collaborated with the OIC, LPT and GLNP to improve the park conditions and local capacities for sustainable community-based ecotourism through various trainings and organic demonstration plot for alternative livelihood for local community. It also aimed to put in place strategies that warrant the sustainability of ecotourism whilst ensuring that the natural environment and species did not suffer threats to their integrity. Best practices, e.g. creating community based ecotourism in Tangkahan, show that tourism could make a difference in changing the attitude of communities towards the park. Once local communities start receiving incentives from the presence of tourism they will support and protect the biodiversity in the park, as their income is dependent on the environmental integrity of the park. The downside of this was that tourism has been growing uncontrollably in certain area. According to LPT, the number of visitors increased of 3000 to 41,000 (local and international) in 2012. This was posing a direct threat to the wildlife of the park (i.e. human-orangutan sickness transmission and littering).

In response to the high incidence of human-orangutan conflict in GLNP and adjacent ecosystem, in cooperation with FORINA (Indonesia orangutan Forum), the LifeWeb Initiatives has also assisted the government of Indonesia in developing national guidelines on orangutan rescue. The national guidelines focuses on terminology of human-orangutan conflict, human-orangutan conflict criterions,  orangutan rescue criterions and principles, procedure in orangutan rescue, including preparation, implementation, evacuation and quarantine, and monitoring and evaluation. These guidelines will serve as a standardized methodology for all practitioners in Indonesia, including government agencies, NGOs and research institutions.

With an effective management and protection of critical wildlife habitats in GLNP and adjacent ecosystems ensure the population of key species to remain stable.

To watch the project video (created by UNEP in July 2013) please click  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XUFPyh_yoI&feature=c4-overview&list=UU1IlOGxry9ESJPoWJOjZoWg

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