The Leuser Management Unit (LMU), while implementing the Leuser Development Programme (funded jointly by the EU and GoI), officially launched the Elephant Patrol Unit (EPU) in Aras Napal on 9 May 2000 and this was the first of its kind in Indonesia. Located adjacent to GLNP, this area is the home range of the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae). Because of the abundant supply of food, this is also the habitat area of the Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor), the Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus), the banded pig (Sus vittatus), the Barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak), the Crab Eating or Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) and the civet in addition to a variety of reptiles and birds.
It is the aim of the EPU to protect and safeguard the biodiversity of the Leuser Ecosystem (in Aras Napal and the surrounding area) throughout the year by reducing human-wildlife conflicts and conducting patrols to prevent illegal activities such as encroachment, Illegal logging and poaching. The base camp of the EPU in area 242 Aras Napal is within the monitoring area of the North Sumatra BBKSDA.
One of the elephants of the Elephant Patrol Unit by the name of Tanti gave birth to a male baby elephant, named Aras, on 29 June 2008. This young male elephant is now undergoing a training process.
At the moment, there are three full grown elephants and a baby elephant at the EPU. They are all tame. The adult elephants were brought to Aras Napal in 1999 from the Way Kambas Elephant Training Centre in Lampung. Their mahouts are also from Lampung and they are assisted by local assistants. This unit conducts routine patrol to safeguard the Mount Leuser National Park area, especially to check the extent of the bias of environmental condition to village community mapping and regulation. Visitors often ride on the back of these elephants into the forest. Another interesting activity is to watch the elephants bathe in the river every morning and afternoon. The Aras Napal area is dominated by young secondary forests. Not far from the camp there is a village occupied by people of different ethnic groups, namely Malay, Java and Batak. The local community fully support the efforts made by LIF to conserve the Leuser forest area.
The EPU patrol team consists of :
- BBKSDA field staff;
- Polhut BTNGL;
- 6 members of the EPU;
- 3 trained elephants (Aini, Tanti, and Dion) and a young elephant (Aras)
The EPU base camp is managed by 7 staff (4 mahouts, 1 Coordinator, 1 General Assistant and 1 Cook)
LMU built the necessary supporting facilities and infrastructure for the management of these elephants from 1999 to 2004 with funding support from the European Union. This was later continued by Leuser International Foundation (LIF) with funds from the Aceh Forest and Environment Project (AFEP) supported by Multi Donor Fund (World Bank) from 2005 to 2010. since 2011 the EPU has been funded by ExxonMobil Oil International.