Theft, illegal hunting continue in national park in Sumatra

Damaging activities and the illegal hunting of wild animals in Mount Leuser National Park (TNGL) have reportedly continued, posing a danger to the biggest conservation area in northern Sumatra.

Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Program (WCSIP) data show that 230,000 hectares of the park’s total area of 1,095,592 hectares had been damaged.

At the same time, the population of rare animals, such as the Sumatra tiger, rhinos, elephants and orangutans, in the park has continued to decrease in the last 20 years.

“The decrease in the population of these rare animals is in accordance with the increase in the forest damage in Leuser National Park,” WCSIP’s conservation area specialist Munawar Kholis told The Jakarta Post in Medan, North Sumatra, on Sunday.

Munawar said the decreasing population of rare animals in the area was relatively high. Providing examples, he said that while in the 1980s the number of rhinos was 60, it was currently only 20 to 30.

The population of the Sumatra tiger, similarly, had decreased from 150 in the 1990s to 100 presently.

Munawar blamed the condition on the significant increase in deforestation and on illegal hunting and trading in rare animals.

He said the forest was being damaged mostly by illegal logging. While forest damage in the Aceh region was mostly caused by bad spatial planning.

“In North Sumatra, illegal logging has damaged 30,000 hectares of forest in the park,” Munawar said.

He called on people to help preserve forests and rare animals in Leuser by, among other things, not keeping, buying or trading in protected animals and illegal forest products, such as wood and rattan.

“Buying and making use of illegal forest products means a person is participating in speeding up damage to the ecosystem in the national park,” he said, calling on people to report to authorities anything they know about such activities.

He said the Natural Resources Conservation Agency and the North Sumatra and Aceh police had dealt with at least 11 cases of trading in protected animals within the last eight years.

The head of the Leuser park center, Andi Basrul, said his office had in the last two months handled four cases of the distribution of logs illegally taken from TNGL. The perpetrators had been arrested and were under investigation.

He said that in cooperation with various partners, his office had tightened security in the TNGL’s ecosystem region.

He said the park deserved to be preserved because it performed “environmental services” that were important to humanity. The park, he said, functions as an area to store water, as a controller of the micro climate and as a carbon absorber.

“People often do not realize this, that forests are supporters of life,” Andi said, calling on all stakeholders to put a stop to forest damage and the hunting of rare animals in the park for the sake of human survival.