Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park – A Biosphere: West Java

Indonesia is renowned for its National Parks. I have trekked and camped in quite a few during my time in Indonesia and each time I never seem to be amazed at the beauty of each park. One of my all-time favourites is Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park in West Java. It evolved from four existing conservation areas – Cibodas Nature Reserve, Cimungkat Nature Reseve, Situgunung Recreational Park and Mount Gede Pangrango Nature Reserve. The National Park has the volcanoes Mount Gede and Mount Pangrango.

The National Park adjoins and includes the Cibodas – Gunung Gede Reserve, the oldest reserve in Indonesia, declared in 1889.

The Cibodas Mountain in the Botanical Garden is a subsidiary of the famous Bogor Botanical Gardens and the area has been a focus of research and enjoyment since botanists, local and foreign, first became reserve conscience in Indonesia.

While the Cibodas Gardens contain many exotic species of interest to local visitors, the natural forest formations (sub-montane, montane and moss or cloud forest) of the two side-by-side mountains of Gede and Pangrango are regarded as the finest extant examples left in Java. At the highest altitudes, the flora shows some similarities and shared genera with the mountain plants of Europe and Asia.

It’s no surprise then that I was ecstatic to read that the national park park was made into a biosphere. Here’s the article from Theresia Sufa:

The national park of Mount Gede-Pangrango (TNGP) is one of the first four parks in the country to be made a biosphere reserve, the wettest forest in Java with average rainfall ranging from 3,000-4,200 millimeters a year.

Called the Cibodas biosphere reserve, in 1977 it covered 15,196 hectares. After the confirmation of its status by the agriculture minister in 1980, based on the forestry minister’s decree in 2003, it was further expanded to become 21,975 hectares.

The Cibodas reserve administratively belongs to Bogor, Cianjur and Sukabumi regencies. The main ecosystem of this zone is made up of a lowland forest (at an altitude of 1,000 meters), a mountain forest (1,000-2,400 meters), a sub-alpine forest (2,400 meters), mountain grassland (above 2,400 meters) and lakes.

Apart from the natural ecosystem, the Cibodas biosphere reserve also has a cultivated ecosystem comprising various crops, tea estates, community plantations and rice fields.

Coupled with two volcanoes — the 2,958-m Mount Gede and the 3,019-m Mount Pangrango — Cibodas serves as a very important place for nature conservation, biological research and ecological activities, particularly involving botany and ecotourism.

As one of Java’s active volcanoes, Mount Gede offers wonderful natural attractions like the Ratu crater as proof of its past eruption and an expanse of edelweiss (Anaphalis javanica) flowers. Lying beside Mount Gede, Mount Pangrango is a dormant volcano and both mountains are geologically young ones, with their formative process taking place since three million years ago.

Cibodas has a hydrological function and constitutes a water tower for the 20 million people living around it. Its proximity to Jakarta makes it a popular tourist destination. Within the zone are also Bedogol resort’s conservation training center in Lido, Bogor regency, and the Cibodas Botanical Gardens in Cipanas district, Cianjur regency, built for flora protection and research activities.

In addition, Cibodas is home to different endemic and rare wildlife species such as Java’s gibbons (Hylobates moloch), leaf monkeys (Presbytis comata), black monkeys (Trachypithecus auratus), spotted leopards (Panthera pardus), wild cats (Prionailurus bengalensis javanensis), muncak/red deer (Muntiacus muncak), mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus), wild dogs (Cuon alpinus javanicus), porcupines (Hystrix brachyura javanica), stink badgers (Mydaus javanensis) and yellow-neck civets (Martes flavigula).

The mammal species not threatened by extinction in Cibodas are macaques (Macaca fascicularis), flying squirrels (Galeopterus variegates) and wild boars (Sus scora and S. verrucosusu). More than 250 of the 450 species of birds in Java that can be found in this biosphere reserve, including Java’s hawks (Spizaetus bartels) and owls (Otus angelinae), are now nearing extinction.

Among the diverse kinds of vegetation in the mountainous and upland zone of West Java are various tree species like the chestnut (Castanopsis argentea), puspa plants (Schima wallichii) and orchids (Rhododendron javanicum), whereas the grassland ecosystem of the mountain area of Cibodas is characterized by the spread of edelweiss flowers.

Damaged facilities

Despite the presence of various facilities within the Cibodas or TNGP zone, many of them have been damaged and are in poor condition due to the public’s lack of environmental awareness. In the Bodogol Nature Conservation Training Center (PPKAB) in Lido, Bogor, for instance, its 70-m canopy trail is in bad repair, with most of its aluminum treads and iron railings lost.

PPKAB Manager Dani Darmawan said the trail had been particularly popular with visitors. Only three parks in Indonesia have such canopy trails: TNGP/Cibodas, Mount Salak National Park also in West Java and Kutai National Park in East Kalimantan.

“The damaged canopy trail has cut the number of tourists here by half from around 400 a month to only 200 now. Most of the visitors are students of international schools and college students from Jakarta, who used to spend the night here, but now they seldom come as the trail is no longer passable,” added Dani.

According to Dani, PPKAB-Bodogol gives information on environmental activities and maintains a herbal research station, while making accommodation available for 30 visitors. The entry price for adults is Rp 25,000, with the same charge for a night’s lodging. Children are each charged Rp 15,000 for admission and Rp 15,000 for lodging.

PPKAB-Bodogol ranger Gatot Supriyadi said it was not easy to keep a close watch on people coming in and out of this forest zone because of the presence of many bypass tracks. “The theft of the metal treads and railings on the canopy trail may have been premeditated because it’s difficult to dismantle them and we never thought of such an act. Repair work can’t be done yet as it would require a lot of money,” he said.

Meanwhile, some of the 12 shelters and several toilets along the paths of Cibodas have been damaged and are without doors. In fact, the park entrance and other strategic locations have been furnished with notice boards warning against littering and damaging public facilities.

Djukardi Adriana, an environmentalist from jungle survival group Wanadri, said the acts of vandalism, litter and human excrement found on the park’s tracks had resulted from a lack of awareness of proper care for the environment. The TNGP management should assign more rangers and volunteers to conduct regular patrols, particularly during vacations and climbing seasons. “Local visitors need direct warnings in addition to notice boards,” he said.