Indonesia: Conservation aimed at saving bird from extinction

Syamsul Huda M. Suhari The Jakarta Post 1 Sep 16;

Increasing threats from natural predators such as lizards — and humans too — have put Maleo birds (Macrocephalon maleo) on the brink of extinction.

Lizards often eat Maleo eggs laid in holes in the ground by the female birds, while people hunt the birds for consumption.

Given these rising threats, activists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have initiated efforts to preserve the birds, which are endemic to Sulawesi.

Conservation efforts are centered in the Hungayono conservation camp that borders the Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park in Gorontalo, northern Sulawesi.

The 3-hectare conservation camp, initiated by the Wildlife Conservation Society in cooperation with the TNBNW Center, is equipped with four incubators and surrounded by hundreds of gaping holes where the Sulawesi bird can place its eggs to hatch.

“Not all the holes hold eggs, and it requires carefulness to spot those that are filled with eggs,” said WCS conservation officer Muyun Kasibu, 37.

Every day, in the morning or late in the afternoon, Muyun and his colleague Guspan Wadipolapa, 26, inspect the holes dug by the birds.

The eggs taken from the holes are then brought to the incubators. It is one of the ways to save the Maleo bird species from extinction at the Hungayono conservation camp, because if the eggs are left neglected, natural predators, such as the monitor lizard, will eat them.

A Maleo bird incubates its eggs in a hole between 50 centimeters and 1.5 meters in depth before covering it up. The egg, its size triple that of a chicken egg, will stay inside the soil before hatching within two months.

Maleo birds, often hunted by people, lay eggs in the morning and afternoon.

The Hungayono conservation camp has become a natural home for the birds given its geothermal energy required for Maleo birds to incubate their eggs. The average temperature required for an egg to hatch is 33 degrees Celsius.

No fewer than 7,000 Maleo bird chicks have successfully been released into the Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park since 2003.

Thousands of the birds that have been released into their natural environment were originally saved while still in egg form at the Hungayono conservation camp.

Based on research, Maleo birds can survive up to 12 years. A female is capable of laying up to 165 eggs throughout its life. The bird is also known to be faithful and monogamous.

The area is also home to numerous wildlife species endemic to Sulawesi, such as the Sulawesi hornbill (Rhyticeros cassidix), the Sulawesi monkey (Macaca Heckii), the babirusa, also known as the deer-pig, and the tarsier.

In addition to conducting research, the Hungayono conservation camp also serves as an ecological tourist site.