Indonesia: Safeguarding the rich biodiversity of the archipelago

Indonesia: Safeguarding the rich biodiversity of the archipelago

Ensuring environmental sustainability and healthy biodiversity is a shared responsibility of present and future generations.

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Indonesia is one of the world's most bio-diverse countries but deforestation and logging for palm oil and timber has set the country back. Photo: Shutterstock

Not only is Indonesia one of the most populous countries on Earth, it is also one of the richest – in biodiversity. An archipelago made up of some 17,000 islands, it is home to a whopping 17 per cent of the world’s total wildlife.

The country’s vast jungles and seas are home to some of the most unique – and cherished – animals, such as the Sumatran orangutan, Komodo dragon and the critically-endangered Sumatran tiger.

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The Sumatran Orangutan is currently listed as critically endangered by the World Wildlife Fund, with only approximately 7,500 primates left. Photo: Shutterstock

According to Conservation International, Indonesia is one of 17 mega-diverse countries, with two of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots. It is also home to 18 of the World Wildlife Fund’s Global 200 eco-regions and 24 of 218 Bird Life International’s Endemic Bird Areas.

Some 12 per cent of the world’s mammals live in Indonesia – this means globally, after Brazil, it is the country with the most species of mammals. It has about 16 per cent of the world’s reptiles and 17 per cent of the total species of birds. Indonesia also possesses 10 per cent of the world’s flowering species. Many of Indonesia’s flora and fauna are also endemic, meaning to say that these species cannot be found anywhere else on Earth.

However, like many countries in our modern world today, there are issues plaguing Indonesian biodiversity. The growth of the country’s population and therefore economy, has meant that certain ecosystems and the various species of animals that depend on said ecosystems have been affected. It is crucial that attention is paid to the preservation of biodiversity – to ensure, among others, a stable climate, a secure source of food and water, and a way to sustain economic activity.

THREATS AND SOLUTIONS

The biggest factor threatening Indonesia’s biodiversity is deforestation. Together with Malaysia, Indonesia produces more than 85 per cent of the world’s palm oil. The agricultural practices of clearing land for cultivation means that farmers and corporations not only take part in logging, but also the practice of slash-and-burn to clear land.

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Logging has proven to be one of the biggest reasons for Indonesia's rampant deforestation over the years. Photo: Shutterstock

Increased tourism activity, especially in the smaller uninhabited islands in recent years, has also contributed to deforestation. Many of these islands are home to species that have had their natural habitats cleared, and with nowhere else to turn to, the survival of these species is threatened, and if not addressed, can lead to extinction.

However, the Indonesian government is taking active steps to manage this.

It has outlawed the slash-and-burn method and managed illegal logging by offering both attractive incentives and heavy fines. Boldly, it has also restricted travel to Komodo island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its beautiful landscapes, beaches and sea life. The island is also home to the world’s largest species of lizard, the Komodo dragon.

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On top of restricting access to Komodo Island, the Indonesian government has stated that it intends to raise prices of entry to the park where the lizards are in a bid to maintain the tourism sector that has grown in the area. Photo: Shutterstock

These steps have produced results, however slowly. The official deforestation numbers in May 2018 showed that the rate of forest loss has been declining from 2015 to 2018. And in 2018, the data reported a drop in deforestation at 440,000 ha, lower than the 480,000 ha in 2017. While the results are optimistic, it's not nearly fast enough to regrow the lands into the centers of biodiversity they once were.

DOING OUR PART

Education is another key pillar in the fight to manage deforestation in Indonesia. For many of the farmers on the ground, alternatives to the agricultural methods they currently practise are not made known to them. Awareness is therefore crucial in getting them to understand why saving the land is important.

For the future generation, cultivating a sustainable lifestyle and love for nature at a young age goes a long way in protecting our planet’s biodiversity and our future. A ground-up outreach helps the community better appreciate wildlife and look at nature in a more meaningful way. 

MSIG Indonesia has implemented two initiatives to help preserve the country’s biodiversity – the Paliyan Reforestation Project and the Biodiversity Fun Class.

Paliyan Reforestation Project

In the 1990s, forests in Yogyakarta were decimated due to illegal logging and looting during the economic crisis. Since 2005, MSIG has been restoring and rehabilitating the forest of Paliyan Wildlife Sanctuary, in co-operation with the local government and the Department of Forestry in Indonesia.

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The restored forests of Paliyan are expected to absorb 70,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 20 years. Photo: Shutterstock

To date, approximately 300,000 native, fruit and other useful trees have been planted. This was done hand-in-hand with sustainable farming education and training for the community in the area. The area’s stakeholders also participated in the reforestation project, and 185 local households have been trained in sustainable planting methods, with 97,057 seedlings distributed to them.

The importance of protecting biodiversity and living sustainably is drilled in at every level of the community. Special training was provided for 165 teachers from 19 local schools for them to impart and educate young students.

The results have been stellar. Considering that the land was once barren, the area is now slowly growing fruitful and has since welcomed 23 additional bird species and nine more butterfly species – proof that change can happen.

Biodiversity Fun Class

Targeting elementary students, starting with selected schools in Jakarta, Bogor and Tangerang, 36 MSIG staff volunteers trained in environmental education taught 137 students about the impact of deforestation in Indonesia, the importance of protecting biodiversity and the need to reduce waste in their daily lives. Students were taught through entertaining and interactive ways, with story-telling and quizzes, as well as practical hands-on knowledge like how to re-use plastic bottles. The volunteers and students also planted a total of 137 sansevieria, a succulent known for its resilience and air-purifying properties, in these re-used bottles.

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Students were taught how to plant sansvierias into discarded plastic bottles that they then decorated, emphasising the importance of a sustainable lifestyle. Photo: MSIG

The programme was run in partnership with National Movement for Foster Parents (GNOTA), a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping local children receive education.

A BRIGHTER FUTURE TOGETHER

At the end of the day, the community on the ground is as important, if not more, as the government when it comes to making a difference and doing our part for biodiversity and the environment.

MSIG, as a global citizen, has been doing its part to help spread the message of protecting biodiversity for a sustainable future. From the comprehensive greening of company headquarters in the Surugadai Building in Tokyo, Japan, to the replanting of mangroves in Rayong and Chanthaburi in Thailand, the company aims secure a sound future for the planet by protecting biodiversity, for the present and future generations.

For more stories on MSIG’s efforts on preserving biodiversity across the region, visit msig.co.id/biodiversity. To watch more of MSIG’s content, visit its Youtube playlist here

To read more about MSIG's campaign in Singapore, click here.

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