My first month in Athens, GA, back in 2000….. I was a bit shock. It wasn’t the cultural shock of moving from development country to the US. I had a ‘conservation shock’. My advisor shoots ducks. Many people in the area shoot ducks, turkey, quails, even the white-tailed deers. In Indonesia? There are no legal hunting except probably the wild pig (but you need to join a certain certified group). You can check it in IUCN red list and you can see that 464 animals plus 386 plant species are threatened in my country. Indonesia has 1585 bird species in the country’s list, and approximately 7.5% are threatened. My ornithology professor was laughed because I was so excited to see my first bald eagle but I also didn’t care that much to see a purple swamphen on the Florida swamp.
My advisor and I live in different country, different continent, different stories. In the US, the rate of white-tailed deers got hit by cars were amazed me. Sitting at the porch of my Athens’ home or just walking in the park, I could see the blue jay, the brown bird, the cardinals pretty easily. I could crawl and took the picture of the blue jay at a close distance. I loved to watch the grey squirrel running and climbing to bring the food to its hoarding. In here, you can see the influence of South America wildlife through the armadillo and the possum and the story of Beringian land bridge would take me to the past life of the North America.
Living in the tropics is different. You won’t get the 4 season excitement, only the dry season and the wet season, the hot and the rainy ones. It’s great, tough. You don’t need to spend extra costs for warm clothes. It’s great for the wildlife, the birds, since they don’t have to migrate to find food. They got so diverse because food is everywhere. In the forest, the figs are so rich and so many birds like them that they partitioned themselves in the canopy. The small ones such as the flowerpeckers and the leaf birds can go into the deepest part of the canopy, then the medium-sized birds that prefer the mid part, and of course the large ones such as the hornbills on top of the tree. But the rate of illegal bird trade is high on local market. Hunters may smear sap at the top branch of Cempaka tree (Michelia champaka) to capture Hill myna (Gracula religiosa), a bird with a talent to mimic other bird’s call or even human voice. Our butterflies, sometimes the protected ones are ended up in the international market. An Indonesian protected, the lacewing butterfly (Cethosia myrina) can cost $ 50 in an internet insect shop.
This is a tale of two places that always captivated me. My ‘conservation shock’ has gradually changed into a ‘conservation understanding’ which makes me learn that we cannot just apply an experience from one place to another………