Female rangers serve as nature protectors on Indonesia's Mount Leuser

A group of women forest rangers patrolling in the forest of Bener Meriah, Aceh province. - AFP

JAKARTA, Jan 9 (Xinhua): A group of female rangers, living in the Damaran Baru village in Indonesia's westernmost Aceh province, usually patrol for days in the wildness to protect 251 hectares of forest on Mount Leuser and Wih Gile river, the source of water for villagers in downstream areas.

"We are in charge of cleaning the upstream of the river from clogging trees," Sumini, 46, head of the Damaran Village Forest Management, told Xinhua on Tuesday.

Sumini recalled that tree trunks from illegal logging blocked the upstream of the river in September 2015, when heavy rains pushed the woods and affected the villages in the downstream.

Although there were no casualties, it was sad to see villagers' houses damaged and acres of farmland, the source of their livelihood, were badly destroyed.

"Illegal loggers and wildlife hunters should be blamed because they destroyed the forest," Sumini said.

Six women and two men then formed a group monitoring the forest in turns in five consecutive days, twice a month.

Being a female mountain ranger, locally known as Mpu Uteun, is not always easy. Sumini suffered from bee stings or came home with a sprained leg as she fell into a rocky ravine.

When it rains, they will tie plastic bivouac tents to tree trunks and take a rest under the shelter while drinking cold coffee mixed with rainwater.

Sometimes they stay overnight in the middle of the forest and continue the patrols the next day.

"For us it is amazing. Previously, forest stories were only men's stories, but now in Damaran Baru, there are also women's stories," said Sumini.

Rizki Amalia, 28, has been a forest ranger on Mount Leuser since 2015.

"As long as we are patrolling, I believe that our forest is protected. Trees and animals are protected, and fewer people are here to hunt wild animals," she said.

The last time Amalia met forest encroachers was early last year. "We had a good conversation and after that we never saw them again," Amalia said.

"The women rangers' flexible method of communication is more effective in dealing with forest encroachers, and they also have more solidarity," said Rubama from the Community Conservation at the Aceh Natural and Environmental Forest Foundation, which supports the Banaran Baru people in protecting the forest.

In the last seven years, floods have never occurred again in Banaran Baru and its surroundings. Now they are planning to build an ecotourism village and turn their village into a forestry research station. - Xinhua

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Indonesia , Forest , Rangers , Women , Guardians


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