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deforestation Gunung Leuser NP
Deforestation photo by Kathleen Sullivan

deforestation Gunung Leuser NP
Deforestation photo by Kathleen Sullivan

bulbophyllum biflorum
Bulbophyllum biflorum photo by Eric Hunt ©

coelogyne speciosa
Coelogyne speciosa photo by Eric Hunt ©

paphiopedilum primulinum
Paphiopedilum primulinum photo by Eric Hunt ©

paphiopedilum tonsum
Paphiopedilum tonsum photo by Eric Hunt ©

paphiopedilum victoria-regina
Paphiopedilum victoria-reginae photo by Eric Hunt ©

oil palm
Oil Palm in Gunung Leuser National Park photo by Kathleen Sullivan

Orchid Habitat Loss 

Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia text by Mark Sullivan photos by Kathleen Sullivan and Eric Hunt
More pictures by Eric Hunt visit: https://www.orchidphotos.org

Deforestation just outside Gunung Leuser National Park photo by Kathleen Sullivan

Gunung Leuser National Park established in 1980 covers 7,927 km² (1,958,797 acres) in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The national park is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra. It represents a significant natural habitat for in situ conservation because of its large diversity of flora, fauna and ongoing ecological and biological processes. An orangutan sanctuary of Bukit Lawang is located inside the park. It is one of two remaining habitats of the Sumatran Orangutans (Pongo abelii).

Oil palm production, slash and burn, and logging are all threats to the on going viability of Gunung Leuser National Parks as a protected area.

oil palm
Oil Palm in Gunung Leuser National Park photo by Kathleen Sullivan

Palm oil is the most productive oil seed in the world. "A hectare of oil palm may yield 5,000 kilograms of crude oil, or nearly 6,000 liters of crude according to data from JourneytoForever." Oil Palm is used in biodiesel, as an ingredient in foods, a base in cosmetics, and in lubricants. Indonesia is the world's second largest producer of oil palm. "These plantations generated 11.4 million metric tons of crude palm oil with an export value of US$4.43 billion and brought in $42.4 million (officially) to the Indonesian treasury. Since then, the value of palm oil has only climbed. The price of palm oil currently stands at more than $400 per metric ton [by 2007 prices were more than twice this figure], translating to about $54 per barrel—quite cost completive to petroleum."  Why is oil palm replacing tropical rainforests? Why are biofuels fueling deforestation? Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com With the ever increasing price of crude oil, the pressure to expand and increase oil palm agriculture will continue.

Oil palm cultivation is happening within Gunung Leuser National Park. In November 1995, the Langkat Regency government proposed a road through the park to an old enclave, Sapo Padang, located in the park. Sapo Padang had been abandoned in 1953 and the area had become a secondary forest by the 90's. The head of the park agreed to the road construction. 34 families sensing an economic opportunity moved back to the old  Sapo Padang village site. A few families formed a cooperative (KUD) to start an oil palm plantation. The oil palm proposal was accepted by the regency government in October 1997 under the government's Poverty Alleviation Program. The initial cooperative oil palm plantation cleared 42.5 km² of park land.

"To implement the oil palm scheme, the Sapo Padang KUD formed a partnership with an oil palm factory called PT Amal Tani, owned by the immediate family of Jamin Ginting, the commander of the nearby Kodam I Bukit Barisan military unit. The director of Amal Tani became an executive of the KUD. The military unit’s charitable foundation, Yayasan Kodam I Bukit Barisan, also entered the picture, agreeing to cooperate with the KUD as implementers of the government’s Poverty Alleviation Program."[1]

"In June 1998, the local office of the Forestry Service issued a decree (No. 6201/1/783) stating that the Sapo Padang enclave was no longer legally a part of the national park."[1]
The military's charitable foundation took care of the administrative details to clear the road. The head of the park agreed to the 11 km road construction.  The Sapo Padang KUD cleared forest for the road and planted oil palm.

The Leuser Conservation Foundation (Yayasan Leuser Lestari - YLL, based in North Sumatra) field investigation uncovered the facts and publicized their findings. This led to a consortium of NGOs bring several lawsuits in various Indonesian courts against a number of civilian officials from national, provincial, and local government, the military foundation, the Sapo Padang KUD, and PT Amal Tani, as well as PT Kencana, another partner firm in the Sapo Padang oil palm scheme. The lawsuits have provided only a partial victory and that victory is on appeal. "The legal process did not stop the project, however, and the local press continues to report extensive logging and clearing, road-building, and oil palm planting in the project area within the park. By the time the courts ultimately rule on the case, it may be too late to remedy the damage."[1]
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunung_Leuser_National_Park#cite_note-0

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