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Waiting for Sula Scrubfowl

One week before the arrival of guests from Java to Peling Island, Banggai Islands, Central Sulawesi, Amran Satali (35) visited the Sula Scrubfowl spot every day. He looked nervous. He admits that he has had trouble sleeping in the last few days. He wanted to make sure the Sula Scrubfowl could be found on the day of the birdwatching.

Amran started the community-based tourism initiative in 2022. He is also actively encouraging birdwatching activities in his village with Burung Indonesia. The forest in Koyobunga Village where he lives is one of the habitats of the Sula Scrubfowl or Megapodius bernsteinii.

Sula Scrubfowl birdwatching is one of the main ecotourism activities that he manages with the Koyobunga Village Tourism Group (Pokdarwis). The Pokdarwis has a long list of visitors, both from within the country and abroad. Birdwatchers and wildlife photographers must book a schedule to do birdwatching here.

Sula Scrubfowl is part of the Megapodiidae family. Megapodiidae is a family of birds known by the common name of scrubfowl. The birds in this family have several distinctive characteristics that make them different from other birds. Scrubfowl are famous for the unique way they incubate their eggs. Instead of incubating the eggs with their body heat, these birds utilize external heat sources such as sunlight, geothermal heat, or even hot sand to hatch their eggs.

Once the eggs are laid in the nest, the scrubfowl parents will leave the eggs. The scrubfowl chicks hatch in a self-sustaining condition and are able to forage for food shortly after hatching. The Sula Scrubfowl goes through the same circle of life as other scrubfowl groups.

Sula Scrubfowl can only be found in the Sula Islands, North Maluku and Banggai Islands, Central Sulawesi. They usually inhabit tropical forests, rainforests, mangrove forests, sandy beaches and small islands. In Koyobunga Village, this species' habitat is in the mangrove forest on one of the small islands in the northern part of the village.

Observing the Sula Scrubfowl must start before sunrise. Amran always makes sure that observation activities do not disrupt the Sula Scrubfowl when they are coming down to look for food. "If we arrive too late, the birds won't return to that spot. That's why we have to be at the observation site earlier than the birds," he tells me.

Sula Scrubfowl in Koyobunga Village (Photo: Burung Indonesia/Eunike Taroreh)

02.30 in the morning

The long-awaited day arrived. The alarm on my phone alerted me to get out of bed. The sound of a bird recording on my phone loudly woke Ainun and me up. We hurried off. In front of our office, our colleagues were already preparing. Early in the morning, we traveled to Koyobunga Village in two four-wheel drive vehicles. The speed of the vehicle hunted with the appearance of a dim line in the eastern sky.

Koyobunga Village is one of four villages supported by Burung Indonesia on Peling Island. This village is known as the best mangosteen producer. The harvest is abundant with a sweet taste from the fresh seeds. Through village ecotourism assistance, Burung Indonesia and the Koyobunga community in collaboration with the Banggai Islands Regency Tourism Office succeeded in raising mangosteen as a tourism icon for this village. A certificate of appreciation declared Koyobunga Village as a Mangosteen Tourism Village by the Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Sandiaga Uno in April 2022. To add to the attractions, the villagers also developed the gosong sula bird watching tour as the main destination.

Upon arrival at Koyobunga, two boats were waiting to take us to the observation site. Amran's face looked worried. The non-stop rain had made the Sula Scrubfowl reluctant to come out of their nests. Ten pairs of watchful eyes observed the movement from behind the bushes. Prayers were recited. Hoping that the rain would give way to light.

Amran leered at me. He was hopeless!

I glanced at my watch. It was 7.30 am. Suddenly I hear the sound of camera buttons clicking. Followed by everyone taking up their positions. A Sula Scrubfowl appears from the north. My blood rushes!

The nimble one acrobatics and twirls in front of us. He showed off a pair of sturdy red legs. His movements were agile and sturdy. She made a bursting sound. We were mesmerized by the Sula Scrubfowl's movements. It was like he was performing a magical monologue. Andi, who was recording using his gadget, did not realize that he was using the front lens mode. He intended to record the Sula Scrubfowl, but instead the screen was filled with his own face.

On the way back, Amran joked with us, saying that this was the first time he had ever been so anxious while taking guests to observe Sula Scrubfowl. The length of time it took for the Sula Scrubfowl to reveal itself was the longest in his entire experience of taking guests for birdwatching. In fact, he had given up hope at the last moment. His anxiety on those last nights before the guests arrived had been replaced by joy!

Story by: Eunike Priskila Grace Taroreh | Burung Indonesia Community Facilitator

Amran dan tim Burung Indonesia di lokasi pengamatan gosong sula (Foto: Burung Indonesia/Ahmad Syauqi Jafani)