Projects: Bukit Barisan Selatan

An "umbrella" species
Rhinos, like other megavertebrates such as elephants, require large areas to support viable populations. They act as “umbrella” species in the ecosystems that shelter them: their conservation requirements, by default, encompass those of other smaller species.

The rhinos in BBS are facing increasing pressure from the range of human activities that surrounds the park and leads to severe habitat degradation and loss.

Of the fewer than 300 Sumatran rhinos remaining worldwide, an estimated 20-40 rhinos are thought to survive in Bukit Barisan Selatan (BBS). However, the park is capable of supporting a much larger rhino population.

Gradual encroachment into the Park
BBS, unlike many other protected areas in Sumatra, suffers from a more insidious loss of forest to gradual encroachment for illegal logging and conversion to agriculture, rather than the more prevalent and rapid large-scale habitat loss plaguing much of Sumatra. In particular, the clearing of forest in BBS for coffee and pepper plantations has contributed substantially to this loss.

Effects of habitat loss
This shrinkage of habitat is especially significant for a large herbivore such as the Sumatran rhino. Compression into smaller and smaller blocks of forest also increases the incidence of human-rhino conflict and augments another serious threat to the rhinos: poaching. Rhinos are poached for their horns which are used in traditional Chinese medicine (for fever reduction, for example) and to make dagger handles in the Middle East.

BBS highlights
BBS is the third largest protected area in Sumatra. The park has more than 300 bird species, as well as most of Sumatra’s large mammal fauna, including the Sumatran rhino, tiger, and Asian elephant, in still viable numbers. Lakes and swamplands in the park shelter various waterbird species, and two sea turtle species use the park’s beaches as nesting sites. BBS is also an important area for Asian elephant conservation.
5 facts about BBS National Park
  • Covers an area of 1,377.64 miles2 (356,800 ha.) in the extreme southern tip of Sumatra, encompassing the southern part of the Bukit Barisan Mountain Range.
  • A major watershed, 70% of the park is lowland rainforest, a highly threatened habitat.
  • Located within a terrestrial WWF Global 200 ecoregion: Sumatran Islands Lowland and Montane Forests.
  • Selected as one of WWF’s Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy (AREAS) top priorities for its population of Sumatran rhinos.
  • Represents part of the Bukit Barisan Selatan-Kerinci-Riau Complex, one of seven WWF priority tiger conservation landscapes.

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