Saving Bizarre Biodiversity in the Heart of Nantu
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Sulawesi Babirusas. Photo by Michel Gunther/ SOS
The distinct wheezing call of the elusive Snoring Rail resonates through the forests of Nantu, as pig-like Sulawesi Babirusas take respite from the heat and wallow in mud pits. These unique creatures are joined by anoa, which are animals reminiscent of water buffaloes that roam riverine and lowland forests for vegetation and take advantage of the provided shade. The only place that these species can be seen together is in this incredible landscape located within the northern peninsula of Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. This island has extraordinarily high levels of endemism, and Nantu Wildlife Sanctuary contains one of Sulawesi’s few remaining intact lowland rainforests. Despite its critical importance to the region’s rare species, this sanctuary is threatened by slash-and-burn clearance, the establishment of oil palm plantations and illegal gold mining.
To conserve Sulawesi’s endemic species through a strategic expansion, Rainforest Trust and partner Yayasan Adudu Nantu International (YANI) seek $822,603 to add 15,267 acres to the existing 127,289-acre Nantu Wildlife Sanctuary via a long-term lease and a land purchase. This purchase and lease will safeguard the gateway to this threatened sanctuary, as the area is a key access point for illegal loggers, gold-miners and slash-and-burn farmers aiming to encroach into the heart of Nantu.
Lowland Anoa. Photo by Michelle Bartsch
The proposed new protected area comprises critical habitat for key populations of Sulawesi’s endemic and unique rainforest biodiversity, where 62 percent of its mammal species and approximately 30 percent of its bird species are found nowhere else. Solitary Lowland and Mountain Anoas roam the landscape, feeding on grasses and other vegetation, while Sulawesi Babirusas with bizarre curving tusks congregate around volcanic salt licks and wallow in mud to stay cool. Nantu is the only place in the world where anoas and the Sulawesi Babirusa can be readily observed together in their natural habitats. A new species of tarsier – a nocturnal and social primate – was recently discovered in the area, and although it has not yet been formally described, it is likely to be categorized as Endangered.
More than 100 bird species are present in Nantu, of which at least 35 are endemic (including the Red-knobbed and Sulawesi Dwarf Hornbills). The flightless Snoring Rail whose name is derived from its wheezing, snoring call is a secretive bird recorded in Sulawesi and is categorized as Vulnerable because of its decline due to deforestation.
Regional herpetofauna include the stunning Broad-banded Temple Pit Viper, lime-green Tuwa Flying Frog and a newly described fanged frog (Limnonectes larvaepartus). More than 300 tree and plant species have been documented in southern Nantu, including the giant Staghorn Fern which was recently found for the first time in Sulawesi. At least 13 species of Zingiberaceae – a plant family that contains spices such as ginger – are in this area, four of which are new species. More than 20 species of rattan climbing palms have been recorded, in addition to giant Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta) trees.
Deforestation. Photo by CIFOR
The heart of Nantu area is gravely threatened with destruction from slash-and-burn clearance, the establishment of oil palm plantations, wildlife poaching, illegal gold mining and settlement by migrants from other parts of Indonesia. Nantu contains some of Sulawesi’s last remaining lowland forest, of which less than 5 percent remains today. Protecting the heart of Nantu will sustain protection of Nantu Wildlife Sanctuary and Nantu’s salt lick, an important gathering place for many of Sulawesi’s endemic wildlife. There is also a critical need to protect the Nantu/Paguyaman River Watershed from contamination with mercury used in illegal gold mining, as 15,000 farmers living downstream depend on this watershed for their only water supply.
Community members. Photo by Michel Gunther
About 100 Polahi people live deep within Nantu Forest. Local people living immediately around Southern Nantu are mostly small-scale livestock herders and farmers. Communities are comprised of settlers who have moved into the Nantu area over the last twenty years, including those of Gorontalonese ethnicity as well as migrants from East and Central Java. Rainforest Trust’s local partner YANI will facilitate workshops and training events so that community members can participate in forest monitoring and protected area conservation activities. The YANI team has a positive, long-standing working relationship with local communities.
Conservation management. Photo by YANI
Rainforest Trust and partner Yayasan Adudu Nantu International (YANI) are working to add 15,267 acres to the existing Nantu Wildlife Sanctuary via a long-term lease and a small land purchase. This purchase and lease will safeguard the gateway to this threatened sanctuary, as the area is a key access point for illegal loggers, gold-miners and slash-and-burn farmers aiming to encroach into the heart of Nantu. YANI has extensive experience in forest law enforcement through safeguarding the boundaries of Nantu Wildlife Sanctuary, and patrols will be conducted on foot throughout the expansion to confiscate any illegal mining equipment and destroy poachers’ snares when encountered. Tangga Forest Community Training Facility will be built on land that has already been cleared adjacent to Nantu Wildlife Sanctuary, and will be a prime space to conduct community workshops, trainings and other meetings to enhance community support for conservation.