|Program:||Conservation of the Maleo and of marine turtles in the Tompotika area of Sulawesi, Indonesia|
AlTo staff, 2009
In more depth...
Program Partners and PersonnelOur partner for this project is the Alliance for Tompotika Conservation (AlTo), which is a registered non-profit organization in Indonesia and the USA.
The key personnel for this program are AlTo Director Marcy Summers along with AlTo
Conservation Officers and villagers.
The endangered maleo is a megapode bird species endemic to Sulawesi, and represents a priority conservation opportunity in the Tompotika area where ICFC's efforts are focused. Further information on this fascinating species may be found in a Birdlife International fact sheet. Tompotika is also an important nesting area for four species of marine turtle: green, hawksbill, olive ridley and leatherback.
Both the maleo and sea turtles faced threats from rampant harvesting of eggs by local people. Despite the fact that it's illegal, nearly every sea turtle nest that people could discover in Tompotika was dug up, and the eggs were taken for sale or consumption. This has caused a relentless decline in the number of turtles returning to nest. Similarly, the maleo's large eggs were sold as a luxury item (the eggs are not needed for subsistence).
The Alliance for Tompotika Conservation uses local staff and local villagers to carry out a modest but effective conservation program. In just four years it has reversed the decline of the maleo, halted poaching on thousands of sea turtle adults and eggs, established a new forest preserve, and established a popular school-based Conservation Awareness Campaign.
In both cases, public awareness campaigns and conservation programs that involve local community members have shown that community practices and attitudes can change, as commercial exploitation gives way to protection and stewardship.
AlTo has also partnered with Conservation International to support the creation of a new 10,000-ha forest reserve in the Tompotika area, complementing ICFC's efforts, and building on the increased local interest in conservation.
1 Wilson, K.A., M.F. McBride, M. Bode, and H.P. Possingham. 2006. Prioritizing global conservation efforts. Nature 440: 337-340.
The project, located in the Tompotika area of Sulawesi's East Peninsula, has two components:
- promoting conservation of the endangered maleo bird species (Megacephalon maleo);
- promoting conservation of marine turtles.
Actions and Results
Maleo pair, digging (Scott Newell)
Maleo public awareness and conservation campaignKey activities:
- Implementation of round-the-clock guarding and data-collection by AlTo staff and local villagers at the nesting ground near Taima village;
- Supporting local villagers in establishing protocols for appropriate activities near the nesting grounds, for example, relocating a picnic area to a safe distance from nests, and establishing rules of conduct and information guides for tourists;
- Engaging with government authorities at various levels to enforce and strengthen conservation, and providing a voice for conservation in planning and decision-making;
- Continue the popular, ongoing public education campaign in schools and communities;
- Designing and installing signs (in Indonesian and English) near nesting grounds to clearly explain rules, as well as billboards and banners in high-profile areas discouraging consumption or purchase of maleo eggs.
Maleo egg (AlTo)
These efforts have saved over 7000 eggs since the beginning of the program, and almost completely eliminated poaching.. In 2012, we increased our efforts to properly organize and analyze field data on maleo populations, by training staff and hiring a data analyst, resulting in excellent quality data. This ensures that AlTo keeps improving its knowledge base, and that the community can take pride in measurable results of protecting their unique natural heritage. Final numbers for adult maleos returning to nest in the year 2011 came in at 4,112. That is more than triple the 1,312 recorded in 2006-07, when conservation efforts had just begun.
Work with authorities at the village and national level has also been a valuable part of this project. In 2012, we achieved a much closer working relationship with the main government agency related to our work. We continue to advocate for permanent protection of forests and corridors surrounding the Taima nesting ground. These efforts successfully averted the citing of a new coconut factory just south of the grounds in one instance.
Future goals include the identification of additional suitable nesting grounds to expand protection, and we hope to have a survey of potential sites underway in 2013. The program team has already been approached to participate in a government-led effort to protect another nearby nesting site.
|Maleo Awareness Campaign (AlTo)|
Protection of marine turtle nesting beaches
hatchling olive ridley turtles (AlTo)
- Protecting nests and females by patrolling beaches during nesting-season;
- In areas where poaching continues, relocating nests either to a safe area in the village or a nearby hatchery.
- Monitoring for incidences of captured sea turtles and facilitating their release;
- Ongoing engagement with government, village leaders, and police about strategies to enforce laws against turtle-poaching and the destructive practice of bomb fishing;
- Reduction of trash, which impedes turtle nesting on beaches, through the development and implementation of new trash management practices and removing turtle nesting hazards.
Four key beaches are patrolled during nesting season (Teku, Lonsom, Libuun, and Bonemantan), and this has been successful through a combination of AlTo staff and villagers' participation. Groups in each village have a friendly competition, with the group with the most hatchlings at the end of the season winning a prize (a good motivator!).
Deterring poachers has proved more difficult in areas with close proximity to an egg market. In the higher risk areas, we have a combined approach to relocate some turtle nests to a safe hatchery as well as provide incentives for villagers to protect nests to hatching themselves. We have trained staff and villagers in this process, with protocols for how to safely relocate nests, record data, and care for hatchlings on emergence.
Outreach efforts with government are building towards a mutual understanding and cooperation towards wildlife protection goals. A major focus is developing a plan to enforce existing Indonesian and international turtle-protection laws, and an agreement allowing AlTo to carry out sea turtle conservation activities anywhere in the regency. In late 2012 we held the first of a series of new outreach workshops involving law enforcement personnel, which we anticipate will motivate tougher enforcement of anti-poaching laws. We continue efforts to train and support village guards in maleo conservation, and to build positive relations with villagers.
Conservation Awareness CampaignKey activities:
- Holding outreach meetings in schools and villages in Tompotika and Luwuk with ongoing theme of forest and coral reef conservation, using maleos and turtles as flagships;
- Organizing community events and celebrations that focus on the natural environment and raise awareness about conservation efforts;
- Engagement with local and international media to share images, video, and information about maleos and turtles in Sulawesi with a wider audience; Creating and distributing posters, brochures and other AlTo conservation materials in public places throughout Tompotika, as well as installing billboards in high-profile areas.
In November 2011, AlTo hired a full-time Conservation Education and Outreach Specialist, which has greatly increased capacity for community involvement. In 2012, we carried out a survey of conservation priorities in the community, interviewing 130 households. The results will help us work with the community towards a clear vision for conservation.
Education programs have been consistently reaching about 1000 schoolchildren per month, and now include a travelling library of children's books about sea turtles. This type of education has been combined with more spontaneous outreach to gatherings of children playing near beaches. Immediately following one informal meeting at the beach, two of the boys present ran home and came back with tiny sea turtle hatchlings which they had previously captured and now volunteered to release!
Several successful village-wide events have been organized, including festivals to join with villagers and high school students to clean beaches and remove turtle nesting hazards. Special events have also been organized around Earth Day and World Environment Day, involving the general public and interested college students. In 2012, artists volunteered to create two stunning murals (see below) showcasing local nature in the villages Taima and Teku.
Outreach has also increasingly focused on wealthier areas where the market for maleo
eggs is based. For example, a new, huge billboard at the Luwuk airport discourages the
purchase of maleo eggs as high-status souvenirs. There are signs that our outreach efforts
to the general public are being noticed in one instance, a high-status lady voluntarily
sought out the AlTo office in Luwuk wishing to turn over to us four maleo eggs that she'd
received as a gift, but wanted us to return to the wild!
|Murals celebrating nature in Taima and Teku villages (AlTo).|
Further infoThis video from the Wildlife Conservation Society has great film sequences on maleos. ICFC and AlTo are protecting important nesting sites for the species, which has turned around its population decline on Sulawesi's Tompotika peninsula.
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