Kerinci Seblat National Park
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|Kerinci Seblat National Park was, until quite recently, the largest reserve in Indonesia. Its 13,000 square kilometres (1.5 million hectares) spans four provinces across the southern part of Sumatra: West Sumatra, Jambi, Bengkulu and South Sumatra. It consists of the mostly mountainous terrain of the Bukit Barisan Mountain range; the park’s highest peak being the active volcano Gunung Kerinci (3,805 metres).|
This park contains Sumatra’s most significant population of Sumatran rhinoceros, estimated at somewhere between 250 and 500 animals. Other significant mammals include elephants, tapir, clouded leopard, flying squirrels, sun bears, the extremely unusual serow (a goat-deer), Kerinci rabbits (found nowhere else in the world), melanistic golden cats which are often mistaken for black panthers (photographed in 1996), the tiger, and the mysterious orang pendak, a form of great ape. A total of 43 species are found at Kerinci Seblat National Park, the greatest number of any reserve in Sumatra. Of these 24 species are protected. (Count does not include subspecies).
The orang pendak has been reported in Kerinci Seblat for the past 150 years, but has yet to be identified by experts. Recognised by local inhabitants by several names, it has now become Asia’s greatest natural history mystery. A common answer given for the sightings is that these are orangutans which have travelled south of their usual habitat. But orangutans are mostly an arboreal great ape, while the orang pendek reports inevitably have them as ground-based and walking bipeds.
Sightings of this claimed animal are reducing and camera traps have produced nothing, so this may be an indication that the orang pendak is traveling the road towards extinction. On the upside, the camera traps have enabled researchers to learn a great deal more about the wildlife within Kerinci Seblat National Park. The photographs have included a number of tigers and current estimates consider Kerinci contains 133-139 tigers, 44-47 being males and 89-92 being females.
Unfortunately, this park is widely considered by poachers and hunters to be the most likely area in which they will have success. Poaching of tigers and rhinoceros is rife and loss of the tiger from the area would mean the wild pig would breed to pest numbers and destroy crops on local farms. Tigers are a natural control preventing this. Increased anti-poaching measures have been put in action and as well as working directly to protect tiger these four-man groups also maintain the park and try to ensure its boundaries and buffer zones do not suffer from too much encroachment.
But it was only back in 1992 that serious encroachment meant the boundaries had to be redrawn. Logging operations still occur on the very edge of buffer zones, while hillside farming and rattan collecting commonly happens within the park itself. Large areas of Kerinci are slowly being converted for agricultural use.