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Update: Birding Logistics in the National Parks of Northern Sulawesi, Indonesia
by Dave Sargeant
21 August 2001
We have just returned from a three week trip to Sulawesi, visiting the national parks at Tangkoko, Lore Lindu, Dumago-Bone as well as Gunung Ambang Nature Reserve. Typically, the situations are somewhat depressing, and the following will be of interest to others planning trips to the area. It seems that all parks are now open for anyone to do anything, with park staff unwilling and/or unable to prevent any activities within them.
At Tangkoko almost all forest along the access road from Manado has now been cleared. Birding now only seems worthwhile in the park itself. This was still apparently the most effectively protected park we visited, although within the park small-scale wood-cutting continues. However, we neither saw nor heard large scale logging, nor encountered any hunting.
At Lore Lindu serious problems have now arisen with the invasion into the park of hundreds of illegal settlers. (A figure of 700 people was quoted and certainly looked that way). These locals have established themselves at Dongi-Dongi (formerly one of the best birding sites), and they have cleared a stretch of about 15 km of forest for about 50-100 m either side of the road. This is a most depressing site. Cocoa has been planted and huts and shelters are being constructed. Clearance continues. These people are armed and have resisted attempts to clear them out of the area. They have also placed a barrier across the road at Dongi-Dongi.
We encountered a few problems here, and only after extensive negotiations with our local guide were we allowed to cross the barrier. Most annoyingly, the only way they would let us pass was if we took with us, and employed, one of these settlers for the duration of our stay in Lore Lindu. Without the language and assistance of our guide we would have faced serious difficulties here. I would not say that these people were aggressive, but plainly they intend to annoy the authorities by being difficult with travellers and tourists. However, birding at Dongi-Dongi was not done as the situation was rather uncomfortable.
Once past Dongi-Dongi, the areas around Tembling and Anaso are safe and unaffected as yet. It is worth mentioning that the dirt road up to Anaso has a couple of serious-looking washouts, that will probably make the road impassible to vehicles after this next rainy season. It is unclear whether the road would be repaired after such a washout. Future birders might have to walk to Anaso from the main road (7 km). Massive forest clearance and planting of cocoa and coffee is occurring around the park headquarters at Kamarora as well as along the access road from Kamarora to the main road, and chain saws can be heard all day long.
Serious logging persists here, and all day long we heard the chain saws. The forest behind the park headquarters at Toraut is pretty trashed from logging, though still holds good birds. Hunting and wood cutting in rife. We saw locals cutting bamboo directly behind the park headquarters - the rangers simply ignored it. We also saw locals carrying out wild animals snared in the forest. A few years ago, seeing the Maleo at Tambun was a piece of cake. Now they are difficult as much trapping and collecting of eggs and disturbance is taking place. We were lucky to see two birds on the morning we visited. Oji, the ranger there had only managed to see them twice here, despite working at the site continuously for the last three weeks. We also birded the northern area of the park along the Matayangan road. Lots of logging and clearance taking place here.
This was the most disturbed area we visited. Logging and removal of wood is rife. Cows are being used to haul out cut planks. On several occasions while we were with the rangers, locals were hauling out planks, to which the rangers said nothing. In summary we enjoyed the birds, but the massive pressures on the forests make this “go see it now” before it all disappears.
For the latest information on birding in Sulawesi, see reports posted to the OrientalBirding Yahoo Group.