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Bukit Lawang Orangutan sanctuary in Sumatra provides a heaven for endangered species to live in their natural habitat.

Sumatran Orangutan faces the critical danger of extinction. And Bukit Lawang, which is also part of Mount Leuser National Park, together with Tanjung Puting National Park, and Samboja Lestari in Kalimantan are among the places to protect orangutans in wildlife.

This ecotourism is celebrated for its jungle adventure, and also makes the main east point to enter Mount Leuser National Park which is home to large species from flora to fauna. Bukit Lawang used to be a rehabilitation center for orangutans who have been illegally captured before being reintroduced to their natural habitat.

tour bukit lawang
4 Day Bukit Lawang Orangutan Trek Itinerary

How to Get Bukit Lawang

Bukit Lawang resides in a small village about 90 km northwest of Medan, adjacent to the bank of the Bohorok river and just right on the outskirts of Mount Leuser tropical rainforest. The place is known to be the largest Orangutan sanctuary in Sumatra, with more than 5,000 species living in the area.

bukit lawang

From the city center of Medan, Bukit Lawang is 3 hours away. Once you get there, there’s not only Sumatra Orangutan to visit, but also exploring flora and fauna, and other activities like jungle trekking, rafting to experience. 

This lovely tourist village also provides retreating activities for all. People love just to sit back and relax on the hammock near the riverbank, lying to hear the peaceful river flow sounds, or enjoy Indonesian cuisine in the nearby restaurant. Staying in the guesthouse allows you to have a refreshing morning and jungle atmosphere with monkey guests stopping by your balcony now and then. 

Orangutan Sanctuary Bukit Lawang

As the main Orangutan sanctuary in Sumatra, Bukit Lawang was established in 1973- 2002 by a Swiss-based organization. The main goal is to protect the remaining red-haired apes from the devastating species decline. The surrounding rainforest is home to other species including Sumatran leopards, rhinos, pangolins, and many more. This place is the tropical rainforest heritage of Sumatra, also listed as one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

Sumatran orangutan conservation programs aim to protect the species from poaching, hunting, illegal pet trading, and deforestation. To preserve the species, here are some of their programs before it is closed in 2002 :


Many Sumatra orangutans are captured as un illegal pets or forced to be taken from their mother and habitat. And, the rehabilitation center plays an active role in working with Indonesian authorities to address, investigate, and precede the case and take legal action when necessary. One main problem is the human-orangutan conflict which resulted in the orangutans being shot, taken and sold, or forced to live in captivity.


The rehabilitation center took the lucky Sumatra orangutans who survive bad circumstances, both kids and adults,. This process is not only to return the animal to the jungle, but it’s way before. Once held in captivity, the orangutans mostly suffer from physical injuries and traumatic experiences that prevent them from behaving as they should.

The rehabilitation process includes treating the species until they’re healthy enough, as well as teaching them the survival skills to live back in the wildlife. 

Reintroduction to The Wild

After a certain period of quarantine, Sumatra orangutans are reintroduced back into the forest. That is when they can adjust and integrate into their natural habitat, capable of hunting food and making a home of their own. Once released, the orangutans are still monitored by rangers to ensure their safety once in a while.

bukit lawang orangutan sanctuary
Sumatran orangutan

Unfortunately, the Bukit Lawang rehabilitation center has been closed since 2002 due to the uncontrolled interaction between orangutans and humans. The species became too dependent on food and exposed to food poisoning, while humans are also exposed to disease from direct contact with the orangutan.

Despite the closing of the rehabilitation center, Bukit Lawang continues its vital role in providing ecotourism. Heaven for the Orangutan sanctuary in Sumatra as well as other protected animals in the jungle for sustainable biodiversity of the Sumatran rainforest.

If you plan a visit to Orangutan Sanctuary in Sumatra, please take a look at our customized itinerary.

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