A bird whose chicks are born from the earth? It is maleo bird. The maleo bird is one of the island’s most fascinating creatures. A member of the Megapodidae, or ‘Bigfoot’, family of birds, the maleo has a unique reproductive strategy. Monogamous pairs dig deep pits in which a single egg is laid. Once the earth has been stamped back into place over the egg the parents invest no further care in their offspring, returning to their rainforest habitat. At beach nesting grounds, the egg is incubated by the sun, and at inland forested sites, by underground hot springs. Soon after hatching, the fully-feathered chick flies into the forest.
Maleo eggs are still collected and over-harvesting is the norm, and other threats include destruction of nesting grounds and predation by introduced species. In Sulawesi’s northern peninsula, maleo populations declined by over 90% since the 1950s and half of the known nesting grounds have been abandoned.
What do we do?
- Since 2001, WCS Indonesia launched a project to protect three nesting grounds in Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park, in the northern peninsula of Sulawesi. This has now been extended to four sites, with the inclusion of two new beach nesting sites at Tanjung Binerean. The project has three main components, which are nesting ground management, semi-natural hatcheries and local guardianship.
- Community-based approach to maleo conservation for nesting grounds outside of protected areas. The program seeks to support site management from the proceeds of sustainable agricultural activities near the sites, particularly focusing on coconut growing.
- Raising awareness of maleo conservation and pride in this local heritage through visits to schools, puppet shows, comics, posters and field visits. Our approach is simple, inexpensive, and effective. In the three years of the project, we have seen a significant increase in the number of eggs laid per day in our sites. By the end of year 2015 WCS have already released more than 10,000 maleo chicks into the wild.
- Legally purchase nesting ground through sponsorship, to ensure long-term protection of more nesting sites, where possible including adjacent farmland as a revenue source. Collaborative management with authorities and other stakeholders to ensure protection of the maleo’s rainforest habitat, as well as nesting grounds.