The Jakarta Post | Hotli Simanjuntak and Ruslan Sangaji,
Banda Aceh/Palu | Archipelago | Wed, March 20 2013, 10:47 AM
Paper Edition | Page: 5
Institutions affiliated with the Aceh Spatial Planning Alliance have urged scientists and conservationists to push the Aceh provincial administration to amend the spatial planning bylaw (RTRW), which they say is potentially damaging and could reduce the region’s forests, threatening its biodiversity.
Aceh is regarded as having the largest biodiversity in Asia Pacific, especially with the Leuser Ecosystem, which is currently a giant laboratory for scientists from across the globe.
The region is also where many wildlife species can be found, such as the rhinoceros, Sumatran tiger, orangutan and elephant.
According to Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) director TM Zulfikar, the Aceh RTRW is loaded with the interests of particular individuals and sacrifices the environment and sustainability of local communities living in the conservation area.
“We reject the proposed Aceh RTRW. Many people wish to take advantage of natural resources in Aceh, such as the forest in Aceh Tamiang, which will be turned into other areas in the planned RTRW,” said Zulfikar.
In the planned Aceh RTRW, the government plans to convert around 1.2 million hectares of forests into a limited forest production zone by converting it into plantation and mining areas and other purposes.
In the draft, drawn up in 2009, Aceh’s forested areas reached 3.57 million hectares, or around 63 percent of the total land area of Aceh. Should the proposed RTRW be accepted by the central government, Aceh could lose up to 2.5 million hectares of its forested areas.
Ian Singleton, from the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Program, said the change in forest area allocation proposed in the draft RTRW had the potential to shrink major water resources, such as rivers, that irrigated rice fields in Pidie regency, as well as bringing the threat of flash floods and landslides.
Meanwhile, biodiversity experts from 25 Asia Pacific nations are gathering in Banda Aceh, Aceh, to attend a conference on tropical biodiversity protection sponsored by the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC). The meeting is aimed at promoting research as well as raising people’s awareness about the importance of tropical biodiversity and conservation.
The conference is being facilitated by the Aceh provincial administration through Syiah Kuala University, Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and the Strategic Resources Institute, under the theme, “Linking Biodiversity Science to Policy and Conservation Action”.
The conference is taking place from March 18 to 22 and will be followed with a trip to Ulu Masen forest, one of the forests in Aceh that has the biggest biodiversity in the province.
Aceh was chosen to hold the meeting because of its biodiversity reputation.
“There’s no other place in the world like Aceh, where species live in the same area. That’s why we chose Aceh to hold this meeting,” said ATBC secretary Antony J. Lynam.
“One of the biggest problems faced by tropical diversity is the defragmentation and loss of forests. There’s so many cases where deforestation has contributed to the depletion of species like the rhino, tiger and orangutan,” said Lynam.
Separately, Central Sulawesi is also facing deforestation and environmental degradation. The province lost 600,000 hectares of a total of 4.3 million hectares of forest areas in 2012.
Central Sulawesi Forestry Office head Nahardi said critical forests were found in 10 regencies, such as Donggala (147,504 hectares), Poso (118,893 hectares) and Parigi Moutong (99,997 hectares).
Nahardi added that 220,288.33 hectares of the total forested area in Central Sulawesi had experienced deforestation and degradation.
He said the office had initiated several strategies, such as a rehabilitation and conservation program, to reduce the area of critical forests across the province.
- Protect a major ecosystem from destruction (sunsetdaily.wordpress.com)
- Sign the Petition to Stop Aceh Province Governor From Opening Rainforest to Logging (gettingonmysoapbox.wordpress.com)
Environmental activist from Aceh, Rudi H. Putra, Friday (23/2/13) received an international award on nature conservation, “Future For Nature Award” from The Netherlands, which is awarded by the Future For Nature Foundation to young people for their engagements, innovations and strong spirits to protect critically endangered species and conservation areas.
Rudi has been chosen by 10 juries consisting of world’s leading conservation experts coming from different countries. Together with Samia Saif, a Bangladeshi active in tiger conservation, and Dr. Lucy E. King, a British activist of elephant conservation in Kenya, Africa, Rudi has been overcome another 98 candidates from 45 coutries.
Rudi is the first Indonesian winning this award. The award was given at Arnhem’s Burger’s Zoo in The Netherlands, a wild life conservation centre writing it’s success in the breeding of world’s species since 1913.
Jane Goodall, a famous world’s conservationist handed over the award to the recipients. Goodall spent more than 33 years for the protection of the African chimpanzee, and Saba Douglas Hamilton, artist and presenter engaged in the protection of African elephant.
All three awardees gave each a presentation during the event’s highlight. Rudi presented the efforts of protecting rare species in Sumatran Leuser, such as elephant, tiger, rhino and orangutan.
Graduated for Biology in the University of Syiah Kuala in Banda Aceh, Rudi is now studying for his master at the Agriculture Institute of Bogor majoring Tropical Biodiversity Conservation. He spent 13 years in species conservation efforts within Leuser Ecosystem. In this area, he conducted routing patrols to prevent poaching and actively led restoration of forest areas converted into oil palm plantation.
Rudy, who once worked for the Leuser Ecosystem Management Board (BPKEL), a special office managing the famous conservation area. This office is unfortunately dissolved by the Governor of Aceh. Still, the conservation and monitoring efforts are now continued by the former staff of BPKEL, indeed very limited. They collect funds from former employee or from private donation of concerned people.
This action is to prevent poaching and further forest destruction in Leuser. Rudi was appointed as the Chairman of BPKEL Employees Forum established in December 2012, as a platform for the former employees to continue their works to further protect the Leuser Ecosystem.
- Leuser Ecosystem Under Serious Threat (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Large blocks of Sumatra’s endangered rainforest may be put up for mining, logging (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- NGOs slam forest concession reactivation (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Conservation group rescues baby orangutan ripped from mom (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Extinction risk as Aceh opens forests for logging (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Pictures: Saving Sumatra’s Orangutans (news.nationalgeographic.com)
A camera trap caught video of a mother tiger and her two cubs in a protected Sumatran forest, the first evidence of breeding in this location, conservationists say.
The footage was captured in Sumatra’s Sembilang National Park. Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have documented evidence before of the endangered species in nearby Berbak National Park.
The video of these big cats shows the mother and her two youngsters walking past the camera. Scientists said they estimate the cubs are less than a year old, according to a ZSL release.
“This is the best early Christmas present, and we are absolutely delighted to find the first evidence of breeding in Sembilang,” said Sarah Christie, ZSL head of regional conservation programs, in a statement. “We will continue working with leaders of both national parks as well as the government to ensure the areas are better protected and well patrolled.”
The finding gives scientists some hope; there are only 300 Sumatran tigers, the smallest of the tiger species, estimated to be in the wild, according to the release. Camera traps have also caught video of tapirs and sunbears in the nearby Berbak forest.
Sembilang and Berbak National Park are some of the only places in the world where these tigers remain, according to the release.
The idea that a zoo is the sole or even best repository for learning is risible
By Damian Aspinall
Over the past century, thousands of species have disappeared from our planet, and many more are on the critically endangered list. Yet even as we wantonly destroy nature’s great habitats, and hunt species to extinction, we console ourselves with the thought that we are preserving many species in zoos and wildlife parks.
As the owner and operator of two such parks – Howletts and Port Lympne in Kent – you would expect the Aspinall Foundation, founded by my late father John, to argue that it is sometimes right to keep animals in captivity. Although we do agree that there are times when the interests of the species can be best served by animals being kept in captivity, we believe that it is scandalous that so many zoos around the world remain packed with often miserable animals, kept in unnatural conditions where they remain incapable of breeding, despite frequently being paired biblically, two by two.
In these zoos, lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos and other wonderful creatures exist in these conditions largely, if not solely, for humans to gawp at, on the pretext that they and their children are being educated about the wonders of the natural world. This view may have been partially justified up to the advent of the digital age, and the spread of information via television. Today, the idea that zoos provide the sole – or even the best – repository of learning is risible.
At the Aspinall Foundation, we believe that mankind owes it to nature to re-evaluate the role of zoological institutions in the 21st century and to change the way we think about animals in captivity. The ultimate aim should be to render zoos and wildlife parks obsolete – including our own.
The continuing presence of animals in captivity is, we believe, a sign of mankind’s failure. Of course, we are not anarchists or Luddites. There is certainly a role for such animal collections for at least the next two or three decades. But it can no longer be for the simple collection and display of animals.
Rather, the beating heart of any such institution, anywhere in the world, must be true conservation. This means that the rationale for maintaining collections of wild animals – always, preferably, in wildlife parks with large open spaces – has to be the protection of endangered species, coupled with sustainable breeding programmes and projects to reintroduce them to the wild. The ultimate aim should, wherever possible, be the return of the captive and captive-bred creatures with whom mankind is privileged to share the planet.
The Aspinall Foundation has worked tirelessly to become a world leader in the captive breeding of endangered species. Our animal parks have seen the births of 135 gorillas, 33 black rhinos, 123 clouded leopards, 33 Javan gibbons, 104 Javan langurs and 20 African elephants. Our charity manages conservation projects in Congo, Gabon, Indonesia and Madagascar, as well as providing financial support to partner projects around the world. We are dedicated to helping prevent some of the most endangered species on the planet from becoming extinct.
We do this through restoring, wherever possible, animals to their natural habitats and by protecting those habitats. Between 1996 and 2006, we released 51 gorillas in the Congo and Gabon – into an area of some million acres which had been the first large wilderness area to see gorillas hunted to extinction. In the coming year, the foundation is planning to release from its parks an entire family of 11 lowland gorillas, six Javan gibbons and eight Javan langurs. Three black rhinos have already been released this year, and are all doing well.
The work is not easy, and requires dedication and resources. But it offers a possible blueprint for the future of animal conservation, away from the confines of crowded zoos – which serve better to illustrate the arrogance of man than the glory of the animal world he has done so much to destroy. We believe in the right of animals to coexist on our planet, and that the wilderness is Earth’s greatest treasure. We must all act now to save it.
- Zoos and wildlife parks are no way to treat an animal (telegraph.co.uk)
- London Zoo should close because it is ‘sign of our failure as a species’, says campaigner (standard.co.uk)
- The beasts from Brazil: country aims to clone endangered species (guardian.co.uk)
- Zoos of New Zealand (gorentals.co.nz)
- South Africa Rhino Poaching Leads To 455 Dead So Far In 2012 (huffingtonpost.com)
- Guest commentary: Zoo’s work to save endangered species gets noticed (stltoday.com)
- Top 10 International Zoos And Animal Sanctuaries (essentialtravel.co.uk)
IN LATE August 2009, a tiny, solitary bat fluttered about in the rainforest near Australia’s infamous Christmas Island detention camp. We don’t know precisely what happened to it. Perhaps it landed on a leaf at dawn after a night feeding on moths and mosquitoes and was torn to pieces by fire ants; perhaps it succumbed to a mounting toxic burden placed on its tiny body by insecticide spraying. Or maybe it was simply worn out with age and ceaseless activity, and died quietly in its tree-hollow. But there is one important thing we do know: it was the last Christmas Island pipistrelle (Pipistrellus murrayi). With its passing, an entire species winked out of existence.
Two decades earlier, the island’s population of pipistrelles had been healthy. A few scientists had watched the species’ decline with concern until, after the million or more years that it had played a part in keeping the ecological balance of the island, they could see that without action its demise was imminent. They had done their best to warn the federal government about the looming catastrophe, but they might as well have been talking to a brick wall. The bureaucrats and politicians prevaricated for three years, until it was too late.
While Australians argued about the fate of the asylum seekers who shared the pipistrelles’ home, nothing effective was done to help the bats. Indeed, except for those watching scientists, few seemed to give a thought to the passing of the species, nor what it might mean for Christmas Island or our country.
The pipistrelles’ extinction was painful for me. In an attempt to avert it I met Peter Garrett, then the environment minister, and warned him of the impending loss. I had brought offers of assistance and expertise from the Australian Mammal Society to his attention. The society was confident the species could be saved – at a cost of perhaps only a few hundred thousand dollars. But Garrett was convinced by the orthodoxy that ecosystems rather than species should be the focus of the national conservation effort, and I got the message that nothing would be done. Saving the bat wasn’t an impossible mission: it’s just that the government and the people of Australia, one of the richest countries on earth, decided it wasn’t worth doing.
What really shook me was that it was the first extinction of a mammal in Australia for 60 years, and the first in my lifetime. My original professional expertise lies in mammalogy and palaeontology, and before the pipistrelles’ demise I believed the worst of Australia’s extinction crisis was behind us – that somehow my generation was wiser and more caring, and would not tolerate any more losses of Australia’s unique mammals. It’s now clear that those 60 years were a lull in the storm, and that the pipistrelles’ demise marked the beginning of a new extinction wave.
Australia’s first extinction wave began almost as soon as the First Fleeters stepped ashore, and by the 1940s it had carried away 10 per cent of the continent’s mammal species. In 1791, a convict wrote about the white-footed rabbit rat, saying that it was a pest in the colony’s food stores. The soft-furred, grey-and-white kitten-sized creature was arguably the most beautiful of Australia’s 70-odd native rodent species, yet it was destined to be one of the earliest victims of European settlement. Two hundred years ago it could be found in woodlands from near Brisbane to Adelaide, but the last record of it dates to the 1850s.
The thylacine and the toolache wallaby were the largest creatures to succumb in the first extinction wave. These extinctions were, however, atypical: indeed, one of the most astonishing aspects of the first extinction wave was that its victims included what had been the most abundant and seemingly secure mammals in Australia.
The causes of these extraordinary extinctions were varied. The cessation of Aboriginal burning doubtless had its effect, and until the 1930s bounties were paid by many state governments for the scalps of now-extinct creatures. But the depredations of foxes (which were spreading quickly by the early 20th century) and feral cats, and the wholesale destruction of native vegetation by livestock and rabbits, must have been important causes.
While the causes are disputed, the effect of the first extinction wave is clear: it gutted the biodiversity of the drier parts of the continent, and very few native mammals larger than a rat and smaller than a kangaroo can be found on Australia’s inland plains today. It’s the absence of such species – the so-called critical-weight-range mammals (they weigh between 500 grams and 5 kilograms), which were once among the most abundant of creatures – that has led me to characterise the national parks of Australia’s southern inland as ”marsupial ghost towns”.
The gathering second extinction wave is now mopping up the few surviving medium-size mammals in Australia’s south and inland. It’s not difficult to predict which will be the next to become extinct, for, like the pipistrelles, their decline has been charted for years. There are 15 frogs, 16 reptiles, 44 birds, 35 mammals and 531 plants on Australia’s endangered species list, and among those closest to the brink are three mammals: the central rock rat, the bridled nailtail wallaby and the numbat.
All hang by a thread, and next to nothing effective is being done to halt their slide into oblivion.
The second extinction wave is emptying vast swaths of the continent untouched by the first wave. Australia’s Top End and Kimberley were, until recently, a paradise for medium-size mammals, among them a close relative of the white-footed rabbit rat. The past two decades have seen this fauna all but exterminated in the Top End, even in our most valued and best-resourced national parks.
Perhaps it is excusable that Australians are unaware of the extinctions occurring in distant places such as Arnhem Land and other regions of our far north. But astonishingly, we also seem blind to the perils facing species much closer to home – for example, the sand flathead of Port Phillip Bay. A fish familiar to every Melburnian who has ever dangled a line, its population has declined by 97 per cent over the past decade.
Why should the extinction of Australian organisms concern us? The answer, I think, is almost precisely the same as to the question of why human rights are important, even when they concern people we’ll never meet. First and foremost, it is a matter of values. The demise of a bat may not weigh greatly in the balance of human wellbeing, but it speaks volumes about the human soul.
As with human rights, extinctions raise the question of where we draw the line. If we can stand by as a species of bat is snuffed out, then why not other species as well? Can we really expect poor Indian villagers to heed our pleas to conserve the tigers that menace their livestock if we do nothing to prevent the extinction of Australian species?
At the heart of this nation’s efforts to save its endangered species is a register of subspecies, species and ecological communities that are threatened with extinction. By law, each entity included on the list should have a detailed recovery plan written for it, which when implemented should save it from extinction. These plans classify species on a sliding scale – from vulnerable to critically endangered or extinct. The federal legislation governing these plans states: ”Recovery plans are binding on the Australian government – once a recovery plan is in place, Australian government agencies must act in accordance with that plan.”
What a wonderful reassurance! It’s a pity, then, that the system underpinning the promise is as rotten as Miss Havisham’s wedding cake. By their fruit ye shall know them: since the legislation mandating action plans was enacted in 1992, only a single vertebrate species has become so abundant as to merit being taken off the threatened species register. But saltwater crocs are atypical of Australia’s endangered species in that the threat they faced was simple: when the shooting for skins was stopped, the species recovered.
Why are we failing so abjectly in protecting our threatened species? The pitifully slow rate at which recovery plans are being drafted is one factor. In New South Wales, for example, in the past 20 years recovery plans have been completed for only about 10 per cent of all species listed as vulnerable to extinction.
Things get worse. In 2006 the federal government excused itself from the obligation to draft plans for species listed as vulnerable to extinction. As a result, if the environment minister decides for whatever reason not to draft a plan, then it simply isn’t done. And even if a plan is completed, there’s no guarantee that it will receive funding.
Why are action plans so often failing to help species recover? The glacially slow development of the plans, along with the lack of obligation to fund and report back on them, are clearly major impediments. But there are other problems. Some plans do not describe how species might be saved. Instead, they often state that more money is required for research before appropriate action is taken.
Such is the depth of public ignorance about Australia’s extinction crisis that most people are unaware it is occurring, while those who do know of it commonly believe that our national parks and reserves are safe places for threatened species. In fact, the second extinction wave is in full swing and it’s emptying our national parks and wildlife reserves as ruthlessly as other landscapes. This is disturbing: national parks exist explicitly to conserve biodiversity, and their failure to do so is a failure both of government policy and our collective will to protect our natural heritage.
The problem lies not with the parks’ staff, who are often dedicated and skilled at their work. Nor does it lie solely with budgets, although more funding rather than more cuts would always be welcome. Instead, the difficulties are at least threefold. First and foremost, the problem stems from the delusion that the simple act of proclaiming a national park or nature reserve will result in the protection of biodiversity. Parks must be proclaimed and effectively managed if biodiversity is to be protected.
Second, the various government agencies responsible for biodiversity protection have allowed their scientific capacity to erode to the point where it’s hard to be sure how many individuals of most endangered species survive; and third, the attempt to save endangered species involves risks that bureaucracies are increasingly unwilling to take.
The first duty of the bureaucrats these days seems to be to protect their minister from criticism: thus it often seems preferable to let a species die out quietly, seemingly a victim of natural change, than to institute a recovery program that carries a risk of failure.
Australian politics, and the bureaucracy that supports it, is failing in one of its most fundamental obligations: the conservation of our natural heritage. The times also suit cynical self-interest: cash-starved state governments, ever more desperate for income and political support, are rolling back even the inadequate present protections, and economic pressures are making it difficult for not-for-profit organisations that focus on nature protection to make ends meet.
What to do? As this saga of ignorance, folly and malice unfolds, it has become clear that those working outside government have a crucial role to play in conserving our biodiversity. Indeed, I believe that it is action by the private and not-for-profit sectors, working with government, that holds the key to protecting our endangered species in a competent and affordable manner. Australians need to take a look at ourselves.
This is an edited extract from Quarterly Essay 48, After the Future: Australia’s New Extinction Crisis by Tim Flannery, published on Monday by Black Inc
- Were Tasmanian Tigers Unfairly Driven to Extinction? (history.com)
- Farewell, Furry Friends (theglobalmail.org)
- No-extinction targets are destined to fail (conservationbytes.com)
- Knowledge of marine species still largely unknown: New Zealand researcher (nzweek.com)
- Searching for a silver bullet: Measuring biodiversity to inform species conservation (esciencenews.com)
- Biodiversity hotspots in the southwest region of Western Australia (abc.net.au)
Listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List as critically endangered, meaning they face an extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future, these animals may not live to see the end of the next decade without the a similar effort of human intervention that brought them to the brink in the first place.
Although featured in the list is the little known Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) and well known Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) missing in the list is also the Sumatran Elephant (Elephas maximus ssp. sumatranus) and Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. sumatrae) to round out the iconic ‘big four’ of the Sumatran jungle, all of which are classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ and found within the Leuser Ecosystem.
Is this really the end of the icons, or is this just the point in history where we turned things around? What we do next matters, what
you do now counts.
- VIDEO: Sumatran tiger to meet his match (bbc.co.uk)
- Sumatran Orangutan Species on the Brink as 3,950 Acre Tripa Peat Swamp Decimated (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
Returning from the river after bathing, Rosa does her best to stand, (or even lay down), under Sucis feet. Watching a little elephant running is adorable!
The rangers have begun taking her to the river for baths, and she loves it – her Mama (Suci) draws water up her trunk and drinks it, were as Rosa hasn’t got this skill yet, and just pushes her face into the water and blows bubbles with her trunk while trying to drink. Sooo funny to watch. She also lays on her side in the water and kicks around playing, while her mama is trying the bathe. Sounds familiar?
Rosa is slowly gaining some control of her truck, and can pull your hand quite strong apparently trying to eat your fingers. She doesn’t trip on it when she runs now, but does always lay in front of Sucis feet seeking attention when Suci tries to walk anywhere..
The bond between mother and daughter is exceptional, everyone is really impressed with Suci for her patience, and the rangers for their support.
Sumatran Elephants are classified as threatened species, and illegal roading, forest conversion, community encroachment, poaching are all taking a toll on numbers across Sumatra.
You can help Rosa and her baby elephant family by getting involved to help save the threatened forests of Aceh. Aceh has the best forest estate in all of Sumatra.
To make a difference, simply reply to this email of ideas or questions of how you can help. I know you all can, that’s why I’m sharing this with you.
Have a great week everyone, elephant loads of love from Aceh.