Top 100 Indonesia Wonders of Nature: 13. Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park

Bukit Barisan Selatan (BBS) National Park is the third largest protected area (3,568 km2) in Sumatra. The park is the main watershed for southwestern Sumatra, providing water and ecological services to local communities.

Its elongated shape makes it difficult to protect, because the ratio of boundary-to-interior is so high. The eastern boundary tends to follow the watershed, while the western boundary is located close to the foot of the mountains, and, in some areas, follows the coastline. A series of protected forest areas were created to form a buffer zone on the eastern side of the Park, but all of these have swallowed up by human encroachment.

Bukit Barisan Selatan is one of the highest priority areas for Sumatran megafauna, and in particular, for the Sumatran rhino, the Sumatran tiger, and the Sumatran elephant. It is home to the second largest population of Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinos sumatrensis sumatrensis), estimated between 60 and 85 animals. Sumatran rhinos have declined at a rate of 50% over the past 10 years, largely from deforestation and habitat fragmentation. There are now about 250 surviving, most on the island of Sumatra, with a remnant population on the island of Borneo.

Bukit Barisan’s elephant population was estimated to be about 500 a few years ago – now comprising about one-fourth of Sumatra’s elephant population. However, because of the Park’s configuration and associated difficulties in protection, combined with a paucity of substantial tracts of lowland forest and burgeoning encroachment into the Park for agriculture, human-elephant conflict is high. Crop raiding remains a threat – and killing of crop-raiding elephants, using guns or poison, is still occurring. Nevertheless, elephants are still common in
most of BBS and their spoor can be seen in many places.

Other species also are present in significant numbers in Bukit Barisan Selatan (including the clouded leopard, tapir, sambar, barking deer, wild boar, siamang, gibbon, and Sumatran hare) and also are at risk. Deer and pig are the main prey of Sumatran tigers, and also attract hunters. Poaching of wildlife is increasing, both from “traditional” hunters using snares and other older methods, as well as from “sportsmen”, using firearms. Firearms are widely available in the area, and sometimes are provided by the army or police. With subtle support from these groups, poachers are becoming more aggressive.

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