Began as the rehabilitation centre for orangutan, Bukit Lawang started its journey as the one of the most famous tourism destination of North Sumatra province. In 1972, A Swiss based organization initiated this place as the centre for orangutan rehabilitation from captivity to be released back to the wild. Bukit Lawang was chosen as the second rehabilitation centre for orangutan after Ketambe. Until 1980, the Gunung Leuser National Park was formally established and declared by UNESCO as Biosphere in 1980 as well as an ASEAN Heritage Park in 1984.
During the rehabilitation stage, rangers also played the important role to support the existence of this rehabilitation centre. The national park rangers took the important part to teach the orangutan who lived in the rehabilitation centre the survival skills to live in the wild. As most of the orangutan had lost their ability to live in the live and got used to interact with human which was against their habit as the wildlife. After the particular period of quarantine, the orangutan could be readjusted and reintegration to their natural habit, the orangutan was released back to the forest as any wildlife suppose to be. However, the orangutans that have been released in this area are still being monitored by the rangers. Since then, Bukit Lawang is often visited by the foreign and local tourists who have fondness over this delicate creature, orangutan
Later after time went by, it was found out that visitor’s behavior at the centre was not being controlled and orangutan were often coming into direct contact with humans, exposing them disease and making them very much depended towards people for food poisoning. The rehabilitation centre was officially closed down on 2002 but the role of Bukit Lawang as the centre of ecotourism to see the semi-wild orangutan keeps going on until now. The scheduled of supplementary food through feeding platform were held twice a day regularly. However, this created another issue that the feeding platform is considered more likely to the tourism purposes only. As the matter of fact, it drove the dependent of the orangutan towards the feeding platform itself and reduced their wild behavior. By 2015, the feeding platform is officially closed due to many controversies from the many parties.
Despite of its journey and controversy, to date, Bukit Lawang is one of the famous ecotourism place in North Sumatra that many local people depend on. Though, it is important to highlight that Bukit Lawang is not just about viewing a single species only but the Gunung Leuser National Park of Leuser Ecosystem and the natural wonders are suppose to be the main attractions of the ecotourism of Bukit Lawang. That not only the local people but the visitors must be embraced and responsible to achieve the sustainable of the ecotourism of Bukit Lawang itself. Avoiding the irresponsibility behavior such as feeding the animal, littering inside of the park and being too close with the wildlife are the key points of support the conservation, not only for the orangutan but also to the nature and the ecotourism sustainability for the longer term.