December 06, 2010
Her time in the Sulawesi forests, observing a charismatic mammal that few people had ever heard of, pushed Clayton to work toward saving the species—which was disappearing due to habitat loss and hunting—as its forest home.
"The illegal poaching and rain forest destruction I observed during this time led me and my team of local colleagues to implement anti-poaching checkpoints and to campaign for formal protection of the Nantu/Paguyaman forest," she says. In the twenty years since, Clayton along with local field workers, have managed to successfully preserve 62,000 hectares of the Nantu rainforest ecosystem.
Babirusa. Photo courtesy of Clayton
In addition to the babirusa, the forest also contains populations of the threatened dwarf buffalo, the anoa; the tiny nocturnal primate, the spectral tarsier; and the crested macaque.
However, despite being under legal protection, the Nantu forest is still threatened. Clayton says that the biggest threat is illegal gold mining, which is "poisoning the watershed" used by 15,000 villagers downstream. In addition, illegal deforestation and poaching remain concerns.
Lynn Clayton with forest rangers. Photo courtesy of Clayton.
Clayton says that the key to longterm protection of Nantu is "facilitating first hand experience of rainforest biodiversity by local school-children, students and other stakeholders."
In a December 2010 interview Lynn Clatyon spoke with mongabay.com about the strange babirusa, the richness of the Nantu forests, and creative programs to keep it safe.
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An interview with Lynn Clayton
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com: What brought you to Sulawesi and led you to start your project?
I first came to Sulawesi whilst an undergraduate at Oxford University. I was awarded a scholarship to spend one year (1986) in Sulawesi collecting data for “The Ecology of Sulawesi” book (The Ecology of Sulawesi, 1987, A.J. Whitten and M. Mustofa). The brief was to gather ecological data from the parts of Sulawesi about which very little was known. So I spent a wonderful year traveling alone throughout Sulawesi conducting small research projects on bats, underwater plants, seagrasses and forests.
Nantu Patrol find adult male babirusa caught in poachers snare. Poacher is prosecuted with YANI support.
Dr Lynn Clayton Pioneering Conservation of the Nantu Forest
Dr. Lynn Clayton was born in the Sussex village where Alfred Russel Wallace spent several months writing “The Malay Archipelago”. She has spent the last twenty years of her life in the region that bears his name. Lynn first went to Sulawesi whilst an undergraduate at Oxford University, spending a year traveling alone in Sulawesi’s remotest areas to gather data for “The Ecology of Sulawesi” book (Whitten et al, 1987). She returned to Sulawesi in 1989 to begin her doctoral study on the rare and elusive babirusa pig, the first long-term study of this species in the wild. After six months fruitless searches through Sulawesi, hunters finally guided her to Paguyaman, named for its massive river and home of the forest-living “polahi” people who live at the foot of its jagged mountains. Like Wallace more than a century before, she traveled days by wooden boat, slept in remote palm huts and spent long hours “perched on platforms in trees” awaiting a sighting of the elusive babirusa. Occasionally, the results were spectacular as she observed 44 babirusa together on the Adudu saltlick. However, the illegal poaching and rain forest destruction she observed led Lynn and her local colleagues to implement anti-poaching checkpoints and to campaign for formal protection of the Nantu/Paguyaman forest.
Red-knobbed hornbills and crested macaque
After four years fieldwork at Paguyaman, Dr. Clayton was awarded her doctorate from Oxford University on the Ecology and Conservation of the Babirusa. She returned immediately to Paguyaman, her objective to work on conservation of the whole Nantu/Paguyaman Forest ecosystem. This work has included pioneering alternative approaches to protecting Sulawesi’s highly endangered rain forests: Nantu Protection Unit patrols have halted illegal logging within the Nantu reserve, stopped babirusa poaching and prevented slash-and-burn destruction of Nantu. Educational programs have included children’s study visits to the forest reserve, Nantu scholarships program and live Conservation concerts. At the same time, 34,000 cocoa and 8000 teak trees, grown in community nurseries, have been handed over to settlers living immediately outside the reserve to provide livelihood assistance. Dr. Clayton and her team have worked with several national and international television crews, including BBC, NHK Japan and Indonesian Metro TV to document the story of Nantu. Fluent in the Indonesian language, Bahasa, Dr. Clayton has been the recipient of an unprecedented three awards from the British government’s “Darwin Initiative” program. Her publications range from “Bringing Home the Bacon”, a detailed scientific model of the illegal trade in babirusa meat, to “The Special Place in the Forest”, an illustrated children’s storybook about the babirusa in Bahasa. Her team founded the NGO “YANI” in 2002 as a local vehicle to carry forward the Nantu vision.
Livelihood Assistance: sharing 3 month old cocoa seedlings at Tangga village near Nantu.
This was through an old French hunter (Maurice Patry, now dead) who, since the age of 12 years old, had dreamt of seeing a babirusa in the wild. He made thirteen visits to Sulawesi before he found the Nantu Forest. At the start of my PhD I went to see him in Paris, stayed in his flat near the 9th bridge, and slept on the sofa. Waking up in the middle of the night I looked up to see tiger heads and other hunting trophies all around me - a bit eerie! Maurice did not want to tell me the location of Nantu as it had taken him so long to find. Instead he gave me a few clues (names of people) so I went to Sulawesi and followed the "hunter's trail" he had set. Finally after several months a local hunter accompanied me to Nantu and the Adudu salt-lick.
The babirusa weighs up to one hundred kilograms and adult males have four tusks, the upper two growing vertically up through the skin of the snout, which have long fascinated observers. Locating a study site was a considerable challenge. After six months fruitless searches through Sulawesi, hunters finally guided me to Paguyaman, named for its massive river and home of the forest-living “polahi” people who live at the foot of its jagged mountains. Like Wallace a century before I traveled by wooden boat, slept in remote palm huts and spent long hours “perched on platforms in trees” awaiting a sighting of the elusive babirusa. Occasionally results were spectacular as when I observed 44 babirusa together on the Adudu salt-lick at Nantu. After almost four years fieldwork studying the babirusa in remote and challenging conditions – the only access to Nantu is by longboat a journey of half a day upriver over rapids, while floods, earthquakes, malaria and encounters with 7 meter pythons were quite frequent hazards – I completed my doctorate at Oxford University. This was the first ever long-term study of the ecology of the babirusa in the wild. The illegal poaching and rain forest destruction I observed during this time led me and my team of local colleagues to implement anti-poaching checkpoints and to campaign for formal protection of the Nantu/Paguyaman forest. After completion of my doctorate I returned immediately to Paguyaman, my objective to work on conservation of the whole Nantu/Paguyaman ecosytem. It was only after two decades of my life spent in the region known as “Wallacea” that I learned I was born in the same Sussex village where, more than a century before, Alfred Russell Wallace had spent months writing his famous book “The Malay Archipelago”!
mongabay.com: Could you describe your current project?
Long term field staff Jemi Komolontang (left) and Yotje Mamahit (right) on a Dracontomelum dao tree.
Key project activities are:
- forest protection: the Nantu Protection Unit, an innovative biodiversity protection unit, is continuously present patrolling the Nantu forest. It comprises six local assistants working alongside four special forces police. Operational at Nantu throughout the last ten years, its achievements include halting illegal logging, slash-and-burn clearance and wildlife poaching at Nantu. Prior to its establishment ten rafts of illegal timber (40m3) were extracted from the Nantu watershed daily and seventeen babirusa and two anoa per week were trapped by hunters around the salt-lick. This unit is preventing destruction of the unique “Adudu” salt-lick. Three natural salt-licks formerly occurred within the Paguyaman watershed. Today only one remains, the other two, which were outside the boundary of the Nantu reserve, have been destroyed.
- climate care: establishing Nantu as a “demonstration forest” of low cost, high impact “avoided deforestation” and climate care education for Indonesia.
- education: establishing Nantu as an international and local centre for rain forest education and research. A field training centre has been constructed at Nantu, where regular conservation training workshops and field study visits for local community, religious leaders, school-teachers and students are being carried out.
- community development: livelihood assistance to local communities, including income-generating activities (tree-planting and agricultural assistance), village-based hydro-electricity, health clinics, and legal advocacy assistance.
- awareness and capacity building: carrying out an extensive local biodiversity awareness program, including live “Conservation Concerts” by local Gorontalonese entertainers, village ecology libraries and a “Café Nantu” resource and awareness centre. The project also seeks to support local and national Indonesian scientists through financial, logistic and academic support for MSc. and PhD studies in Conservation Biology.
Distributing calenders promoting the Nantu Forest Reserve boundary to local settlers.
- school’s program: implementing Nantu study visits, environmental education teaching, Nantu Forest scholarships (providing secondary education to local children) and development of conservation curriculum materials. A series of illustrated children’s story books, building on the success of “The Special Place in the Forest” (see below), about the Red-Knobbed Hornbill and Spectral Tarsier are planned.
- community-based forest management: pioneering village-based participatory management initiatives, including village guard posts, a Nantu stakeholder forum and reserve boundary protection posts.
- wildlife trade: the project’s mobile anti-poaching unit is active against Sulawesi’s illegal wildlife trade. Trapped in string leg-snares the legally protected babirusa are transported hundreds of miles from forest areas to meat markets. The project’s anti-poaching unit is implementing 24-hour checkpoints along major roads, awareness campaigns to hunters and dealers and is working with local judiciary, police and hunters to prevent extinction of the babirusa from this trade.
Progress achieved over the last decade includes:
- campaigning for formal protection of Nantu, resulting in it being gazetted as a protected area by the Indonesian government (31,000 hectares) in 1997 and spear-heading local legislation to protect Nantu in the provincial parliament.
- conducting extensive anti-poaching operations throughout northern Sulawesi, resulting in reduction of the illegal trade in babirusa meat from 15 babirusa per week (1991) to one babirusa per week (2007) sold in local markets.
- generating international and national publicity for Nantu through television documentaries filmed there (including “The Life of Mammals” by Sir David Attenborough, Indonesian national television, NHK Japan and French TF1, copies widely distributed to local stakeholders).
- implementing more than fifty special habitat protection operations in collaboration with local authorities against illegal loggers and forest clearers.
- buffer zone tree-planting, specifically 8000 teak trees and 34,000 cocoa trees handed over to local farmers living around the Nantu Reserve.
- Establishment of the local NGO “Yayasan Adudu Nantu Internasional/The Adudu Nantu International Foundation for Conservation” in 2002.
- creation of a children’s story book about the babirusa called “The Special Place in the Forest (“5000 copies distributed to local school-children living around the Nantu forest).
mongabay.com: What are the current threats?
Wildlife department staff survey burned area outside boundary of Nantu Forest.
The main threat to Nantu at the current time is from illegal gold mining. Several hundred miners currently operate deep inside the Nantu Forest, poisoning the watershed by their use of mercury. Some 15,000 villagers downstream depend on the Paguyaman/Nantu watershed for their only water-supply. Illegal logging, slash-and-burn clearance and illegal wildlife poaching are also threats to Nantu.
mongabay.com: Do you see much hunting?
Paguyaman River and Boliyohuto Mountains.
mongabay.com: What are the biggest challenges to conservation in the area?
Low awareness amongst all sectors of society of the importance of saving forests. This results primarily from a lack of educational materials highlighting this subject.
mongabay.com: Is the reserve a National Park? If not what are some of the concerns about converting it into one?
No the area’s current status is not National Park, but rather Wildlife Reserve, plus some Protection and Production Forest. Plans are ongoing to upgrade Nantu to National Park status.
mongabay.com: Is there any potential for carbon finance (REDD) to help fund the reserve and create alternative livelihoods?
Yes, there is great potential for carbon finance to support conservation of the Nantu Forest. Early assessments indicate the Nantu Forest area stores over thirteen million tons of biomass carbon.
mongabay.com: What are your thoughts on the Norway-Indonesia REDD partnership? Is it having a positive impact on forest conservation in Indonesia?
Tangga school, Paguyaman: National Trans TV crew, Project field staff and school-children filming “The Young Explorer at Nantu” television programme.
mongabay.com: What are key to protecting wildlife in Paguyaman/Nantu and other reserves in Indonesia?
Facilitating first hand experience of rainforest biodiversity by local school-children, students and other stakeholders. Effective forest law enforcement implemented within forest reserves.
mongabay.com: How can people abroad help your efforts?
Funds to support this work are always much needed, and are spent directly at ground level to protect the Nantu Forest. We are also currently seeking to establish a Nantu Trust Fund in order to secure long-term financial sustainability for this work.
If you'd like to support the Nantu Forest Conservation Program, please contact Lynn Clayton
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