Wild Sumatran Orangutan Tualang Gepang Ecotourism

Conservation Based Ecotourism: Leuser Guardian


Conservation-Based Ecotourism to Discover Wild Sumatran Orangutan in Gunung Leuser National Park, Tualang Gepang

Tualang Gepang Ecotourism - Wild Sumatran Orangutan

Discover wild Sumatran orangutans in the non-tourist area of Gunung Leuser National Park

According to new research, ecotourism can only effectively contribute to the conservation of orangutans and other critically endangered animals if it generates enough revenue to offset logging or poaching revenue. It can also use some of the profits to support efforts to return human-wildlife conflict-affected animals to their natural habitats. Equalibirium, or a state of human intellectual and emotional balance toward wildlife in this area.


Tualang Gepang and SUMECO.


SUMECO’s ecotourism activities in Tualang Gepang will significantly contribute to conservation initiatives aimed at reducing wildlife exploitation in the area. It is imperative to acknowledge that SUMECO will be established in Tualang Gepang in the future, with the objective of promoting its wild Sumatran orangutan as a new ecotourism destination.


Since February 2012 until November 2025, SUMECO has been based in Bukit Lawang. SUMECO chose Tualang Gepang, which is only 15 minutes by motorbike from crowded Bukit Lawang, to establish its Wildlife Conservation Camp and ecotourism base due to its ideal location and capacity to prioritize its conservation performance in rescuing and rehabilitating the animals of Gunung Leuser National Park.


SUMECO has been engaged in ecotourism for over a decade and has come to the realization that the poverty line outside the ecotourism zone is a very real and serious issue. In reality, it will be exceedingly challenging to convey conservation narratives while local communities continue to grapple with the threat of starvation. Halaban Ecotourism, which features wild Sumatran elephants, remains SUMECO’s ongoing assignment. However, we are not content to remain at that level; we are now embarking on a new endeavor: Tualang Gepang Ecotourism, which features wild Sumatran orangutans. The enterprise will continue to operate as long as it is profitable, and animals will be saved.

Animals In Tualang Gepang

Biodiversity of Gunung Leuser National Park

Compared to Bukit Lawang, Tualang Gepang’s animal diversity would be significantly greater. It is more advantageous to look for wild Sumatran orangutans, siamangs, and reptiles like snakes and lizards away from human settlements; the SUMECO team has even discovered the footprints of Sumatran tigers on multiple occasions. The search for the animals in Tualang Gepang is not as straightforward as in Bukit Lawang; however, herpetologists preferred this region to observe their target species.


When it comes to jungle trekking activities away from touristic areas such as Bukit Lawang, Tualang Gepang is the best option. The animals there behave very differently from those in Bukit Lawang. Here, even the application of ethical trekking will be strictly enforced.


Animals in Tualang Gepang Are Animals in Bukit Lawang.


The distance between Tualang Gepang and Bukit Lawang is only 7 km, if you pull straight, it is no more than 5 km, and it is still Gunung Leuser National Park. The animals we have seen in Tualang Gepang are wild Sumatran orangutans, gibbons, bears, porcupines, pangolins, king cobras, various species of eagles, and hornbills.I say again, the wild life is not easy to see as they are distant and unaccustomed to humans, but there were definitely no tourists.


Where to See Wild Orangutan in Sumatra?


Tualang Gepang will be developed as an ecotourism destination for the purpose of observing wild orangutans in Sumatra. This has a conservation impact by creating employment opportunities for local communities, particularly fruit farmers, who are frequently impacted by conflict between orangutans and humans.

Ecotourism, Livelihood and Wildlife Conservation

Bukit Lawang and Tualang Gepang

We recognize the need to promoting sustainable lifestyles and actively contributing to environmental conservation, particularly in relation to animal welfare. These are actions we can take right now to ensure the success of community-based conservation initiatives.


The COVID-19 pandemic period served as a crucial and profound lesson for SUMECO, highlighting the company’s vulnerability and significant financial and operational challenges in the absence of tourism revenue. SUMECO highly values and acknowledges the significance of Sumatra’s biodiversity, but, it is unattainable without the revenue generated from ecotourism.


SUMECO differs significantly from large NGOs that have ample international funding sources. In fact, SUMECO deliberately distances itself from this approach due to the prevalent internal manipulation aimed at generating profits through the establishment of NGOs. In contrast, SUMECO was established by me (Bobi Handoko) to utilize and allocate a significant portion of my personal income from a small privately-owned company, and I am a native Indonesian.


The presence of orangutans in Bukit Lawang has had a significant economic impact, benefiting many parties up to a distance of 140 km, from Bukit Lawang to Kualanamu International Airport. Based on SUMECO’s extensive experience collaborating with prominent NGOs over a span of 3 years, it was seen that there was a little aversion towards ecotourism operations. This perspective stemmed from the belief that such activities compromised the NGOs’ ability to effectively conserve natural resources and meet their performance goals, since they were driven by the pursuit of more funding.


Conservation in Tualang Gepang.


The conservation efforts in Tualang Gepang are closely tied to the primary objective of SUMECO and the Gunung Leuser National Park administration, which is to safeguard the park region from illegal activities and preserve the wildlife. Ecotourism activities in Tualang Gepang such as jungle trekking, herping, bird watching, and caving will be used as a means to facilitate these conservation endeavors, with the company’s profits being directed towards the objective of preserving these species.

Wild Orangutan and Jungle Trekking

Exploring the non-touristy area

To effectively cater to the requirements of environmentally conscious tourists, it is crucial for us to devise a strategy that not only benefits them but also contributes to the preservation of Gunung Leuser National Park. The local community will consistently play a leading role in contributing to wildlife conservation efforts around Gunung Leuser National Park. It is imperative to preserve the biodiversity of Sumatra, particularly in Gunung Leuser National Park. If the animals are not adequately safeguarded and if ecotourism fails, SUMECO will face significant challenges, as its funding only relies on the earnings generated from its ecotourism operations.


During the tourist season, Bukit Lawang has experienced overcrowding due to its status as a prominent tourist destination to see orangutans in Sumatra, attracting thousands of visitors annually. We received a few isolated complaints from foreign tourists expressing discomfort due to the high volume of tourists engaging in jungle trekking activities in Bukit Lawang. Therefore, slowly, carefully, and ethically, SUMECO will gradually move to Tualang Gepang in order to create a sense of comfort in conservation and ecotourism. Never forget, SUMECO is dedicated and resolute in assisting Gunung Leuser National Park in establishing a secure environment for the preservation of the Leuser and its wildlife.


Jungle trekking in Tualang Gepang will be different; traditional rafting to return to the village will be absent on the one-day Tualang Gepang jungle tour. Jungle trekking will be mostly focused on looking for wild Sumatran orangutans. The flora and fauna in the jungle of Tualang Gepang Ecotourism remain unchanged from those present in Bukit Lawang, because it’s still Gunung Leuser National Park, and Tualang Gepang is a mere 15-minute motorbike ride away from Bukit Lawang. Frankly speaking, encountering animals during the jungle trekking in Tualang Gepang is largely dependent on chance, given that this area is entirely untamed.

The activities inside Gunung Leuser National Park through Tualang Gepang, will cover the exploration of biodiversity, especially the endemic species. With + 40 EUR / day of regulated price, you will be assisted by an expert on local wildlife (a zoologist) for species identification. The regulated prices include food, camp, guides, and documentation during the expedition. A nocturnal hike is included in all packages, and the search for nocturnal species inside Gunung Leuser National Park is our priority.

Sumatran Orangutan

Pongo abelii

One of the three species of orangutans in Asia is the Sumatran orangutan, or Pongo abelii. They are situated on the island of Sumatra, as their name implies. Orangutans, which are also referred to as orange apes, are the sole species of great ape that can be found outside of Africa. Orangutans are characterized by their solitary existence, in contrast to other ape species that are highly social. Orangutans spend nearly their entire lives on the trees, whereas gorillas and chimpanzees spend the majority of their time foraging for food and traveling on the ground. This is another notable distinction between Sumatran orangutans and African great apes.


The Sumatran orangutan is more endangered than the Bornean orangutan due to the decimation of populations throughout much of their once-extensive natural range as a result of exploitation and habitat loss. All orangutans are endangered. Let us examine several critical facts regarding Sumatran orangutans.


1. Visual Characteristics and Structure (Anatomy).


Sumatran orangutans, Bornean orangutans, and Tapanuli orangutans hold the distinction of being the largest arboreal creatures on Earth. Consequently, they have evolved some significant modifications to facilitate their arboreal lifestyle, which involves spending the majority of their time on trees. Sumatran orangutans possess disproportionately long arms compared to their legs, which aids them in reaching branches. Both hands and feet possess exceptional agility and dexterity, enabling them to maintain a firm grip for extended periods of time. Orangutans have opposable thumbs, which enables them to grasp and remove the skin of fruits. Sumatran orangutans are marginally smaller than Bornean orangutans. They often possess lighter fur and longer beards compared to Bornean and Tapanuli orangutans. Sumatran orangutans exhibit cranial proportions that are significantly larger and possess facial features that are more rounded compared to the Tapanuli orangutans, which are also indigenous to the island of Sumatra.


2. Diet and Nutrition.


Sumatran orangutans are omnivorous creatures who consume both plants and animals in order to sustain themselves. Nevertheless, the primary component of the Sumatran orangutan’s diet is fruit obtained from trees in close proximity. Remarkably, Sumatran orangutans possess the ability to not only locate fruit trees, but also accurately predict the timing of fruit ripening. Sumatran orangutans consume not only ripe and unripe fruits that have a simple peeling process, but also a diverse range of plant components including fresh shoots, insects, eggs, and tiny animals. Sumatran orangutans mostly satisfy their hydration requirements by consuming this fruit. Nevertheless, they are also recognized for their ability to consume water by manually grasping water sources.


3. Distribution.


The Leuser Ecosystem is a permanent home to Sumatran orangutans. This habitat is located on the boundary between the northernmost provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra, covering an approximate size of 2.6 million hectares. The Leuser Ecosystem, located in Southeast Asia, is the most extensive conservation area for rainforest ecosystems in the region. It harbors about 85 percent of the remaining rainforest ecosystem in Sumatra. The population of Sumatran orangutans in the area exceeds 1,000 individuals.


4. Threats.


The orangutans’ natural habitat in North Sumatra has undergone substantial reduction, mostly as a result of fires, the conversion of forests into oil palm plantations, and other forms of agricultural development. Sumatran orangutans rely heavily on pristine forests. Frequent and purposeful forest fires, often used to clear land for plantations, have become a widespread tragedy. Fires not only devastate the habitat of orangutans, but also result in the death of the orangutans themselves. Their inability to evade the flames was due to their sluggish movement.


5. Our Relatives.


The Sumatran orangutan shares a DNA resemblance of 96.4 percent with humans, making it one of our closest living cousins. Sumatran orangutans closely resemble humans in both physical appearance and behavioral traits. In Malaysia and Indonesia, orangutans are referred to as Orang Hutan, which translates to “Forest People”. While all three species of orangutan have a preference for alone (solitary), Sumatran orangutans are comparatively more amenable to socialization. Indeed, they frequently appear in familial units and gather in regions abundant in nourishment or uncontaminated water. Sumatran orangutans, like other great apes, exhibit high levels of intelligence and have been observed utilizing tools in their natural habitat, such as employing sticks to gather honey. They covered their hands and feet with leaves to shield themselves from prickly vegetation. Empirical evidence indicates that the acquisition of skills is contingent upon the specific population, implying that skills are transmitted to the younger cohort through teaching rather than being inherited.


7. Conservation Status.


The IUCN has classified the Sumatran orangutan as critically endangered at present. Consequently, if the harm persists, these species will inevitably confront extinction in their natural habitats in the foreseeable future. The increasing demand for tropical timber and inexpensive palm oil seems to be hastening the process of deforestation once more. These operations are frequently conducted unlawfully in regions inhabited by Sumatran orangutans. The Sumatran orangutan population is believed to have declined by 80 percent during the past 75 years. Given that this creature mostly inhabits trees, its ability to survive heavily relies on the existence of forests. Preserving their survival necessitates endorsing initiatives aimed at combating unlawful deforestation and wildlife hunting. Sumatran orangutans also possess significant potential and play a crucial role in sustaining ecotourism by generating thou sands of employment opportunities.

SUMECO is proudly independent; it's funded only by the income of its ecotourism business

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