A UNIQUELY RICH ECOSYSTEM
The Bukit Tigapuluh (Thirty Hills) area has been declared by World Wildlife Fund to be one of the most biodiverse areas in the Sumatra, and indeed the world. The area is one of the largest contiguous stretches of lowland and hill dipterocarp forest, an ecosystem unique to the Sunda region. It is also one of the last remaining refuges for Sumatra's charismatic large megafauna, from Sumatran tigers, Sunda clouded leopards, Sumatran orangutans, and Sumatran elephants, among numerous other endemic species. The critical need to protect this area is evident - in combining protecting the land from illegal poaching and encroachment with habitat restoration for wildlife, our hope is that the 30 Hills will remain a home for these critically endangered species.
Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) are a subspecies of tiger found in the tropics of Southeast Asia. There are two main subspecies, the continental tigers including Amur and Bengal tigers, and the Sunda Tigers, of which only the Sumatran remains. Tigers are solitary, carnivorous animals. Adult males can weight as much as 660 pounds but Sumatran tiger males rarely weigh more than 310 pounds. Currently, there are about 3,900 tigers left in the wild. One of the greatest threats facing tigers is habitat loss followed by poaching. Tigers do not make good pets, though many are sold as pets on the black market or raised for their body parts. This fuels poaching.
Tapirs (Tapirus indicus) are large herbivores and an important prey species for tigers. There are five species of tapir but only one in Southeast Asia, the Malayan or Oreo tapir. They are related to horses and rhinoceros. They have an odd number of toes with four in the front and three in the back. Females are bigger than males, and can weigh up to 700 pounds. At between six and eight feet long, they are almost as big as tigers! Tapirs are good indicators of the health of an ecosystem as they are among the first species to suffer from human activities.
Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatrensis) are a subspecies of the Asian elephant. They are smaller than African elephants but are still quite large; they can grow up to 3 meters tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 5.5 tons. They are highly social animals that form family groups led by a dominant female. When the males grow up they tend to live alone. Elephants are also very intelligent and are able to form strong bonds with people and other species. They are very protective of their young. Sumatran elephants inhabit the lowland rainforests of Sumatra where they are important habitat engineers and seed dispersers. Elephants are herbivores so they only eat plants. In one day they can eat up to 150 kg of plant matter.
Orangutans (Pongo abelii) are large primates whose name means "person of the forest" in Malay. They live in dense forests where they spend most of their time in trees. They sleep in nests that they build in tree tops. The females live with their young while the males are solitary. The largest males can grow to be up to 5 feet tall and weigh up to 200 pounds. Orangutans are highly intelligent and share 96.4% of our genes. The threats they face include habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade, with many orangutans being captured and sold as pets. Some get lucky and are rescued by organizations that teach them how to be orangutans and live in the forest. Once they graduate from these "forest schools" they are released to be wild orangutans again.
Clouded leopards (Neofelis diardi) are medium-sized cats that weigh between 25 and 50 pounds. They are neither true big cats nor true small cats because they can neither roar nor purr. Instead, they growl, hiss, and chuff (a breathy cough used in greeting among many cat species). Clouded leopards eat species like gibbons and small deer, and they can take down relatively large prey. Clouded leopards live throughout Southeast Asia primarily in lowland tropical forests, though they are also found in drier forests and mangrove swamps. Originally thought to be one species, they are now categorized as two separate species, with the Bornean and Sumatran clouded leopards being one and the mainland cats being the other.
A tiger seen in the Bukit Tigapuluh area in 2014 by WWF camera traps
A tapir seen in the Bukit Tigapuluh area by WWF camera traps
A still taken from drone footage of elephants in the Michelin wildlife corridor connecting Jambi I and Jambi II
Source: Sunda Rainforest Project
A baby orangutan hangs onto her mother as they watch researchers from the trees
Source: Sunda Rainforest Project
A clouded leopard seen in Borneo, Indonesia
Source: WWF Alain Compost