Dugong Database Initiative Indonesia

Hans de Iongh

May 01, 2016

Prof. Hans de Iongh
Associate Professor, Institute of Environmental Science
Leiden University, Netherlands

Please can you tell us a little bit about your working history in Indonesia?
I went to Indonesia for the first time as a MSc student of Wageningen University in 1973, where I did my Master subject at the Institute of Ecology in Bandung ( the famous Prof. Otto Soemarwoto) in the Prianger Highland (West Java) and in North Sumatra.

During 1980-1990 I was regularly in Indonesia for my work as an ecologist with the consultancy company Royal Haskoning Engineers and Architects. I was very much involved in ecological impact studies of large infrastructural projects like harbour construction and dredging in coastal areas. In 1990 I started my PhD research on the interactions of dugongs and seagrass meadows in the Lease islands, Maluku province. During my PhD research I investigated dugong grazing strategies in intertidal pioneer meadows of Halodule univervis and Halophila ovalis. I also satellite tagged four dugongs and tracked their movements up to more than 1 year after tagging. In 2000, I started research in East Kalimantan on a dugong population which is visiting intertidal meadows in Balikpapan Bay. We studied the relationship between periodicity of grazing of dugongs and carbohydrate content of the Halodule seagrass meadows (Read the full article HERE).

Finally during 2007 – 2008, I initiated the National Dugong Conservation Strategy and Action plan for Indonesia in partnership with the Centre for Oceanography in Jakarta (PPO-LIPI): READ Part 1 HERE; and part 2 HERE

Please tell us about the database you are designing at the University of Leiden?
The database initiative was developed as part of the National Dugong Conservation Strategy and Action plan for Indonesia. It is still in development and we intend to complete it in 2016, when we raise the necessary funds in close collaboration with our partners (Centre for Oceanography Jakarta and the Foundations “Duyung” and “Lamun”). The objective of the data base is to create a tool in which information on dugong sightings in Indonesia can be stored and actively used by stakeholders and conservationists as a source of information on dugong population status, distribution and threats. Jet Kok presented the outline of the national dugong data base for Indonesia at the Inception workshop in Colombo, because I was unable to attend. Jet Kok has been involved, together with her colleague Rachmat from RCO-LIPI and Maarten van ‘t Zelfde of Leiden University in the development of the data base. The data base is still being developed and based on fundraising success beginning 2016, it will be important during 2016 to make the data base more interactive and to develop the GIS options in the existing data base. It is currently managed by a staff member of the Research Centre for Oceanography Jakarta (Rachmat), with Technical Assistance of Leiden University and the Foundations “ Duyung” and “ Lamun”. Ultimately it is the intention to have membership for the data base of a network of experts and conservationists in Indonesia, who can have access through a username and password. We hope to achieve this during 2016.

What specific techniques do you use to identify dugong populations and why have you chosen this/these techniques?
I use areal surveys and questionnaires with local communities – I think both methods complement each other. HERE is a useful article. My experience is of course very much related to my fieldwork in the Lease islands, Maluku province and in East Kalimantan. During the nineties I was involved in aerial surveys of dugongs following the coastline of the Lease islands in East Indonesia. The aerial surveys followed a strip transect covering the coastal shelf and totalling 3.5 hours of observation. During the first survey a total of 17 dugongs was observed one of which was a neonate calf, during the second survey 10 dugongs were seen hut no neonate calf. The minimum population of dugongs in the Lease islands was estimated to be between 22-37 animals. The population is probably in interaction with a larger unidentified reservoir of animals in coastal waters of nearby Seram and Buru island. I was also involved in aerial surveys in East Kalimantan, were we made observations on dugong presence during 2006-2009. I know that apart from my involvement in aerial dugong surveys, so far few aerial surveys have been carried out in Indonesia to assess dugong populations. One of them was during 2008, supported by WSC in Pulau Raja Ampat, Papua, when a total of 24 dugongs were detected. I have also been involved in interview surveys with pre-structured questionnaires in the Maluku province in the nineties and in East Kalimantan during 2006-2009. The pre-structured questionnaire we used can be found as an appendix in part I of the National Dugong Conservation Strategy and Action Plan.

Particularly during my surveys in the Lease islands I learned about the importance of community based conservation, based on the existing Sasi system.

My experience is that both methods are complementary and provide essential information on dugong presence. The results of aerial surveys so far revealed that dugong populations in Indonesia are small and scattered and generally under severe threat of hunting.

Please add any other information you would like to mention/direct towards our project & partners here:
My main worry about dugong conservation in Indonesia is the trade in dugong parts. Recently Lee and Nijman (2015) published a shocking ARTICLE on the magnitude of the trade based on a market survey in Bali.