Cover photograph by Madeline Stine
There are currently 3079 animals and 2655 plants classified as Endangered worldwide. In Bali, a number of individuals and organizations are hard at work to take these FOUR off the list.
The emperor of the Sung Dynasty would surely be horrified if he knew, back in AD 986, that his decision to impress his friends, and make a soup out of shark fins, would lead to this. Fisherman around the globe catch sharks, cut off their fins and throw the fish back in to the ocean where, unable to swim, they sink to the bottom and die.
Bali, like much of Asia, is contributing to this global problem. Indonesia, is the larget shark fin exporting country in the world. We have a flourishing illegal fishing industry where pounched sharks are slaughtered and their fins, flesh, and skin are sols on the black market for up to Rp 4 million each. Fortunately, we have at least one dedicated shark activist determined to end this senseless and inhumane practice. Paul Friese, a Hawaiian surfer, founded Bali Sharks, a conservation nursery in Serangan. His mission has been to save the sharks from fish markets by buying them from fishermen instead. As they are often young when he receives them, he keep them in a nursery until they are strong enough for re-release.
What you can do?
1. Be careful what you buy and apply. Avoid products like makeup, lotions and deodorants that contain Squalene, a substance traditionally harvested from shark liver oil, unless you know the extraction came from vegetable sources or biosynthetic processes instead.
2. Be careful what you eat. Because more than half of all sharks caught annually are the by- catch of commercial fisheries, (i.e. they are caught unintentionally), you might consider omitting commercially-fished catch from your diet. But if that is too drastic for your taste buds, you can still make informed decisions about the seafood that you do eat. It is easy enough not to eat shark steaks and to avoid businesses that serve it. But consider staying away from imitation crab, lobster and shrimp too, since they often contain shark.
3. Travel responsibly. It goes without saying, don’t fish for sharks. But consider this; your travel dollars can make live sharks more valuable than their fins. By supporting responsible shark diving tourism, you can make viewing sharks more lucrative than killing them. Get in the water for a good look.
Check out www.projectaware.org
Almost every one of the seven species of sea turtle is endangered. Six of these are found in Indonesia. Their journeys between land and sea and the thousands of ocean miles they log during their long lifetimes naturally exposes them to threat. In addition, they wait decades to reproduce, yielding few hatchlings that actually survive past their first year.
Human threats compound these challenges. All species of sea turtles in the waters of Indonesia have been protected by the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, where it is illegal to catch, injure, posses, store, transfer or trade sea turtles, whether alive or dead. Nevertheless, Green, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead and Leatherback among others, continue to be poached and exploited for their eggs, meat, skin and shells. In Bali alone, more than 25,000 sea turtles are slaughtered each year. Others get caught up accidentally in fishing gear intended to capture fish. And those that survive face the ever-increasing destruction of their habitat.
Yet, sea turtles serve as a fundamental link in the marine ecosystem. As one of just a handful of species that feed on sea grass, sea turtles actually maintain the health of these grass beds, a habitat that so many underwater species rely upon. These reptiles have traveled the Earth and our oceans for 100 million years. Their extinction would be an untenable tragedy.
What can you do?
1. Use the power of your pocketbook. Refuse to buy sea turtle products such as tortoise shells jewelry, meat or eggs. Support Project Aware, an internationally organized but locally based initiative, to protect this noble creature right here in Bali: www.sos-seaturtles.ch
2. Protect turtle habitats. Ensure that sea turtles have a safe place to nest, feed and migrate. Jimbaran, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and Canggu remain popular nesting sites for mother sea turtles despite the increase in development. Whether through the support of marine protected areas or local monitoring of turtle nests, the preservation of their habitat is essential to the survival of sea turtles.
3. Support alternative income options. Because exploitation of turtles is often driven by a lack of economic choices, the World Wildlife Fund, among other organizations, helps develop alternative livelihoods for local people so they are no longer dependent on turtle products for income. Promoting the economic value of living sea turtles, typically through responsible eco-tourism, is another approach to solve the same problem.
A magical recovery story is always a blessing to share. The Bali Starling (Leucopsar Rothschildi), also known as the Bali Myna, Rothschild Mynah or Bali Mynah, is a species unique to this island. Just over a decade ago, they were estimated to number only six left in the wild. These gorgeous, white-feathered, blue-faced birds were caught and sold illegally as pets. Like other birds, Bali Starlings have also suffered from habitat loss. Bali Starlings have been listed as an endangered species by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) since 1970.
Little by little, with the help of a number of organizations, this bird now has a future. The Begawan Foundation, founded in 1999, has aimed to restore populations of Bali Starlings in captivity, then release them into the wild. In 2006 and 2007, 65 Bali Starlings were released from Begawan Foundation nurseries into the wild on Nusa Penida, a large, rural island off the southeast coast of Bali. That population is still being monitored and seems to have spread to nearby Nusa Lembongan. Most recently,
Begawan has established a nursery on the campus at the Green School in Sibang Kaja, Bali. This hatchery released eight of the birds into the wild in 2012, optimistic after the successful nursery’s flock had reached nearly 100.
In addition to their stunning beauty and iconic status as a natural symbol of Bali, Bali Starlings serve as natural predators of caterpillars and ants, whose populations can explode as their natural predators’ numbers diminish.
What you can do?
1. Educate yourself and enjoy Bali Starlings. While still a rare sighting in the wild, you are guaranteed to spot some Bali Starlings at the Bali Bird Park (www.bali-bird-park.com) or The Begawan Foundation’s Bali Starling nursery on the campus of Green School. There are staff on hand as well who can answer questions.
2. Don’t keep endangered pets. The Bali Starling and all wild animals flourish best in the wild. Future generations will be able to experience these beautiful birds only if we allow them their own space in nature, rather than keeping them caged.
3. contribute financially. The efforts of organizations like the Begawan Foundation (www.begawanfoundation.org) to re-establish healthy flocks of Bali starlings in the wild-including breeding, monitoring and education–cost money. You can support their efforts by visiting their Bali-based shop on Jl Bisma and/or by making a donation.
Real madrid football star Cristiano Ronaldo an international ambassador for the Mangrove Care Forum Bali, has helped propel the modest mangrove into the spotlight with his recent visit to Bali to support these unsung heroes of the tropics.
Mangrove forests play a crucial role in moderating climate impact, serving as a buffer between land and sea. They can absorb the powerful surges produced by hurricanes and thereby decreasing damage by the storms to coastal communities. Mangroves also sequester four to five times more carbon than land-based forest, so they help mitigate climate change caused by increasing carbon-based fuel emissions.
Mangroves also provide habitat for a cornucopia of plant and animal species—some species of shrimp and shark, for instance, safely harbor in the mangroves as juveniles. Destruction of these habitats renders future generations of many species that rely on them highly vulnerable. Mangroves have been destroyed over the past few decades, largely due to shrimp farming and other unsustainable aquaculture. Indonesia has suffered massive conversion of mangroves to aquaculture, which can only be sustained with conventional methods for about three to five years before the area must be abandoned or properly rehabilitated.
What you can do?
1. Patronize responsibly. Bali offers a wide variety of options to visitors who wish to enjoy the natural and cultural bounty. Development of large scale hotels, restaurants and golf courses that destroy and disregard natural coastal ecosystems are usually part of the problem. Consider smaller establishments, even homestays and warungs, which are more likely to contribute directly to local livelihoods as well as less likely to destroy mangroves.
2. Mind what you eat. Most mangroves in Indonesia are cleared due to shrimp aquaculture. Generally, farmed shrimp in Asia are not a good choice. Tiger prawns are almost always farmed. It’s hard to tell whether the shrimp or fish you’re considering for dinner is from a clean, healthy, sustainable source just by looking at the menu or even by looking at the animal. It doesn’t hurt to ask—your grocer or server may not know or care where their seafood offerings come from, but they are more likely to take an interest if they think you care.
3. Invest responsibly. Consider how the development of your property affects local communities and habitats, as well as how it affects your bottom line.
Support the “Mangrove Action Project Indonesia” at www.mangroveactionproject.org
Compiled by Janet Nicol and Melinda Chickeringby