Mon, 17 Oct 1994

Pelangi island plundered

For many years we have been going to the islands in the bay of Jakarta, as we love snorkeling and observing the marine life at the reefs. It can be such a breathtaking sight and it relaxes and takes away the Jakarta stress.

Unfortunately island after island has become so polluted through the years, and the coral reefs have been plundered by people who believe they had the right to remove any nice piece of coral or hunt the beautiful fish.

A few years ago we found a precious island with magnificent coral reefs, a joy to any snorkeler, diver and marine life lover. This was Pelangi island. We looked forward to going there at every opportunity we had, always hoping that the beauty of those reefs would remain unspoiled and protected, more so since this island is part of one of the government's protected zones.

Alas, a few years ago we were aghast as we realized the reefs were being plundered also, and in particular mollusks were being removed in great numbers. How we admired those multicolored shellfish living there. There were little and huge ones, a wonder of nature encrusted in and at the base of huge corals. Then we found many table-corals overturned, slashed and cut away so that the plunderers were able to get at the mollusks hidden below. Now the beautiful mollusks have disappeared. It is clear these reefs are being regularly plundered by irresponsible elements, and during one of our visits to the island we found the culprits. They consist of Japanese people, who go there regularly only to indulge in their grotesque tastes. There are those that go diving themselves, not to admire the reefs but in order to look where they can secure the mollusks they so crave.

Others have a standing agreement with the employees working on the island, or with the fishermen that hire their boats to guests. We caught one red-handed as he was carting away (with the help of an employee) four huge mollusks to his bungalow. We spoke to him and explained that he was ruining the reefs and breaking the law, as these reefs were under protection. But seemingly my words were not heeded, the normal thing with people obsessed by abnormal appetites. We reported the case to the front office but it seemed they politely listened and nothing else was done.

A few days ago we once again visited this little paradise, hoping things had changed as the management of the island had changed some time ago. Unfortunately we realized that even more damage had been done to the reef. But most of all, we realized that the mollusk catering service was still in full swing, and when a group of Japanese arrived for the weekend the employees got real busy preparing "dinner" for them. When I went for an afternoon walk around the island (when everyone was having a siesta) I caught two employees: one had just emptied a huge shell of its contents and empty shells lay in the water, and another one was collecting sea urchins, seemingly another delicacy of the Japanese, by quartering them alive and taking out the eggs. I have no special love for sea urchins, but the fact that they too are turned into delicacies turned my stomach. I did lodge another complaint with the front office, but this time I believe the whole world should know what is going on at the reefs in the bay of Jakarta.

Via this letter we also would like to draw the attention of the WWF officials, to check into the matter and to exercise a stricter control over the zones declared protected by the Indonesian government. We saw a huge billboard on the island seemingly placed there by your organization, so we do hope that you are as concerned as we are.

Last but not least, we would like to ask the management of Pelangi island to be strict with your employees and patrol the island regularly, so that this little paradise can still be saved from those who don't care about ecology and the beauty and purity of nature.