So many species so little time

Freddy Pattiselanno (FPPK Universitas Negeri Papua, Manokwari)

In celebrating the World Environment Day this year on June 5, the government and citizens of Indonesia are again reminded of the huge challenges they face in halting environment destruction and its impact on biodiversity.

Indonesia is the world’s 16th-largest country in terms of land area with 1,919,440 square kilometers. Indonesia’s size, tropical climate, and archipelagic geography, support the world’s second highest level of biodiversity after Brazil, composed by its mixture flora and fauna of Asian in western areas and Australasian species in the east landscapes.  Therefore, Norman Myers has identified Indonesia as one of 25 biodiversity “hotspots” in the world.

In terms of endemic species, Indonesia is second only to Australia with 36% of its 1,531 species of bird and 39% of its 515 species of mammal being endemic. Its 80,000 kilometers of coastline surrounded by tropical seas contribute significantly to the country’s high level of biodiversity.

However, these biodiversity hotspots are challenged by a high rate of its ecosystem exploitation. It has been confirmed that environmental and ecological issues in Indonesia are associated with the country’s high population, overexploitation of biodiversity sources and industrialisation.

Consequently, our use of natural resources represents a major threat to many plants and animals species. Various forms of biodiversity use have been implicated in species declines, including commercial fishing, subsistence hunting, extraction, collecting and trade.  .

In reality, rapid escalation of industrialisation in particular extraction industries such as mining and logging has created more pressure on biodiversity. Issues include large-scale deforestation such as illegal logging, huge extension of mining concession leads to habitat destruction that has an impact on flora and fauna species.   Habitat destruction threatens the survival of indigenous and endemic species, including 140 species of mammals identified by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as threatened, and 15 identified as critically endangered, such as the Sumatran Orangutan, Sumatran Tiger, Javan Rhinoceros, Clouded Leopard, Malayan Sun Bear, and Anoa.

Actually, time goes faster than our efforts to safe biodiversity. As a result, many species are currently under pressure and possibly will permanently disappear.  When overexploitation of an ecosystem occurs and habitat destruction continues over time, a biodiversity crisis is the result. It is understandable that threats to biodiversity make many conservationists very nervous.

Thus, how can we deal with this situation?

The involvement of Indonesia in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) could be utilised as momentum to support biodiversity conservation.  Since CBD was introduced in 1993, international consensus through its ratification by nearly 190 countries this convention is aimed at mainstreaming biodiversity conservation initiatives and sustainable use of biodiversity on a global scale. The most important thing is it makes sustainable use one of its three central pillars that link people and the natural world. The CBD also intends to promote fair and equitable benefit-sharing of biological utilisation including genetic resources.

The ongoing talks on climate change, and the inclusion of combating deforestation as an integral part of global warming mitigation, might be another opportunity that have created enormous access to fund global biodiversity conservation.

For example, in the Oslo Climate and Forestry Conference meeting, developed countries are pledged to increase their commitment regarding REDD financing by up to US$5 billion.  REDD funds for example, could be used to help good planning for biodiversity conservation program including established protected areas and strengthened law enforcement on the use and trade of wild species. Similarly, funds could also be used to regulate permit for extraction industry especially within the remote pristine forests.

Currently, the national government in Jakarta, and the international community are challenged to create an enabling environment in Indonesia’s biodiversity hot spots. This will be done through sufficient incentives and a supportive policy environment in implementing sustainable development.  It comes as no surprise that Spiteri and Nepal (2006) pointed out: “Even when conservation is the primary goal, greater efforts are needed to ensure compensation and incentives are better targeted, and address those with few livelihood alternatives.”

Incentives can take many forms.  They may apply across all forms of land ownership, whether state, communal or private.  They may be social or financial, where significant empowerment and livelihood benefits accrue to the rural poor who live side-by-side with the exploited species and on whom this species ultimately depend for their continued survival.

Options or incentives must be used to empower local governments for their sustainably economy approaches are, thus, essential to keep the Indonesia’s biodiversity hotspots.  Moreover, incentives have to be considerable so that they are sufficient to battle commercial fishing, subsistence hunting, extraction, collecting and trade.

More importantly, indigenous communities as the users and providers of ecosystem services should be the targeted group of these incentives. Their support and involvement is important so that any initiatives may yield results quickly.

Another aspect crucially required is to strengthen the commitment of supporting and involvement of local governments as well as indigenous communities.  In an ideal democratic world, conservation must always be conceived as a partnership of local government, conservations organizations and local communities. With a decentralized government system in place, regional governments hold relatively more power and authority to manage and control their natural resources.

Partnering can also build local institutions and develop people’s sense of their own worth and that of their environment.   For example, changing the practices of both local people and external actors in ways that help maintain the plants and animals that local people use will often be essential. This implies working with communities to design and enforce rules about hunting, fishing, and gathering plant material, limiting outsiders’ access to local resources and giving poor people greater control over them, and protecting the places where animals breed, and obtain food, and salt.

In traditional conservation projects, conflicts with local people are often due to the manner in which conservation projects are implemented. In reality, working with local people requires effective communication. This is far from trivial. Therefore, to define the scope and goals of an intervention requires a sound basis of understanding of local needs, preferences, and value systems.

Actually, working with local people to identify local needs can build trust. By building a basis for mutual understanding, oversights and misunderstandings can be avoided. Nearly everyone accepts the need for some form of conservation and most cultures have their own conservation ethic.  Although, there is sharp debate about the social impacts of conservation programs and the success of community-based approaches to conservation, it is reasonable, clear conceptual frameworks are needed if policies in these two areas are to be combined.

We understand the people’s need for flora and fauna species to sustain their lives. However, conserve species without any consideration to local livelihood can also does not save their lives; quite the opposite.

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