FMKH Kota Bitung celebrates World Environmental Day 2023

In a remarkable effort to preserve the natural beauty and biodiversity of the Duasudara Nature Reserve in Sulawesi Utara, a tree planting and beach cleaning event was successfully organized by Selamatkan Yaki. This significant initiative, sponsored by PLN UIP Sulawesi, formed a crucial part of the FMKH Big Meeting, which brought together dedicated environmental enthusiasts and stakeholders from various sectors.

The Duasudara Nature Reserve, home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including the critically endangered Sulawesi crested black macaques (locally known as Yaki), is facing numerous challenges due to deforestation and environmental degradation. To address these issues, Selamatkan Yaki collaborated with BKSDA Sulawesi Utara, FMKH Kota Bitung and PLN UIP Sulawesi to raise awareness and take concrete steps towards protecting this invaluable ecosystem.

On June 7th under the banner of the FMKH Big Meeting and in celebration of World Environment Day, a momentous event took place in Sulawesi Utara. The event drew an impressive gathering of around 200 people consisting of local communities, government officials, and representatives from various organizations. The collective effort showcased the power of collaboration and the shared commitment to safeguarding the natural heritage of North Sulawesi.

The day began with engaging sessions highlighting the significance of the Duasudara Nature Reserve and the importance of conserving its unique biodiversity. Representing BKSDA Sulawesi Utara, Yakub Ambagau emphasized the critical role of FMKH Kota Bitung as representatives of local communities in actively involved in tree planting in restoring habitats, preventing soil erosion, and mitigating the impact of climate change.  

Following the informative session, the participants eagerly took part in the tree planting activity, where they meticulously planted a variety of native trees throughout the reserve. This symbolic act signified their dedication to long-term conservation efforts and their desire to restore the balance between human activities and nature.

In addition to the tree planting, the participant also actively participated in a beach cleaning campaign along the shores of the reserve. They collected and removed more than 100kg plastic waste, ensuring the preservation of marine life and the restoration of the coastal ecosystem.

Selamatkan Yaki wants to express our gratitude to PLN UIP Sulawesi for their generous sponsorship, which enabled the successful implementation of this important event to support the work of BKSDA Sulawesi Utara. This significance of corporate partnerships in driving meaningful environmental change and urged other organizations to hopefully follow PLN’s commendable example.

The collaboration between Selamatkan Yaki, BKSDA Sulawesi Utara, and PLN UIP Sulawesi showcased a strong commitment towards conserving the Duasudara Nature Reserve and protecting its delicate ecosystems. By combining efforts, these organizations and local community demonstrated the power of collective action and the profound impact that can be achieved when society comes together for a common cause.

Yaki Info Stands in Minahasa Markets

Our successful Yaki Pride Campaigns (YPC) have been supported by Mandai Nature for several years. They are holistically and strategically designed with the intention to trigger behaviour change in local communities, to evoke care and compassion and the internal wish to have less negative impact to the environment.

Our outreach in 2021 was limited due to the pandemic restrictions. Since 2022 we came back in full swing! Our yaki youth ambassadors from the 2021 were thrilled to finaly be able to spread the messages in their areas in Minahasa region. From small to big markets, they were proud to talk to the visitors as the yaki ambassadors about conservation and the importance of yaki. In addition to socializing through information stand and loudspeakers, they also distributed yaki-themed calendars, stickers, pins and magazines. The presence of our yaki mascot, Molay, also added to the excitement of the activity. Several visitors looked enthusiastic to see the yaki mascot, curiously approached to learn more and even took selfies.

“We protect the Yaki because we care,” – Yaki Pride Campaign Slogan

Through info stands we reached over 3000 people by the end of March. From the data we had in 2019 in the preparation of the Yaki Pride Campaign, there were 15 traditional markets in Minahasa and some were shut down after the pandemic outbreak. We have covered 8 markets in Tompaso, Tondano, Kawangkoan, Langowan, Tanahwangko, Kakas, Langowan Lama and Mandolang. 11 yaki ambassadors from 2021 batch engaged with the market visitors, handed out sticker with the campaign slogan in local language “Torang Jaga Yaki Karna Torang Peduli” (We protect the yaki because we care.) and 2023 yaki themed calendars.

Collaboration with Sunday School

The Christians represent nearly 70% of North Sulawesi population, which inspired the creation of the Green Gospel project. Based on recommendations from the priest workshop we initiated in 2014, our education team developed the Sunday School syllabus. GMIM (Gereja Masehi Injili di Minahasa) is the Christian Evangelical Church in Minahasa regency. SY and GMIM signed an MoU for the Green Gospel implementation in 2019

GMIM, one of the largest denominations in the North Sulawesi province has shown immense support of our conservation efforts and allowed for the adaptation of their current Bina Anak book (lesson plan for Sunday school curriculum) with the conservation themed syllabus we created. Through the direct engagement with the KPA Sinode GMIM (GMIM Synod Child Service Commission), Yunita Siwi, as the SY representative, participated as one of the writers in developing the lesson for the first semester of 2023. They carried out a training together with 23 Sunday School teachers. Out of 26 lessons in the first semester, two lessons are carrying environmental messages adapted from the syllabus.

Together with the KPA, we held a conservation themed worship with the Sunday School children near Tangkoko forest. There are three churches under the GMIM organization in this village. A total of almost two hundred children attended the event. Receiving a visit by the KPA Sinode GMIM members felt very special since GMIM has almost 1000 churches spread across the North Sulawesi region.

The theme of Creation from the syllabus was presented by Michael Mait – the KPA Sinode GMIM chief. After half an hour of worship, children formed groups and worked on a colouring sheet that linked to the theme. Not only for the children, this activity was also very enriching for the Sunday School teachers, who showed their enthusiasm and positive collaboration with us.

While in the area, we took the KPA members to see the yaki in the natural habitat in the forest. Visiting the forest was a very exciting experience for them and most of them have never been to Tangkoko before. This way, we had an opportunity to talk more about the importance of the KPA’s role in conserving the yaki and their habitat. We were amused to observe their wide eyes and listen to them rushing to tell us about all the animals they have seen in the forest.

We hope these efforts to foster a sense of pride about the existence of wild animals in North Sulawesi and smooth the sharing and perception of wildlife through religious lessons.

Monkey Guards in Tangkoko

Human-wildlife interactions (HWI) are common and inevitable in the areas like the Tangkoko forest, where the local community lives right by the border of the nature reserve and heavily relies on its resources and tourism. In the first half of 2022, we received an increased number of notions of yaki foraging on crops, as well as visiting the villages adjacent to the protected area. Through consulting with the Forest Conservation Community Forum (FMKH) and the regional Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), we realized that serious measures have to be put in place to be able to help the local people protect their source of income and assure the well-being and safety of the yaki.

Our locally active partners showed great cooperation, everyone helping to their best abilities; BKSDA as the governmental authority connecting the efforts and leading the meetings, as well as providing their own staff to help out with the deterrence of the macaques at the border, FMKH by sharing their opinions with us, advocating for understanding of the situation amongst the local communities and by providing members to be employed to implement the strategy, Macaca Nigra Project by sharing a wealth of their data on group home ranges and supporting another long-term monkey guard, and Wildlife Conservation Society with their data on the illegal activities within the protected area collected on their regular patrols.

The monkey guard Ara collecting data on group composition, macaque’s response to deterrence, time and location.

Supported by Mandai Nature Singapore, we have employed another monkey guard, Ara, as well as two reporters on the damage done by the macaques, Gesman and Djonny, all long-term FMKH members, notable figures in the community, with broad understanding of conservation issues and approaches and most importantly, with care for people and the monkeys. We were touched by how seriously they approached their new role with passion, consistency and regular reports and updates on the issue. Particularly Ara, a senior FMKH member, took the monkey guarding with a big smile on his face, tirelessly patrolling the borders regardless of the weather and always happy to share the amusing stories of what our playful yaki are up to. Gesman, Djonny and Ara report trips of mostly individuals visiting the areas out of the forest, assuming these are mostly young males with an occasional alpha male joining them. They occasionally exhibit mild aggressive behaviour, but are still afraid of people and return to their safe homes when deterred. Macaques are amongst the most adaptive primates and sometimes even the local people are impressed of how creative they are when trying to find treats in the village or plantations.

The efforts are ongoing, but through regular engagement and coordination, we are happy to confirm the general attitude towards the issue has improved and that the visits of yaki seem to be reducing. We are optimistic to achieve even more, especially as this has also proved as a great opportunity to further collaborate with our partners.

FMKH Members in Action

Eight years ago we acknowledged the immense importance of including the communities living in the immediate vicinity of the key forests into our strategic conservation plan by initiating the Forest Conservation Community Forums (Forum Masyarakat Konservasi Hutan: FMKH) in five villages surrounding the Tangkoko forest. Giving them a voice awoke their sense of pride, empowerment and care and they have been contributing to the management of protected areas near their homes ever since.

As Covid-19 cases decreased and regulations loosened, we decided to organize a cross-forums gathering last November to invite the FMKH members from all the villages to meet with a variety of important stakeholders; namely Natural Resources Conservation Agency of North Sulawesi, Tourism Department, local government representatives, Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Center, Macaca Nigra Project and members of the Conservation School Programme. We hosted the event in the open area of the beach in Kasawari village adjacent to Tangkoko. The sunny weather was in our favour and we counted 130 smiling and motivated participants!

Alongside our partner Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue and Education Center, we were happy to receive a donation from a local sponsor. PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PT PLN) is an Indonesian government-owned corporation, who through their Community Service Responsible program are willing to join the efforts in wildlife protection. Highlighting the wildlife trade mitigation strategy, the donation will help us to maximize our role in the task force for the protection and preservation of wild plants and animals.

Bitung City has an area of over 300km2 of which more than half is forest. The Tangkoko Nature Reserve is a forest area home to several endemic animals of North Sulawesi. In addition, as one of the strategic port cities in eastern Indonesia, Bitung has the potential to become an illegal wildlife trade route. This includes both international trade routes to the Philippines, as well as wildlife trade routes originating from eastern to western Indonesia.

Involving the FMKH members, we are setting up several education stands in local markets across Bitung, distributing education materials and empowering local community members to be inspired by the conservation forums, to collectively reach our goal of preventing the illegal wildlife trade and helping us to protect the Yaki and the forest.

Camera Trap Survey

Following the initial biodiversity monitoring surveys we conducted in 2018, we are now repeating the camera trapping efforts across the Yaki’s native range in North Sulawesi starting in May 2022. Supporting BKSDA Sulawesi Utara and Bogani Nani Wartabone, this survey will serve as an important repeat comparative to assess the status of the population and its threats. The surveys allow us to track the population and its threats over the time, meaning we can monitor own progress towards our mission of saving the Yaki!

We previously deployed 53 cameras strategically across the province within three months, with two teams composed of university forestry students, rangers, and local community members. This year we are deploying a further 63 camera traps with extra support of cameras from our partners Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park and Macaca Nigra Project. This survey will be finished in November 2022 and we look forward to writing up the results and seeing how the population are doing compared to previous years.

Yaki Ambassadors in Action

With the letter of support from the head of the Education Department of the Minahasa regency, the new Yaki ambassadors visited 23 junior high schools with a total reach of 2566 students and 119 teachers within three weeks soon afterwards. Still in the middle of pandemic, they did an excellent job delivering the talks and were creative in adapting to the situation and keeping the students engaged, which was more challenging as some schools had no electricity to have the power point presentation on, therefore most of the talks happened in the school yard. We are proud of the fantastic work of the new ambassadors and excited about how they can keep up their involvement with positively influencing their communities.

Finally, the ambassadors were invited to join an immersive trip to the forest of Tangkoko Nature Reserve to observe the macaques and the rich biodiversity first-hand. Not one of the new 27 ambassadors have ever been to the forest or experienced a wildlife tour before, which made them very excited about it.

Avoiding mass tourism and following the code of conduct in the park, we teamed up into small groups of three ambassadors and one SY staff, led by one local guide and entered the forest in the morning. The weather was pleasant, and it only took around 1.5 hours of walking in the lush forest until we discovered a group of macaques! Many beautiful endemic birds were also spotted, and they were lucky to see the bear cuscus and even the nocturnal tarsiers. They were amazed by the whole experience and went home with excitement for the next Yaki ambassador adventures!

Yaki Photo Exhibition in Minahasa

To reach a wider audience with our Yaki conservation messages, we installed seven permanent roadside billboards at strategic places across Minahasa, displaying Yaki photos and important conservation messages. Four billboards were placed at busy roads in Kakas Barat, Lembean Timur, Tondano Utara, and Tondano Selatan covering the central to southern part of Minahasa regency. Three other billboards were installed in the west part of the regency, namely Mandolang, Pineleng and Sonder. One billboard, featuring a photo of the Head of the regency together with his message about how important it is to join the Yaki conservation efforts, was placed in Tondano, the capital of the regency.

After the involvement at the Yaki Youth Camp, the new ambassadors started to take the lead in coordinating and implementing the outreach activities such as education stands in the markets and distributing education materials in public places.

A Yaki themed photo exhibition was held in the center of Minahasa regency. Featuring Yaki photos from the wild taken by wildlife photographer Andrew Walmsley and our programme director Harry Hilser, as well as Yaki drawings and paintings from various artists, the exhibition was on display throughout March 2022.

The nine-days long exhibition involved coordination between the SY staff, the ambassadors and the volunteers, who were shifting hours staying in the area, ready to explain more about the Yaki and our conservation efforts. On the fifth day of the exhibition, a visit from the Head of the Environmental Services Department attracted the journalists. He considered the exhibition very creative, in the midst of a difficult pandemic.

As part of the post campaign phase, we organized a socio-demographic survey to measure the impact of the Yaki Pride Campaign. Data were collected from a total of 400 respondents in ten villages of Minahasa regency.

A simple analysis compared with the post-survey shows an increase in the number of people who have heard information about the Yaki and are aware of its presence in the area. The number of people who are consuming or trading the Yaki has also decreased compared with before the campaign and with previous years.

Meanwhile, measuring the level of awareness, some more encouraging results were obtained. The Minahasan people showed great support; 66% answered that they think hunting Yaki needs to be stopped and 34% answered that wildlife trade also needs to be stopped.

Sustainable Livelihood Approach

Last year, the SLA strategies continued strengthening the communities’ involvement in and commitment to protection of the forests. It was especially targeted on local farmer groups by up-scaling the benefits of the livelihoods with the use of organic permaculture techniques and hydroponics developed up to the larger production scale. With the support from Boras Conservation Fund in Sweden since 2019, we were able to expand the projects by up-scaling the greenhouse in Toruakat village, Bolaang Mongondow and a new permaculture site in Pinangunian, Bitung.

It is expected that by developing a broader model for community-based conservation, the livelihood approaches will be further integrated into a wide vision to reduce the threats to the local ecosystem while benefiting local communities.

Several households were involved working together to manage the permaculture gardens at Pinangunian village for the past year. Training on how to farm with organic methods through permaculture was delivered to ten families. It was similar in Toruakat village, ten families had been trained and worked together at the hydroponic greenhouse while three households actively maintained the greenhouse.

We hope to support the future development of the permaculture garden in Pinangunian to engage more people and inspire others to consider farming organically. We wish to link them to the suitable stakeholders for them to be able to bring their products to the local market with a sustainable system and get involved in the plan of the local government.

Organic farming using permaculture techniques in Pinangunian, Bitung
Harvest at Hydroponic greenhouse in Toruakat, Bolaang Mongondow

New Yaki Ambassadors from Minahasa

Held in Pa’Dior arts and culture museum in Minahasa in December, 27 students from 19 schools joined the camp. We aimed to get one student from each of the 41 schools we visited, though unfortunately some students could not join for various personal reasons (no permission from the parents due to the current pandemic, other obligations or poor responsiveness due to lack of signal/phone).

The three days and two nights at the camp were packed with exciting and inspiring activities! On the first day, the participants had introduction sessions through various ice-breaker/bonding games, as well as becoming more deeply acquainted with the work of the Selamatkan Yaki Programme. The second day started with an early Zumba session to get the kids lively and ready for the day. Next is the presentation from our partner the Macaca Nigra Project about the ecology, behaviour and social life of Yaki in the wild leaving the kids amazed and very intrigued. Right after, to trigger their empathy and increase their awareness, Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Center shared a talk about the wildlife trade and zoonosis.

The next half of the day was more about maximizing their role as a Yaki ambassador. We invited a local social media influencer to talk about how to use social media for conservation; how to influence people and the importance of ethics. They also learned about simple phone photography and videography techniques to be able to maximize their role in spreading conservation messages through social media. To get even more inspired in their new role, we invited the previous ambassadors to come and talk about their experience in the role of Yaki ambassador.