Category: Environment

A coal road project could put endangered Sumatran tigers’ habitat in peril

Conservationists on Tuesday slammed a decision by the Indonesian government to allow a mining contractor company to build a road through a restoration forest in South Sumatra.

Critics claim the project could damage the sensitive ecosystem and threaten the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, the only tiger subspecies left in the country after two other subspecies became extinct in Java and Bali.

“This is contradictory to the government’s said commitment to restore forests and rehabilitate the ecosystem, that could serve as the natural habitat for wild species and a top predator such as the Sumatran tiger,” Yoan Dinata, a member of Forum Harimau Kita (Our Tiger Forum), in Jambi, said.

Once completed, the road would cut across the Harapan rainforest, a 98,555-hectare wildlife haven in South Sumatra and Jambi provinces managed by Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI) as the concession holder.

The forest is the first ecosystem restoration concession in Indonesia based on a collaboration led by Burung Indonesia, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and BirdLife International.

Dinata said the existing road network built by companies managing various concessions in nearby industrial forests had already put a barrier between conservation areas inhabited by tigers.

Opening the forest for a road project could escalate human-tiger conflicts in Sumatra, he added, as tigers often entered human settlements in search of food as a result of deforestation and habitat loss.

“Forest restoration is also aimed to increase the tiger’s population. If their natural habitat is shrinking, they would not be able to breed, and we would not be able to increase their population.”

There were at least 20 tigers in the Harapan forest based on a 2015 research, according to REKI data. But camera traps installed inside the forest, which represents 20 percent of the remaining lowland forest in Sumatra, have captured tiger sightings over the years.

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A camera trap photo shows a Sumatran tiger was roaming the Harapan forest in Musi Banyuasin, South Sumatra in September 2019. Tigers are among the vulnerable and endangered species that inhabit the forest. Photo: Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia

Hospita Yulima, REKI’s spokeswoman, told Arab News that the company so far never received formal notification from the Forestry Ministry that they had permitted the coal transport company to build a road that cuts through their concession, allowing the company to use 424 hectares of land in the forest, on which some parts of the coal road project would be constructed.

The designated areas are part of the Asian elephants’ track and the tigers’ home roaming range.

“If this permit is really issued, it is difficult for us to say that the forestry ministry supports the Harapan forest restoration.”

Arab News tried to contact the ministry for confirmation but failed to receive a response in time. Meanwhile, Diki Kurniawan, a director at the Jambi chapter of the Environmental Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHL) said that activists had urged the company to use an existing road network that goes around the forest or has been constructed by other firms in the area.

“They could negotiate with those companies to use the road, instead of opening the forest just to construct their own road,” he said. The forest is also home to an indigenous, semi-nomad community, the Batin Sembilan, who have made the forest their home for centuries.

Although some members of the community have settled in permanent dwellings inside the forest, they still rely on the forest for their livelihood by harvesting non-wood produce such as honey, resin gum, or rattan. Kurniawan said the YLBHL and 36 other civil society organizations that formed a coalition called South Sumatra-Jambi Anti Forest Destruction to reject the plan is mulling over assisting the indigenous tribe – as the party directly impacted by the project – to challenge the ministry’s decision through a legal channel.

“The road project could open access to poachers and illegal logging. We have seen from previous practices that companies that open the forests could not prevent the forest from the devastating impact,” Kurniawan said.

Read the original story in Arab News

Indonesian police foil attempt to smuggle 36 endangered sea turtles

Indonesian authorities have detained seven people for allegedly attempting to smuggle 36 endangered green sea turtles, police said Sunday.

The police in Bali nabbed the smugglers in the waters off Serangan, a small island on the south-eastern coast of the resort island known for its turtle conservation.

The seven were transporting the green sea turtles – one of the world’s largest species of turtle – in an outrigger boat when they were intercepted, said director of Bali water and air police Toni Ariadi Effendi.

“They were going to hand over the green turtles to someone in Serangan,” Effendi said.

The police have taken the turtles to the local nature conservation agency to be kept as evidence while investigating the case and prosecuting the smugglers before they are to be released back into the wild.

A green turtle weighs up to 132 kilograms and is about 80 to 150 centimeters long.

Six out of the world’s seven sea turtles species are found in Indonesia, which is part of the turtles’ migrating route from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and vice versa. They are hunted for their hard upper shells to be made as accessories or preserved as taxidermy.

 

 

Sumatran tiger dies of poisoning in Aceh

A critically endangered Sumatran tiger has died of insecticide poisoning in Indonesia’s Aceh province, a conservation official said on Wednesday. 

The female tiger, aged between 2-3 years, was found in South Aceh district on Monday with injuries caused by a snare, said Agus Arianto, the head of the provincial government’s Nature Conservation Agency.  

“A necropsy indicates it died of poisoning caused by an agricultural insecticide,” he said. 

It was not clear if the tiger was deliberately poisoned. 

Last month, another Sumatran tiger died after it ate a sheep laced with rat poison in neighbouring North Sumatra province.

In June, police in Aceh also arrested four people for allegedly killing a tiger with a trap and selling its hide, skull and fangs for 100 million rupiah (7,000 dollars).

Conservationists said the coronavirus pandemic had led to increased poaching in the forests on Sumatra island, as locals turn to hunting to make ends meet.

An increased amount of traps have been found in Sumatra, which is home to some of the world’s most endangered species, according to the conservation group Leuser Conservation Forum.

The Sumatran tiger is the only tiger subspecies left in Indonesia, after the tigers on the islands of Java and Bali became extinct years ago.

There are only about 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, and their population is dwindling due to poaching and loss of natural habitat caused by rapid deforestation for palm oil plantations, conservationists warn.

Indonesia battles dengue outbreak as COVID-19 persists

Indonesia is battling a second deadly disease, dengue fever, which continues to infect its population way past the average peak recorded earlier this year, after efforts to prevent the outbreak were sidelined by anti-COVID-19 restrictions.

According to the Health Ministry, as of Monday there were 68,000 dengue cases across the nation, resulting in 446 deaths.

Deserted tourism hotspots, such as Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara and Buleleng, Denpasar, and Badung in Bali are among the regions recording the most significant number of dengue infections.

COVID-19 cases were also on the rise in Bali, which had 1,080 cases as of Monday.  

“Many hotels that are left empty may have become breeding grounds for mosquito populations,” Siti Nadia Tarmizi, the Health Ministry’s director for vector-borne and zoonotic diseases, said.

“They have always been in check with regular mosquito larvae controlling measures but, with workers off duty, the efforts have been largely unchecked.” 

She said that while Bali had always recorded a significant number of dengue cases, they had never been as high as this year.

“We encourage operators of hotels and places of worship to also conduct larvae busting efforts in addition to disinfecting their premises ahead of the reopening of tourism areas.”

In previous years, dengue fever season would have peaked by March or April. But  this year the country is seeing a prolonged period of infections, with many cases still being recorded in June.

“Normally we would find less than 10 cases by June but, this year, we still find 100 to 500 cases every day so far, although the number of cases and fatalities year-on-year are not as high as June 2019, which recorded 105,000 cases and 727 deaths,” Tarmizi added.

Dengue fever first hit Indonesia in 1968, and the fatality rate had reached almost 50 percent. However, health authorities managed to control the outbreak and reduced the fatality rate to less than one percent over the years.

A spike in the dengue outbreak occurred in 2015, with authorities pulling out all the stops to prevent a recurrence.

But they are also likely to be dealing with double infection cases as the dengue outbreak is occurring in provinces that are most infected by coronavirus such as West Java, Jakarta, East Java, and South Sulawesi, Dr. Tarmizi said.

A chart from the Health Ministry has marked the whole of Java — Indonesia’s most populated island where 141 million of the country’s 270 million people live — in red, indicating that infections are high in the area.

The provinces located in Java, including the capital, Jakarta, West Java, and East Java are also the worst-hit by COVID-19.

Indonesia reported 954 new COVID-19 cases and 35 deaths on Monday, increasing the national total to 46,845, and the fatalities to 2,500, while Jakarta’s cases reached 10,098.

“While dengue can infect people of all ages, we have seen a trend of teenagers who are already in a critical phase being admitted (to hospitals),” Dr. Mulya Rahma Karyanti, a pediatrician, said during an online press conference on Monday.

The Indonesian Pediatric Society (IDAI) chairman, Aman Pulungan, has said that dengue fever is among a list of health problems that many Indonesian minors suffer from, making them among the most vulnerable to be infected by coronavirus.

A crate idea: Indonesian architects reuse plastic boxes to build mosque

Under normal circumstances, the small mosque on the outskirts of Jakarta constructed from 1,208 used plastic bottle crates would have been abuzz with the sound of people praying and reciting the Quran during Ramadan.

It would be the first Ramadan since the 42-meter-square mosque was built in late 2019, following the establishment of Kebun Ide (Garden of Ideas) — a restaurant with a back-to-nature theme — which houses the facility.

The coronavirus pandemic might have prevented communal prayers, but the mosque’s plastic recycling design is still attracting attention.

“Since we have this prayer room, many residents around here have expressed interests to organize gatherings such as group Quran recitations there. But unfortunately, we cannot do that now as we have to close the restaurant due to social distancing rules,” Handoko Hendroyono, the owner of Kebun Ide, told Arab News.

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A worshipper prayed inside Kotakrat, a praying room that can accommodate nine worshippers and constructed of 1,208 reused plastic bottle crates built in late 2019 in Bintaro township on the southern outskirts of Jakarta. Photo: Instagram @psastudio

The pavilion, named Kotakrat, was initially constructed to be part of a local architectural exhibition in Bintaro township.

“The project concept was good because it reused discarded material, and there was a need for a praying room for our guests and employees, so I agreed to have the Kotakrat to be constructed in our space. Now we have a very good place to pray. Many visitors didn’t realize that it is actually a prayer room,” he added.

Designed and constructed by architect firm PSA Studio, Kotakrat is part of an architectural project to build a multi-purpose “space of kindness” to meet the community’s social needs.

“This space of kindness can be in the form of a kiosk, place of worship, shelter, bus stop, security post, and many other places. It is built from plastic crates that we can easily find and install to form a space for various architectural shapes and purposes. The crates can be arranged to function as a roof, a partition, and a wall,” Ario Wirastomo, a principal architect in the firm, told Arab News.

This construction used 1,208 used plastic bottle crates to form the prayer room’s walls and roof, and benches for the visitors to remove their shoes before entering.

It also provides water faucets for congregants to perform ablutions.

The architects used bolts to join the crates. They also used a polycarbonate roof supported by hollow metal frames.

The mosque has two separate entrances for men and women, although it does not separate men and women in the 8.64-meter-square praying space that can accommodate three rows of nine worshippers. The first row is for the imam, while the other two rows are for men and women respectively.

“As a prayer room is a public place that Muslims would look for to perform the five daily prayers everywhere they go, we expect the Kotakrat space would be durable and functional for a long time,” Wirastomo said.

Despite reusing discarded material, Wirastomo said he could not claim this project was environmentally friendly but he hoped people would be more aware of recycling waste.

Indonesia is one of the world’s top plastic waste producers with 5.05 million tonnes of plastic rubbish generated annually, out of which 81 percent is mismanaged and contributes 10 percent to the global total of mismanaged plastic waste. Our World In Data projected that Indonesia would contribute almost 11 percent of global mismanaged plastic waste by 2025.

The country’s chief maritime affairs and investment minister, Luhut Pandjaitan, recently said that Indonesia has come up with an action plan that aims to reduce 70 percent of its plastic pollution by 2025, hoping to be free of plastic waste by 2040.

This story was first published in Arab News

Palu croc proves too elusive for Aussie wranglers

Australian animal experts tried and failed to free a crocodile that has been stuck for years with a motorcycle tyre around its neck, an Indonesian official said Tuesday.

Matt Wright, the host of the Nat Geo Wild series Outback Wrangler, and fellow animal wrangler Chris Wilson set up steel traps to catch the saltwater crocodile but the reptile proved to be elusive.

“They have returned to Australia but they promised to come again in May if we had not managed to remove the tyre outselves,” said Rino Ginting, the head of the team tasked with saving the crocodile, which lives in a river on Sulawesi island.

“The river is too wide and there were too many spectators, making the crocodile too afraid to walk onto dry land,” he said.

Wright wrote on Instagram on Sunday that the crocodile “has been tough to catch”.

“It’s all about getting the right opportunity to get a good run at catching him and there far and few between,” he said.

On Monday he wrote that he would “be back soon to continue operations.”

Previous attempts by local psychics, members of an Australian conservation group and a celebrity animal whisperer also failed.

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A neighborhood on the banks of the Palu River, which runs through the city. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

The crocodile was first spotted in 2016 with the tyre in a river running through Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province.

At the time, officials at the conservation agency feared that the tyre would strangle the reptile as it grew bigger.

Local authorities estimate there are 36 crocodiles in the area.

Australian presenter tries luck at saving Palu croc

An Australian animal expert is trying his luck at freeing a crocodile that has been stuck for years with a motorcycle tyre around its neck on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island.

A contest to get the tyre off the saltwater crocodile was called off earlier this month after no one volunteered.

Matt Wright, the host of the Nat Geo Wild series Outback Wrangler, arrived in Palu on Monday at the invitation of the local conservation agency and began building a trap to catch the crocodile.

“We have managed to set one trap in the river and plan to head over this arvo (afternoon) with the police to try our luck on the river,” Wright wrote on Instagram on Wednesday.

The crocodile was first spotted in 2016 with the tyre in a river running through Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province.

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The Palu River runs through the city of Palu in Central Sulawesi. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

At the time, officials at the conservation agency feared that the tyre would strangle the reptile as it grew bigger.

Local authorities estimate there are 36 crocodiles in the area.

Last month, agency head Hasmuni Hasmar offered a reward to anyone who could get the tyre off the crocodile, but cancelled the offer after no one came forward.

Hasmar said Wright was accompanied by fellow Australian crocodile wrangler Chris Wilson.

“He is also training members of our specialized team who are helping him,” he said.

Previous attempts by local psychics, members of an Australian conservation group and even a celebrity animal whisperer to try to remove the tyre failed.

Indonesian Spider-Man makes neighbourhood friendly

When Rudi Hartono started picking up rubbish on beaches in and around his coastal community on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island more than two years ago, very few people paid attention to him.

But that changed when he began wearing a Spider-Man costume in 2018.

“Wearing the costume did the trick because it attracted people’s attention,” said Rudi, a 36-year-old cafe worker.

“Other people began joining and even the local government started doing their job of cleaning up.”

“More recently, my photos became viral and more people have joined,” he said.

Rudi said he bought the superhero costume to impress his young nephew but instead he scared the boy.

“So I decided to wear it while picking up rubbish on the beaches,” he said.

Rudi said he also removed graffiti scrawled by students on the local council building.

But he said despite the work he has done, some people are critical of his appearance.

“Some people mocked me and called me beer-bellied Spider-Man and an attention seeker,” he said. “But most people are on my side.”

About 20 per cent of plastic waste in Indonesia is believed to end up in rivers and coastal waters, according to the World Bank.

A World Bank report said every 20 minutes the equivalent of a 10-ton truckload of plastic is dumped into the waters around Indonesia, making the country the world’s second-largest plastic polluter after China.

Aid sought for croc with tyre stuck around neck

Psychics, Australian animal rescuers and a celebrity adventurer have all failed to free a crocodile stuck with a motorcycle tyre around its neck for more than three years, but Indonesian authorities are not prepared to give up yet.

The saltwater crocodile was first spotted with the tyre in a river running through the provincial capital of Palu in 2016. At the time, officials feared that the tyre would strangle the reptile as it grew bigger.

Hasmuni Hasmar, the head of conservation in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province, is offering a reward for an expert who can end the animal’s suffering.

“Whoever can remove the tyre around the crocodile’s neck will be rewarded,” Hamuni said, adding that the money will come from his own pocket. “It’s quite substantial.”

But he’s not publicizing the amount of the reward, fearing such a move could attract people without skills to come forward and endanger themselves.

“It will draw reckless people to come and this is dangerous because there are about 36 crocodiles in the area,” he said.

In 2018, a celebrity animal rescuer, Panji The Adventurer, and his crew tried to lure the animal on to dry land, but their attempts failed.

Before that, local authorities had enlisted local sorcerers and even members of an Australian conservation group, but to no avail.

It’s not as simple as just using a tranquilizer to subdue the crocodile, Hasmuni says.

“If we go down there, other crocodiles can attack us,” he said.

Tiger skin, fetuses seized in Indonesia’s wildlife trafficking raid

Indonesian authorities detained five people in Pelalawan district of Riau province for allegedly poaching and trading body parts of rare Sumatran tigers, an official said Sunday.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry’s law enforcement and forest protection director, Sustyo Iriono, said officials from the ministry and the police seized four tiger fetuses from three suspects, including a husband and wife, during a raid on Saturday morning.

“The fetuses were stored in a plastic jar. Based on the information from those arrested, the authorities were able to arrest two more suspects and seized the skin of an adult tiger,” Iriono said.

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The skin of an adult tiger found during a raid on wildlife traffickers in Pelalawan, Riau province. Photo: Photo: Balai Pengamanan dan Penegakan Hukum Lingkungan Hidup dan Kehutanan wilayah Sumatra

The suspects could face up to five years in prison and a fine of 100 million rupiahs according to articles in the 1990 natural resources conservation law.

The Sumatran tiger is the last of Indonesia’s three subspecies of tigers that still exists and is listed as a critically endangered species. The big cat has been pushed to the brink of extinction due to its natural habitat rapidly perishing as a result of massive deforestation.

According to data from the forestry ministry, there are roughly 600 Sumatran tigers now living in the species’ natural habitat, but human encroachment on the protected forest that the tigers inhabit has caused frequent human-tiger conflict.

A farmer was found dismembered last week after a suspected attack by a Sumatran tiger in his coffee field in South Sumatra province. Another farmer was injured.

It was the second fatal tiger attack in the province in less than a month. A camper from Musi Banyuasin was injured in a tiger attack while he was camping in Pagaralam’s Gunung Dempo in November.