The Sikundur monitoring station, located in the Langkat District of North Sumatra in the Leuser Ecosystem conservation area, is the newest of SOCP’s biodiversity monitoring stations. It consists of primarily lowland dipterocarp and alluvial tropical rainforest habitat. The Sikundur area has had a relatively convoluted and dark past, as it was the site of both small-scale and large-scale logging operations between the years 1976-1988, and then again intermittingly in the 1990’s, the majority of which was conducted by the PT Raja Garuda Mas logging company. However, a sizeable amount of Sikundur’s forest habitat was also lost between 1976-1979, under the auspices of the Indonesian Nature Conservation Service (i.e. PHKA, which was then the PHPA), to a project marketed as “habitat rehabilitation”.

In 2000, the Leuser Development Programme, which was a co-sponsored (i.e. by the Government of Indonesia and European Union) programme being managed by the Leuser International Foundation (est. 1994) and implemented by a team of Indonesian and European conservationists (i.e. the Leuser Management Unit), started to work in the Sikundur area. Their primary objectives included the management and monitoring of the North Sumatran portion of the Leuser Ecosystem, including the local Sumatran elephant population, and these activities were primarily undertaken by the Leuser Management Unit, until the end of the Leuser Development Programme in 2004. Following the completion of this programme, the Leuser International Foundation assumed responsibility of all management and monitoring activities in Sikundur, where they maintain a few monitoring stations to this day.

Working closely with the Leuser Development Programme and Leuser Management Unit, the Sikundur orangutan population was briefly surveyed between 2000-2001 by Dr. Eva Knop (then from University of Zurich), under the direction of Dr. Serge Wich (then from Utrecht University). Eva’s early survey work was funded by the Schweizerische Akademie der Naturwissenschaften, and was supplemented by funds from the Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research, which had been awarded to Serge. Most importantly, the results of Eva’s study indicated that orangutans could return to live in a habitat that had been previously degraded by logging, as long as forest recovery was sufficient enough to provide the population with an adequate amount of their preferred food resources (i.e. ripe fruits). Given the extensive amount of forest degradation and loss that has already taken place in Sumatra, not to mention the anticipated future losses, the orangutan population at Sikundur offers a unique opportunity to evaluate how this Critically Endangered animal is capable of coping with habitat loss and degradation, the study of which promises to help guide future conservation endeavors.

For these reasons, at the end of 2012, the SOCP in collaboration with the Leuser International Foundation, the PanEco Foundation, and Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari began to search for an adequate location for a long-term orangutan monitoring station in Sikundur. The results of these most recent reconnaissance visits indicated that an adequate study population is maintained near one of Leuser International Foundation’s old monitoring stations. However, the monitoring station has not been used full-time since 2007, and as such, PanEco-SOCP-YEL and the Leuser International Foundation have been working together since the beginning of 2013 to restore the station to its former potential.

The SOCP-YEL currently maintains six permanent local field staff members at the Sikundur monitoring station, and regular monitoring of the orangutan population and the local habitat is already underway. Today, the station is primarily operated using funds from the PanEco Foundation, with additional support from the Philadelphia Zoo.

Find out more about Sikundur Research and Monitoring Station

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Sikundur Photo gallery

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