The Jakarta Post
Besides deforestation, the decreasing number of maleo, an endemic bird of Sulawesi that lives in the Panua Nature Reserve in Pohuwato regency, Gorontalo, is also being blamed on the use of their eggs for traditional rituals.
Panua Nature Reserve head Tatang Abdullah said he was often approached by residents asking for permission to take or, if necessary, buy the eggs of the maleo.
He stated that the eggs were considered by some to be vital for a series of traditional rituals in celebrating weddings, while other residents said the eggs were being used for traditional medicine.
In response to residents who ask for the eggs, Tatang cites a number of rules governing the ban on their use, including a government regulation on the preservation of flora and fauna and the law on the conservation of biological resources and their ecosystems.
Under the law, he said the punishment for any person found deliberately poaching maleo eggs could face a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment and a maximum fine of Rp 100 million (US$7,600).
'To date, some people still ask for the eggs as many of them are still unaware of the regulations,' Tatang told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
Insecurity levels in the reserve, which covers an area of 36,575 hectares, are fairly high. Besides being intersected by the Trans-Sulawesi highway, the area consisting of forests and coastline is surrounded by residential areas covering a radius of up to 100 kilometers.
The conservation area is often appropriated by residents who clear forested areas for farmland. Some of them even settle there. There are 400 ha of farmland recorded within the Panua reserve area.
Such forest conversion involves cutting down trees. According to Tatang, land appropriation has affected maleo breeding, as the birds are known to be solitary, are very sensitive to the presence of humans and require land cover and shady trees.
The Panua Nature Reserve has acknowledged it is overwhelmed by the task of protecting the vast area, given its limited number of four personnel.
The nature reserve often works together with local residents to carry out supervision, but poaching continues.
The current population of maleo birds in the area is estimated at between 550 and 600 individuals. The nature reserve recorded an increase in the number of maleo chicks hatched in a breeding program from 95 in 2014 to 120 chicks in 2015.
Separately, Gorontalo Customary Council secretary-general Alim S. Niode said there were no customary rules requiring the use of maleo eggs in processions or rituals.
According to him, Gorontalo tradition, known as Adati Limo Lo Pohala'a and Payu Lo Hulondhalo, is rich with the concept of natural harmony.
Various important rituals and processions, such as births, weddings and deaths, said Alim, could not be separated from the concept of harmony with nature, which not only involved protecting the environment, but also the social systems within it.
'The use of maleo eggs for customary purposes is just an excuse,' he said. According to him, chicken eggs are usually required in Gorontalo's rituals and processions.
However, he acknowledged that senior community members previously used maleo eggs for various purposes, such as making cookies for weddings and celebrations.
He said that was for practical reasons, as maleo eggs are larger and are considered more efficient than chicken eggs. Furthermore, in the past, there were no government rules or bans on consuming the protected animal's eggs.
'All poachers must be dealt with sternly,' he said.
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