Siberut island, off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia, is recognized as a key biodiversity area for conservation action. It is a home to four globally threatened primate species -- Kloss’s Gibbon Hylobates klossii
, VU, Siberut Macaque Macaca pagensis
, CR, Mentawai Langur Presbytis potenziani
, VU, and Siberut Pig-Tailed Monkey Simias concolor
, EN, as well as the last 30,000 indigenous Mentawai people.
Various conservation projects have been initiated on this 4,000 km² Indonesian island in the Sundaland Hotspot over the last three decades, starting with the establishment of the Teiteibati Natural Reserve in 1976 and with recent major investment by the Asian Development Bank in the 1990s.
However, the island's biodiversity is still seriously threatened, above all by commercial logging. Now, three new government decrees provide the chance to safeguard Siberut's remarkable biodiversity and culture in perpetuity.
In 2004, a presidential instruction (4 Tahun 2005) was signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to provide a legal framework to combat illegal logging and the timber trade. At the same time, Departemen Kehutanan, the Department of Forestry, passed decrees (SK.159/Menhut-II/2004 and P.18/Menhut-II/2004) on ecosystem restoration. These open the possibility for organizations to bid for 55-year commitments to restore production forests for their biodiversity and ecosystem service values.
BirdLife Indonesia is in the process of developing a bid for establishing such a concession at the Asia Log Timber concession in Jambi province. This precedent may provide a similar solution for Siberut, as well as for other key biodiversity areas such as the 900 km² Batang Toru watershed (PT Teluk Nauli concession) in North Sumatra.
There are other policy options for conservation in the production forests of Siberut Island, including a decree by the Minister of Forestry (07.1/Kpts-II/2000) regarding "Criteria and Standards of Environmental Services Use Permits in Production Forest." The decree states that production forests can be used for various activities focused on non-timber forest product use, such as carbon sequestration, research, ecotourism, and water services (irrigation, drinking water, and power plants).
Finally, at the local level, the head of the Mentawai district passed a decree (41/2005) this April to cancel the permits of small scale logging on Siberut. A particularly urgent next step of action would be from the Departemen Kehutanan, and would involve canceling the permits of the two remaining large forestry concessions on Siberut.
While these decrees don't in themselves ensure the island's sustainable future, taken together they provide new hope for conservation in Siberut - and, indeed, elsewhere in Indonesia.
*This article originally appeared in the Fall 2005 Hotspots eNewsletter.