Muyun Kasibu, 37, and Guspan Wadipolapa, 26, see hundreds of small holes on the ground every time they walk around in the Hungayono conservation camp to collect the eggs of Maleo [Macrocephalon maleo], an endemic bird to Sulawesi.
The camp officers, however, know exactly in which holes the birds lay their eggs by tracing their tiny footprints. It’s maybe difficult for newcomers, but their eyes are already used to locate the trace of the protected species.
Inside the three-hectare conservation camp, which borders the Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park [TNBNW] in Gorontalo, northern Sulawesi, the two men have become parts of efforts to conserve the bird. The facility itself was initiated by the Wildlife Conservation Society in cooperation with the TNBNW Center, equipped by four incubators.
Every day, in the morning or late in the afternoon, Muyun and Guspan inspect the holes dug by the birds and move the eggs to the incubators. If they are left neglected, natural predators, such as the monitor lizard, will eat them.
A Maleo bird incubates its eggs in a hole between 50 centimeters and 1.5 meters in depth before covering it up. The egg, its size triple that of a chicken egg, will stay inside the soil before hatching within two months.
Maleo birds, often hunted by people, lay eggs in the morning and afternoon. The Hungayono camp has become a natural home for the birds given it geothermal energy required for Maleo birds to incubate their eggs. The average temperature required for an egg to hatch is 33 degrees Celsius.
No fewer than 7,000 Maleo bird chicks have successfully been released into the TNBNW since 2003.
Based on researches, Maleo birds can survive up to 12 years. A female is capable of laying up to 165 eggs throughout its life. The bird is also known to be faithful and monogamous.
In addition to conducting research, the Hungayono camp also serves as an ecological tourist site. Local visitors are charged for Rp 5,000 [38 US cents] per visit and foreigners for Rp 150,000. [hwa]