Growing again: Restoration of the Gunung Leuser National Park
First established in August 2007, the GLNP Forest Restoration Programme aims to undo the damage caused by large-scale conversion of national park forest into cash crop plantations. The solution is to engage the local communities as stewards of the forest restoration, first by educating them on the importance of forests and then rewarding them for their time and effort. Additionally, the project also provides sustainable alternative livelihoods for the local people with training and agroforestry schemes.
The programme is led by the Indonesian NGO Orangutan Information Center (OIC) and its international NGO partner Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS). Both NGOs are dedicated to conservation of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii). OIC is the first NGO to be granted permission by the Indonesian Government to work in the national park as part of the national forest rehabilitation movement in 2004. This project is the first in Indonesia and calls for fast replanting to offset the damage done to existing forests.
The impact of the restoration is important even though the coverage area is still relatively small compared to the entire national park. It aims to connect the disparate patches of forests to serve as corridors for animal movement. When OIC monitored the restored areas with camera traps to obtain critical data on wildlife, many animals such as Orangutan (Pongo abelii), Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), Javan Chevrotain (Tragulus javanicus), Leopard Cat (Felis bangalensis), Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi), Malayan Porcupine (Hystrix brachyura), Indian Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus), Thomas’s Langur (Presbytis thomasi) were captured on the screens. These are positive signs that the restored areas in GLNP are growing and brimming with life again.
Local community's perception of GNLP before the programme
In a survey conducted in April 2009, only 46% of the respondents were aware that GNLP is a national park. Many thought that the forest near them was either of lesser importance or were not sure if it had any protection.
Source: Survey report from the Sumatran Orangutan Society and the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), April 2010.