Build the Way That We Couldn’t Find

Written by Puspita Insan Kamil
Editor Peter McDonough

Wildlife Bridge in Montana

I was first interested in wildlife conservation issues when I looked at several deer in my campus, inside a special enclosure that had been made near the university’s train station. They were an icon of the University of Indonesia, though I couldn’t feel that it is comfortable to be inside the 1 hectare enclosure without the proper amount water, or bushes. I was a Psychology student and didn’t know about animal welfare at all, so finally I decided to google anyone who has ever written about these Rusa timorensis. Then I found Diny from Google, a Biology alumnus who is two years older than I and we met in the library to start a campaign for the deer. I didn’t know  how the universe works, but it happened that Diny is one of the core team members of Tambora  as well.

I reflected, when I was invited to Tambora, on how I met Diny again. It was silly because at that time I only had one Biology student from the Bandung Institute of Technology. He refused to help me; instead, he suggested that I look for someone from the Biology major in my campus to do the deer campaign to make it more local, done by our own people. And voila, now I have a bunch of them. In this fast, digital, and connected era, we know how easily humans communicate with each other. Networking is becoming a treasure that you can easily find by simply clicking “enter keyword” in Google search. Now, I can say that 60% of my time is spent discussing with many conservationists around the world, with the help of the internet. Networking helps people to grow, and I do believe that Tambora was built on that spirit. But the question is, why do we have to build a strong network?

In August, 2015, I joined a program called Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative for 5 weeks in the United States of America. This program is funded by the U.S. Department of State. Through a 5-week intensive program, I gained a bigger network of conservationists, environmentalists, educators, indigenous people, and even agriculture professionals who inspired me to do something bigger at home. I got to know them through intensive discussions, brainstorming, and idea talks. I know that their ideas and insights will not be fully functioned if it stops with me, so I want to share it in a blogseries in this Tambora’s website. The major point is that I want to share how people nowadays might be more ignorant  because they are staring on their phone; meanwhile, we can use it for better networking and cross-discipline discussions.

As a strategist in my office, if someone asks me what is important in making a good strategy, I would definitely answer that cross-discipline discussions are because I do believe there is no problem that can be completely solved only with one perspective. When I was a college student, sometimes I saw that students on my campus don’t want to get out of their faculty and open a discussion with someone from a nearby faculty. We were busy with our own business, and at the end of the day we couldn’t  put respect on others’ majors because we never knew deeply about what they learn. I will give a good example of cross-discipline integration with a case study from Montana: US Highway 93 North Wildlife Crossing Structures in Montana.

When I was on the way to Glacier National Park, I was sitting in the front seat of the car and saw a bridge above the highway. I asked my Montanan friend, what was that, and she answered that it was a wildlife bridge. Basically there are 3 types of crossing structures for wildlife, including bridges, tunnels, and fencing. The problem is that wildlife have to be ensured of connectivity, and move freely across their habitat for foraging and mating. The highway that crosses within a forest or national park will intrude on wildlife and their safety. If there is a problem, the cost will be higher than for making a connecting structure across the habitats. Data say there are 2-4 large animals  hit by vehicles per day and after the structures were built, US Highway 93 on The Flathead Indian Reservation itself could save around 53.600 animals that are detected cross the structures from 2010-2012. I read the data from a brochure from www.peopleswaywildlifecrossings.org and it was amazing indeed. They also explained in a paper how they know that the wildlife crossings structure work, including observation, motion-sensing cameras, track observation, and DNA analysis. They also do cost analysis to prove that the structures work well and are beneficial to the wildlife.

However, when I think again about the structures, it came to my mind that it must be a long process of making it. The highway provides easy transportation to the Glacier National Park, which is part of Montana tourism, and across the Flathead Indian Reservation. The Flathead is one of the biggest Native American societies in Montana. Also, they must involve the public works department to make the structures and get funding from the government. In summary, it involves several parties. I have to admit that when it comes to cross-discipline people or parties, it takes more effort and investment to adjust, adapt, and accept each other’s values for reaching the same level of understanding. Long conversations that may causes frustration are unavoidable. But I do really believe that when we commit to that long-term process, any solution that will be created is the most worthwhile.

When we reflected on the Indonesian case, I remembered that my friend, also a team member in Tambora, once wrote about a highway that will be built across the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (http://www.mongabay.co.id/2015/05/25/jalan-nasional-yang-memenggal-taman-nasional/). The park is an important habitat for elephants, tigers, and rhinoceros. Learning from Montana, I do believe the wildlife crossing can be one of the solutions to ensure that the highway can still provide a connection to rural areas and leverage their economies, but also ensure Sumatran wildlife welfare. However, my proposed solution might be wrong, and perhaps there is another better solution to be discussed for this problem. We also do not know whether the wildlife crossings structure in Montana is the best solution, but it is the solution that had been through a long process and discussion where all the parties agreed on.

Just like the way that I found to solve the deer problem, I do believe that this problem can be solved by getting know people with another perspective and expertise. Solving this problem is just a way that we haven’t found, and building a strong network through Tambora can be a crucial first step.

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Artikel ini tersedia dalam Bahasa Indonesia di sini

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