In early 2016, Stay Wild established a pilot program in the small community of Batu Katak, North Sumatra. Batu Katak resides on the edge of the Gunung Leuser National Park, one of the last strongholds for the Sumatran Tiger. There is an estimated population of 120 tigers in the park which covers a massive 1 million hectares.
Just a few years ago, the people of Batu Katak made a commitment to cease illegal activities such as logging or poaching in the nearby Leuser ecosystem. The main source of income for the community at present is from farming such as rice, rubber and palm oil. They are also endeavouring to expand eco-tourism as a reliable source of income.
There is a huge potential for eco-tourism in the Batu Katak area – caves, karst forest, national park, abundant wildlife and the largest flower in the world can be seen very easily! Of course learning a new profession such as being a tour guide requires training! The community will be trained and educated about the UNESCO World Heritage Site, right on their doorstep and what they can do to protect it. Of course it’s also very important for them to learn WHY they should protect the forest and to see it as a valuable asset.
Stay Wild is sourcing local and international experts to provide regular workshops on ecology with the first workshop held on 27&28 October 2016.
Together with Raw Wildlife Encounters, Stay Wild is now offering a unique Tiger Patrol Adventure led by members of the Batu Katak village and national park rangers. The tour provides a source of income for the village, an opportunity for guides to practice their english with guests on the tours and maintains a presence in the jungle to deter other people from undertaking illegal activities. The tours will be limited to small groups to minimise environmental impact and involve activities such as tree planting and immersion into the community culture. Stay Wild is committed to ensuring that tourism is strongly controlled so it does not have a negative impact on Batu Katak either now or in the future as it becomes more popular as a tourist destination.
The ‘Bees for Batu Katak’ program has recently started (September 2016) with the arrival of 10 boxes of bees and an expert bee teacher to teach the community how to look after them. The bees are now busy making honey which will be sold as a source of income! As part of this program, organic gardens (fruit, vegetables, flowers) will be set up around the village to keep the bees happy and to create additional income.
There are a multitude of other opportunities for capacity building in this community, two examples are women's health & education and domestic animal care.
Stay Wild is currently exploring these avenues in order to implement them in Batu Katak in the near future. The people are enthusiastic and excited about learning new skills and simply need some resources provided to explore these avenues. Although in Sumatra, the protection of the Leuser ecosystem, known as the ‘lungs of the earth’ is vital to ensure the future of a healthy planet.
Stay Wild vision for Batu Katak is that they will have a community culture of being guardians of the forest. With a strong sense of stewardship, the community will set a clear example to neighbouring communities of what can be achieved without illegal activities, encouraging them to follow the same path.