Way Kambas was established as a game reserve by the Dutch administration in 1937. Sadly, between 1954 and 1974 it was intensively logged. In 1978, it was proposed as a national park, with provisional declaration in 1989, and final declaration in 1997.
It is believed that approximately 200 Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranensis) live within the park. The Sumatran elephant is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian Elephant, and native to Sumatra Island. In general, Asian elephants are smaller than those of Africa and have the highest body point on the head. Among the Asian elephants, the Sumatran elephants are the smallest, with a shoulder height ranging between 2 meters and 3.2 meters (6.6 ft. to 10.5 ft). Wild Sumatran elephants were formerly found in eight provinces of Sumatra. However, the dense and tangled vegetation of the tropical rainforests there makes it difficult to estimate their exact number.
Officially established in 1985, the Elephant Training Center, located 9 km from the park’s Plang Ijo entrance, is an establishment aimed to protect the existence of the elephant and at the same time create mutual benefit for both the elephants and men. The training center is also a reminiscent of the time when kings or sultans ruled Sumatra, when elephants were trained and deployed in warfare and also for ceremonial purposes. Here, visitors can observe elephants perform various tasks such as transporting lumber or plowing fields. They can also perform peculiar activities such as playing football or other entertaining performances.
Also operating in the park is the Sumatra Rhino Sanctuary (SRS), where rhinos, formerly held in captivity are introduced to natural surroundings in the hope of successful breeding. The breeding center was established in 1995, and encompasses 100 hectares (247 acres) for propagation, research and education. The five Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis ) living at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary - Rosa, Ratu, Bina, Torgamba, and Andalas - serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. They also act as specimens for education for local communities and the general public and play a vital part to ensure the continuous existence of their species.
The area around Way Kanan, a sub-district of the park is frequently visited by birdwatchers. Of the most remarkable species are the white-winged ducks and the Storm’s stork.
Other mammals that also inhabit the national park include: the Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae), the tapir (Tapirus indicus), the jungle dogs (Cuon alpinus sumatrensis), and the siamang monkeys (Hylobates syndactylus syndactylus). Among the 406 species of birds are: the Jungle ducks (Cairina scutulata), sandang lawe Herons (Ciconia episcopus stormi), tong-tong Herons (Leptoptilos javanicus), blue sempidan (Lophura ignita), kuau (Argusianus argus argus), and pecuk ular (Anhinga melanogaster). There are also numerous reptiles, fish, and insects within the sanctuary of WKNP.
WKNP is also home for many exotic floras. Among them are: api-api (Avicennia marina), pidada (Sonneratia sp.), nipah (Nypa fruticans), gelam (Melaleuca leucadendron), salam (Syzygium polyanthum), rawang (Glochidion borneensis), ketapang (Terminalia cattapa), cemara laut (Casuarina equisetifolia), pandan (Pandanus sp.), puspa (Schima wallichii), meranti (Shorea sp.), minyak (Dipterocarpus gracilis), and ramin (Gonystylus bancanus).
Located at the southern tip of Sumatra, 110 km from Bandarlampung, the Way Kambas National Park (WKNP) is one of the oldest reserves in Indonesia. It occupies 1,300 sq km of coastal lowland forest around the Way Kambas River on the east coast of the province of Lampung. WKNP is closely associated with elephants, since aside from being a sanctuary for these gentle giants, the national park is also known as their training ground.