Sumatra is the sixth-biggest island on the planet occupying an area of approximately 182,812sq miles. It is one of the Greater Sunda Islands of the Malay Archipelago. Sumatra is one of the over 14,000 islands of the Southeast Asian nation of Indonesia. The island was referred to as Swarnabhumi in the past due to the presence of gold in the region meaning "land of gold." The island was named "Sumatra" by Marco Polo during the late-fourteenth century.
Sumatra is situated in the Indian Ocean and is separated from the Malay Peninsula by the Strait of Malacca and the islands of Java and Borneo by the Sunda Strait and Karimata Strait respectively. The southeast-northwest axis is the longest axis on the island (1,110 miles) which crosses the equator while the widest part is about 270 miles. The island is situated on the Ring of Fire and thus volcanic in nature with the Great Sumatran Fault and the Sundra megathrust spanning the west coast. The western part of the island is mountainous while the eastern part is swampy plains.
Sumatra is one of the world’s most populous islands with over 50 million residents and a population density of about 272 individuals per square mile. The island’s population increased by 10.4% from 45,839,041 (2005) to 50,613,947 (2010). The island is divided into ten administrative regions with the North Sumatra being the most populous administrative region. North Sumatra had an estimated population of about 13,527,937 people in 2014. Islam is the main religion in Sumatra with 87.1% of the locals being Muslims. Over 10.7% of the locals are Christians. There are about 52 languages in Sumatra, but like in the other parts of Indonesia, the official language of the island is Indonesian.
Sumatra is quite significant to the country because it produces petroleum and palm oil. The island is the leading producer of Indonesian coffee in the country. Robusta coffee is grown in the lowlands while Arabica is in the highlands. The Arabica from Sidikilang, Lintong, and Gayo has low-acidity since it is processed using the wet-hulling method.
The biggest and most developed city in Sumatra is Medan. Medan is the fourth-most highly populated Indonesian city with a population of over 2,097,610 inhabitants by 2010. The city is bordered by the Malacca Strait which is actually one the world’s most crucial shipping lanes. Other main cities in Sumatra include Palembang (1,452,840) and Pekanbaru (903,902). Banda Aceh is the oldest city in the region which was discovered in 1205 and had a population of 224,209indonesians in 2010.
Flora and Fauna
The island is home to numerous species including seventeen endemic plant genera, but it over half of its tropical forest was destroyed in the last 35 years. Some of the unique plant species in Sumatra include various rainforest crops like titan arum, Rafflesia arnoldii, and the Sumatran pine. There are over 580 bird, 201 mammal, 93 amphibian, and 300 freshwater fish species in Sumatra. Some of the critically endangered animals in Sumatra include the Sumatran orangutan and the Sumatran tiger. There are over ten national parks on the island.
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