|Prince Philip and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discuss the Buddhist 8-Year Plan at an event dedicated to faith and conservation. (Photo courtesy of ARC/Richard Stonehouse)|
In July, biodiversity specialist and blogger Tony Whitten wrote a post about not abandoning old-fashioned conservation techniques as an important method of taking positive action on climate change. One of the important old-school mitigation methods, he wrote, lies in protecting the world’s forests through reforestation and avoiding further deforestation.
Accordingly, a big part of the ongoing climate change discussion includes reducing emissions through deforestation and degradation (known as REDD). And the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization now offers a tool to help monitor forests in developing countries. Using satellite imagery and other data, the Global Forest Resources Assessment Portal displays the information on an interactive map.
In my earlier blog posts and video on my return visit to Siberut, I mentioned that we had visited the Pungut Research Camp of the German Primate Centre and Institut Pertanian Bogor in the far north of the island.
The 4000 ha forested study area is leased from the logging company within whose concession it lies and is used under an agreement with the clan which claims it and in cooperation with the community of the local village, Politcioman. This first-rate site has been operating for several years and can support national and international researchers. It took some while to iron out some problems but these have now been sorted.
|Red deer from the Mongolia Red List for Mammals.|
The Red Books and Red Lists, produced regularly by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, are fundamental tools in the monitoring of the conservation status of the world’s animals and plants. On publication, the news they generate is very significant but generally rather depressing. However, these global Red Lists have their limitations at national levels – when species are nationally very common but globally threatened – or when species are very rare and threatened, with no global conservation concern whatsoever.
Take the Red Deer in Mongolia for example. Globally this is formally of ‘Least Concern’ (pdf) – the lowest category – because it has an enormous range, is managed for hunting in many countries, and effectively protected in others. But in Mongolia, its status is the highest possible ‘Critically Endangered’ (pdf).
|It was clear that our study area on the Indonesian island of Siberut is now rarely visited by anyone. (More photos)|
My last post described my reactions to going back to Siberut Island with my wife after a 30-year break, and this one considers the changing conservation situation there. The terrestrial mammals of the island are remarkable in that almost all are endemic, and among them are four species of primates (one an endemic genus) – levels of endemism equivalent to those found in Madagascar.
There has been formal logging on and off over the last 30 years but we hadn’t found a map of exactly where. When we reached the basin where our study area had been, the views from the villages was of logged-over forest. The rights to log the forests had been negotiated with local clans, but in hindsight the benefits were pretty meager and short-lived. The trees the loggers sought were the large and magnificent Shorea, and with these now gone it is getting harder for people to make their dugout canoes. Also, we were struck by the contrast of the timber quality of the longhouses we visited in areas without logging against the timber quality of the small government-sponsored modern houses with corrugated iron roofs. The timber available now seems to start looking decayed as soon as it is nailed into place.
Go anywhere after a 30 year break and you expect to see change – and you hope things will be better. Thus my wife Jane and I, together with our four children, were intrigued to see what life was like now on Siberut, the largest and most northerly of the Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra, when we visited it a few weeks ago. Jane and I had lived in a hut in the middle of the island conducting wildlife research for over two years until 1978. We wanted to see our closest friend there, Potifar Tengatiti Siribetuk, as well as other old friends, our old study area, some of the remaining traditional houses, and as many of Siberut’s four endemic species of primates as we could.
Visiting the island and the provincial capital of Padang also provided an opportunity to observe the impacts of the $1 million of grants which had focused on Siberut under the Phase 1 of the World Bank-implemented Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. These grants had followed on from an Asian Development Bank loan project (pdf) from 1992-2000 which was not a resounding success for a variety of reasons. This had itself followed on from WWF projects.
|The Superbotrechus Bennetti beetle was discovered during a survey of cave biodiversity in China.|
|I thought that seeing zoo animals would have prepared me for seeing these unfettered beasts at close quarters, but I was completely wrong. They are HUGE.|
I’d seen the video, read the book, heard the David Attenborough podcast, written the box, gone to the zoos, got the T-shirt. So I thought I knew Komodo Dragons pretty well, even if I hadn’t seen them in the wild. I’d seen many other types of monitor lizards in forests and along rivers all over Asia and Australia, and didn’t think that seeing a larger one would be an especially great way to use up a precious day of vacation.
So when we landed in Flores in the dry Lesser Sunda islands of southern Indonesia, we were in two minds whether to bother to go to Komodo National Park which for nearly 20 years has been a World Heritage Site. There are certainly other things to do in western Flores such as trekking the Mbeliling forests, visiting the remarkable highland village of Waerebo, snorkelling/diving, and vegging out in some interesting hotels such as the EcoLodge. Eventually, on the grounds that it would be faintly ridiculous to be so close to such a famous site and not to take a day to go, we rented a boat for the two-hour trip to the park’s Tourist Zone. (Mind you, I believe I’m one of the very few people ever to have gone to Agra and not seen the Taj Mahal.)