Riko Stefanus, Savior of Kiluan Bay’s dolphins

Riko Stefanus: Savior of Kiluan Bay's dolphins

Without the hard work of Riko Stafanus, tourists might not be able to enjoy the breathtaking sight of the dolphin dance at Kiluan Bay.

Kiluan Bay, which is located in Tanggamus regency of Lampung province, is not as popular as Lampung Bay in Bandarlampung, Tomini Bay in Central Sulawesi or Lovina Bay in Bali.

But thanks to the efforts of Riko, 34, from the Cikal Ecotourism Foundation, who has been working to save Kiluan Bay’s turtle and dolphin habitat, the virgin tourist site is beginning to see an increase in the number of local and foreign visitors.

Some tourists say the Kiluan Bay dolphin dance is more exotic than the popular one at Lovina Beach, where only one species of dolphin is found.


In Kiluan Bay, two species of dolphin can be found — the bottle-nose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and the long-nosed dolphin (Stenella longirostris), both of which number in the thousands.

Besides enjoying the annual Kiluan Fishing Week that takes place in August, visitors can see dolphins dancing in the bay on any given day. Boats can be rented to get a closer look at the dolphins as they play and jump in the bay’s waters.

The entrance to the bay is a narrow strait bordering the Sunda Strait and the Kiluan Bay waters.

The bay area is home to residents of Bandung Jaya hamlet, which is part of Kelumbayan village. About 200 families live in the area — mostly fishermen and farmers.

Ten years ago, it was rare to see tourists at Kiluan Bay. The name of the area sounded foreign to even Lampung residents.

But when the Cikal Ecotourism Foundation began promoting tourism in the bay with its thousands of dolphins, many of its residents were surprised.

Before Riko and local fishermen started to save the dolphins five years ago, the species was threatened by fishermen.

Most of these fishermen, he said, had come on big ships from Jakarta and Banten who used the dolphins as bait to catch sharks.

Riko said the local, traditional fishermen had never hunted dolphins. Rather, they had been taught by their ancestors to make friends with the dolphins.

“The dolphins are friends of the traditional fishermen from Kiluan Bay to the Semangka Bay in Tanggamus regency. They are the fishermen’s guides to catch fish. Usually an area abundant with dolphins has a lot of big fish,” he said.

“If no action was taken, we feared the dolphins in Kiluan Bay could go extinct.”

Riko banded with local fishermen to protect the dolphins and drive the hunters away.

“We had to work together because the illegal hunters often threatened us with sharp weapons and guns.”

Today the bay’s dolphins have become a source of entertainment, attracting tourists and generating extra income for the local fishermen who rent out their boats and act as guides.

In order to gain economic benefits for the local residents, Riko asked fishermen from six villages to set up ecotourism groups under the coordination of the Cikal Ecotourism Foundation.

Riko, previously the foundation chairman, asked other activists to manage the foundation after it was established so he could focus on promoting Kiluan Bay as a tourist destination.

“It is enough for me to be a patron while helping promote Kiluan Bay and ensuring the local administration that it has the potential to become a popular tourist destination.”

Besides protecting the dolphins, the ecotourism groups also conserve the area’s green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata).

“Dolphin protection and conservation is aimed not only at preserving the species, but also at developing ecotourism with the hope that people will also enjoy the benefits of their hard work in preserving the environment.”

The Cikal Ecotourism Foundation, Riko added, also had worked on rehabilitating reefs and mangrove forests, as well as breeding hawksbill turtles.

The foundation is now designing the spatial plan for the Kiluan Bay’s future development in the hopes that they will receive support from the administration and the private sector so the bay can become a prominent tourist destination.

Riko and local fishermen also campaign against eating turtle eggs.

“It was once common practice for Kiluan residents (to eat turtle eggs), but if this habit continues, the turtles will be gone.

“Even though a turtle can lay hundreds of eggs, if people keep taking the eggs, this can hamper their reproduction.”

Five years after conservation efforts began, locals can now enjoy the benefits. Most people are aware of the need to protect the turtles and they do not take the eggs anymore.

Tourists can enjoy the watching the turtles swim by the beach, lay their eggs and cover their nests with sand.

Even though they have received little support from the local administration, Riko said the residents would continue developing ecotourism by themselves with their own limited funds.

This is no mean feat, because besides financial constraints, locals continue to face illegal hunters who operate in the area with fish bombs, destroying the surrounding coral reef environment, Ricko said.

source : The Jakarta Post, 18.11.2008, Oyos Saroso H.N

Published on: Dec 1, 2008 @ 14:46

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