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Gunung Leuser National Park

The Gunung Leuser National Park (TNGL) is located in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, spanning two provinces of North Sumatra and Aceh. It covers an area of 7,927 km2 and is one of the largest national parks in Indonesia and protects one of the richest tropical forests in South-East Asia. The park gets it name from its highest point at 3,381m of Mount Leuser and is settled in the Barisan mountain range, known as the 'Andes of Sumatra'.  It is mostly steep and mountainous terrain which is mostly inaccessable. However, Bukit Lawang and the surronding areas are the main gateways for entering and exploring the fabulous national park. The rainforest is extremely biodiverse and known as 'the last place on earth' because its the only place that still has some of the most endangered animals co-existing in the wild; Sumatra Orangutans, Tigers, Elephants, Rhinos and Sunbears. While you are unlikely to encounter a Tiger or Rhinoceros in these forests unless you hike for many days and go deep into the jungle, it is possible to see Orangutan and Elephants in these forests.

The Gunung Lesuer national park contains many different ecosystems including mangrove forests, peat swamp forest on the Western side to the lowland forest in the East, where the high mountains are covered in thick, dense tropical rainforests. The national park is actually a group of nature reserves and forests distinguished by these various ecosystems. Along with Kerinci Sablat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park they form a UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 2004), known as Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra. It is one of the last remaining biologically diverse rainforests and is home to an estimated 10,000 plant species, including the spectacular Rafflesia Arnoldi and Amorphophallus titanum, the largest and tallest flowers in the world. It is known to support over 700 different animals; more than 200 mammal species; 580 bird species; at least 190 species of insects and amphibians. It is also the life support for more than 4 million people who rely on its water, soil ersosion control, natural medicines, and most importantly flood and drought prevention.

Gunung Leuser National Park in North Sumatra. Showing Bukit Lawang location. Taken from http://www.sumatraecotourism.com/leuser.html 

In 2011 the national park was declared as being in danger. It is threatened by local and economic interests and although protected, suffers from illegal logging and deforestation for an ever-growing population. The main threat is small and large scale oil palm agriculture, which is encoraching on the borders of the national park.  In the past five years, the park has lost over 20% of its lowland forests. However, through sustainable ecotourism development, which is controlled, can have a role in safe-guarding the national park and bordering forests. By providing treks and tours in the area, visitors will see the amazing beauty the national park has to offer and will hopefully tell others. With a continous flow of visitors and with responsible tourism, it has great potential for both conservation and economy for local people.

Deforestation in the Leuser Ecosystem from 1990 - 2006, showing existing forest cover in 2006. Taken from Researchgate.net