Arifin Putra, an Indonesian movie star, supports Dugong & Seagrass Conservation

January 21, 2018

Arifin Putra is an Indonesian actor. Arifin started his acting career at the age of 13. He starred in various Indonesian TV series, commercials, shorts and music videos, as well as in cinema productions.

Off-screen Arifin is an avid reader who also watches movies every chance he gets and loves water sports.

Outside of acting, Arifin is concerned about nature conservation. He has kindly accepted the invitation of our WWF Indonesia to become an Ambassador of the Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project in the country.

We wanted to know more about Arifin’s interests in conservation and dugongs.

Mr Putra, thank you very much for your support to the Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project. We highly appreciate that a movie star like yourself stands by us and help us bring the attention of the society to the importance of marine conservation. Tell us more about your nature conservation interests.

To begin with I’m deeply concerned with what we as humans have done to the planet’s ecosystem in the past century alone. Our population is growing above 7 billion people and we consume and pollute to an almost unsustainable level. I feel that we owe it to Mother Earth to figure out ways to preserve it for the next generations. I feel that humans are the main problem, but we can also be the main solution. I feel there are many problems with marine conservation, but I would say that the rise in ocean temperature is one of my main concerns that keeps me awake at night.

What has made you join our cause? Why dugongs and seagrass?

Dugong and Seagrass are examples of how interconnectedness exists in nature. Seagrass is not the rockstar of the coastal ecosystem, like the coral reef or mangroves are, but it does an incredible job. It is home to many marine biota and it does a great job at controlling the ocean’s temperature in its surrounding area. It’s my silent hero of the marine world I would dare say. On the other hand, as far as I know, Seagrass is the Dugong’s main source of food. The way the Dugong digs up the surrounding sand around the Seagrass as it eats, releases nutrition and energy from the seagrass into the surrounding area making the seagrass plains spread. This kind of perfect symbiosis reminds me of how nature is interconnected and that you always need to look at th big picture when conserving nature.

We have learned that in November 2017, you joined the Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project in a field mission to Alor. Can you share your impression/ experience from that mission?

Alor is a beautiful place. The people of Alor still have a strong connection to nature. They teach their children how to swim in the ocean right in front of their houses. They still grow and eat their own food. I always think its amazing when you are able to know exactly where your food came from. They have a lot of people from DSCP Indonesia and other locals who are working hard to ensure that the coastal ecosystems are preserved and that Dugong tourism is conducted in a sustainable and responsible way, according to a mutually agreed on code of conduct. Tourism in other areas of Alor is also flourishing. I do feel that the people and the government of Alor are still struggling with garbage handling, but the passion from the local volunteers and activists in tackling conservation efforts just amazes me and fills me with pride.

Did you see a dugong during the mission?

Yes! A maginificent creature! Our very capable and seasoned guide had his own way of calling the Dugong and luring him to close proximity of our boat. We had to wait for about an hour before the Dugong showed up and swam around our boat. A very calm creature, who also appears to be quite playful. The verbal interaction and respect and playfulness I felt between the guide and the Dugong was amazing to see. It was a very rewarding sight to behold being in the presence of the Dugong. Was a truly unforgettable experience.

According to you, how can we improve our conservation efforts?

We need to work with the local government to improve and implement its regulations and more importantly we need to work together with people who live in close proximity with the Dugong and live from Dugong tourism. We need to give them the right tools like a clear code of conduct and an understanding of how to maximize tourism from Dugongs in a responsible way and also increase awareness with the local populace on how to increase and preserve Coastal Ecosystems like Seagrass and Mangrove forests. We need to do this to preserve nature, without forgetting the prosperity from the local population. Communication is key.

We know that you support renewable energy and low carbon emission society. Did you know that seagrasses play an important role in the carbon cycle? (Note: It has been estimated that a hectare of the most effective seagrass meadows exceeds by ten-fold the carbon sink capacity of the pristine Amazonian forest.)

Seagrass meadows are great absorbers of carbon dioxide from the air. Seagrass meadow act as carbon “sinks”, preventing the erosion of carbon deposits and the subsequent release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. When the seagrass is removed, usually by dredging or mooring but sometimes by severe storms, the old carbon is eroded and freed. The freed old carbon can contribute to the increase of greenhouse effect, therefore increasing the temperature and global change. With the temperature of oceans rising everywhere, anything that can help in stemming the temperature rise and preserving nature is a winner for me.

What you like to say to the dugong and seagrass conservation community? And to your colleagues in our eight countries?

I would like to shout out a big big thank you to all DSCP communities in Madagascar, Malaysia, Mozambique, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu, and Abu Dhabi for their awesome efforts all over the world for one unified goal of preserving and conserving Dugongs and Seagrass and ultimately helping to preserve Mother Earth for generations to come. We only have 1 world, so let’s do our best to save it.