Bukit Lawang is a prominent nature tourism site located in Leuser forest in North Sumatera. As the matter of fact, Bukit Lawang is the only place in Sumatra which offer possible viewing of semi-wild orangutans in natural habitat. From 2001-2015, Bukit Lawang has been visited by an average of 5400 foreign visitors and 1800 domestic visitors per year. However, the large number of visitors may pose a threat for orangutan conservation if tourism practice is not well regulated in terms potential risk of disease transmission due to close phylogenetic of human and orangutan. Not to mention the changes in behavior of the Orangutan leading to aggressive behaviour as a result of continuous proximity with humans.
Therefore, OIC continue to play an active role to promote responsible tourism practice in Bukit Lawang. From 2010, the OIC has been developing the campaign towards responsible orangutan viewing by establishing guidelines to orangutan viewing for tourist and guides, installing Information boards, training the guides, and producing documentary film for visitors before orangutan viewing activity. Recently the OIC together with National Park authorities, KNCF from Japan and YEL conducted another professional training for guides in Bukit Lawang aiming at educating the guides to implement safe and responsible practice.
This training was followed by 60 participants from Guide Association in Bukit Lawang. During the training, the guides received enlightenment and insights on ecotourism principle, responsible orangutan viewing, guideline to the national parks, laws, and first aid and rescue training from national SAR team. On this occasion, I, from OIC had a chance to deliver a training materials on “Guideline to Orangutan Viewing”. By following this training, it is expected that the guide will develop their capacity in order to drive the success of the ethical orangutan viewing in accordance with the guideline and regulation from the authority.
The guides are the key for the survival of orangutan and the sustainability of Bukit Lawang tourism. They are the key to educate the visitors and spread the message about nature and orangutan conservation. Indeed, any behaviour changes can be a long process and hard fight. But nothing is impossible with the strong commitment and willingness. Keep supporting our work!