The Jakarta Post
The poaching of babirusa, an animal native to Sulawesi and a member of the pig family that can be found in Gorontalo's Nantu Wildlife Refuge, is becoming more widespread, especially in the run-up to Christmas.
Lynn Marion Clayton, a conservational biologist from Oxford University in Great Britain and founder of the Adudu Nantu International Foundation (YANI), said babirusa meat could be found at Langowan Market in Minahasa, North Sulawesi, some 500-kilometers north of Gorontalo.
Clayton, who has studied the babirusa in the Nantu Forest for over 20 years, said at least three babirusa each week were smuggled to Langowan traditional market, which is known for its exotic and unusual fare.
'Ahead of Christmas, babirusa poaching increased to as many as seven heads a week,' said Clayton.
Ironically, the meat of the animal, whose population across Sulawesi is estimated at only 5,000, can be bought for less than wild boar meat.
'A kilogram of babirusa meat is Rp 40,000 [US$3.44] at the highest, while the same weight of wild boar can fetch up to Rp 70,000,' she said.
According to Clayton, the rampant poaching of babirusa ahead of Christmas has become a worrying annual trend.
Nevertheless, Clayton added, poachers often evade capture as planned raids are often leaked.
Nantu Forest is an important ecological site. The conservation forest, which spans 51,000 hectares and is located along the banks of the Boliyohuto River in Gorontalo regency, has been called 'an ecological witness' by legendary naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) when he explained the imaginary line that separates the western and central Indonesian islands.
The combination between Asian and Australasian fauna has supported a variety of wildlife species that can only be found in this particular area.
Nantu is home to diverse species, such as the anoa (also known as midget buffalo), tarsius (a small primate), as well as 90 bird species, of which 35 are endemic.
The babirusa is one of the Nantu Forest's iconic animals. The strange-looking animal, which sports horns jutting from its mouth, can be found in an open wallow, called an Adudu, which is a 15-minute walk from a YANI post.
Five to six babirusa come to the wallow each morning and afternoon to chew the clay and drink water.
Clayton compares the 20-by-60 meter wallow as a 'healthy cafe' due to the high mineral content in the water, which functions as an antitoxin for the poisonous pangi or kluwak (Pangium edule) fruit, one of the babirusa's favorite foods.
'The babirusa neutralizes the poison from the pangi it eats with mineral water from the Adudu,' said Clayton.
Besides poaching, she added, other major threats in the Nantu Forest are widespread illegal logging, rattan theft as well as gold mining.
Separately, the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Gorontalo head, Hendrik Rundangan, confirmed the rampant wildlife hunting in the province, saying that they lacked rangers at the Nantu Forest.
There are currently two regular employees deployed to monitor the area, while the office is in need of at least 51 forest rangers, Hendrik said.
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