>Battle to save precious Lore Lindu park goes on

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The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Tue, 04/02/2002 7:40 AM Life

Bambang M., Contributor, Palu, Central Sulawesi

Numerous species of birds are perching on a fruit-laden banyan tree while Sulawesi monkeys (Macaca tonkeana) greedily devour its red fruit. In the old tree’s shade, the pristine water of a small river flows by calmly.

The natural beauty of tropical rainforest in the Lore Lindu National Park in Central Sulawesi is part of Indonesia’s relatively well-maintained network of tropical forests.

In the national park, the trees grow as high as 60 meters and their thick foliage completely blocks the sunshine. Between the big branches, various species of rattan grow, just like numerous kinds of ephiphytes like edible fern and beautiful orchids. The ground is covered with thick bushes.

Measuring about 217.991 hectares in area, Lore Lindu was made a national park on Oct. 5, 1993. This park brings together Lore Kalamata nature reserve, Lindu Lake recreational and protected forest and Lore Lindu fauna reserve. Administratively, the park, the second largest in Sulawesi, is located in Donggala and Poso regencies.

Despite its relatively virgin forest, this national park is not free of problems.

Large-scale looting of rattan (Callamus. spp) and illegal logging still go on, while local residents living near the park keep on clearing forest area to plant crops.

“”To date, illegal logging in this national park has covered an area measuring about 3,000 hectares,”” said Bahar Umar, a worker at the Nature Conservation of Lore Lindu Field Office.

The illegal logging should be stopped immediately. The park not only boasts great biological diversity, but it also serves as the province’s main water catchment area.

Moreover, most of its flora and fauna are endemic to Sulawesi and cannot be found in other places across the country.

Anoa (Bubalus quarlesi), deer-hogs (Babyrousa babyrussa), Sulawesi civets (Macrogalidia musschenbroeckii), tarsius (Tarsius diane, T. pumillus) and allo birds or red-knobbed hornbills (Rhyticeros cassidix) are some of the animals native to the island. Unfortunately, some of these creatures, such as anoa and deer-hogs — listed in Appendix I of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) — are now becoming rare because of hunting

As a whole, 98 percent of the 127 species of mammals found in Sulawesi are unique to the area. The same is true for 27 percent of 328 species of birds, 26 percent of 117 species of reptiles, 76 percent of 25 species of amphibians and 77 percent of 68 species of fresh-water fish.

Most of them are yet to be fully studied.

With its outstanding biological diversity, the national park has been recognized by a number of international environmental organizations like IUCN, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Birdlife International.

The park’s floral diversity, with an estimated of over 5,000 flora species, is also astonishing.

One of the trees the national park can flaunt with pride is the leda tree (Eucalyptus deglupta), which can grow to 60m high and has a trunk measuring 1.5m in diameter. When it is big enough, the tree’s bark peels off, revealing the shiny red and green stem within.

About 20 species of rattan, a source of livelihood for many local residents, are also found here. Every year, it’s estimated that some 25,000 tons of rattan are collected from the forest.

Another important asset found in the Lore Lindu national park but rarely found in other national parks is megalithic stone slabs of hundreds of years old. Nobody knows who made these stones, which represent a human being, dakon stones and giant vessels. They are found in Bada, Napu and Besoa areas.

“”In fact, you can find other megalithic stone slabs inside the forest and they are not known to the public,”” said Thamrin, the forest ranger of the national park center at Bobo checkpoint.

Apart from its rich biodiversity, the national park is an important water catchment area in Central Sulawesi. With the presence of this park, about 304,607 residents in Palu valley, or about 15 percent of this province’s total population, never suffer from drought.

Gumbasa, Palu and Lariang rivers flow through this national park. Lariang river, which flows down to South Sulawesi, is the longest one in Sulawesi’s longest, at 225 km.

The livelihoods of many people would be threatened if illegal logging robs this national park of its ability to function as a water catchment area. The dry season will bring worse droughts, and the whole region will flood in the wet season.

In his research between November and December last year, Vince Deschamps of ESG International Canada estimated the economic value of water coming from the park at Rp 89.9 billion per annum.

The water was used to support the daily activities of local residents, agriculture and plantation sector, animal husbandry and industry in Palu valley. In the present era of growing autonomy for the regions, it is certainly a very valuable asset which needs to be preserved.

“”With this research, we can inform the government, decision-makers and the public of the importance of the national park’s ecological value,”” said Deschamps, adding the park was the first in Indonesia being surveyed of its water value.

With the combination of natural beauty, a rich source of knowledge and a high ecological value, the area was declared as a man and biosphere reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1978. And now, several international non-governmental organizations like TNC, Care International, an Indonesian-German research cooperation institute, STORMA (Stability of Rain Forest Margins Program) have joined with dozens of local NGOs to help keep the park on a sustainable footing.

They know the park does not only belong to Indonesia. It is a vital area of world heritage which must be preserved.

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