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.