The Jakarta Post
From left to right: Chairperson of Forest, Nature, and Environment Aceh (HAkA) Farwiza Farhan, Conservation Manager of Leuser Conservation Forum (FKL) Rudi Putra and Leonardo DiCaprio are flanked by two critically endangered Sumatra elephants in the Leuser Ecosystem on March 26. (HAkA/Paul Hilton)
Mount Leuser National Park has been receiving a lot of attention lately following a visit from award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
Covering over 1 million hectares, the park is the largest forest area in the northern part of Sumatra and has been categorized as a world-heritage tropical rainforest by UNESCO.
In addition to being a conservation area, it is also a drawcard for North Sumatran tourism with highlights including the semi-wild orangutans at Bukit Lawang and tours with Sumatran elephants at Tangkahan, both in Langkat regency.
Annual revenue from visitors to the park reportedly reaches Rp 600 million (US$45,700) with up to 90 percent of visitors being foreigners. Entry tickets for domestic visitors start at Rp 5,000 while foreigners pay Rp 150,000.
Sadly, according to Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia, the numbers of key species living in the forest keeps decreasing, including numbers of Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans, due to the escalation of deforestation, hunting and trade. Access to destinations such as Tangkahan has also been made difficult as the roads have been damaged by trucks carrying palm oil.
On his official Instagram account, DiCaprio has said that the expansion of palm-oil plantations has fragmented the forest and cut off key elephant migratory corridors, making it more difficult for elephant families to find adequate sources of food and water.
"A world-class biodiversity hotspot, the Indonesian Leuser Ecosystem is one of the most important areas of intact rainforest left in Southeast Asia. Its forests are home to the densest remaining populations of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan. But palm oil expansion is destroying this unique place. Now is the time to save the Leuser Ecosystem. We must develop a permanent solution to protect and restore this valuable natural asset," DiCaprio described on the social network, adding that his foundation was supporting local partners to establish a mega-fauna sanctuary in the Leuser Ecosystem, which he explained was the last place on Earth where Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants coexisted in the wild. (kes)