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biodiversity

Deforestation in Sumatra, Indonesia – mapping the "thwacking"

Tony Whitten's picture

Click map to enlarge.
Looking at the new maps of Sumatra's forests, the Once-ler in Dr Seuss' The Lorax would not conclude that we "cared a whole awful lot," but rather that we were cutting them down as fast as we please.

It's nearly 35 years since I first flew over Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia. Looking out of the plane window, the dark green forests stretched to the horizon. Even if there weren't any Truffula trees, there were many herds of elephants, families of tigers, groups of monkeys and many thousands of lone orangutans calling and moving around the forest, hardly ever crossing paths with humans. Then came the organized loggers, the transmigration settlements, and the plantations – rubber, oil palm and industrial timber.

About half Sumatra's forests have been lost since 1985. Last year, a WWF report (pdf) found that forest cover in Riau province, central Sumatra, has fallen from 78% to 25% in 25 years.

Short video clip on the impact of a nickel mine in Tanjung Buli, Indonesia

Tony Whitten's picture

On the trip back to the base of PT Weda Bay Nickel after our two days in the Aketajawe-Lolobata National Park, we flew over the operating nickel mine at Tanjung Buli owned by publicly listed PT Aneka Tambang, but which has been operated since the opening in 2001 by a subcontractor.

Indonesia: The giant cuckoos, enormous gingers, and pretty leeches of Halmahera

Tony Whitten's picture

Judith Schleicher and I have just left the eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera, which was the subject of my first blog post a year ago. We were there on the second supervision mission – something which must sound pretty dull. In fact it was a real pleasure to meet with friends in the project team again, to see how well they are doing, and pretty exciting to have two days and two nights in the forests of the northern block of the Aketajawe-Lolobata National Park to see – despite the rain – some of the biodiversity and human impacts in the area. P.T. Weda Bay Nickel kindly allowed us to use their helicopter to get into the forest, landing at the junction of three abandoned logging roads within the northern (Lolobata) section of the national park.

Burung Indonesia is doing a fine job of executing this project and has already developed solid relationships with government, civil society and private entities to form a strong and informed constituency of concern for the protection of this new national park.

(After the jump: More about Halmahera Island’s wildlife – including birds, trees and leeches – and photos.)

Grazing in a nature reserve the only choice for herders in Xinjiang Uighur region of China

Tony Whitten's picture

Just before Christmas my colleagues Judith Schleicher and Zeng Jun joined me on a visit to Lake Aibi in order to visit Kokobasto, a Kazakh nationality village situated north of the lake and within the Lake Aibi Nature Reserve in China's far north-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. When I last visited the village (as mentioned briefly in my rant about goats and an accompanying YouTube film), I was told that herders from the high summer pastures to the north came down to Kokobasto during the winter along with their livestock.

I had wanted to meet them and discuss herding practices, even though it was a particularly cold and bleak time of year.  In fact those shifting herders no longer come to Kokobasto, and my following YouTube film documents some of the meetings we had with a selection of the 250 inhabitants who live permanently in the village.

The villagers feel part of Tuoli County, Tacheng Prefecture, to the north, and they have their livestock grazing permit from there. But they actually live and herd their livestock in the nature reserve, which lies wholly within Jinghe County, Bortala Prefecture.

Discovering two new cave-dwelling species before lunch

Tony Whitten's picture

I'm in the north of Guangxi in southern China feeling privileged to be working in such a dramatic karst limestone landscape and part of another great project team. The conical and vertical towers of limestone jut out of the flat agricultural land, sometimes in single sentinels and sometimes in great families of jagged, pointed peaks, no two alike. At Mulun National Nature Reserve which abuts the Maolan World Heritage Site in Guizhou, there is nothing but these towers, and this is one of the sites getting detailed attention within our Integrated Forestry and Conservation Development Project. One sub-component of the project is directed at cave biodiversity. In that regard, we recently made some remarkable discoveries at Mulun.

As I have mentioned in an earlier blog post, cave biodiversity gets appallingly little attention relative to its significance. It is surely the most unknown of the terrestrial ecosystems, and it makes me drool to be close to places for which so little biological information is available.

Landing in Gizo: Understanding the Solomon Islands

Edith Bowles's picture

The country is often dismissed as the Pacific's failed state, yet conversations with community members and officials reveal clear visions of what a state can provide in terms of services and a role in community life.
The Gizo airport in Solomon Islands has no parking lot, because there is no road – only a jetty out into the lagoon. It took me several minutes and a walk around the solitary airport building to work this out, by which point my plane had already headed back to Honiara, the country’s capital.

The Gizo airstrip, reportedly built for a visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the 1970s, occupies the entire length of the island of Nusatupe – as a quick look at Google Maps confirms. It is located picturesquely, if ultimately somewhat inconveniently, about two kilometers from the provincial capital island of Gizo. As I was beginning to wonder how I was going to make my way to Gizo, a team from the Government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock fortunately pulled up in an outboard motorboat.

In December, just three months after my arrival in the Solomon Islands to serve as the World Bank’s country manager, I chose Western Province for my second trip out of Honiara. One of the main goals in my first year on the job is to visit each of the nine provinces to begin gaining some understanding of this small but complex country.

Leaving an imprint: Rebuilding the shrimp sector in Aceh, Indonesia

David Lawrence's picture

 

In my 12 years at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), I've been involved with a lot of different projects. Many of them were successful, some were not. But none of them were as satisfying as the Aceh Shrimp Project, which closed last month. If you've ever hit a bull's eye when playing darts, imagine that feeling multiplied by 100. That's what this project felt like.

Aceh is an autonomous province on the northern tip of Sumatra, in Indonesia, with a population of 4.2 million. It has a colorful history of resistance: they gave the Dutch colonists major headaches, and fought against the Indonesian government for three decades. In December 2004 the Tsunami struck, leaving 165,000 people dead or missing in the space of 30 minutes. This led to the biggest reconstruction effort in history, including IFC's work to build up the private sector, funded by AusAID (pdf) through its Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development (AIPRD).

Shrimp is a key sector in Aceh, a livelihood for 100,000 people. In the 1990s, Aceh's shrimp sector was slammed by white spot disease, which devastated shrimp harvests.{C}

Customary forest, coffee growing and dancing on Buton, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Tony Whitten's picture

Four years ago, the Lambusango Forest project started on Buton in Southeast Sulawesi.  Conservation contracts have included introducing village cooperatives to niche markets (for more, see my previous blog post). This film records parts of the final supervision mission:

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