Freddy Pattiselanno (Faculty of Animal Science, Fishery and Marine Sciences Universitas Negeri Papua, Manokwari)
The latest prediction indicates that Papua and West Papua (previous name is Irian Jaya) Province of Indonesia has the highest value of biodiversity and endemism level of flora and fauna in Indonesia. One hundred and forty six mammals, 329 reptiles and amphibians and 650 birds occur and utilize varieties of ecosystems as natural habitat in West Papua, or more than 50 percent of Indonesian biodiversity (Conservation International, 1999). Petocz (1994) stated that West Papua has a wide variety of ecosystems situated from coastal to highland area, provides a unique and specific habitat for the distribution of endemic animals.
The flora and fauna are very important natural sources used by many people in West Papua to fulfill their daily needs. For example: many people in West Papua value forests for the benefits obtained from the extraction of plants and animals
The present paper reviews and discusses related information on the importance of wildlife for local people as their natural resources. This could be one of the ways to contribute to the decision-making in connection to the wildlife management aspect
Most well known endemic species in West Papua are mammals and aves, due to the exploration and research that have already done before. Other species (reptiles insect and amphibians) are seriously now exploring due to the lack of these species information’s and the existence of these species become an interesting part of research regarding the issue of biodiversity and conservation.
According to the Biodiversity Action Program for Indonesia (1993), some samples of these endemic species that are being included to aves are: (Cassowary) Casuarius benneti, (Megapodes) Aepypodius arfakianus, (Crowned pigeon) Goura christata,, (Bird of Paradise) Paradisea minor. In addition, several samples of mammals are identified by Petocz (1988) as endemic species from West Papua such as: (Porcupine) Zaglossus bruijnii, (Cuscus) Phalanger gymnotis, P. orientalis, Spilocuscus maculatus (Bandicoot) Echymipera kalubu, Isodon macrourus, (Kangaroo) Dendrolagus inustus, Macropus agilis (Bats) Pteropus sp, Nyctimene albiventer, (Rodents) Hydromis chrysogaster, Melomys lorentzii.
For the people in West Papua, hunting is one of the main ways of living. McKinnon, 1984; Petocz, 1994, indicated that in the past, hunting activities by local communities in West Papua is important to catch animals for food and material ceremonies. People in Cenderawasih Bay area often use traditional weapons and traps to catch animals for subsistence (Pattiselanno, et. al., 1999).
According to Beehler (1985), some birds were hunted not only for food, but also for their plumes. He briefly concludes that most prominent birds are being hunted for food, are three species of Crown Pigeons. Moreover, certain birds (New Guinea Eagle, Vulturine Parrot, Bird of Paradise) are utilized due to the valuable parts of their plumes
Other point of views depict that wildlife is also valuable because people can earn money from them. In other words, people appreciated those animals regarding their commercial purposes. Whitaker et al. (1985) cited by Wibowo and Suyatno (1998), note that since the 1950’s, in Mamberamo and Merauke, the two species of crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus and C. novaeguineae) have been heavily hunted for skins, and are being sold in enormous number due to the premium price at that time. According to Philip (1999), certain kind of lizards (Varanus jobiensis) in Birds Head Peninsula (West Papua) had trapped by local hunters and sold to local reptiles dealer.
Wildlife also used to use as a symbol of some institutions in West Papua in order to remind people how important and valuable the wildlife as our resources. For example Cenderawasih University in West Papua use the name of bird of paradise and as a logo as well. Merauke, one of the cities in Papua province gets the nickname as the city of deer, because this place is well known as the deer habitats in Papua.
Another example is the role of Bird and Orchid Park in Biak, as a source of wildlife information in Papua, not only important for ecotourism, but also in terms of education and scientific purposes many papers is already produced from this place based on research topic conducted by students and researchers in West Papua. Forestry Research Institute is now developing their research station in Manokwari for the natural habitats of some endemic birds and mammals of West Papua.
Much loss of biodiversity in West Papua as elsewhere is due to economic policy distortions that encourage rapid rather than sustainable exploitation of biological resources (Craven, 1989). To further define biodiversity conservation as it relates to economic development in Indonesia the national action plan for biodiversity is being prepared by the government as a national consensus to provide guidance in preparing the rational of action and investment in biodiversity conservation (National Development Planning Agency, 1993).
In collaboration with the Indonesian Government’s Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation, conservation and development strategy is being developed for the West Papua province to be set-aside as terrestrial and marine protected areas in the forms of National Park, Nature Reserve, Game Reserve and Recreational Reserve. Moreover, new legislation on conservation of natural resource and ecosystems and the basic law on environmental management are being provided to protect the biodiversity.
People concerned on wildlife
Regarding the issue of wildlife conservation, some worldwide NGOs such as WWF, WCS and CI now establishing their branch office in Papua to run their program to protect wildlife from the extinction. Aside from that, they collaboration program with local NGOs is more focusing on carry out some research project with financial support from some countries. Some scholarships and research funding are being delivered to the students who interested in wildlife study and research. Awards also are being given to local people who are more concern of wildlife conservation, as a part of increasing people awareness in wildlife conservation.
The biodiversity in West Papua is the richness of the natural resources that have difference value to the people. Along with the increase of wildlife conservation issue now, the government should appreciate the value of wildlife not only for the development of the province, but also for the conservation of the wildlife itself. We then finally understand that the reason for conserving the biodiversity because the value attach on the biodiversity itself, and their roles in the associated environment.
Note: a full paper is published in Tigerpaper 30(1), Jan-Mar 2003:27-29