Indonesia’s race to preserve Java’s gibbon habitat
By Budi Purwanto PETUNGKRIYONO FOREST, Indonesia, Oct. 7 (Reuters) – Indonesian officials and researchers are working to preserve a small pocket of forest on the heavily populated island of Java as habitat for the Java gibbon, which they say , is threatened by climate change and human encroachment.
Also known as the silver gibbon, the primate is unique to Central and West Java, where it plays a role in regenerating forest vegetation by dispersing seeds. Local conservation group SwaraOwa follows a population of around 400 gibbons living in a 73-kilometer reserve in the Petungkriyono Forest in central Java.
Researcher Arif Setiawan said up to 70 groups are regularly spotted in the forest, up from around 50 in 2012, but warned their habitat was under threat. “The real threat now is the integrity of the forest itself due to the increasing number of human activities,” he said.
Conservation International estimates that there are around 4,000 Java gibbons left. They are listed as endangered on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. SwaraOwa and the government run monthly awareness programs with the local community and have posted signs prohibiting hunting and illegal logging in the forest.
In one project, they are working with local village chiefs to grow shade coffee as a business, a practice that can be practiced without inflicting a heavy toll on the forest. SwaraOwa also runs nature tours, including accommodation, for tourists in the forest with a focus on sustainability, as a way to provide alternative sources of income to locals that do not harm the environment.
The issue of climate change is more difficult to deal with. “It is still raining when it is supposed to be the dry season and it will eventually have an impact on the vegetation,” said local forestry manager Untoro Tri Kurniawan.
“Instead of the fruiting season, the leaves sprout,” he said. “So the flower that is supposed to become a fruit would fall off and end up impacting the animals of Petungkriyono.”
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