Senin, 27 Juli 2009

A Green Journey through a Range of Hills


In a recent visit to Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (TNBBS) in Lampung, southern Sumatra, I and my colleagues from WWF Indonesia saw just a small portion of the assets the park contains, but had a tremendous experience.

We chose this park because it’s not too far from Jakarta and thus fairly easy to get to; it’s just a short hop across the strait from Java, followed by a land journey of about five hours from Bandar Lampung via Pringsewu and Kota Agung. If you’re using public transport, take the bus from Raja Basa terminal toward Kota Agung and stop in front of the TNBBS main office.

Several campgrounds are available for visitors to rent; information is available at the park office. I chose a small but comfortable site called Rhino Camp, operated by the Indonesian Rhinoceros Foundation (YABI) specifically for people who want to explore the park.

The camp is also designed to accommodate the patrol personnel who monitor large endangered mammals such as tigers, elephants, boar and rhinos. This camp, located in Tanggamus Regency, was the starting point for my journey into TNBBS.

It’s easy to get up early in the camp; the natural “alarm” sounded by various wild creatures rouses you to start your morning journey. From Rhino Camp, we headed towards the headwaters of Way Bamban, through some fairly easy terrain. Our guide told us that if we were very lucky, we might see some elephants or rhinoceros, which receive special attention, as their numbers are steadily declining.

the-head-of-the-rhinoThe Head of the Rhino Patrol Unit told us that during 2000-2002 there were still around 80 rhinos in TNBBS, but by 2003 they were down to only 60. However, no rhinoceros deaths have been recorded since that year. One reason the population has remained fairly constant is that rhinos have a life span of up to 30 years.

Along our way, as we headed toward the small stream that runs through the trekking area, we encountered some trees whose bark had been stripped off, as if rubbed by some large object.

“These are traces of elephants, which probably just passed through this area,” said one of our friends from YABI, who seemed quite familiar with this phenomenon. And in fact, we saw a lot more of this indicator later.

We kept walking; after around two kilometers, we headed into a hilly area with soggy soil. Though the trek itself wasn’t very tiring, we still had to be very careful; the area is full of leeches that can creep unnnoticed into the crevices of your body.

As we were about to return to the camp, we saw a hornbill display; we had heard their loud cries constantly during our trek through the woods. We tried to conceal ourselves and watch from afar so that the big birds would continue their “performance” on the tips of the tall trees. Data from the Park’s main office state that nine species of hornbill, or rangkong, have been identified here. Hornbills are very lively creatures; they can run and leap so fast that your eyes can’t catch their movements. Their display really enlivened our hike.

We continued hiking after lunch in order to see the giant flower, Rafflesia Arnoldi. We had to drive to the trailhead, as it was quite far from camp and the trail was slippery from the previous night’s rain.

We took a rather long but level route so as not to tire ourselves out. Along the way we encountered a Rafflesia Arnoldi that was now a bit wilted, as it had bloomed a month earlier, in February. The area was also teeming with insect and mushroom species. As well as flowers of several Rafflesia species, there were odiferous snake plants (Amorphophallus titanum and A. deculsivae), known in Indonesian as bunga bangkai, or “corpse plants”. This is also an excellent place for night hikes, as it is inhabited by tarsiers, those cute, tiny, wide-eyed nocturnal primates. We continued until we came to the Rafflesia Pillar, erected to indicate that this area is home to the unusual flowers, which attract both tourists and researchers.

This pillar also marks the boundary between Tanggamus and West Lampung districts.


The clear weather that day gave us a splendid view of the vast forest, part of which is within the Park. With an area of 356,800 hectares, the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park plays an important role in supporting life systems by conserving wildlife and their ecosystems, thus enabling the sustainable utilization of the larger environment.

The main problems faced here are illegal logging, which generates a lot of income for the perpetrators but causes great losses to the state, hunting of wildlife, and clearing of the forest to grow commercial crops such as coffee and cacao. WWF Indonesia is working with other NGOs to help tackle these problems.

After our afternoon hike, we visited a village where a group of organic robusta coffee farmers has recognized the importance of conserving the park area. After being given instruction and provided with certain facilities, they have applied the concepts of sustainable agriculture.

Their local wisdom alone has not sufficed to maximize coffee production outside the park zone, but it has inspired other farmers to protect this and other important areas for future generations. UNESCO declared this National Park the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra in July 2004.

bbsnBukit Barisan Selatan National Park extends over the provinces of Lampung, Bengkulu, and South Sumatra. Its natural phenomena include unique topography combining forest, beach, and mountains, and no less than 23 watersheds that support the lives of at least ten million humans. Lying within it are five specific tourism destinations: Tampang, at Belimbing, with a prestigious tourist resort; Kubu Perahu, with waterfalls and a variety of orchid species; Suoh, with natural hot springs; and Keramat Menula and Pemerihan. To the southeast, south and west, the park is bounded by Semangka Bay, Tanjung Cina, and the Indian Ocean, offering spectacular views of the waters.

We ended our experience in the Park with a visit to Bengkunat, the village closest to West Lampung. Here we saw another form of local wisdom at Sungai Way Baru, where the local people are generating their own electricity with a “micro hydro” plant using the swiftly flowing water and turbines. The villagers operate the plant collectively and use the power they generate for their own purposes.

According to the TNBBS Main Office, there are around 215 such micro hydro plants in and around the Park, with generation capacity of 3,000 to 7,500 watts each. In total, these plants generate 860,000 to 1,000,000 watts. At a rate of Rp 650 per watt, the power generated by micro hydro plants at TNBBS is equivalent to between Rp 559.000.000 and Rp 650.000.000.

From this fact alone, it is clear why application of local wisdom is essential to conserve our national parks.

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