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Hidden cameras capture endangered species

  • Hans David Tampubolon

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, July 8, 2014 | 12:25 pm
Hidden cameras capture endangered species

Night prowler: A photo of a Javan leopard is captured by a camera-trap unit set by Chevron for its Eye on the Forest conservation program. The leopard is part of an ecosystem that Chevron looks to preserve using the program. Photo courtesy of Chevron

Just 100 kilometers south of Jakarta lies a jungle, the survival of which depends on exploitative capitalism finding a balance with the ecosystem.

The jungle is located in the Mount Halimun Salak National Park (TNGHS) in Bogor, West Java.

Covering more than 113,000 hectares of land, the park is an important part for two critical ecosystems at Halimun and Mount Salak, connected by an 11-km forest corridor.

Endangered species like the silvery gibbon, Javan leopard and Javan hawk-eagle rely heavily on the existence of the park and the corridor connection.

Nearby the park, US-based energy giant Chevron operates a geothermal power station, which produces around 377 megawatts of energy. Chevron owns around 10,000 hectares in the area and utilizes around 3 percent of it for its power station facilities.

Realizing the importance of the ecosystem within the area, Chevron has launched numerous initiatives to preserve the endangered species and their environment.

For example, at the end of 2011, Chevron started the Green Corridor Initiative (GCI) to support existing conservation programs in the corridor. The company has also aimed to disburse US$1 million to restore 500 hectares of land over the next five years.

To complement the CGI program, Chevron also started a camera and video-trap program, called Eye on the Forest, in January this year to monitor the species within the park and its corridor.

Chevron conducts both the CGI and the Eye on the Forest programs in cooperation with non-government environmentalist organization Conservation International Indonesia (CII) and with the local park rangers on Mount Salak.

The apparatus used in the Eye on the Forest program is a Cuddeback digital camera. The camera trap is a combination of an automatic digital camera with passive infrared moving-heat sensor and is placed inside a waterproof and shock-proof box.

The infrared sensor is used to detect any endothermic animal movement in front of the camera. When an endothermic animal passes by the infrared sensor, the system will immediately activate the camera to capture the image.

There are five camera traps installed in various spots within the park area.

A recent trip to Mount Salak to collect the latest data from the cameras showed there had been limited progress in the effort to protect endangered species.

Some cameras were also able to capture rare occurrences.

For example, a camera located in the AWI 3 area showed a photo of a male leopard and a female leopard in the same frame.

'€œThis kind of photo of both male and female is very rare. In fact, this might be the first time for a camera to capture a moment like this,'€ CII researcher Anton Ario said while examining the photo.

'€œThe leopards might be mating and this is a positive development for their preservation,'€ he added.

The male leopard shown in the photo also had spot patterns on his body, which is also a rarity according to Anton.

'€œSo far, all of the male leopards captured by our cameras do not have spot patterns. All of them have been black leopards,'€ Anton said.

From Jan. 20 to April 9, the cameras captured six mammal species, including wild boars, deer and forest cats.

Anton said that data from the cameras confirmed that the CGI program was helping to ensure the survival of species in the area.

He added that the positive results from the data might be enough to be used as a basis for future cooperation between Chevron and CII in protecting endangered species.

The current initiative and cooperation between Chevron and CII will end this June. Anton said there had been a plan to expand the cooperation for the next three years should the current initial project show positive results.

Should the cooperation continue, CII would expand its partnership with Chevron by providing more cameras and education programs both for the corporate employees and the locals on how to deal with the species should they encounter them and how to preserve them as well.

Official data from the local ranger also showed the three endangered species in the area were breeding, although not rapidly.

The population of silvery gibbon rose by 12.96 percent to 61 in 2013 from 54 in 2008.

Data on the Javan hawk-eagle is fluid. In 2008, there were 10 of this species recorded by the ranger. Their numbers then rose to 16 in 2011 but then declined again to only 11 by 2013.

The Javan leopard, the top predator in the ecosystem, has experienced the most significant increase, up 30 percent to 18 in early 2014 from only six recorded in 2008.

The local ranger chief, Tri Siswo Rahardjo, said the data on the species revealed a positive development.

'€œThe data is extremely positive for the leopard. It shows the leopards are not only surviving but also breeding,'€ he said.

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