Agency gathers public support to save white herons

The Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) is encouraging animal lovers to support its efforts to save the kokokan (white heron) in its natural habitat in Petulu village, Gianyar. The village’s iconic bird is being threatened by degradation of its natural habitat caused by more and more trees being cut down. “The villagers preserve the kokokan because they consider them to be sacred. However, they have begun to cut down more trees to avoid accidents during the storms this rainy season,” said Gede Budiana, forest ecosystem controller at BKSDA Bali.

He said the agency had designed a conservation program to run until 2014, but had yet to start the program. “The last time we conducted mapping was in 2010. We need support from animal lovers in our conservation efforts,” he said, adding that the old problems still occurred, including dead birds being neglected on the streets, as well as the lack of a tree replanting program. Currently, the bird population in two locations, Petulu Gunung and Petulu Desa, has reached 10,000 birds.

Local people are enthusiastic to join the conservation efforts, but demand clear solutions to protect the bird and its habitat. “We hope there will be a community offering their support. The Bali Bird Park once planned to help take care of the sick birds but has not put the plan into action,” he said. The agency plans to conduct identification and make an inventory of habitat conditions, as well as the species and population, in addition to monitoring, tagging and saving baby birds. They will also train local people to participate.

Some local people said they had cut down many of the old bunut trees (a type of fig) to prevent them from falling on their houses in stormy weather, resulting in the birds losing their habitat. In addition, the birds are also finding it difficult to get food due to the shrinking rice fields, where they usually hunt for small animals. I Wayan Kecug, a resident who runs a small stall in the middle of a rice field, said that it needed a lot of effort from researchers and animal lovers to conserve the birds, saying many eggs failed to hatch due to unsuitable conditions.

Research published in the Indonesian Science and Technology Digital Library in 1993 stated that the presence of kokokan in Petulu was related to local social and historical factors. Most of the birds in the habitat (above 95 percent) were Bubulcus ibis, whiles the remainder consisted of several species, like Egretta garzetta, Ardeola speciosa and Nycticorax nycticorax. The research also suggested several factors that hampered population growth, including a degrading habitat and increasing human activity in Petulu village, located around four kilometers from Ubud.

The birds are believed to bring blessings to local people. In 1965, when village residents had just finished performing a ritual, thousands of the birds suddenly flocked to the trees along the village’s streets. Since then, the birds are considered sacred, and local people usually perform prayers at a monument established in the village’s temple to honor the birds. In 1991, Petulu Gunung was honored with the Kalpataru award, a prestigious Indonesian environmental award, by the late-former president Soeharto due to the conservation efforts. In addition to building the monument to honor the birds, residents also conduct special rituals once every six months in conjunction with Kuningan day.

source : bali daily

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