|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).
Tompotika also supports high bat diversity – at least 72 species, about a third of which are endemic. Bats are essential to pollinating commercial fruit crops and native fruit trees, some of which can only be pollinated by bats (including the Durian fruit tree, which is a local favourite). Bats are also more important than birds for seed dispersal in this area, they help control insect pests, and their guano provides excellent fertilizer.
The recent emergence of commercial bat hunting, driven by demand for bushmeat in North Sulawesi, has very rapidly led to bat population declines and the complete decimation of some local colonies. Recovery is difficult, as they have only one young per year. Our local partner has responded by initiating a bat conservation program, made even more crucial by the current lack of government protection for bats.
The Alliance for Tompotika Conservation (AlTo) uses local staff and local villagers to carry out a modest but effective conservation program. It has grown to support 10 full time staff, who lead conservation activities for the maleo, turtles and bats, and organize conservation awareness campaigns, including an ongoing school-based program. In a short time, AlTo has reversed the decline of the maleo, prevented poaching of thousands of sea turtle adults and eggs, established a new forest preserve, and taken leadership on bat conservation.
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.
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:
- conservation of the endangered maleo bird species (Megacephalon maleo);
- conservation of marine turtles;
- conservation of fruit bats;
- a conservation awareness campaign that engages the local community to build a local foundation for conservation, including training of local staff and villagers and collaboration with government agencies.
Actions and Results
Maleo pair, digging (Scott Newell)
Maleo public awareness and conservation campaignKey activities (ongoing each year):
- 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;
- Continuing the popular 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 in 2006-2007, 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. In the first four years of the program, the number of adult maleos returning to nest more than tripled (from 1,312 to 4,112). Bird numbers continue to increase each year, and AlTo's is the only site in the world where the maleo population is actually on the rise.
We continue to advocate for permanent protection of forests and corridors surrounding the Taima nesting ground. These efforts successfully averted the siting of a new coconut factory just south of the grounds in one instance. In 2013, we made progress toward purchase of a key tract of land in a critical maleo corridor, with the ultimate objective to protect a 100-ha area that maleos use to access their communal nesting ground from the nearby forest.
We are also in the process of identifying additional suitable nesting grounds to expand protection. 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!).
Teku village has seen especially good results, with the number of successful hatchlings more than doubling between 2010 and 2011 ( from 510 to 1210), and continuing to increase each year. In 2013, villagers in Teku constructed a second "safe hatchery" site, necessitated by the increasing number of nests. Fewer females have been coming ashore to nest in Taima village, resulting in fewer hatchlings (down to fewer than 1000 from 1120 between 2010 and 2011). Conservation efforts to ensure nests are not disturbed are even more important here, in order to maximize the success of the hatchlings that are present at this site.
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 toward a mutual understanding and cooperation toward 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. We continue efforts to train and support village guards in maleo conservation, and to build positive relations with villagers.
In late 2012 and Spring 2013 we held two series of outreach workshops involving law enforcement personnel, to work toward tougher enforcement of anti-poaching laws. The workshops were a great success, with excellent attendance from high-ranking officials, and substantive results in an agreement to implement a new graduated system of enforcement, with harsher treatment of repeat or commercial poachers. We not only gained partnership and endorsement from key government agencies, but also provided a welcome platform for officials to strengthen networks with each other for more effective enforcement of wildlife protection.
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 toward 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!
Work with authorities at the village and national level has also been a valuable part of this project. Outreach has achieved a much closer working relationship with the main government agency related to our work. AlTo's work is becoming increasingly well known and respected. In 2013, AlTo was even asked to represent Central Sulawesi at an Indonesia-wide government conference where each of the provincial natural resource agencies were asked to showcase their best natural resource management initiatives.
Bat Conservation CampaignAlTo has provided key leadership for bat conservation, in response to increasing threats from hunting, and in the absence of government protection. First steps included a preliminary bat survey of the Tompotika area, carried out by AlTo staff with the assistance of an Indonesian bat scientist. The survey located colonies and observed at least 17 different species, including two rare species that have yet to be identified. AlTo is also negotiating with landowners to lease important bat habitat.
Bat conservation awareness has been integrated with other conservation campaigns, and the public has been very receptive. One popular slogan is "No Bats, No Durian!", and locals are increasingly aware that fruit production depends on bats, and correspondingly concerned about bat declines.
The most important factor in recovery will be slowing bat hunting, and AlTo continues to work with villagers in Taima and elsewhere toward this goal. Significantly, one of the most notorious bat hunters has joined the bat awareness activities in schools, with great enthusiasm for teaching kids about the wonders of bats, and is beginning to shift perspectives on hunting.
|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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