24Dec/22

Javan gibbon: strengthening conservation networks at grassroot level

Javan gibbon ( Hylobates moloch)

In November-December 2022 SwaraOwa received visits from parties who have so far fully supported the development of the Javan gibbon conservation program in Central Java, especially Pekalongan Regency.

Mandai Nature representative from Singapore, visited the gibbon habitat November 18-22 2022, Mandai Nature is the new name of the Institution that previously  namely Wildlife Reserve Singapore which has supported the swaraowa’s program since 2014, through the Coffee and Primate Conservation project. In 2022 swaraowa also collaborated with Chance for Nature ( CfN) from Germany which also supports programs that have been running through the gibbon coffee project and provided new input for monitoring the Javan gibbon and became a guest speaker at the annual event sokokembang  primate field course  on 12-15 December 2022 .

Mandai team and Swaraowa team, at Kopi Owa Sokokembang

Special guests from the two institutions visited to see first-hand the programs that have been developed so far. At the gibbon coffee production house in Yogyakarta, the headquartered organization of the gibbon coffee team introduces commodities produced through the project, especially coffee which has been sent to Singapore every year since 2016. Introducing the team and introducing coffee characters from several locations as well as describing the taste of each of these coffees became the main activity in Yogyakarta.

Turning to the field, in Sokokembang we stayed at the swaraowa field station, which had been built and prepared to support field activities, where we could see directly the Robusta shade grown coffee production site, which is managed together with the residents. Part of the production of palm sugar can also be witnessed directly at the Swaraowa field station.

meet the Beekeeper at Tembelan village

Observing the primates in Sokokembang is of course special, because these are the primates that have linked Swaraowa . All primates in this area can be found directly, Javan langurs, gibbons, leaf monkeys and long-tailed macaques can all be found directly by these special guests without having to enter the forest but observing along the road from Kroyakan to Sokokembang.

Christian from Chance for Nature with Mendolo officials

Interact directly with people from Petungkriyono and Lebakbarang who have been directly involved in the development of forest commodity activities and conservation. Visiting Tlogohendro to see Arabica coffee production and nursery locations, and also see beekeeping in the village of Kayupuring Setipis, where native bees (Apis cerana) are developed for economic value bee honey.

Dirk Meyer (CfN) with participants of primate field course Sokokembang

In Mendolo Village, met with village officials and saw the beekeeping activities that have been developed since 2017 and supported by funding from Mandai Nature.

The visits of these supporting partners not only strengthen communication between swaraowa and the sponsors, but also increase self-confidence and pride in what the people around the forest have, because what has been done so far has also been appreciated by people from abroad. What’s more, this visit will at least strengthen the conservation narrative that has been initiated, to amplify and promote activities from the natural habitat of Indonesian primates, to the world.

 

Written by Arif Setiawan

17Dec/22

The 9th Sokokembang Primate Field Course

all participants and guest experts MSP 2022, infront of SwaraOwa Field Station

The 9th Primate Survey Method Training (MSP) event has just been completed ,were successfully held on 12-15 Deember 2022, in Sokokembang,  and is the closing of Swaraowa’s activities in 2022. The primate survey method training activity, known as MSP, aims to increase capacity and encourage the emergence of primate researchers and  conservationist from the younger generation, as well as building a network of primate researchers.

As in previous years, MSP 2022 is collaborating with KP3 Primata, Forestation Faculty of Forestry, Gadjah Mada University, who is longtime patner organizer, which is different from previous MSPs this year we are holding in December, and the MSP event course content is also more focused on the gibbon population estimate .

field practice for gibbon triangulation survey and placement pasive voice recorder

The series of events began with the announcement of registration to the selection of participants, where 25 applicants , we selected based on the motivation letters and CVs of each prospective participant, until finally 10 participants were selected. all these participants are fully funded for their transport, food  and accomodation during in the field. This year’s participants are students who have or are currently doing primate research and are also non-governmental organizations.

classroom activities, Adin (swaraowa) with pasive voice recorder setting up introduction

photo group field practice MSP 2022

The MSP 2022, with the concept of one day of basic theory in classroom  and two practical days of data collection for the purpose of estimating primate populations presented by course tutor Salmah Widyastuti, a doctoral student from IPB who is also an alumni of MSP 2017, 2018. For the vocal count triangulation method this year too introduced the ASCR (Acoustic Spatial Capture-Recapture) analysis method for estimating gibbon density based on vocalization. The swaraOwa team itself had 2 speakers who provided material, namely Kurnia Ahmaddin who introduced the use of passive recording devices for monitoring based on sound, and Nur Aoliya who introduced bioacoustics analysis of the Javan gibbon calls.

There were two guest speakers that we invited to the MSP 2022 event,  Dirk Meyer from Chance for Nature Germany, who also shared his experiences on using bioacoustics for the conservation of leaf-eating monkeys from the genus Presbytis and Indira Nurul Qomariah from the Center for Orangutan Protection who shared experience on cyber campaigns for the conservation of Indonesian primates.

Participants who were divided into 3 groups practiced the vocal count method for 2 days and also installed passive recording devices at predetermined observation points (Listening Points ). The practice of data collection and installation and data analysis was carried out on the second day, with the guidance of the presenters and guest speakers.

Presentation of research results and writing of reports on observations concluded the 4-day MSP 2022 activities in the Sokokembang forest. There is a selection of the best chosen based on the results of writing reports and presentations by participants.

The Sokokembang field course  was held thanks to the support from Fortwayne Children’s Zoo, Ostrava Zoo, Chance for Nature, and Kopi Owa.

Written by : Arif Setiawan

11Dec/22

SwaraOwa at the 8th Asian Primate Symposium, Vietnam

The first international primate conference held in Asia since the Covid-19 pandemic, the 8th edition of the Asian Primate Symposium took place at the Forestry Faculty of the Vietnam National University in Hanoi.

Word that the event was going to happen first went out in August 2022 and sparked some excitement on social media. The organisers hoped to attract a sizeable number of delegates from Indonesia, the single Asian country with the most primate species. I was therefore honoured to be able to represent Indonesia as a member of the scientific committee on this occasion. On behalf of SwaraOwa I and Aoliya will present and give talks in the symposium.

Vietnam has 24 species of primates, including a slow loris (Lorisidae), six species of crested gibbon belonging to the genus Nomascus, various monkeys (Cercopithecidae) and strikingly coloured langurs (Colobinae). Unfortunately, almost 90% of the primate species in Vietnam are on the verge of extinction, and 10 of these are already critically endangered.

The tragedy that was the Vietnam War has left an indelible mark on Vietnam’s culture and geopolitics that still has consequences for its biodiversity. Vietnam is one of the foremost biodiversity hotspots in Southeast Asia, but is at the same time a global centre for the illegal wildlife trade. Conservationists in Vietnam certainly have a lot on their plates as a result. Visiting Vietnam gave me an opportunity to observe first-hand how initiatives to protect nature, especially these primate species, are unfolding.

When we received the invitation to this symposium, we immediately started making plans for primate watching. Squeezing in a visit to Cat Tien National Park – or Cat Tien NP for short – before the conference was a very tempting prospect indeed. Located in southern Vietnam, it is famous for being home to the Yellow-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus gabrielle) and the Black-shanked douc (Pygathrix nigripes).

An interesting fact about Cat Tien NP is that its logo is a Javan rhinoceros. Indeed, the subspecies Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus once lived in Vietnam. Sadly though, the last known specimen was found dead by the authorities in 2010. The rhino is known to have been shot by poachers with its horn missing, rhino horn being one of the ingredients used in traditional Chinese medicine.

From Ho Chi Minh airport, the taxi ride to Cat Tien National Park took approximately 4 hours. Entry to the national park cost only 60,000 VND (Rp. 38,000), very affordable in comparison to Indonesia. Along the way, we had to cross a river surrounded by wetlands on one of the boats on standby from 7 am to 7 pm. For gibbon observation, Cat Tien NP charges a separate fee of 200,000 VND, because you need to be accompanied by park staff and spend the night there in order to set off at 4.30am the next day, when the gibbons usually make their morning calls. Upon hearing the gibbons call, the guide will try and determine where they are calling from and lead you towards that location. It is very difficult to spot gibbons when it is light, as they would usually have retreated into the dense upper canopy by then and there are no ideal locations from which to observe them there.

The Black Shanked Douc Langur

Although hiring a guide made a lot of sense, we ultimately chose to explore the park on our own. The roads here are very good and easily traversible on a vehicle, with only tourists being allowed to use them.

Our first encounter with a Vietnamese primate was with the Black-shanked douc, a type of langur the size of our Proboscis monkey in Indonesia. Its pelage is a combination of black and white, and its thighs a glossy black. This species is critically endangered. Like langurs in general which eat leaves, when we encounter them they are usually at rest, digesting the leaves they had eaten. There were two troops that we saw that morning, and they seemed quite habituated to the visitors.

Macaca fascicularis

On the second day we got around using bicycles we rented at the park office. The bike paths were quite well kept, but the bikes not in top condition considering the route was more than 9 km long. Observing while riding a bicycle is also not like walking where you can listen out for every rustle in the trees. But on a bike you can cover huge distances and see the various types of habitats in Cat Tien. We managed to find one troop of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis), one of macaques (Macaca leonina) and one of doucs on this day.

The symposium

There is a rather well developed culture of conservation and primate research in Vietnam, as seen from the many Vietnamese primatologists who were involved in organising the event, as well as the number of international conservation organisations supporting it. The symposium officially commenced on 14 November 2022, in the auditorium of the Vietnam National University’s Forestry Faculty. It opened with a plenary talk by Christian Roos about the diversity and genetic history of Asian primate species.

I myself gave a presentation at one of the sessions on ‘Human – Nonhuman primate interaction and conflict’ alongside four other presenters. An abstract of my presentation, entitled ‘The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic: Learning from the story of Javan gibbon (Hylobates moloch) conservation’, can be found here[https://www.three-monkeys.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Full-APS-Program-Final-11_11_22_Z.pdf].

There was likewise an interesting session on the use of thermal drones to survey and monitor primate populations in Cat Tien National Park. Commercial drones available on the market are deployed at night, when primates are usually at rest and the surrounding temperatures are cooler as compared to during the day, so that the body heat of primates can be more easily detected by the camera sensor.

I chaired a session  on ‘Human – Nonhuman primate interactions and conflicts’ with four presenters, incidentally all representing Indonesian organisations. The first was Octaviana Sawitri from the Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP), who discussed human – orangutan conflict in East Kalimantan. then our team, SwaraOwa’s Nur Aoliya then presented a solution to primates in Petungkriyono accidentally getting electrocuted. The third presenter was Jochen Menner. From Germany, he is works for Prigen Conservation Breeding Ark, Taman Safari, and gave a talk about the online trade in Indonesian primates. And the last talk came from Indira Nurul Qomariah from COP, who also discussed the illegal primate trade in Indonesia.

Nomascus gabrielle

Day two, 15 November 2022, saw us go on a field trip to Chuc Phuong National Park, approximately four hours away by bus. All conference participants joined in. This was in fact my second time in Chuc Phuong. It was great to visit the primate rehabilitation center there again, and also to see various other endangered species. The EPRC was founded in 1993, with the aims to help rehabilitation and rescue center for the illegal primate traded. They will be released if the conditions in the wild are suitable. Among the primates at the EPRC are douc langurs and langurs, which are very attractive. You can imagine that they would stand out even more in their natural habitat, some of which are in inaccessible areas such as karst formations.

Nomascus siki

There is also a centre for the rehabilitation and conservation of reptiles such as turtles and other mammals like pangolins and small carnivores. Some of these facilities are used for visitor education, where the staff and keepers explain their efforts to save the lives of these native animals. Sadly however, as I said at the beginning, Vietnam is a global hub for the illegal animal trade, so releasing these animals back into the wild could cause their downfall because they will likely be caught again and eaten or traded.

The two species of gibbons that I encountered, the Yellow-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus gabrielle) and the Southern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus siki), were in forests near the rehabilitation centre. Because they were outside the cages, they looked like they were in their natural habitat.

After Chuc Phuong, we went to Van Long Nature Reserve to do primate watching in the iconic wetland karst area, where we hoped to find more doucs. Unfortunately, it was pouring when we arrived there and the event had to be cancelled. Quite a shame because this place was renowned as the most visited primate watching destination in Vietnam before the pandemic. This marked the end of my time at the symposium in Vietnam and I returned to Indonesia the next morning.

Our thanks go to the symposium committee, especially the Three Monkey Wildlife Sanctuary. I would also like to thank IUCN SSA  and Fortwayne Children’s Zoo for sponsoring my attendance in the symposium . The next edition of the Asian Primate Symposium in 2024 is likely to be held in Indonesia. See you there!

Written by Arif Setiawan, translated by T.T Chan

 

10Dec/22

Niche ecotourism and the Natuna Island Leaf Monkey

Kekah Natuna (Presbytis natunae)

A primate watching expedition in September 2022 took us to the northern tip of the Indonesian archipelago, to a place called the Natuna Islands. SwaraOwa and Natuna go back all the way to November 2020, when we made our first trip there. This time, we set off for Natuna via Pontianak because there happened to be activities in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, from which we travelled on to Batam. The flight from Batam to Natuna lasted around 1 h 45 min. Finally, at 4.20pm on 8 September 2022 I set foot on Natuna and breathed the fresh air of the islands that I had long dreamt of visiting for the Natuna Island leaf monkey (Presbytis natunae), named Kekah locally. We headed for Mekar Jaya Village, in Bunguran Barat District. Bang Ahdiani, a local hero who played a crucial role in advocating the conservation of native Natuna primates, was expecting us. Bang Ahdiani first took us to visit one of the natural wonders of Natuna, an extraordinarily large outcrop of granite set against a spectacular coastal backdrop. It is a thing of such beauty that words cannot do it justice.

geological history of Natuna Island

This granite outcrop is a throwback to the Jurassic period about 200 million years ago, when, according to geological research, the Natuna Islands were formed by the collision between the Indian Ocean crust and the Sunda shelf. The Natuna Islands are therefore a  valuable repository of geological information and biodiversity that must be preserved for future generations.

The Kekah Natuna can probably trace its origins back to a period approximately 6,000 to 20,000 years ago, when most of Southeast Asia was still a contiguous landmass called Sundaland. Natuna is located near the ancient Molengraaff river system that flowed through part of Sundaland. This river system is named after the geologist and natural explorer Gustaaf Frederik Molengraaff from the Netherlands who studied Sundaland’s ancient rivers in the 1800s. The area was one of the planet’s foremost biodiversity hotspots at that time, but it was significantly affected by changes in sea levels and the global climate.

This graphic shows how most of Sundaland became submerged over time:

source : https://atlantisjavasea.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/sundaland-in-the-last-glacial-period.gif

It is thought that after the dinosaurs became extinct, mammals, including types of leaf-eating monkeys (of which the  Kekah Natuna  is one), spread from the Asian mainland onto the vast plains of Sundaland that stretched as far as Java, Kalimantan and Sumatra. Over a period of two million years, as sea levels rose and fell and the vegetation in the region underwent dramatic changes, primates started diversifying into new species to exploit the new opportunities that emerged. This applies especially to the Presbytis leaf-eating monkeys  or surili’s of Sundaland, now largely underwater and separated into Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. Today, various species of Presbytis monkey are found on Natuna, Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan and surrounding small islands such as Bintan, Singapore, and parts of peninsular Malaysia. The various species are distinguishable by differences in morphology, from their hair colour, body size, skull shape voice, and even genetically.

Every new primate seen alive in its natural habitat counts as a ‘lifer’ for primate observers and is proudly added to their ‘life lists’. That day, I was privileged enough to see the Kekah Natuna for the first time, a lifer for me!

We encountered our first Kekah– a troop of around three individuals – in a rubber plantation mixed with natural timber close to a mangrove swamp. At a distance of approximately 65 meters, we could clearly make out their black crowns, the black on their backs extending down their arms and feet, and the white on the chest and flanks covering their upper abdomen and lower thighs. There is also white around the eyes, nose and mouth, making them look like they are wearing glasses and a mask.

Kekah Natuna with infants

We had got there by skirting the edge of the village along a paved road, which made looking for the surili much easier. A few metres later we saw the same troop again. Incidentally, the surili in Mekar Jaya  ppeared relatively habituated to humans.

We continued to walk through the abandoned rubber plantation around Mekar Jaya, getting a feel for the lay of the land and the habitats there. All the way, the surili seemed to get easier to observe up close. The seeds of these rubber trees turned out to be one of their favourite foods.

At the primate congress in Ecuador last year, the Natuna Island leaf monkey was recognised as one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world. Information on the species is scarce, with only three studies having been conducted since the first specimen was found 86 years ago (read the full report here). A recent publication on the Natuna Island surili in Mekar Jaya estimates that in the three types of habitat found around the hamlet totalling 1,236.17 ha in area, there were around 928.2 individuals. This research can be read in full here: https://jurnal.untan.ac.id/index.php/jmfkh/article/view/52427

We also went on night excursions at Mekar Jaya, where we were very pleased to see that the Malayan colugo (Galeopterus variegatus) could be found quite easily. Sadly, we had no luck finding our target, the slow loris, on our two nights there. What really impressed us about Mekar Jaya was their marine aquaculture, and Bang Ahdiani took us on a boat to see the small islands around Mekar Jaya. We found out that Humphead wrasse breeding on Sedanau Island accounts for a significant portion of Natuna’s exports and wrapped up the boat trip with a sumptuous black pepper crab meal.

enjoying Natuna cullinary

What little research on the Natuna Island surili has already delivered some results. Tours are now organised to look for the Kekah which can promote awareness of the importance of biodiversity in order to resist encroachment on native habitats by humans and their infrastructure. Such tours could also boost the local economy, as they will bring about a demand for lodging and experienced guides. The Kekah Natuna is an obscure species, so bringing it to the attention of an audience from other parts of Indonesia and the world will certainly inspire a greater sense of appreciation for it among locals. Simple as this idea may be, it could ultimately encourage locals to take greater ownership of their natural enviroment and guarantee a future for this threatened primate.

Kekah watching will likewise encourage the participation of the general public in citizen science. The data gathered by ordinary people trying to spot different primate species and tick them off on their life lists can be used to inform how the population and habitat of the Natuna Island surili are managed. This could in turn help locals gain more in the way of ecological, economic, social and cultural benefits from conserving nature. For example, the Kekah  Natuna could both become an emblem of local pride, as well as add to the array of special interest tourist attractions that Natuna has to offer. Everyone has a part to play in ensuring that the surili is not trapped, not kept in captivity and not disturbed, and that its habitat is allowed to thrive.

In sum, observing primates in the wild is a fun activity that brings you closer to nature and will get you talking to local residents who may have lots of interesting cultural and personal experiences to share. What’s more, by sharing your sightings with others, you can broaden our scientific understanding of these unique creatures and allow them to be better protected.

Reference

Harrison, T., Krigbaum, J. and Manser, J., 2006. Primate biogeography and ecology on the Sunda Shelf islands: a paleontological and zooarchaeological perspective. In Primate biogeography (pp. 331-372). Springer, Boston, MA

Written by Arif Setiawan, Translated by T.T Chan

01Nov/22

Petungkriyono Bird Race 2022

all participants, guest speakers and commitee

With the announcement of the winners, the Petungkriyono Bird Race drew to a close on Sunday, 23 October 2022. This competition cum workshop, which had centred on the Black Canyon tourist area in Tinalum Hamlet (Kayupuring Village), lasted three days in total.

In the General category, Team MuLia comprising Wahyudi and Candra Setyawan Nurwijaya came out on top. The delegation from the Youth Organisation of Tlogoguwo Village, Purworejo, managed to beat the seven other registered teams.

The first and second runners-up in the same category were both teams from Jakarta. In second place were Muhammad Bilal Yogaswara and Ainaya Nurfadila (Team Butuh Pendamping Hidup) who represented Simpul Indonesia, and coming third were Aditya Nurrahma Badri and Niken Rahmawati (Team Finding Burung Dulu), from Finding Orchid.

The General category also comprised several other youth groups, agroforestry organisations, as well as the Masyarakat Mitra Polhut, who hail from all over Java, including Jakarta, Pekalongan, Purworejo, Klaten, and Yogyakarta.

participants activity

For the Student category, Team Ngalor-Ngidul won the first place, representing Paguyuban Pengamat Burung Jogja (Birdwatchers’ Association of Yogyakarta). The association, which brings together campus-based birders in Yogyakarta, sent Raden Nicosius Liontino Alieser and Rio Syahrudin.

The second place was won by Muhammad Nafis Ufsi and Ridza Dewananta Subagyo (Team Haliaster team), who took part on behalf of Mapala Haliaster (the Student Naturalists’ Association) of Diponegoro University, Semarang. Placing third were David Suharjanto and Haqqul Fata (Team Bionic) from Kelompok Pengamat Burung Bionic (Bionic Birdwatching Group), Yogyakarta State University. David had been tasked with briefing all participants on the Indonesian Birdwatcher’s Code of Conduct before the race started.

It was in the Student category that we had the most intense competition. The winners had to beat dozens of other teams representing bird and wildlife interest groups from a wide array of universities, namely Jakarta State University, National University, IPB University, Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, Malang Agricultural Institute, Malang State University, and Airlangga University.

The winners were each given a trophy and prizes worth a total of 12 million rupiah. In addition, a special prize for the Most Dedicated Team was awarded to Team Rangkong Racing Club from Mapalipma (Student Naturalists’ Association of the Malang Agricultural Institute) consisting of Arrayaana Artaka and Ahmad Nizar Zulmi Yahya

Chesnut-breasted Malkoha, (Phaenicophaeus curvirostris), encountered by participants in the 2022 Petungkriyono Bird Race

Conservation Workshop

In addition to the competition, the event also included a conservation workshop that was divided into three sessions.

The first featured Untoro Tri Pamungkas, Perhutani chief administrator and Director of the SwaraOwa  Arif Setiawan as speakers. This session was all about conservation in the Petungkriyono forest area.

The next workshop session started with a keynote speech by Waskito Kukuh Wibowo from Birdpacker, Malang, who covered various aspects of birdwatching ecotourism in Indonesia. Kuswoto, chairman of Welo Asri, was the opening speaker representing managers of tourist sites in Kayupuring Village.

the winner General Category

At the third and final session, which focussed on community-based bird conservation, Imam Taufiqurrahman from the SwaraOwa Foundation delivered the first talk. He explained how seven villages had been involved in a survey of Javan blue-banded kingfisher populations.

The second presentation was by Kelik Suparno, chairman of the Wanapaksi KTH Conservation Division, Jatimulyo. He talked us through his group’s efforts to turn Jatimulyo into a Bird-Friendly Village. Their flagship project is the nest adoption programme, which they have been running since 2017. As of October 2022, the programme has successfully protected 61 nests belonging to 15 bird species, including increasingly rare songbirds such as the Javan blue flycatcher (Cyornis banyumas) and Brown-cheeked bulbul (Alophoixus bres), yielding a total of 93 fledglings.

In total, this nest protection programme involves 45 adopters, both individuals and institutions, and 29 land owners. To date, it has raised more than 45 million rupiah for parties such as loca govt, landowners, and KTH Wanapaksi as coordinators.

Concluding the workshop was a debrief and discussion round moderated by Swis Winasis, the creator of the Burungnesia application. Swis Winasis began with a summary of the presentations of the previous speakers in order to get participants thinking and talking about how birdwatchers can contribute to bird conservation.

He then introduced to us the concept of the silent forest. This describes a situation where birds and other animals have largely disappeared from their habitats due to hunting and trading going unchecked. The verdant Petungkriyono forest is in fact the perfect example of a silent forest.

Swis Winasis, a Batu native, elaborated that in total, the participants had seen or heard no more than 32 bird species having spent half a day in the Petungkriyono forest, going by their notes. The average number of species contestants recorded was between eight and 10.

The ensuing discussion round was meant to introduce the projects of the organisations involved. One of the topics that subsequently emerged was the 10th Meeting of Indonesian Birdwatchers. The intention is now for the event to take place in Jakarta

After having been called off for two years in a row due to COVID, no plans had yet been made for a future edition of that meeting. In the discussion, representatives from Jakarta were tasked to draw up a conference agenda with the birdwatching community there.

The Petungkriyono Bird Race 2022 would not have been possible without the support and assistance of many parties. The Asian Species Action Partnership (ASAP), Oriental Bird Club (OBC), Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Zoo Ostrava, and Chances for Nature were the main sponsors. Perhutani supported the event by providing a location to facilitate the flow of participants, funds, and door  prize.

As the organiser of the event, the SwaraOwa Foundation have also received invaluable assistance from various members of the Kayupuring Village community, especially the residents of Tinalum and Sokokembang hamlets. In addition, the organising committee comprised members of the Mendolo Young Farmers Association, Pekalongan University students, and Doro residents.

These conservation-themed competitions and workshops were organised in collaboration with the Black Canyon and Welo Asri tourist organisations, who provided the venue. Burungnesia and Birdpacker provided the applications used in the competition, as well as various door prizes.

Ticket to the Moon sponsored the main door gift for all participants. Other memorabilia were provided by Owa Coffee, Perhutani, and the Department of Environment and Forestry of Central Java Province. Tower Bersama Group provided free health services for one day for participants and committee members.

Written by : Imam Taufiqurrahman, translated by T.T Chan

06Sep/22

Women in beekeeping – Initiative from Sawahan for their family and forest

Of the many scientifically proven benefits to beekeeping, two stand out as especially important to building sustainable livelihoods. The first is economic, resulting from the sale of bee products. The second is ecological, comprising the service bees do the environment by pollinating flowers. It is in fact estimated that bees pollinate one out of every three food items that we consume daily.

Situated near the rainforests that the Javan gibbon wild habitat, the residents of Sawahan- Mendolo Village in Central Java have a crucial role to play in securing the future of this endangered primate. The men in this village have now enthusiastically embraced the idea of rearing stingless bees for honey, an activity known as meliponiculture. Having mostly hunted for honey in the forest in the past, keeping stingless bees in their gardens has both added to their income and made them more economically self-sufficient. This has strengthened our belief in the potential that meliponiculture has as a means of livelihood that promotes conservation.

In order to get yet more people in the village interested in the benefits meliponiculture can offer, we collaborated with the Young Farmer Group of Mendolo (PPM) to hold a workshop for women there, who have thus far not been as actively involved in beekeeping as the men. The event took place on 19 August 2022. One of our main selling points is that stingless bees, as suggested by their name, do not sting, and are therefore relatively safe to handle.

We believe that women are key to promoting beekeeping on  stinglessbee within the community. Playing an integral role in both raising the next generation and tending to the fields, they are ideally poised to impart new ideas about agriculture and livelihoods to the children and youth of the community. The hope is that they will imbue future generations in Mendolo with the enthusiasm to make meliponiculture a mainstay of the local economy. This has the potential to benefit the village in the following ways:

First, the sale of bee products such as honey can increase family income. If each family keeps enough for their own consumption, the honey could also contribute to their nutrition and enhance their immune systems. This could mean reduced medical expenses in the long run.

Second, beekeeping could make for a more pleasant space to live in. If flowering plants suitable as a food source for bees were integrated into the village design, this would have the added advantage of beautifying both gardens and common spaces. Various types of vegetable crops could be grown for the same purpose, such as chilli and aubergine. With the help of bees pollinating their flowers, farmers could also enjoy increased yields from these crops.

Third, many aspects of bee life can be used to inspire us and educate the next generation. The habit that bees have of storing honey and bee bread, for example, can be used to explain the virtue of saving for a rainy day. We can equally learn from the work ethic of these hardworking insects. Aside from being active all day long, bees have a clear division of labour. A queen bee leads the colony, nurse bees take care of newly hatched bees, guard bees ensure the safety of the hive, and senior worker bees find and gather food.

In the light of all these benefits, we hope that the involvement of Mendolo’s women in meliponiculture can make this and other communities around the gibbon forests more aware of the importance of managing natural resources sustainably, as well as provide them the opportunity to engage in independent entrepreneurship while supporting conservation. Through beekeeping, each community is invited to explore their potential in new and creative ways that foster a healthy planet for future generations.

This beekeeping for women project forms part of the SwaraOwa’s Javan Gibbon conservation programme for 2022-2023, which is supported by Mandai Nature and Fortwayne Childre’s Zoo.

Written by Sidiq Harjanto, Translated by TT. Chan.

 

10Jul/22

Citizen scientists seeking the Javan Blue-banded kingfisher

Javan Blue-banded Kingfisher by Siswanto, 2022

More than 50 people are involved in our ongoing survey of the Javan Blue-banded Kingfisher (Alcedo euryzona). Divided into several teams, they have to date looked for the critically endangered bird along five rivers in the Pekalongan area, making numerous observations about the habitat in the process and recording other bird species present. This SwaraOwa project, supported by the Asian Species Action Partnership (ASAP) and the Oriental Bird Club (OBC), shows us what the citizen science movement can achieve.

Before we started on the survey, we held workshops on bird identification and survey techniques for residents from seven villages around the Petungkriyono, Doro and Lebakbarang forests. The event started in Mendolo Village on 11-12 March, and was subsequently repeated in Pungangan Village (25 April), Kayupuring Village (27 April) and Sidoharjo Village (26 May).

Our workshop at Pungangan, 25 April 2022

During the workshops, we taught villagers how to identify the Javan Blue-banded Kingfisher and distinguish it from other species of kingfisher. In terms of survey techniques, we introduced participants to Google Earth to help them find their way to the observation points. Along each of the rivers we covered, participants surveyed consecutive 1 km-long segments that contained five monitoring points 200 m apart from each other. Stationed at each of these points were two team members, who conducted observations simultaneously for one hour.

In addition to confirming the presence of the Javan Blue-banded Kingfisher, observers were asked to record the condition of the local habitat, other bird species observed and any human activity encountered. All this information was entered onto a data sheet.

Trial survey at Mendolo, 11-12 March 2022

As of early June, we have covered 29 of a total of about 37 km of river sections. This figure consists of 10 km on the Welo River, 6 km on the Pakuluran River, 5 km on the Blimbing River (including the Siranda River), 2 km on the Sengkarang River (including the Kumenep River), and 6 km on the Wisnu River.

The survey has produced very satisfactory results so far. We found Javan Blue-banded Kingfisher along two rivers, namely Welo and Wisnu. The kingfishers were found at an elevation of 308-715 m on the Welo River, and at 638-776 m on the Wisnu River. These sightings have extended the known distribution of the species.

Survey sites at Welo, June 2022

The encounter on the westernmost Wisnu River was quite impressive. The Wisnu team, Mendolo villagers who are part of the Mendolo Young Farmers Association, had previously covered 4 km along the river on three visits, which did not turn up a single Javan Blue-banded Kingfisher. It was only on 24 April that the team encountered two individuals, one male and one female.

Deserving of special mention is Siswanto Abimanyu, a resident of Mendolo Kulon Hamlet, whose quick reflexes got us an excellent photograph of the female bird. Sis, as he is known, was at a monitoring point with his colleague M. Risqi Ridholah. It was more than half an hour into their wait when suddenly the female flew in from downstream and landed only about 3 m away from them. A few seconds later she was off again, flying further upstream, but luckily that was enough for Siswanto to snap a picture of her.

Getting photographic evidence to prove the kingfishers were there was one major achievement of the survey. Not only that, the discussion sessions after each round of observation have revealed a total of more than 90 bird species in the area. These include several important and endangered species, such as the Javan hawk-eagle (Nisaetus bartelsi), the Wreathed hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus) and the Sangkar white-eye (Zosterops melanurus). Some of this data was logged into the Burungnesia app as a contribution by the Pekalongan community to science and bird conservation.


Written by : Imam Taufiqurrahman, translated by T T. Chan

10Apr/22

Mentawai Teacher Training : Strengthening Cultural Values and Nature Conservation

in the the forest, all participants photo group

Every year since 2020, Malinggai Uma jointly organise with SwaraOwa a workshop for teachers of local traditions at schools (known locally as ‘facilitators of Mentawai culture’). These people have a huge role to play in ensuring that local children of school going age inherit the cultural knowledge passed down from their forebears. Accordingly, we invited representatives from several local cultural and educational organisations to attend this year’s edition of the event. The event is supported by Mandai Nature and Fortwayne Children’s Zoo through swaraOwa’s Mentawai Gibbon Conservation Program.

It aimed to:

  1. Introduce to the current generation of local teachers of Mentawai culture the local flora and fauna, especially our primate species;
  2. Educate them on the importance of conserving Mentawai primates, and measures currently being taken on that front;
  3. Enable teachers of Mentawai culture to spread the conservation message to their students;
  4. Allow teachers to inspire the next generation to contribute to conservation at a local level;
  5. Bring together Mentawai biodiversity and cultural conservation activists.

Opening ceremony, Mentawai traditional dance performance

 

The workshop was held from 1 – 4 March 2022 and involved a total of 29 people, made up of the participants, subject matter experts and the organising committee. The participants represented teachers of Mentawai culture from local primary schools, kindergartens, charitable foundations as well as local community organisations

The event was held at Toloulaggo Hamlet, Katurei Village (Siberut Barat Daya District). For the field survey component, we went to a nearby observation point in the forest of Tololago.

activity in the forest

group presentation towards other participants

Chaired by Ismael Saumanuk, the workshop was officially opened on 2 March 2022 by Karlo Saumanuk from the Katurei village administration, followed by speeches by Damianus Tateburuk (Malinggai Uma) and Nur Aoliya (SwaraOwa). The opening ceremony featured a traditional Mentawai dance performance by children from Malinggai Uma, featuring the gibbon (uliat bilou) dance and eagle dance.

Next came the presentations from the two experts we invited. The first was by Antonius Vevbri, S.Si, M.Sc from Siberut National Park, who covered the biodiversity on Siberut Island and the efforts made to conserve it. Our second speaker was Fransiskus Yanuarius M, from the Yayasan Pendidikan Budaya Mentawai (Mentawai Cultural Education Foundation), who touched upon the importance of preserving both Mentawai customs and local wildlife, introducing the activities of his foundation along the way.

On the first day of the workshop, the SwaraOwa team also launched the Mentawai Nature and Culture card game, a memory game that can be played by young and old alike. It consists of cards with photos printed on them that showcase Mentawai biodiversity and culture. In fact, this card game was born of a previous edition of the workshop. Through this interactive game, we hope that the conservation message will be passed on more effectively from teachers to their students. Attendees were also given a field guide to Mentawai  primate and bird species, which had been jointly compiled and published by SwaraOwa and Malinggai Uma.

On the second and third days, we ventured into the forest in Toloulaggo to look for local wildlife. The participants were divided into three groups named after indigenous primates, namely Team Bilou (Kloss’s gibbon), Team Simakobu  (Pigtailed langur) and Team Joja (Mentawai langur). Each group took a different transect walk, taking note of their sightings from 6.30am to 11.30am. After that, they regrouped in the village to talk about the types of primates and birds they found, as well as discuss how these types of wildlife related to local culture, for example the part they had to play in storytelling traditions.

Below, you can find our photos from these two days of fieldwork.

Mentawai Gibbon

Mentawai Dwarf Toad

Tiger shrike

Written by Damianus Tateburuk  (Malinggai Uma Tradisional Mentawai), Translated by TT Chan.

Malinggai Uma Tradisional Mentawai is a traditional Institution headquartered in Dusun Puro II Muntei Village, South Siberut District, Mentawai Islands Regency – West Sumatra. Malinggai Uma was formed on 5 September 2014 and seeks to promote local forms of art and culture, as well as the conservation of the native biodiversity of the Mentawai Islands.

04Apr/22

Stingless Bee Honey Farming for Javan Gibbon Conservation Livelihood Program

a stinglessbee hive box, among agro-forest habitat of Mendolo

Beekeeping has been named by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as one of the best sources of livelihood for communities in forested areas. Beekeeping provides two types of benefits that complement each other, the first economic, via the sale of the products thus generated, and the second ecological, by bees helping with pollination. For this reason, SwaraOwa have made promoting beekeeping one of our priorities for those communities living around the habitat of the Javan gibbon in Petungkriyono and Lebakbarang Districts, Pekalongan Regency, Central Java.

In Mendolo Village (Lebakbarang District), stingless bee honey farming – otherwise known as meliponiculture – has had a presence for a few years now. It all started with efforts to catalogue local bee species, which formed the basis for work on demonstration plots and on local outreach to explore the feasibility of keeping stingless bees in the area. Over the past year, several villagers have started rearing these bees, especially the species Heterotrigona itama.

stingless bee Heterotrigona itama

On March 25, 2022, SwaraOwa was assisted by the Young Farmers’ Association (Paguyuban Petani Muda, PPM) Mendolo in conducting a training session on stingless bee honey farming for the residents of Mendolo. It had originally been scheduled for the previous year, but the pandemic caused delays. A total of 21 villagers took part in the event, which comprised interactive discussions about the techniques used in keeping stingless bees and the residents’ progress with their bee colonies.

Rohim, one of the locals who took part, said that the main problems he faced was bee colonies losing their vitality and not yielding honey that could be harvested immediately. “I’d tried moving the bee colony several times but ended up failing. The bees seem to have all flown off,” he said, opening the discussion. Several other villagers faced the same problem.

Mendolo Beekeepers meet up

When the time came for the successful breeders to share their experiences, a lively discussion revealed that the culprit behind weakened colonies proved, in most cases, to be mistakes made when relocating the bees. “It is not that the whole colony had flown off, they were just short of winih (worker bees, ed.). This means that the bees hadn’t been relocated properly,” said Tarjuki, who, in the meantime, has succeeded in raising about 25 stingless bee colonies. Moving colonies inappropriately causes many worker bees to be unable to find their way home.

Aside from how colonies are moved around, the location of hives is also crucial. The ideal location is shady, but not densely packed with vegetation. Sunlight must still be able to reach the hive and there has to be enough air circulation so as not to trigger the growth of fungi that can harm the bees. On the other hand, if the vegetation is too sparse, the bees will be prone to attack by swallows and other birds.

Beekeepers should check on their bee colonies at least once a week. This is important, because nuisance species such as beetles, spiders and black ants have to be promptly removed to prevent them from attacking the colony and disrupting the supply of honey. Also, several kinds of parasite can destroy bee colonies and cause beekeeper huge losses.

Tarsono, another beekeeper, talks about his experiences from the previous season. He emphasises that only reasonable amounts of honey should be harvested to still leave the colony with a sufficient supply of food. This is especially relevant in the lead-up to the rainy season, when the flowers that the bees feed on become scarce. The attendees were encouraged to plant a variety of plants that bloom throughout the year. These flowers can help the bees tide over their ‘famine’ months.

The participants then looked at how to design the ideal beehive. The brood box for laying eggs is 15x15x15 cm. On top of it, a topping is installed as the honey compartment. By separating the brood and honey boxes, honey can be harvested without disturbing the bee colony too much. Harvesting should be done with an electric suction device to maintain cleanliness. This will also speed up honey production because honeycombs are not taken away and the bees can reuse the material.

At this event, SwaraOwa distributed practical manuals on stingless beekeeping. This book summarises the knowledge we had gained by doing research on demonstration plots over the past few years, supported by data from various sources. We hope for this book to serve as an additional reference for the community, so that they can continue developing the beekeeping industry they have pioneered.

Ultimately, this training session has equipped the Mendolo beekeepers with essential knowledge on how to prepare themselves for the dry season this year. It is then that the forest flowers bloom. If the villagers succeed in this year’s harvest, honey season will soon be upon us.

Written by : Sidiq Harjanto, Translated by T.T Chan

03Jan/22

Protecting the Javan blue-banded kingfisher

The sighting of a Javan blue-banded kingfisher in Petungkriyono in October 2018 (report in Chan & Setiawan 2019) gives us renewed hope that this globally very rare bird may still be clinging on to existence in undersurveyed areas. However, trying to conserve the bird at that particular site in the western part of the Dieng Mountains also presents us with some challenges.

Prior to the Petungkriyono sighting, this endemic to Java was only reported from two national parks in West Java in recent years: Halimun Salak and Gede Pangrango. It had also been recorded from six other locations by naturalists and researchers during the colonial era, namely Jasinga, Cimarinjung, Pelabuhanratu, and Cikahuripan (West Java), Rampoa (Central Java), and Kali Sanen (East Java), but seems to have vanished from these sites.

riverine habitat of  Javan bluebanded Kingfisher

Even at sites it is known to inhabit, the Javan blue-banded kingfisher, whose scientific name is Alcedo euryzona, is rarely encountered. Nowhere is it common, and it can only be found in lowland rainforests where there is an abundance of clean water, rocky streams and rivers. This bird is therefore known as a river-dependent species.

In Java, there are not many sites left which fulfil these specific habitat criteria. Those that still exist are likely to be protected or in reserves. This is indeed the case for the Petungkriyono forest, which is a protected forest area managed by Perhutani, the state-owned enterprise overseeing the use of forest resources. In recognition of its importance to both humans and wildlife, the Petungkriyono forest has now been classified as an Essential Ecosystem Area to be managed collaboratively by different stakeholders.

While protected status is a good first step, it falls short of ensuring that the area is fully safe from encroachment. Various communities have long inhabited the area around the Petungkriyono forest, for which reason the forest is important not only to its flora and fauna, but also as a source of livelihood to local people. We therefore expect the development of the local economy, including that of tourist attractions, to continue apace. Faced with this considerable challenge, all parties who have a stake in the Petungkriyono forest need to be actively involved in protecting the Javan blue-banded kingfisher if the bird is to be guranteed a future.

Another challenge that must be overcome stems from how little we know about this kingfisher. Can it be found along all rivers in the forest? What exactly are the conditions it needs to survive? We have yet to find answers to even these basic questions, not to mention those details about the bird’s behaviour, diet, population size, breeding patterns, and so on.

Conducting such a baseline study is of the utmost importance because the total Javan blue-banded kingfisher population worldwide is estimated to number less than 250 individuals. In other words, this is a Critically Endangered species by IUCN Red List standards, only one level removed from extinction in the wild.

The SwaraOwa is firmly committed to protecting the Javan blue-banded kingfisher. A group of young people who previously  started initiation of community development and conservation for Javan gibbon (Hylobates moloch) and Mentawai Gibbon ( Hylobates klosii), now have been try to enhance biodiversity value within the gibbons habitat of this region. We are actively involved in efforts to encourage the collaborative management of the Petungkriyono forest area. We are also working closely with the local community to collect field data and find out more about the bioecology of this kingfisher. With the support of the Asian Species Action Partnership (ASAP) and the Oriental Bird Club (OBC), we hope to make the conservation of the Javan blue-banded kingfisher a reality.

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Written in bahasa  by : Imam Taufiqurrahman, e-mail : ornyman18@gmail.com, and translation by TT Chan