- Gunung Leuser is a national park in Sumatra Island, Indonesia. This park is one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the country. For instance, it is home to endangered and endemic species of Indonesia, such as the Sumatran orangutan, the Sumatran tiger, the Sumatran elephant, and the Sumatran rhino. In addition to its valuable biodiversity, this park is also important to the economy and well-being of people who live close to it, by providing environmental services for basic human needs. However, Gunung Leuser National Park (NP) is now under severe threats. Large-scale human activities such as agricultural expansion and road development threaten the sustainability of Gunung Leuser NP. Furthermore, small-scale activities with the potential to destroy the ecosystems of Gunung Leuser NP also threaten this park. These include the extraction of forest resources by the local communities around Gunung Leuser NP, which is thought to be primarily driven by income and subsistence purposes.
Moving beyond the narrative of poverty-driven forest resource extraction, we explored in this thesis the potential of livelihood stressors and perceived human well-being to influence forest resource extraction in Gunung Leuser NP, Indonesia. Primary data were collected by survey and interview from the communities in Bukit Lawang village, Gunung Leuser NP. The findings reveal that after controlling for off-farm and on-farm assets, positive human well-being and livelihood stressors show a significant positive relationship with forest resource extraction for household use. The results suggest that forest resource extraction for household use increases when 1) people experience more livelihood stressors, and 2) people have more positive feelings However, forest resource extraction for income was not found to have a significant relationship. with either positive human well-being or livelihood stressors. The results also show no significant relationship between 1) negative human well-being and forest resource extraction for income and household use, and 2) household assets and forest resource extraction income and household use.
This thesis also explored the potential of ecotourism benefits to improve Bukit Lawang residents’ positive human well-being when their livelihoods are stressed, which in turn could reduce the negative effect on forest resource extraction for household use. The findings reveal that of three categories of ecotourism benefits, only economic benefits have a significant relationship with positive feelings. However, the relationship is negative, indicating that positive feelings decrease when economic benefits increase. Increase in income from ecotourism seems to bring negative socio-cultural consequences for Bukit Lawang residents—for instance, increase in prostitution, gambling, and alcohol and drug consumption, which in turn diminishes residents’ positive feelings.
In this study, we also examined the potential of ecotourism benefits to reduce forest resource extraction. However, the result shows that the relationship between ecotourism benefits with forest resource extraction is not significant. This implies that ecotourism benefits may not directly help to reduce forest resource extraction for household use in Bukit Lawang village, Gunung Leuser NP. However, the economic benefits were found to have potential to reduce forest resource extraction indirectly, by reducing residents’ positive feelings. Furthermore, the analysis reveals that ecotourism benefits did not significantly moderate either the relationship between livelihood stressors and human well-being or the relationship between livelihood stressors and forest resource extraction for household use. These results suggest that ecotourism benefits may not help to reduce the effect of livelihood stressors on human well-being and forest resource extraction for household use.
Understanding the potential links between livelihood stressors, perceived human well-being and forest resource extraction would enable practitioners and researchers to understand the specific factors that cause forest resource extraction, which could be used as baseline information to develop appropriate solutions and conservation interventions in Bukit Lawang village, Gunung Leuser NP. Furthermore, the findings of this research could also be used as baseline information for improving Sumatran orangutan ecotourism operations in Bukit Lawang village, with the aim to both improve human well-being and support the conservation of Sumatran orangutans.