Level Growth Protection of Rare and Endangeres Species
Level Growth, LLC is pleased to announce that it facilitated a collaboration to conserve wildlife in North Sulawesi, with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a leading international environmental NGO and The Makin Group, a leading agriculture company.
The project, which is overseen by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, covers an area of over 1,000 km2, from the mountainous southern border of Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park to the shores of the Maluku Sea. The landscape includes forest reserves, concessions, community areas, and coastal towns. The Makin Group manages a large forest concession in the area, situated between Bogani Nani Wartabone NP and the sea, which they hope to develop as a model for sustainable, economically viable agro-forestry conservation.
The conservation program itself takes a landscape approach to protect rare and endangered wildlife and their habitat. Target species include the Anoa (pygmy buffalo), Babirusa (pig-deer), Sulawesi Black Macaques and the Maleo, all of which are endemic to Sulawesi and under severe threat from habitat loss and poaching.
The Maleo, which has become the keystone species for the program, is a chicken sized bird with a blackish back, pink stomach, yellow facial skin and black helmet. The bird relies on sunbaked sands of beaches or volcanically heated soils to incubate its oversize egg, which is about 5 times larger than a chicken’s. After burying the egg, the Maleo returns to its montane forest habitat, such as that in Bogani Nani Wartabone NP.
WCS has supported Maleo conservation efforts in North Sulawesi for over fifteen years, including working with the Provincial Nature Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and National Park officials on a highly successful Maleo nest protection and breeding program in and around Bogani Nani Wartabone NP.
Sulawesi has a strong network of national parks, nature reserves and other protected areas. National parks are generally large areas that may be manipulated for management needs (e.g. controlled burns and wildlife control), and are open for tourism. Nature reserves tend to be smaller, cannot be manipulated, and tourism activities must be kept to a minimum. Wildlife refuges, protected forests and recreation parks are less restrictive, and sustainable harvest may be allowed. Almost all of the remaining land in the region has been cleared, so North Sulawesi’s protected conservation areas are critical to preserving the region’s wildlife and rich biodiversity.
- Level Growth, Makin and WCS worked with the National Park, BKSDA and local communities to protect additional nesting sites along the beach and, importantly, working to secure migration corridors between beaches and the montane areas.
Level Growth Environmental Management
The conservation efforts supported by Level Growth in cooperation with local industry and National Park Service focus especially on the Anoa, Babirusa and the Maleo, all of which are endemic to Sulawesi and under serious threat.
Level Growth advised stakeholders as to opportunities to support collaboration between corporate and environmental interests to provide safe habitats for endangered and threatened species. A brief description of each of these three species and a summary of key conservation issues are provided below:
Background: The Maleo (Macrocephalon maleo), endemic to Sulawesi and Buton Island, is a large blackish megapode with bare yellow facial skin, a reddish-orange beak, and a blue helmet casque. It is the only member of the monotypic genus Macrocephalon and is found in tropical lowland and hill forests, up to at least 1065 meters. It is one of the few birds that does not lay its eggs in a nest, nor use its own body heat for incubation.
Behavior and Ecology: The maleo is a shy bird residing in coastal forests, and is active at night and early morning/evening hours. The maleo form life-long pairs and travel, on the ground, for up to 10 km, to reach communal nesting grounds to lay their eggs. They bury their eggs in open sandy areas, volcanic soils, or beaches, which are warmed by the sun or geothermal energy. They then return to their forested habitat and provide no parental care. The maleo chick has a prolonged ‘in egg’ development period (X days) and, upon hatching, burrows to the ground surface. The chicks are fully feathered and can fly when they emerge, which helps their survival chances against immediate predation.
Threats: Predation and habitat loss are the main threats. The eggs are highly sought after by people, and by predators such as monitor lizards and feral dogs. The loss of habitat, through deforestation and agricultural development in the areas between the maleo nesting sites and their normal home range can prevent them from reaching their communal nesting grounds to lay their eggs. This is especially severe with respect to beach nesting sites, due to the intense development along coastal roads, which essentially form a barrier for maleo movement. Consequently, almost all communal beach nesting sites in North Sulawesi have been abandoned, and essentially all remaining viable communal nesting sites are restricted to protected areas, and are usually inland sites warmed by hot springs or volcanic activity
- Identification and protection of communal nesting grounds
- Egg collection, hatching and release
- Protection and/or restoration of corridors between maleo forest habitat and nesting areas
- Purchase of non-protected land containing nesting sites or migration corridors
- Community outreach
Background: The Anoa is described as a pygmy buffalo, but also resembles a deer in appearance. Anoa (Sulawei word for buffalo) are members of the Bovidae (cattle) family, and are the same genus (Bubalus) as the Asia water buffalo. They are divided into two species. The Mountain Anoa (Bubalus quarlesi) and the Lowland Anoa (Bubalus depressicornis). Both species are found only in Sulawesi and, despite being the smallest cattle species in the world, they are the largest endemic mammal species in the region, thus an important flagship species for conservation
Behavior and Ecology: Both species of Anoa are extremely rare and little is known about their habits, as they are one of the least studied of all endangered species. Lowland Anoas are found in lowland forests and swampy areas but also have been observed in mountain areas. Mountain Anoa inhabit upland montane forests but also have been observed at sea level. Unlike most cattle species, Anoas tend to be solitary or live in pairs (usually mother/daughter), and their habitat preference is undisturbed forest. They are most active in the morning, when it is relatively cool, and they rest in the shade when temperatures rise. Anoas are grazers, eating mostly grasses, shrubs, saplings and fallen fruit. They also appear to get additional minerals from drinking seawater. They are normally a passive, shy animal but, if provoked, they can be very aggressive and seem to be especially violent towards humans. Females give birth to one calf once a year, and have been reported to live anywhere from 15-30 years.
Threats: Both species are classified as endangered, and it is estimated that there are only about 3,000 individuals left in the wild. Anoa populations are decreasing due to: hunting (most serious) for their meat (primarily), horns, and hide; and habitat loss leading to fragmentation of their home range. Forest clearing around protected areas and continued hunting pressure have led to the local extinction of the Anoa in small reserves, and their populations continue to decline in the larger protected areas such Bogani NP.
- Strengthen law enforcement - illegal hunting primarily, but also habitat loss (illegal logging, marsh draining, and agricultural development)
- Promote awareness (unique and threatened species)
- habitat restoration, wildlife corridors (may be hard to protect)
- Support research into Anoa natural biology and ecology
Background: Babirusas (Babyrousa babirusa), or ‘pig-deer’, are endemic to Sulawesi and the Sula, Togian, and Buru islands. They belong to the Suidae (pig) family and their most distinguishing features are their tusks, which grow from the snout area but, unlike traditional tusks, they grow through the skin of the snout from the mouth, curling backwards over the eyes. The females generally also have tusks but are much smaller. The Babirusa also has lower tusks, which are smaller and used in fighting.
Behavior and Ecology: Babirusas are confined to tropical rainforest, and are most often found near rivers and will build nests out of straw. The Babirusa is omnivorous, but mainly eats fruits and nuts, as well as other plant material, fungi, and insects and their larvae. Because of the placement of their tusks, they are not used for rooting under dirt for food like other pigs. Babirusas are most active in the morning and tend to travel in small groups. Adult males tend to be solitary, whereas females live in small adult groups with their young. They have a small litter size, typically only 1-2 infants, and can live in the wild in excess of 20 years. Babirusas also exhibit ‘ploughing’ behavior in which they push their snouts into the earth, believed to have to do with scent marking. They are known to swim, and will occasionally swim far distances to reach small islands and outcroppings.
Threats: The babirusa are classified as vulnerable. Their two primary threats are habitat loss and hunting for meat. Commercial logging in North Sulawesi has caused a reduction in numbers and local extinction in some areas. Babirusas are among the first animals lost after logging due to hunting by humans and predation by feral dogs. Babirusas inhabit a number of protected areas in Sulawesi, such as National Parks including Bagoni NP, national reserves, and protected areas, but are still being hunted in these areas. There are thought to only be 4000-5000 individuals left in the wild.
- focus protection efforts in and around protected areas
- provide increased logistical and financial resources so that protected area rangers can better control poaching at the local level
- assist protected area officials promote conservation awareness and community participation
- determine distribution and population numbers
- promote further research into the biology of the species
- promote awareness among tourists and other visitors.