Wildlife Isues, Politics, and the Future of Indonesia

By: Rustam (wildlife and forest researcher, advisory board member of ProFauna Indonesia)*

primata mati di pinggir jalan KalimantanWildlife and human conflicts related with land possession are very common in Borneo. The cause is the same old 'land occupancy'. Wildlife protection seems to be a mere jargon. Talking about habitat protection is nonsense, when poaching and illegal wildlife trades keep happening.

Wildlife habitat is naturally essential to sustain their lives so that they can survive and multiply. The presence of certain wildlife species in an area also indicates the condition and quality of the area, known as bioindicator. For example is the Black Rat (Rattus rattus) which will never be found in natural forest, while the Long-tailed Giant Rat (Leopoldamys sabanus) will never be found in the houses or neighborhood.

Every species has its own role according to the condition and ability; this creates the balance in nature. If one of the factors gets disturbed, the others will be affected and eventually will adapt, become unbalanced, or even extinct. Therefore, when we talk about biodiversity, it does not directly affect their habitats. But when we talk about the sustainability of habitats, we cannot help talking about biodiversity too. Different types of habitats tend to be inhabited by different wildlife species.

It is such a pity that wildlife protection by the law is not followed by habitat protection. Habitat protection is not explicitly mentioned in the law of Indonesia, but frequently understood as conservation and protection area or forest.

The problem is, the borders of such areas do not work for animals. Many wildlife species are found outside the protected areas, for instance in the concession areas of Industrial Forest Plantation Permit, plantations, mines, and housing within forest area. Financial matters and instant economic development, such as the MP3EI will conquer all other consideration, including the rights of wildlife.

Actually, how important is this wildlife and habitat issue for the rapidly growing economy of our country? Classic notion mentions that awareness towards animals is a matter of ethics (including religious dogma), thus the ecological functions of animals seem so dreary to talk about with today's generation.

Recently, wildlife issues have got into conservation politics which could affect international trades.  Environmental issues might affect the economy of a country, like the boycott of palm oil products, timber certification, and carbon trade.

Even though decorated with intrigues and capitalistic practices, environmental issues have opened discourses about how international conversation can be affected by wildlife and environment conservation. It is still fresh in our mind how Indonesian palm oil products were boycotted by the main buyer, Unilever, because the palm oil came illegally from conservation area. Also the protest to stop the EURO 2012 football championship because the host country killed stray dogs to make sure the event run smoothly, and how the sexy Hollywood actress Pamela Anderson preferred to be naked than wearing clothes made from animal fur. The world once also condemned Japan for hunting whales and dolphins.

Wildlife issue is then, much bigger than just about biodiversity, habitat, conservation, and protection; it is now a major global issue which poses great influence to the international relationships which is somewhat economic-centered.

There is nothing wrong with development, if it is carried on wisely. Minimizing the environmental backwash should be the main target of every development plan, and done wholeheartedly. Indonesia is a prosperous country, and will never run out of ingenious people. Being aware of the need of wildlife, and making it a priority is actually a brilliant ecological and economical investment, both for the current and future generation.

Merdeka! (Free!) Our country can stand even above the expectation of anyone in the whole world! We have everything; not only Borneo with its "millions of lakes", but even better we have "billions of hearts".

*) this article is the author's opinion


© 2003 - ProFauna Indonesia

ProFauna Indonesia is an Indonesian society for the protection of
wild animals and their habitats