BUKIT LAWANG AND SUMATRA ORANGUTAN
The Bohorok Centre for ex-captive Sumatran orangutans was established in 1973 by two Swiss zoologists, Regina Frey and Monica Boerner, with funding originally provided by the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). In 1980 the Centre was taken over by the Indonesian Government. Since then it has received virtually no outside funding, and it no longer operates as a rehabilitation centre for orangutans.
More than 200 orangutans were released. into the Gunung Leuser National Park. The centre has been closed to admitting more orangutans since 1996, as it no longer met modern standards of species re-introduction. Furthermore, the area is already over-saturated with orangutans, and therefore not suitable for releasing more rehabilitants. Releasing ex-captive apes into areas of forest where wild populations exist also risks importing disease. For these and other valid reasons, Bohorok cannot be modified and updated to function again as a rehabilitation centre.
A flash flood hit Bukit Lawang on 2 November 2003. The disaster destroyed the local tourist resorts and had a devastating impact to the local tourism industry in the area. Around 400 houses, 3 mosques, 8 bridges, 280 kiosks and food stalls, 35 hotels and guest houses were destroyed by the flood, including 239 people (5 of them were tourists) were killed and around 1,400 locals lost their homes. Local authorities and an environmental NGO attributed it to illegal logging. Thanks to several international cooperation agencies, the site was rebuilt and re-opened again in July 2004.
Nowdays Bukitlawang area remains open to visitors, providing the incredible opportunity of viewing orangutans in the semi-wild on forest treks, an experience which galvanizes support for their conservation and well-being, and fuels the local economy.