FEARS FOR INDONESIAN PARK’S RARE SPECIES
Plans for a Trump town threatens one of Java’s last virgin tropical forests
GUNUNG GEDE PANGRANGO
SHROUDED in mist and cloud, the twin volcanoes of the lushly forested Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park are the brooding guardians of nature’s last stand on teeming Java island. Indonesia’s overflowing, polluted capital is a couple of hours north, and with Trump-branded properties being built next to this protected area, Jakarta may soon feel even closer.
Over the next four years, a sprawling “Trump Community” will be built in this pocket of Indonesia’s most densely populated island, with a new road leading to it. It’s part of broader plans, including a massive theme park, that have alarmed conservationists who fear development will overwhelm a refuge for some of the archipelago’s most threatened species.
The 3,000ha project is the brainchild of President Donald Trump’s Indonesian partner, billionaire and presidential hopeful Hary Tanoe.
Gunung Gede Pangrango is one of the last virgin tropical forests in Java, where only two per cent of original forest remains. It nurtures a dazzling variety of flora and fauna: more than 2,000 species of ferns, mosses and flowering plants and 250 species of birds. Endangered species include the Javan slow loris (the world’s only venomous primate), the Javan leaf monkey, the Javan leopard (whose total population numbers less than 250), and the Javan hawk-eagle and Javan silvery gibbon.
The park has a rehabilitation centre for silvery gibbons that have been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. The gibbons, known for practising lifelong monogamy and their distinctively small, intense faces, number fewer than 4,000 in the wild.
Tanoe’s MNC Group will build a six-star Trump hotel along with a golf course, country club, luxury condominiums, mansions and villas. Together with a theme park, hotels, shops, homes and a dining and entertainment district that MNC is developing on its own, this first stage of “Lido City” will occupy between 800ha and 1,000ha.
A visualisation on the company’s website shows a valley filled with a man-made lake and a fantastical theme park. Tanoe plans to fill out the remaining 2,000ha and wants to expand further.
MNC is also building a toll road that improve access to nearby cities and Jakarta. The Lido City project does not require an environmental impact assessment, though some parts such as the theme park will, according to Tanoe.
Park officials worry construction will cause wildlife to flee and that the mini-city MNC touts as “fulfilling the dream of the people of Indonesia for world-class entertainment” will bring an uncontrollable influx of people and rubbish. They question how the development will meet its substantial water needs in an area that’s a crucial catchment for the 30 million people of greater Jakarta.
But nor can they afford to antagonise MNC or the Trump Organization, which will manage the Trump-branded properties. The project is going ahead whether they like it or not and the main access road to the park, which has a controlled 50,000 visitors a year, cuts through MNC’s land. The park, which is part of the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, has signed a memorandum of understanding with MNC concerning the development of eco-tourism; neither it nor the company would provide a copy.
“We are still discussing with them about how to avoid a massive exodus of wildlife while they are working on construction,” said the park chief, Adison, who goes by one name.
“Before they start construction we want them to adapt to how the wildlife exists in this national park. You can open your business here but you have to respect your neighbours.”
Adison said park officials believe company executives are beginning take conservation more seriously, possibly because the Trump Organisation’s involvement has given the project a higher profile.
MNC’s corporate secretary said its executives were too busy to be interviewed and did not respond to emailed questions about how the company planned to mitigate environmental damage. The Trump Organisation redirected questions to a public relations company that did not provide any response. AP
Children standing against the backdrop of Gede Pangrango Mountains in Bogor, West Java.
A girl walking along a village road (right) and a farmer riding his motorcycle on a dirt road near the mountain.