Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry signed a ministerial decree in early May declaring Batang Gadis a national park—a move expected to be officially announced by President Megawati Sukarnoputri in the park on the island of Sumatra later this month.
The decree is the first since the Indonesian government’s public pledge in February to create 12 new protected areas in 2004, including Batang Gadis National Park in Northern Sumatra and Tesso Nilo in Sumatra’s Riau Province.
“This is the first time a locally designated protected area has been granted national park status in Indonesia,” says Jatna Supriatna, vice president for Conservation International-Indonesia (CI-Indonesia).
Earlier this year, local officials declared the 108,000-hectare swath of forest as a protected area under a new scheme allowing local bupati or district heads to designate land for protection. Their action helped prompt the governmental commitment to create new national protected areas.
The designation of Batang Gadis as a park at the national level is expected to help bring greater governmental and donor resources, including funding, to help secure this area.
It follows a recent exploratory mission led by CI-Indonesia that found signs of the Sumatran tiger and other threatened wild cats in the newly declared protected area.
Signs of Sumatran tiger, Asiatic golden cat, leopard cat and clouded leopard were seen during the mission organized and led by CI's Northern Sumatra team. The Sumatran tiger and the Asiatic golden cat were even captured on film by camera traps that the team set.
Preliminary results from the survey also show some 239 different vascular plant species within the new park, making it among the planet’s most diverse floristically.
Other findings include the presence of Malayan tapir, siamang, agile gibbon, banded leaf monkey, Malayan porcupine, sun bear and Sumatran serow. The park has historically been home to a number of threatened species including Sumatran orangutan, Sumatran rhinoceros and Sumatran elephant.
The protection of Batang Gadis as a national park is key to efforts to create the Northern Sumatra biodiversity conservation corridor. The park would be an integral part of a 400,000-hectare area in the Angkola portion of the corridor, which could be connected, via a series of protected areas and forests, all the way to Gunung Leuser National Park in the far north of the island. The entire corridor would encompass some 3 million hectares.
Key partners involved in this project include the Ministry of Forestry, the Provincial Government of Northern Sumatra, the Mandaling Regency Government, CI-Indonesia and other local organizations from Jakarta, Mandailing and Medan.