02 Sep Collaborative Work to Protect Dugongs in the Lease Islands MPA
CTC successfully launched the “Kalesang Dugong” project in Saparua, Central Maluku, in collaboration with the Baileo Foundation and the Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (DKP) of the Maluku Province. The project aims to protect the charismatic endangered dugong (Dugong dugon) and its critical habitat in the Lease Islands marine protected area (MPA).
The series of “Kalesang Dugong” kick-off meetings were carried out from August 31 to September 02, 2022, involving local stakeholders and community members at the provincial, district, sub-district and village levels in Maluku. The project has received full support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Wallacea II Partnership Program. This fund seeks to address the historical lack of investment into conservation and economic development in the region by prioritizing grants that protect globally threatened species in the area.
In addition, the project also followed up the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between CTC and the Provincial Government of Maluku for effective management of MPA and fisheries. This agreement was signed earlier in August 2022 by the Governor of Maluku, Murad Ismail, and the Executive Director of CTC, Rili Djohani, as part of the Joint Work Plan Agreement between the DKP of Maluku Province and several non-governmental organization (NGO) partners.
The launch started with an initial meeting at the office of DKP Maluku on Monday, August 29, 2022. In the meeting, CTC explained the objectives of the project, as well as its target areas of Mahu and Ihamahu village in East Saparua sub-district, and Booi and Porto village in Saparua sub-district.
High levels of community participation in kick-off meetings in Saparua, demonstrated the public’s high enthusiasm for the project’s implementation. At the sub-district level, 77 participants joined the meeting, while at the village level 29 people joined in Ihamahu with another 40 in Mahu. On the last day, 55 people came to our event in Booi and Porto. Women were well represented among participants, making up one third of the total attendees.
The Interim Head of the DKP of Maluku Province, Erawan Asikin, conveyed that this project will benefit the implementation of the Lease Islands MPA Management and Zoning Plan (RPZ), where the dugong is one of protected species targets in the area.
Erawan continued, “The Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of Maluku Province expresses its gratitude and appreciation for the cooperation of CTC and Baileo, who have taken good initiatives by carrying out the ‘Kalesang Dugong’ project in the Lease Islands MPA.”
The “Kalesang Dugong” project will last for two years, beginning in July 2022 until June 2024. Aside from protecting dugongs and the seagrass ecosystem in the Lease Islands MPA, the project also aims to increase the capacity and awareness of local communities and stakeholders, including Indigenous Peoples, women, youths, businesses, and MPA personnel, in promoting the protection of the marine mammal and its habitat in the Lease Islands MPA.
Moreover, the project will provide updated data and information about the population, distribution, and observation of dugongs, as well as the seagrass ecosystem, through advanced biophysics surveys and regular resource use monitoring (RUM) surveys. It will also result in the development of a citizen science mechanism to support the existing database systems at all levels. CTC will ensure all compiled data and information from the project will be analyzed and presented on technical reports to be further used by the MPA management unit in Lease Islands for dugong management.
Dugongs are known as herbivorous charismatic marine mammals that rely heavily on seagrass as their main diet. With a body mass of roughly 400 kg, dugongs can grow up to three meters in length and live for up to 70 years. As an umbrella species, which means that their protection benefits other species, dugongs have been seen swimming and grazing around the Lease Islands MPA. Unfortunately, their population in Lease is unquantified as the last study in 1992 only recorded 22 to 37 individuals being found alive in the islands. (*)
Photo: Yoga Putra/CTC and Purwanto/CTC