Fighting for ecological justice

Protecting Nature and Wildlife Through Community Empowerment

Community support is the key to successful nature and wildlife conservation. The statement belongs to Muhamad Muslich, a Kaoem Telapak member who tirelessly works on wildlife conservation.

Muhammad Muslich was born in the city of Tegal. He has an educational background in forest resource conservation IPB and Conservation Biology at the University of Indonesia. Since college, Muslich has been active in university-level adventurer club activities, Lawalata-IPB. Some of the expeditions he carried out with his colleagues as a student included field studies at the Komodo National Park, Batang Gadis National Park, and Mount Ciremai National Park.

In 2010, he first met Kaoem Telapak, that previously called Telapak. For Muslich, Kaoem Telapak is not just an organization but a school. “The people in it are very inspiring from sharing backgrounds and being a place to learn,” said Muslich.

The meeting is also unique. Muslich said that he first met Kaoem Telapak on the banks of the Ciliwung River. At that time, Kaoem Telapak ran a community engagement program to protect water resources.

From there, Muslich received organizational education. He received mentoring regarding which professional areas he would like to develop. He was also encouraged to improve his facilitation skills for the village community. Finally, Muslich inagurated as a member. “I stayed with the community and visited regularly in a village on the edge of Mount Halimun Salak National Park,” recalled Muslich when he started his education. For him, he needs to combine a conservation background combined with a social aspect.

After becoming a member, Muslich admitted that he was happy. Kaoem Telapak allows its members to work on issues that interest them as long as they do not conflict with organizational values.

Muhamad Muslich, Member of Kaoem Telapak

Muslich chose to be active in wildlife conservation issues by joining BirdLife Indonesia, and from 2015 until now, he has worked at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Now he has been monitoring human-wildlife conflict issues for more than seven years. “One of my targets and my role is increasing local community participation in animal and nature conservation,” said Muslich.

Muslich realizes that the role of local communities in conservation areas is essential. Therefore, Muslich seeks to strengthen the concept of working with local communities so that the community actively participate in preserving nature and wildlife.

One of the challenges in nature conservation is land use change. Changes to land use that are uncontrollable, continued Muslich, have disturbed, damaged, and even disappeared wildlife habitats. The impact is that conflicts arise between humans and wild animals. If someone asks which is more important between humans and wild animals, Muslich will firmly answer that both are important.

To minimize conflicts between wild animals and humans, Muslich argues, strengthening the knowledge and self-sufficiency of the community is pivotal. Increasing awareness of the risks of living on the forest’s edge within the community is crucial. Muslich gave an example, If people choose to live by the sea, they may face abrasion or sea waves. “Such awareness needs to be accompanied by how to live harmoniously on the edge of the forest, so if there are tigers or elephants, the community can dispel or avoid worse impacts,” said Muslich.

If not handled properly, conflicts between wild animals and humans will harm both parties, including humans. “Losses on the human side, including loss of life and sources of livelihood, in this case, livestock and agriculture, also have the potential to increase. Participation and empowerment are the keys,” continued Muslich.

Muslich continues to apply the inspiration he gets from Kaoem Telapak. In the conservation program, he tries to use this inspiration by ensuring that the process of participation and empowerment of local communities can run strong. “So it’s not conventional conservation, which only says to the people, they need to preserve this species need, but processes like that (participatory – ed) is necessary to strengthen their relationships, their communication so that conservation becomes their (local community – ed) needs and property,” Muslich said.