A field visit to Indonesia

by ZSL on

In January 2017, a team from London travelled to our project site in South Sumatra province, Indonesia to meet local communities, discuss the challenges they face and find solutions to land use conflicts. 

ZSL's Daniel Collette, Project Coordinator for East and Southeast Asia, blogs on the field visit and explains how they are working to protect species like the Sumatran tiger. 

Why Indonesia?

Indonesia is one of the most biologically diverse countries on Earth and home to some of the world’s most iconic endangered species, including tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans. Habitats for these species are rapidly disappearing because of deforestation and land conversion. Unmitigated agro-industrial development, along with rocketing human populations, is driving habitat loss and fragmentation, contributing to the loss of biodiversity. 

Sumatran tiger image captured on a camera trap
Sumatran tiger image captured on a camera trap

To address the need to counter these threats to biodiversity and human livelihoods, ZSL is leading a public-private-people partnership project, KELOLA Sendang, with the generous support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Government of Norway and UK aid from the UK Government. 

We are working with project partners to develop a model for sustainable landscape management that aims to achieve a balance between socio-economic development and conservation. Using the Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) as a flagship species for the region’s biodiversity, ZSL is looking to create connectivity in a multi-use landscape that is crucial for the survival of the species. A year into the KELOLA Sendang Project, we travelled to our field site on the island of Sumatra to witness the work on the ground.

Where did we go?

    

KELOLA Sendang Field Visit map
KELOLA Sendang Field Visit map

Day 1

After flying to Jambi, we drove 3.5 hours to our first stop: Muara Medak. Selected as a model village for our project activities, Muara Medak faces a number of social and ecological issues which impact the people’s livelihood as well as their environment. Here, we met with villagers and learned about the local area. Located at the confluence of the Medak and Lalan Rivers, Muara Medak is adjacent to a timber concession and a High Conservation Value (HCV) area. HCVs are biological, ecological, social or cultural values which are considered significant at the local, national or global level.

The villagers, keen to explain the area, took us along the river to view the HCV area in their motor boats. It was easy to understand why this area is important for conservation. While speeding by in our boat, we spotted a rare Sialang tree full of bee hives! 

A rare Sialang tree full of bee hives
A rare Sialang tree full of bee hives

These trees are preferred by the Asian Giant Bee (Apis dorsata) that provides important services to the ecosystem such as pollination. The hives of these bees can be found in clusters nesting on the branches of a Sialang Tree. Recognising their importance, local communities have long standing traditional beliefs that protect these trees and the bees living on them.

However, the people of Muara Medak have long used the HCV area as a burial site and are no longer able to do so because of its HCV status. As part of KELOLA Sendang, we are opening up conversations between the local community and companies to find solutions to these land use conflicts.

Back in the village, we stopped into the local school to speak to the school principal and administrators to discuss ZSL’s conservation goals and distribute booklets on Sumatran tiger conservation. These educational materials will help to raise awareness about tigers with the younger generation.

Booklets on Sumatran tiger conservation for school children
Booklets on Sumatran tiger conservation for school children

Day 2

After another long journey driving on and off road, we visited Peninggalan village, where there is disagreement over land use, like in much of our Project area. Often different groups will claim ownership over the same piece of land or the government has zoned these areas inappropriately. 

Guided by villagers, the team visited a remnant patch of forest near Peninggalan Village, where over half of the forest has been converted into rubber and oil plantations. The KELOLA Sendang Project is helping Peninggalan and other communities to engage in land use planning to reduce disagreements over land use, protect critical habitats for wildlife, and maximise livelihood opportunities for the communities that also benefit the environment. 

After lunch (we ate a lot of rice!), we visited an oil palm plantation. This was a great opportunity to speak with plantation managers and learn about the challenges they are facing. For example, their crops are often damaged by wild boar – the perfect meal for a local tiger! We discussed the use of SPOTT, a tool developed by ZSL, to increase awareness of conservation and implement best management practices.

This trip was the perfect way for us to see the progress of KELOLA Sendang and has sparked our imagination to the possibilities of the project. 

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