Wildlife Rescue

Dissemination, Rescue, Rehabilitation & Relocation


Bukit Lawang, North Sumatra

Manis javanica

Sunda Pangolin

Neofelis diardi

Sunda Clouded Leopard

Ophiophagus hannah

King Cobra

Helarctos malayanus

Sumatran Sunbear

History & Background of SUMECO Wildlife Rescue

Bukit Lawang, North Sumatra

SUMECO was officially established in 2014 with the primary aim of being a quick-response unit to rescue, rehabilitate and release animals (the focus is on protected species) that have been removed, or otherwise displaced, from the protected forests of the Gunung Leuser National Park around Bukit Lawang, in North Sumatra. I have utilized the profits from my Bukit Lawang Ecotourism business in the Bukit Lawang area to start-up and fund SUMECO’s conservation activities.


The Leuser Ecosystem.


The Leuser Ecosystem is located in the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra on the island of Sumatra, covering over 2.6 million hectares. Gunung Leuser National Park (TNGL) comprises 33% of the larger Leuser Ecosystem and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage designation for the Tropical Rainforest of Sumatra. This region is one of rich biodiversity and the last place in the world where Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatrensis), Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) and Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) co-exist in their natural habitat.


There is a worldwide acknowledgment of the global value of the Leuser Ecosystem, and extensive efforts are being made by the Government of Indonesia, in partnership with various International NGOs, to protect this valuable forest area. Despite these efforts to control deforestation due to the expansion of the palm oil and timber industries (leading to the displacement of animals) and prevent poaching (illegal removal) of wildlife from TNGL, the destruction and harm persist. While these large-scale policy-making and conservation efforts must continue in earnest; it is apparent that more localized and quick-action programs, like SUMECO’s, are needed to respond to the continued high rate of displacement and illegal removal of wildlife, which present as almost daily reports of wildlife needing to be rescued.


SUMECO Beginnings.


During a UNESCO research program that I supported between 2008 and 2011, I saw first-hand the impacts of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade in Aceh province. Driven by the desire to further understand the wildlife threat, I visited Bukit Lawang in 2012 with two American primate experts and an environmental activist friend. It was during my time in Bukit Lawang that I really began to understand human-wildlife conflict issues and the management needed to achieve positive outcomes. I decided to move to Bukit Lawang in 2013, where I explored the surrounding villages to unearth more detailed information about wildlife hunting activities. During this time, I observed many captivated animals and started to conduct rescues and releases. Keen to understand the motivation behind animal poaching, I conducted several meetings in 2014 with poachers and hunters. The years 2012–2014 were the formative years of SUMECO, where our understanding of the wildlife problem and our role in its resolution became clear. In August 2014, I made the decision to officially register SUMECO as an NGO and take a grass-roots approach by utilizing the local resources of Bukit Lawang, where people who benefit economically from tourists visiting TNGL to see the wildlife could be involved in its conservation.




Since 2014, SUMECO has rescued, rehabilitated (when necessary), and released more than 400 animals of various species back into TNGL under the supervision of and in partnership with BBTNGL (the Authority of TNGL). SUMECO has earned the trust and respect of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (BBKSDA), and the BBNTGL, who continue to request SUMECO to increase our activities in the area. There is no other animal rehabilitation facility in Bukit Lawang, with the nearest BBKSDA-operated facility almost 4 hours away. SUMECO is the only NGO doing animal rescue, rehabilitation, and release in the Bukit Lawang area.  SUMECO’s ability to respond to the high number of reports, and rescue large or severely injured animals is very limited by our basic infrastructure. Our current funding model is based on profits from our ecotourism business. We aspire to expand SUMECO so that any animal needing to be rescued, can be rescued. More details on the conservation activities that have been carried out by SUMECO are available on our official Facebook and Instagram pages.

SUMECO Operations & Key Areas of Conservation Activity

Gunung Leuser National Park

Wildlife Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release.


This is the primary focus of SUMECO operations, and since 2014, we have rescued and released over 400 animals. While our target is the rescue of protected species as per the IUCN Red List, we apply an equality concept to any animal needing to be rescued. SUMECO relies on the strong partnerships established with the authorities, animal experts, and the local community to be able to rescue, rehabilitate, and release animals, as outlined in the workflow below.


SUMECO animal rescue, rehabilitation, and release are guided by the regulations of the Ministry of Forestry and Environment of Indonesia, regarding the types of protected plants and animals. With the support and partnership that exists between SUMECO and BBTNGL, SUMECO has a designated release area in the in-situ conservation area of Gunung Leuser National Park.


Community Educational Programs and Operating Model.


To date, due to a lack of funds, SUMECO involvement in community educational programs has been opportunistic and limited. Our vision is to be more active in this area when we have an expanded rehabilitation facility that can support educational opportunities for the local community. SUMECO operates as a very lean organization, on the basis of transparency and honesty, with reliance on an informal network of partners.


Core Team From Local Community and Network of Experts.


SUMECO has built a strong network of scientists, academics, and veterinarians from local institutions and universities that advise (free-of-charge) on species-specific rehabilitation and release. These experts are associated with the Indonesia Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Andalas University, and North Sumatra University.


Partnership with Government.


The Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia, through North Sumatra’s BBKSDA, is the authority to handle wildlife on protected lists outside the Gunung Leuser National Park area. SUMECO works closely with BBKSDA and BBTNGL on all wildlife rescues, from a coordination perspective. There is no financial relationship between SUMECO and any government authority. BBKSDA has expressed interest and willingness to establish a formal cooperation agreement with SUMECO for the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of protected animals in the Bukit Lawang area if SUMECO can build a permanent rehabilitation facility to support the animals. The nearest BKSDA-operated rehabilitation facility is approximately 150 km away from Bukit Luwang. Even without the expanded rehabilitation facility, BBKSDA continues to support animal rescue activities carried out by SUMECO. Since 2010, more than 460 animals of various species (reptiles, birds, mammals, and primates) have been rescued and successfully released by SUMECO into TNGL under the supervision of and in partnership with BBNTGL.

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

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