Indonesia: Hunting of endemic pig-deer continues in Sulawesi

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari The Jakarta Post 22 May 16;

Rife hunting of the babirusa pig-deer in Gorontalo continues with hunters seeking the animal for its meat amid accusations that the pig-deer is destructive of local plantations. There are four species of pig-deer endemic to Indonesia, the North Sulawesi pig-deer — the most well-known — is virtually hairless, unlike the those found outside of Sulawesi. Buang Hassan, head of Lembah Permai subdistrict in Wongarasi district, Pohuwato regency, said the forest in his region had been used as a gateway for pig-deer hunters looking to hunt the animals.

He said that at least four hunters visit the region each week to hunt, both individually and in groups.

“They don’t just hunt pig-deer, they also kill wild boar and sometimes anoa,” Buang told The Jakarta Post recently.

Buang claims that most hunters come from neighboring subdistricts such as Banuroja and Londoun and usually stay in the forest for three to four days to hunt.

He said that they hunted using mesh, locally known as dudeso, and used small rafts to transport their catch along the river. A raft reportedly enables the hunters to transport between two to four boars home each trip.

To deceive security personnel, hunters, according to Buang, tend to chop the animals into pieces before leaving the forest, selling the meat as far away as North Sulawesi.

Buang said the Lembah Permai subdistrict administration had been unable to do anything to stop the illegal hunting of the pig-deer. “The hunting ground is far from here, this subdistrict is only an entrance gate. And they hunt to support their respective families,” he said.

Lembah Permai is a transmigration area, inhabited since 1993. The population comprises various ethnic groups, including Minahasa and Bolaang Mongondow. Apart from being traded as meat, the North Sulawesi pig-deer is often netted in traps set by local farmers to protect their plantations.

The head of the Second Conservation Region of Gorontalo’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency ( BKSDA ), Syamsuddin Hadju, said such practices were common among farmers living around the Nantu Forest Wildlife Reserve in the Gorontalo and Boalemo regencies.

“As their plantation areas are close to Nantu forest, pig-deer wander into the traps while looking for food,” said Syamsuddin, adding that locals were also known to deliberately set traps inside the conservation forest.

He said routine surveillance was conducted in the area in cooperation with the local police. Meanwhile, a campaign for the preservation of the local pig-deer population — estimated to have declined to a total of 5,000 — has also intensified.

Nantu is considered important because it is the only forest in Sulawesi where people are able to observe the pig-deer at close range. Each morning and afternoon, a herd of pig-deer visit the Adudu mudhole in search of water.

Lynn Marion Clayton, founder of Yayasan Adudu Nantu Internasional ( YANI ), refers to the mudhole as the pig-deer herd’s health cafe.

With a PhD in Conservation Biology from Oxford University, Clayton, who has been conducting research on hog deer in Nantu forest since the 1990s, explained that the ground water in the mudhole had a high salt and mineral content and thus, the water is an antidote for a toxin contained in Pangi or kluwak, one of the pig-deer herd’s favorite foods.

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