Rule Animal Wild Life To Win Island Wide Protection Indonesia Talaud Bear Cuscus

To Win Island Wide Protection Indonesia Talaud Bear Cuscus



A shy and neglected species lives in the north of Indonesia: the Talaud bear couscous. Critically endangered and found only on a few small islands, the marsupial is prone to decline due to hunting and habitat loss. The conservation group Progres Sulawesi is leading a community program to protect this little-known species on The Island of Salibabu, which, it hopes, can serve as a Stronghold for the arboreal animal.

‘Quiet, shy and lazy’

“It is a species of tree that only occupies the treetops, a herbivore, in particular a leaf eater (eats leaves and fruits), quiet, shy and lazy,” explains Terri Repi, senior lecturer at the department of animal sciences at Muhammadiyah University in Gorontalo, Indonesia, describing the Couscus of The Talaud bear (Ailurops melanotis). The species also plays an important role in controlling invasive species such as Merremia peltate, a vine that can strangle farmers’ vegetation and crops, he said.

The animal gets its specific name, Melanotis, from its black ears. It is also equipped with a prehensile tail, which means that it is well adapted to grasp branches during its life in the tree canopy.

A study published in 2020, led by Repi, revealed that Talaud bear couscous is found on the islands of Salibabu, Nusa and Bukide, and “probably” also on Sangihe Island, none of which exceeds 750 square kilometers (290 square miles). All of them are located in the Indonesian province of North Sulawesi, not far from the southern Philippines. “Salibabu Island is the largest island and has the largest population of Kuskus. However, as a large island, it also has a large human population,” Repi wrote in an email. “However, based on my research, there are also sites on Salibabu Island that can be recommended as a habitat for the conservation of Talaud’s cuckoos.”

The Repi study revealed that the Couscous of the Talaud bear was present throughout the Island, divided into six different research transects. However, a follow-up study conducted earlier this year by Progres Sulawesi found the cuscus only in a transect. These results could mean that the species is in sharp decline, according to Sheherazade, co-executive director of Progres Sulawesi, although other factors may also play a role, she added.

“Maybe it’s the weather because it rained during the study period, but it can also be due to the nature of the cuckoo itself,” she said in an Interview. “When they see you, they will slowly take all the leaves and cover themselves completely. You must first see them to recognize them.”Progres Sulawesi plans to continue its research after this year to shed more light on the distribution of the species on the Island.

Already considered a shy species, the Talaud bear’s peck is even more afraid of humans due to the pressure of hunting, Sheherazade said.

Eaten to the brim

The threats to the survival of the Talaud bear couscous are similar to those of many other endangered species. Among other stresses such as land use changes and habit disorders, Talaud’s Couscus is critically endangered, mainly due to hunting for bushmeat.

A cultural practice known as Tola-Tola involves eating seasoned meat while consuming alcohol. On Salibabu, the meat of the cuckoo of the Talaud bear has long played the role of this favorite snack. “They cook it very spicy, so not only as a source of meat, but also for fun when they drink alcohol,” said Sheherazade, herself from Sulawesi. On other Sulawesi islands, other species such as turtles assume this role.

“So it’s kind of a challenge to change these cultural practices,” she said. “You know, the species is on the verge of extinction, but at the same time, it is also important for its cultural activities. It’s hard to do.”

The Sulawesi Bear Couscous (Ailurops ursinus), another Couscous species with a much wider distribution, faces a similar situation and is frequently striked as part of the bushmeat Trade.

Repi agreed that in addition to finishing their homeland in the forest, hunting is of the utmost importance for the survival of the species. He remembers cutting a survey trail in a forest on Salibabu, only to return a week after to find it replaced by a corn garden. “This is what motivates the next challenge to preserve Talaud-Kuskus [in a way that does not marginalize the island community],” Repi said. “Or the question is how can the protection of small islands be done taking into account species, habitats and communities?”

Progres Sulawesi seeks to instill in the inhabitants a sense of pride about the couscous of the Talaud bear

From dinner to the local icon

As an island species with a very limited distribution, the Talaud bear cuckoo is particularly threatened with extinction, Repi said. On Salibabu, considered the potential stronghold of the species, Progres Sulawesi is working with communities to save the species from extinction.

While the conservation community and the world may know little about Talaud bear couscous, the locals have a long-standing relationship with the species.changing this from a Resource to give community members a sense of pride for the species is at the heart of Progres Sulawesi’s work, Sheherazade said.

Young people are among the main ambassadors of changing perceptions, she said, and actively participate in population surveys with the Organization. By not eating seasoned cuscus meat while they drink, these young people help convince other members of the community. Progres Sulawesi’s work also includes traditional rulers, village chiefs, priests and other parishioners. The fact that the Organization is run by Sulawesi residents has proven to be essential in building trust and maintaining relationships with the locals, Sheherazade said.

Under Indonesian law, hunting for Talaud bear couscous is unlawful because it is a protected species, but Sheherazade said she doesn’t think it will work to threaten those who hunt or eat it with delinquent acts. “[It would be] so easy to follow this path, but that’s not what we want. We don’t want to have this system,” she said. Instead, the preferred approach is to involve the communities to protect the couscous before it is formalized by regulations at the village level.

“But we don’t want to have the village order first, but the community doesn’t agree with that,” she added. “We want the community to agree with this, so it comes from them and then we will formalize it.”

So far, the villages of Musi and Alude have made statements on the protection of couscous from the Talaud bear. Two other villages, Sereh and Kalongan, have recently agreed to also ban Kuskus hunting in order to achieve an insular ban on the practice in Salibabu.

Steven Awawangi, the head of the village of Alude, said that he believed that the peck of The Talaud bear could become an icon for the indigenous population and help “illuminate The Island of Salibabu in the world.”

“In the long term, the conservation of Talaud Couscus will help protect the forest,” he told Mongabay, as community members will better understand the role of the species in the formation of the ecosystem. “But it can also bring economic benefits to the communities of Salibabu.”Awawangi said he hoped the species could be a boon to the island’s ecotourism and encourage tourism to support local businesses.

Awareness-raising efforts to develop the pride of the Talaud bear are now led by the village authorities in collaboration with the local government. These efforts have already yielded results, Awawangi said. “For example, at the moment, the Talaud-Kuskus is located near the village. In the past, before working together, they are increasingly rare to find. But now it’s easier to find them. and if the local community finds you, report it.”

Sheherazade said she hopes that despite her precarious situation, the Talaud bear’s peck could find a way to survive with the support of the Salibabu communities. The plan is to bring the conservation program to the district level and include the other islands in the small range currently doubtful of the species.

“We see potential in this to really ensure the sustainability of the Talaud-Kuskus conservation program, not just at the village level,” she said. “We want to take this to the district level and make sure that the governments are aware of the existence of the conservation program… and they could, for example, allocate more money to an ecotourism program for Talaud-Kuskus.”

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