Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resource Management in Siberut Island
UNESCO has contributed to overcome the rapid loss of forest cover and biodiversity as well as promoted sustainable development in Siberut Biosphere Reserve where a distinctive indigenous culture lives intricately linked to a unique ecosystem and biodiversity. The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the Spanish Autonomous Organization for National Parks (OAPN) have supported UNESCO in carrying out a number of projects with the aim to provide Siberut Biosphere Reserve with the necessary tools to ensure its environmental protection since 2009.
To achieve this, UNESCO Office Jakarta assisted in establishing a collaborative management system between the park authority and indigenous communities which target the lack of community participation in planning and decision-making concerning conservation and management of natural resources and sustainable use of ecosystems, taking into account customary practices in resource use as well as promoting cooperation between parties.
In response to the catastrophic effects of the earthquake that hit Mentawai on September 2007, UNESCO has assisted the Siberut NP in reestablishing the field presence by rebuilding part of the office’s complex in Muara Siberut, and providing office furniture and equipment which are the basic for day-to-day operations. Additionally, UNESCO, together with the Siberut NP and local conservation organizations, have organized a series of trainings courses covering a number of topics, including GIS and GPS training, database development and management, culturally appropriate approaches to conservation, law enforcement, wildlife trade mitigation, establishment of village regulations, community based ecotourism and agroforestry. The broad range of training activities provided has contributed to increase the local partners’ capacities in managing the Siberut Biosphere Reserve and its core area, the Siberut NP.
Once the basic needs for managing the park were in place, UNESCO and SNP worked together to identify and establish a system to effectively monitor the two main threats to the integrity of the park: wildlife trade and illegal logging. For address this issue the project has established a net of local informants that collaborate with park rangers and local police who are in charge of conducting law enforcement activities.
UNESCO has also managed to increase community support for conservation as well as providing a stimulus for socio-economic development in Siberut Island, through promoting community-based micro development schemes, such biogas system as alternative energy, eco-friendly agro-forestry practices (e.g. hardwood and agroforestry tree nursery) and community based ecotourism
As a consequence of the island’s steadily increasing human population as well as the ever growing demand for agricultural land and natural resources, the habitat for Siberut’s endemic primates is currently shrinking continuously, producing considerable stress for Siberut’s primate community. For this reason, UNESCO has worked together with the Siberut National Park, PASIH and Siberut Conservation Programme, in carrying out a comprehensive primate population census in SNP in order to determine key parameters of the population biology and ecology of the primate population within the park. The result of study is now used as the basis to develop the zonation system of the park.
Finally, the absence of management plan for the Siberut National Park proves to be one of the key challenges in improving the management of the National Park. In order to develop a management plan that reflects the needs and reality in the field, UNESCO and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) are assisting the Siberut NP in providing analysis and recommendation to develop the zonation system for the park.