North Sulawesi, Conservation of the Paguyaman Forest
n 1998, Lyn Clayton won a runner up prize for her project to establish a 32,500 hectare protected area, the Paguyaman Forest, in North Sulawesi Indonesia. This wild and remote forest area is of international importance for the babirusa, an extraordinary, curly-tusked pig-like animal endemic to Sulawesi.
The babirusa (Babyrousa babyrussa)is seriously threatened: its total wild population numbers approximately 4,000 individuals according to the IUCN, and the remaining population remains vulnerable as a result of both illegal poaching and destruction of the species’ lowland forest habitat. The Paguyaman Forest, accessible by longboat, is one of the last remaining strongholds of the barirusa. Without active conservation and protection of this site, wild babirusa populations are likely to vanish in the near future. A key feature of the site is a large natural salk-lick where it is possible to observe the elusive babirusa as they congregate to consume mineral-rich soil and engage is aggressive jousting matches. The area is also important for both the anoa, a rare dwarf buffalo, sulawesi macaques and the Sulawesi wild pig.
While its general form is pig-like, the babirusa’s peculiarities have warranted the creation of a separate genus. Recent studies of fossils show that this species may be more closely related to hippopotamuses than pigs. Native legend has it that at night the babirusa hangs with its tusks from the branch of a tree. The hooked tusks are also said to look like and have the same general function as antlers, which is reflected in the name ‘babirusa’, which means ‘pig-deer’.
For the last fifteen years, British scientist Dr. Lynn Clayton has worked with a team of Indonesian colleagues, including scientists, forestry department officials as well as former hunters, to establish the Paguyaman Forest as a functioning nature reserve. This work has included pioneering alternative methods of forest protection, involving Indonesia’s elite special police forces patrolling the Paguyaman Forest Reserve alongside local villagers. This has resulted in the complete cessation of illegal logging from within the Paguyaman Reserve, whereas prior to this step, ten rafts of illegal timber were rafted past the project’s field camp each day.
As part of her project, Lynn and her team have also carried out training workshops and school programme for local communities at Paguyaman, as well as boundary marking and construction of a field station. These activities have resulted in a 180 degree turnabout in local opinion towards the reserve. A children’s story book ‘The Special Place in the Forest’ has been distributed to local primary schools, and 8000 teak trees have been grown and planted outside the reserve as a bufferzone crop for local settlers. Five national and international television documentaries, as well as local radio advertisements, have helped raise awareness of Paguyaman’s global importance for biodiversity.
The project has also been active in addressing the illegal trade in babirusa meat. Trapped using string leg snares and transported hundreds of miles by wild meat traders for sale in the markets of Manado, North Sulawesi, babirusa populations were in decline as a result of this illegal trade. The project worked with local officials to bring about the first ever completed court prosecution against a babirusa trader in 2002, which provided a major deterrent to other traders. As a result of this and other project anti-poaching operations , the numbers of babirusa sold in local markets has fallen dramatically, from 15 babirusa per week in 1991 to 2 per week today. Lynn is continuing her work to reduce the numbers killed still further. Today, most dealers prefer not to carry babirusa meat, instead trading in the unprotected Sulawesi wild pig.
In a further pioneering step, in early 2004, the Gorontalonese parliament ratified local legislation to protect and manage the Paguyaman Reserve. Looking to the future the head of Gorontalo’s regional government Mr. A.H. Pakaya said ‘it is our aim to establish the Paguyaman Forest as a beacon of sound rain forest management for the whole of Indonesia and worldwide’.
PAGUYAMAN FOREST PROTECTED AREA INCREASED BY 21,000 HA
Feb 17th 2004
Amidst pessimism of Indonesia’ conservation record comes rare positive news from the little known province of Gorontalo, on the island of Sulawesi. The remote and accessible Paguyaman Forest, one of Indonesia’s few remaining pristine forests and the last stronghold in the world of the extraordinary curly-tusked pig, the babirusa, has been increased in area from 31,000 hectares (120 square miles) to 52,000 hectares (200 square miles) by the Gorontalonese local government.