Berbak National Park
|In recent times Berbak was changed from a game reserve to a national park. At the same time the size of the protected area was reduced from 2,447 square kilometres to 1,716 square kilometres. It probably has the best habitat for the Sumatran tiger and is also the most important reserve area for the tapir, as well being Asia’s most significant peat swamp reserve and the best freshwater reserve in Sumatra.|
Berbak is situated on the east coast of Sumatra in the province Jambi. Nine months of the year large areas of the park are flooded. The soil in the area is highly acidic and the trees tend to be low growing, having a canopy of about 40 metres. Though much of the area was once considered poor tiger habitat, due to a low prey base, it seems the area still holds a large number of tigers. The distribution and numbers are very vague and many of the conclusions drawn regarding the tigers of this area are based on little information and calculated guesswork. It is assumed, at the present time, that tigers occupy the entire park rather than restricting themselves to areas of higher prey base. The estimated tiger population for Berbak is 18-21 cats, 6-7 males and 12-14 females.
When heavy rains cause vast flooding, the wildlife heads towards often inaccessible mountainous areas. Despite the high ground Berbak National Park is considered one of the least secure reserves for the tiger and a proposal for an improved buffer zone is underway to assist in remedying this.
The park is home to approximately 150 members of the nomadic Kubu tribe. These people were the original inhabitants of the swamps and even today they have almost no contact with outsiders. There are some people who consider the tribe may even have disappeared by now. The effect their presence may have on wildlife is unknown, but not presently considered of importance.
Mammals found in the park include the Sumatran rhinoceros, mouse deer, Malayan sunbear, biawak, clouded leopard, siamang, leopard cat, agile gibbon, bearded pig, common otter, hairy-nosed otter, yellow-throated marten, fishing cat, bottle-nose dolphin, chicken and barking deer.
Birdlife is also very rich with 11 kingfisher species and nine of the ten hornbills found on Sumatra represented. The park can claim more than 150 species of tree and 13 species of palm; this makes it the most palm-rich swamp so far recorded.