Hi, my name is Yunita SIWI, but my friend call me June or Junita. I have been part of Selamatkan Yaki since 2011, working on and off different education and survey campaigns and in April I will work as full time Education Officer for the project.
Having taking a well-deserved resting time, I would like now to share my incredible trip to Bacan! Most of the time, I’m not big on sharing what I feel or live, but this time, I’d like to tell you our story! So Bacan? What is so interesting in this place? Why did we organise this trip? The answer is Yaki! You might already know that the North Sulawesi Yaki is critically endangered, but what about the ones living in Bacan? And this is my story.
Our expedition begun in Manado where we had to prepare all our gear and ride together to the airport. After 40 minutes spent in the plane, we arrived in the Maluku and that before with our departure time in ternate since there is 1 hour time difference! We then had to continue our journey on public boat, and since the time departure was later in the evening we were able to spend the whole day in Ternate and do the last shopping. The boat trip was going to take about 6 hours but we were really exited! It was our first trip to Bacan, and even if we have to sleep next to hundreds of other passengers, the excitement was overwhelming!
Wonder, excitement, happiness, and many other feelings were getting mixed in my mind when the boat left the harbour and one in particular: “time to rock and roll baby!”. Everyone in the team were really exited!
The following morning when we wake up, it was still dark, the boat was arriving in the harbour! Wow!!! I had just slept a few hours, but finally here we were: Bacan! This island, with a population of about 13.000 people, is 171.000ha wide and I was sure that we would found something there! I was especially hoping to find the gorgeous Yaki or as the scientists call them: the Macaca nigra. To answer our questions, we had 2 teams which were going to work along side by side. The 1st team, called the forest team, went into the forest to gather information about the abundance of macaques by doing reconnaissance walks, as well called recces. The 2nd team, called the village survey team, had the responsibility to collect 200 questionnaires in total to learn what was their opinion and attitude toward wildlife and their use of the forest resources. Since I was already really familiar with village surveys, I spent most of the trip taking care of this team!
On our first day on Bacan, we had to find the forestry department office to report of our presence, but on a small island where there has been recent change of administration, things were not as we expected! We finally were really lucky to find really cooperative and helpful rangers who helped us with those formalities. Our second day on Bacan were the first day we finally start our research! What a day! We went to the first village that we were going to survey. Its name was Tuwokona, and was a nice village, where people’s major income is farming. After a first field day full of excitement we all came back home really happy, the forest team because they came back home safely and the second because they had a really good time with the villagers.
Day after day on Bacan island, we went through many different experiences! From stuck in a swamp to very steep slopes and from very smart old men to really slow shaking ones when we asked our questions, we were very excited to complete the project. The preliminary result of the research was really interesting, in 9 areas where the forest team went : Sawadai, Tuwakona, Tomori, Sayaong, Songa, Amasing Kali, Wayamiga, Tawa and Tubaname, they found different abundances of Yaki, Sawadai was where they saw the most, with up to 40 individuals. The village survey team completed 5 villages: Sawadai, Tuwakona, Tomori, Sayaong, and Songa. Village’s surveys data still need to be analysed before we get the results.
What a really interesting place! It’s really different from North Sulawesi, Bacan’s Macaques are very important for the future. In Bacan, there is a few people who ate Yaki, but most of them don’t. Over there, it’s common for people in every village to keep Yaki and exotic birds as pet. What I noticed in Bacan as well is that people have a good attitude toward animals, and they show a lot more respect for the macaque than in Minahasa, even in case of crop raiding. I get the massage after we met peoples in village surveys, they talk about yaki and other animals. Every following eveninga, after we completed a village survey, we gave a presentation about the project and invited every the villagers. I was very surprised by the number of the participant, so many!! All of that makes me believe that they understand more about the issues faced by the wildlife and that they show more respect to animals, especially yaki.
Overall the Bacan’s trip really got my attention, and even if I spent only one day in the forest, I really enjoyed it, my longing for adventures in the forest was fulfilled. The virgin rain forest was still good, but like in many other places in Indonesia, deforestation was everywhere. Many people don’t understand where the protected area borders are and the department of forestry will have a lot to do to keep things intact on this island !
My favourite moment during this exploration has been when I heard people say: “Yaki are the owners of the land, so be nice to them”. I love those words, and I hope this message will always be told to the next generations. There would be many more things I could tell you about Bacan but that will be all for today. This is my first story, hope there will be other ones. Thank you!