Commentary: Where are the Indonesian conservation experts?

Jakarta Globe
25 September 2015

Indonesia is the second-most important country in the world for conservation. It has more species than pretty much anywhere else in the world, but threats are high. Compared to many other countries things are still pretty good here. In fact, and despite the many depressing conservation stories, Indonesia remains the crown jewel of Southeast Asian conservation. Still, Indonesia is short on local biodiversity experts, which makes it so much harder to effectively deal with biodiversity conservation challenges.

Last week, we attended the IUCN Leaders meeting in Abu Dhabi. The International Union for Conservation of Nature represents the largest conservation network of volunteers. These people coordinate species specialist groups or topical task forces, and provide the scientific backing needed for effective conservation and environmental management.

Among the approximately 400 IUCN leaders gathered in Abu Dhabi, two represented Indonesia. Mirza is a member of the IUCN Steering Committee and Erik chairs the Wild Pig Specialist Group, and helps out in other groups for primates, birds and also oil palm. Two out of 400 is 0.5 percent, and only one of us two is properly Indonesian.

Half a percent is pretty dismal considering how important Indonesia is globally. Based on the importance of the country for global conservation, some 10 percent or 15 percent of the global experts should really be Indonesian, not 0.5.

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