The Orang Rimba ("Forest People"), or Suku Anak Dalam, are an indigenous Indonesian ethnic group that lives in Jambi. They live in the forest – in places such as Bukit Tiga Puluh National Park (TNBTP) and Bukit Duabelas National Park (TNBD) – but now, Orang Rimba who maintain their traditional lifestyle are found only in TNBD.
Very few of them are left. According to a survey conducted by KKI Warsi – a non-profit organization that has been assisting the Orang Rimba since 1997 – their population within TNBD is down to around 1500 persons, with no significant increase since then.
The main reason for their gradual disappearance is the conversion of their forests into production areas. This began in 1978, with the first massive wave of transmigrants into Jambi, and in 1991 a vast swathe of forest was converted into an industrial acacia plantation. Gradually, the Orang Rimba began moving into the transmigration areas, there to eke out a marginal existence; most of them now live in oil palm plantation areas rather than in natural forests.
In fact, the forest products that constitute their traditional livelihood are valuable assets. One forest product with strong export value, called jernang (Daemonorops sp.), or dragon blood, is useful for its resin. Jernang resin, a natural coloring material, is used in the marble, ceramic, woodworking, and porcelain industries, and is also a potent herbal medicine used to treat internal and external injuries. The Orang Rimba also grow jelutung trees, which provide raw material for chewing gum.
Yet most of the Orang Rimba have abandoned their traditional livelihoods, and those few who maintain it are engaged in a constant struggle to uphold their identity.