Marking the International Day of Forests 2013 today, Dr Lynn Clayton, Project director with YANI an SOS grantee, and her young friend Yanto, report on one of several tree planting initiatives helping to build awareness and community support for the preservation of the Nantu forest as well as its threatened species including the Babirusa and Anoa in Sulawesi.
A truck loaded with young tree seedlings crawls slowly across the last precarious bridge to Wonosari Primary School. Next morning, as part of our student outreach programme funded through a two year SOS - Save Our Species grant, pupils gather early on their grassy playground. Headmaster Mr Ardin Lihawa and silviculturalist Bart Sembel explain how to plant and care for the tiny Nantu seedlings, and how they will grow to feed and shelter forest birds. As if in anticipation a flock of hornbills beat their way across the bright sky above. Parents watch and listen from the sidelines as the four thousand trees are shared, and a small “school forest” is planted behind the school.
Yanto is one of those young students taking part. In his hands he holds a small Nantu tree. Looking across the river from his school, Yanto can see enormous Nantu trees clothed in mist. He has grown up here in Sulawesi beside the Nantu Forest, last home on the planet of the curly-tusked Babirusa and the horned Anoas. The idea of he and his schoolmates planting the trees to help reforest Nantu has also planted an idea in Yanto's head - he sees the connection between the forest and those creatures and he witnesses firsthand how his actions can help shape the future of the Babirusa and the Anoa.
By dusk the young trees stand firm in the Indonesian earth. Children seek sticks and straight bamboos to measure their tree’s growth. In three months time a prize will be given to the owner of the tallest tree by headmaster Ardin Lihawa.
Yanto’s tree rests safely in the ground in the fading light. Yanto and Jemi Komolontang, a Nantu Forest ranger, sit deep in conversation on an old log beside it. How long will it be until this tree looks out across the far Boliyohuto Mountains, until families of jumping Tarsiers sing from its lowest branches and Heck’s macaques munch on its fruits. And what of the Babirusa and the Anoas – will these amazing large mammals still be there then?
Jemi notes “Building affinity between young people and Sulawesi’s rainforest through activities like today’s is a vital step towards protecting the Babirusa's and Anoa's last critical habitat, the Nantu Forest”. This protection of and reforestation process is a critical part of Clayton's conservation project to help protect Nantu from various threats such as illegal logging and poaching. While Clayton strives to engage the local community for support, the tree planting ceremony at Wonosari Primary School represents a positive step toward an inclusive future where the locals and visitors can enjoy and use the resources and amenities of the Nantu Forest sustainably so that Yanto's children may also see wild Babirusa and Anoa roam amongst the trees.