One month of recordings from 10 video camera traps in northern Indonesia’s mountain jungles are condensed into a five-minute parade of rainforest life.
Its name derived from a local tribal word meaning “covered in clouds,” Leuser is threatened by logging and development, but the region’s story is far from grim. Thanks to local and international efforts, an area three times the size of Yellowstone National Park has been designated for protection.
That protection isn’t always enforced, said conservationist Mike Griffiths, but the situation is vastly improved from the mid-1980s, when he quit an oil company job and moved to Leuser to help protect it.
“We stopped the timber plantations, we stopped the logging, we stopped the major dams,” said Griffiths. “What the mountain videos are now showing us is that we haven’t lost very much. Life is starting to come back rather well.”
Among the animals seen in the video are marbled cats and golden cats, two medium-sized predatory felines, and the largest of all cats: Panthera tigris.
“We think we can support a population of about 400 tigers, which we think is the minimum number for maintaining a viable population. This is one of the few places in the world where you can do that,” said Griffiths.
The presence of predators in the videos indicates a healthy ecosystem. “If you get a good variety of predators, that means the things they feed on are still around,” he said. In future videos he hopes to find evidence of elephants, which were once numerous in Leuser.
“The area is recovering after really being buffeted,” Griffiths said. “In another 15 or 20 years, the forest will look absolutely spectacular again.”
Video: Eyes on Leuser