Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Mentawai Primates: Sharing Conservation Message through Photography Training and Wildlife Watching

by : Eka Cahya Ningrum (ec.cahyaningrum@gmail.com)

Mentawai primate skulls

Due to habitat loss and hunting, forests and wildlife -primates in particular- are beginning to face severe threats in Mentawai Island. Increasing alternative economic opportunities leading to migration from remote areas is also influencing the community by distancing them from their cultural value systems that was once closely intertwined with nature. We want to use their strong existing relationships with nature and beliefs and practices about nature to share conservation messages.

Malinggai Uma and its mentawai hospitality
Through SWARAOWA and working with MALINGGAI UMA  Mentawai , we wants to achieve this objective by introducing the community with the unique and exotic biodiversity surrounding their area. In January we invited two experts to train   Uma Malinggai members (cultural community in Siberut) about wildlife photography and identification of Herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians), Damselflies and Dragonflies. We believe this method will serve as tools to increase awareness regarding the change of their environment and biodiversity. The methods of photography can also served as a biodiversity monitoring method, we could find the species list and see if the species will survive time after time. With support of Fortwayne Children’s Zoo we able to donate two cameras for Uma Malinggai so they can be the agent of change and pursue their interest with photography.

introducing dragonfly to Uma members
We hold the training for three days, the first day is the presentation about how two identify different species of herpetofauna, damselfly and dragonfly and where to find them. The second and third day is practical session where we went to the forest in Tololago village to do survey and hunt for photographs of the species. This methods of introducing photography is proven very effective to engage the local people in Mentawai about the conservation issues of forest lost and biodiversity lost. This activity can also help the locals to promote ecotourism and produce a field guide that will increase their local revenue.
will heads to Tololago village

Other than the training, we also did some primates monitoring in Mailepet and Tololago village. Sadly, on one of the forest in Mailepet village, we could no longer find primates as easy as before. This could be a good thing, because if they are harder to find, than hopefully the hunter will have a hard time finding them. But this could also mean that all the primates population are gone from that forest patch.  Forest fire was happened in this forest fragment during dry season in 2019, causing maybe primates move away from this forest.

Mentawai Durian another unique taste experience

Thankfully we could still find Bilou (Hylobates klossi) and most critically endangered primates Simakobu (Simias concolor) and heard some mentawai langur’s (Presbytis potenziani) call in Tololago village. At times, hunting photograph of animals sometimes can be tiring and frustrating, that’s why we didn’t forget to have our share of fun. During the forest walk we find so many durian trees with lots of fruits! So as a reward, we ate the durian to our heart content to restore our energy and spirit!!

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