Mynah conservation program wins presidential nod, by I Wayan Juniartha, The Jakarta Post Thursday, May 3, 2007
Image: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (center) and First Lady Kristiani Herawati (right) observe the endangered Bali Mynah inside their cages prior to releasing them into the wild on Nusa Penida, April 28, 2007. (Courtesy Begawan Giri Foundation)
The day was probably the most jubilant in Bayu Wirayudha's life. But the Bali Mynah conservationist didn't say he didn't want to. Even so, his face, with its countenance and broad smile, betrayed his joyous heart. "We never expected that we would be able to reach this point", he said in an exuberant tone.
The point to which he referred had taken place just taken place a few hours earlier in the coastal village of on Nusa Penida, an island off western Bali. Under the scorching sun of that Saturday afternoon. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and First Lady had squeezed into their hectic schedule an activity that would leave Bayu and his friends leaping for joy.
After inaugurating Sampalan's ferry port, the president approached a small group of bird conservationists awaiting him. Laid before them were two cages filled with 12 Bali Mynah (Leucopsar rothschildi), an endemic and endangered species of Bali. The President and First Lady nodded to the group before opening the cage and releasing birds into the wild. After a roaring applause, the President approached Bayu and shook his hand briefly. "Thank you for the work you and your friends here have done in conserving and protecting this endangered species", the President smiled.
Shaking hands with the head of state was a good experience; having the President personally thanking you for your work was certainly more than just a good experience. But these weren't the real reasons behind Bayu s bright face and wide smile. "I am happy because this means that the President has given his recognition and approval for what we have been trying to do here, "he said.
Since 1999, Bayu and his peers at the Friends of National Parks Foundation have been trying to transform the island of Nusa Penida into Bali's first sanctuary. In 2006, the FNPF joined hands with the Begawan Giri Foundation (BGF), the leading organization in the field of Bali Mynah conservation, and together the two groups worked to turn Nusa Penida into a safe haven for the species. In a relatively short while, they won the support of all (traditional villages) on Penida, which agreed to protect the endangered birds.
By early 2007, the BGF breeding facility on Nusa Penida had nursed a total of 93 Bali Mynah and witnessed the birth of 15 hatchlings. It had also released 37 Bali Mynah, creating the largest population of Bali Mynah in the wild thus far. To date, this population has given birth to eight hatchlings.
This achievement, however, had triggered jealousy and resentment from certain agencies and organizations, particularly those that had implemented similar programs in West Bali National Park (TNBB), the "official" site for the Bali Mynah conservation program.
The poor track record of this program, which had been debilitated by a series of burglaries targeting the rare birds and a lack of support from the surrounding communities, had only inflamed the existing hostility toward Bayu and his conservationist friends on Nusa Penida.
In recent years, Bayu and his peers had faced various efforts aimed to prevent them from continuing work. But their work didn't breach any government laws or regulations. "In the end, all they can say is that I have failed to abide by the government policy that has designated the TNBB as the official site for Bali Mynah conservation. "Well, a policy drawn by a certain high-ranking government official doesn't equal law. So, I am off the legal hook but not out of the political heat," Bayu said.
Now that the President had given his personal approval and recognition to the Nusa Penida program, Bayu expected that the political heat and pressure would soon begin to dissipate. "That's the thing I am really happy about. With lesser political heat, we will be able to continue our work here in peace. "I've never gotten used to all that political bickering and insinuation. After all, I am just a simple-minded, uneducated bird lover," he said.
Perhaps, but he is one bird lover who has just shaken hands with the most powerful man in the country.
- Juniartha, I Wayan - 'Mynah conservation program wins presidential nod', in: The Jakarta Post Thursday, May 3, 2007