The governor of North Sumatra and the district head or bupati in the Mandailing District recently declared a new national park in Northern Sumatra, making way for what local officials and communities hope will be a declaration at the national level and hence funding support from the national government.
The declaration of Batang Gadis National Park, encompassing 108,000 ha at the southern end of the Northern Sumatra conservation corridor, is certainly the fastest in Indonesia's history, according to Indonesian conservationists.
Whereas most of the country's parks have been declared in a top-down process initiated by the national government, this is one of the first under Indonesia's decentralization of natural resource management.
This protected area outcome emerged with Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) support, as it was highlighted as a conservation priority and opportunity during a five-year vision mapping process led by Conservation International (CI) Indonesia with area stakeholders.
Further impetus arose from severe flooding that killed more than 200 people in the North Sumatra resort area of Bukit Lawang in November 2003. The bupati who made the declaration said he wants to protect his people from such disasters but also to leave a legacy for his grandchildren and their children.
The Batang Gadis National Park is an integral part of a 400,000-ha area in the Angkola portion of the corridor that CI Indonesia and its partners are working to secure. The park is said to be home to Sumatran tigers, rhinos, elephants, Malayan tapirs and other key species.
CI Indonesia will be conducting an assessment of the park's biodiversity starting this month.