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Eco-Trip: A Conservation Adventure on Pramuka Island

  • Eco-Trip is a public awareness campaign organized by Burung Indonesia on biodiversity and habitat conservation.
  • Jakarta Bay is an important site for migratory seabirds.
  • Microplastic pollution in the waters, especially in Jakarta Bay, is one of the highest. It averages 7.5 to 10 particles per cubic meter.
  • Small islands in the Kepulauan Seribu Regency are the most vulnerable areas due to the global climate crisis, damage to coral reefs, the threat of plastic waste and unsustainable fishing.

It was a busy 5 a.m. at Burung Indonesia's Bogor office on the first weekend in August. With backpacks and excited faces, some people were ready for a long day. The eco-trip started that day. Cold, chilly air escorted thirty people as they traveled north to Pramuka Island in the regency of Kepulauan Seribu. Some dozed off on the way to the pier in Jakarta Bay, while others chatted to get to know each other, as they would be traveling companions for the next two days.

Our first destination was Tanjung Pasir Pier in Tangerang Regency before heading out to the open sea of Jakarta. When we arrived at the pier, KM Rahayu, our boat, was at the dock ready to take us to Pramuka Island. The first challenge of the morning was that the water around the pier was receding. This caused the captain and crew to work very hard to change course to the north. It took about half an hour before the boat left the pier and was finally able to pitch in calm waves and searing sun.

KM Rahayu has been in use for the transportation of birdwatchers and researchers around Jakarta Bay. Along the way, the boat made a detour to where Christmas Island Frigatebirds perched on rows of wooden poles in the middle of the sea, set up to guide fish to traps. The structure is known locally as a sero. As soon as the binoculars were handed out, the participants were in awe of the close-up views of the birds. They immediately photographed the Christmas Island Frigatebirds dancing in the air or perched on poles. For most of the participants, this was their first experience seeing migratory birds up close. As if the universe was conspiring to lend us a helping hand, the flock of birds gave us a warm welcome.

Breeds only on Christmas Island, Australia, the Christmas Island Frigatebirds migrate to Indonesia and Malaysia when the breeding season is over. Its declining habitat quality, not only on Christmas Island but also at its migration sites such as Jakarta Bay, has led the International Union for Conservation of Nature to list this species as Vulnerable (VU). The status reminds us that without proper conservation measures by concerned parties, this elegant bird will plunge into the extinction zone. In Indonesia, the Christmas Island Frigatebird has been included in the list of species that are protected by government regulations.

Christmas frigatebird in Jakarta Bay (Photo: Burung Indonesia)

The waves of the sea finally carried the ship and all the participants to the island of Pramuka. The blue of the sea immediately welcomes you with a view that is pleasing to the eye. Without delay, the participants went to the inn and had lunch. The main program of the eco-trip started with a discussion on the issue of microplastics in Jakarta Bay, with three speakers: Agus Setyawan from Kepulauan Seribu National Park, Tatang Mitra Setia from Smiling Coral Indonesia (SCI), and Ria Saryanthi from Burung Indonesia.

Plastic waste is a challenge that needs to be addressed immediately, especially in Indonesia's large cities. Population growth and rapid economic development have led to an increase in plastic waste and related problems. It is estimated that, on average, only about 40-60 percent of the waste can be transported to final disposal sites. The rest ends up in the ocean and accumulates in coastal areas or on islands.

Plastic that drifts and floats in the ocean for long periods of time can break down into microplastics. The microplastic pollution in the waters, especially in Jakarta Bay, is one of the highest with an average of 7.5 to 10 particles per cubic meter. According to a study conducted by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, these plastics and microplastics may threaten at least 800 marine species, 40 percent of which are marine mammals and the other 44 percent are seabirds. 

The discussion was interactive, with participants actively exploring the knowledge presented to satisfy their curiosity. The next session was held at Rumah Literasi Hijau (Green Literacy House), where participants learned about waste management and processing. Komar, the Marketing Manager, welcomed us warmly before giving us information about their plastic waste management from materials, tools to ready-to-use processed products.

Rumah Literasi Hijau uses a machine that can convert plastic waste into fuel oil through a pyrolysis process. This technology is one of the solutions they offer to address the problem of plastic waste in coastal and island areas, especially on Pramuka Island.

As dusk began to paint the sky on Pramuka Island in beautiful colors, we moved on to the next event. With the sun setting and the moon rising in the background, the participants released the sea turtle hatchlings into the sea, concluding the first day of the eco-trip.

At 9 p.m., as the grill was lit for the fish, everyone gathered to mingle and get to know each other. After dinner, it was late in the evening, time to rest and recharge for the next day's activities.

Before dawn, armed with binoculars, the participants went out to several spots on the island. Starting at 6:00 a.m., they spent an hour and a half observing birds. Eight bird species were observed that morning, namely White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamus leucoryn), Golden-bellied Gerygone (Gerygone sulphurea), Green-backed Heron (Butorides striata), House Swallow (Hirundo javanica), Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris), Eastern Spotted Dove (Spilopelia chinensis), Little Tern (Sternula albifrons), and Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier).

On the second day, more sea turtle hatchlings were released, this time into the open water mangroves. This activity was followed by a coral reef planting activity led by Herman from SCI. Everyone had the opportunity to plant in the prepared media.

SCI is a civil society organization that is involved in marine conservation, research and ecotourism development on Pramuka Island. According to Herman, the coastal area in Jakarta Bay is still dominated by anthropogenic activities that threaten coastal and marine resources. Small islands in the Kepulauan Seribu are the most vulnerable to disasters due to the global climate crisis, damage to coral reefs, the threat of plastic waste, and unsustainable fishing that threatens underwater ecosystems. One way to address these threats is through coral reef transplantation.

At noon, we had lunch, left the inn, and prepared to leave. The eco-trip ended with a visit to the Sea Turtle Sanctuary Center managed by Kepulauan Seribu National Park, where we were introduced to and interacted directly with the rescued turtles. Hawksbill and Green turtles are two species commonly found on Pramuka Island.

Wading through the waves, which grew larger in the afternoon, we set off. The trip to the pier in Tanjung Pasir took about three hours before the boat finally docked, followed by a bus ride to the original meeting point.

See you on the next adventure!