Category Environment

Endangered animal of Bali | Inspired Bali

There are currently 3079 animals and 2655 plants classified as Endangered worldwide.

In Bali, a number of individuals and organizations are hard at work to take these FOUR off the list.


The emperor of the Sung Dynasty would surely be horrified if he knew, back in AD 986, that his decision to impress his friends, and make a soup out of shark fins, would lead to this.

Fisherman around the globe catch sharks, cut off their fins and throw the fish back in to the ocean where, unable to swim, they sink to the bottom and die.

Bali, like much of Asia, is contributing to this global problem. Indonesia, is the larget shark fin exporting country in the world.

We have a flourishing illegal fishing industry where pounched sharks are slaughtered and their fins, flesh, and skin are sols on the black market for up to Rp 4 million each.

Fortunately, we have at least one dedicated shark activist determined to end this senseless and inhumane practice.

Paul Friese, a Hawaiian surfer, founded Bali Sharks, a conservation nursery in Serangan.

His mission has been to save the sharks from fish markets by buying them from fishermen instead.

As they are often young when he receives them, he keep them in a nursery until they are strong enough for re-release.

What you can do?

1. Be careful what you buy and apply. Avoid products like makeup, lotions and deodorants that contain Squalene, a substance traditionally harvested from shark liver oil, unless you know the extraction came from vegetable sources or biosynthetic processes instead.

2. Be careful what you eat. Because more than half of all sharks caught annually are the by- catch of commercial fisheries, (i.e. they are caught unintentionally), you might consider omitting commercially-fished catch from your diet.

But if that is too drastic for your taste buds, you can still make informed decisions about the seafood that you do eat.

It is easy enough not to eat shark steaks and to avoid businesses that serve it. But consider staying away from imitation crab, lobster and shrimp too, since they often contain shark.

3. Travel responsibly. It goes without saying, don’t fish for sharks. But consider this; your travel dollars can make live sharks more valuable than their fins.

By supporting responsible shark diving tourism, you can make viewing sharks more lucrative than killing them. Get in the water for a good look.

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Photograph by Camille Changunco


Almost every one of the seven species of sea turtle is endangered. Six of these are found in Indonesia.

Their journeys between land and sea and the thousands of ocean miles they log during their long lifetimes naturally exposes them to threat.

In addition, they wait decades to reproduce, yielding few hatchlings that actually survive past their first year.

Human threats compound these challenges.

All species of sea turtles in the waters of Indonesia have been protected by the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, where it is illegal to catch, injure, posses, store, transfer or trade sea turtles, whether alive or dead.

Nevertheless, Green, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead and Leatherback among others, continue to be poached and exploited for their eggs, meat, skin and shells.

In Bali alone, more than 25,000 sea turtles are slaughtered each year. Others get caught up accidentally in fishing gear intended to capture fish.

And those that survive face the ever-increasing destruction of their habitat.

Yet, sea turtles serve as a fundamental link in the marine ecosystem.

As one of just a handful of species that feed on sea grass, sea turtles actually maintain the health of these grass beds, a habitat that so many underwater species rely upon.

These reptiles have traveled the Earth and our oceans for 100 million years. Their extinction would be an untenable tragedy.

What can you do?

1. Use the power of your pocketbook.

Refuse to buy sea turtle products such as tortoise shells jewelry, meat or eggs.

Support Project Aware, an internationally organized but locally based initiative, to protect this noble creature right here in Bali:

2. Protect turtle habitats.

Ensure that sea turtles have a safe place to nest, feed and migrate. Jimbaran, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and Canggu remain popular nesting sites for mother sea turtles despite the increase in development.

Whether through the support of marine protected areas or local monitoring of turtle nests, the preservation of their habitat is essential to the survival of sea turtles.

3. Support alternative income options.

Because exploitation of turtles is often driven by a lack of economic choices, the World Wildlife Fund, among other organizations, helps develop alternative livelihoods for local people so they are no longer dependent on turtle products for income.

Promoting the economic value of living sea turtles, typically through responsible eco-tourism, is another approach to solve the same problem.



Photograph by Glenn Chickering

A magical recovery story is always a blessing to share. The Bali Starling (Leucopsar Rothschildi), also known as the Bali Myna, Rothschild Mynah or Bali Mynah, is a species unique to this island.

Just over a decade ago, they were estimated to number only six left in the wild. These gorgeous, white-feathered, blue-faced birds were caught and sold illegally as pets.

Like other birds, Bali Starlings have also suffered from habitat loss. Bali Starlings have been listed as an endangered species by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) since 1970.

Little by little, with the help of a number of organizations, this bird now has a future.

The Begawan Foundation, founded in 1999, has aimed to restore populations of Bali Starlings in captivity, then release them into the wild.

In 2006 and 2007, 65 Bali Starlings were released from Begawan Foundation nurseries into the wild on Nusa Penida, a large, rural island off the southeast coast of Bali.

That population is still being monitored and seems to have spread to nearby Nusa Lembongan. Most recently,

Begawan has established a nursery on the campus at the Green School in Sibang Kaja, Bali.

This hatchery released eight of the birds into the wild in 2012, optimistic after the successful nursery’s flock had reached nearly 100.

In addition to their stunning beauty and iconic status as a natural symbol of Bali, Bali Starlings serve as natural predators of caterpillars and ants, whose populations can explode as their natural predators’ numbers diminish.

What you can do?

1. Educate yourself and enjoy Bali Starlings.

While still a rare sighting in the wild, you are guaranteed to spot some Bali Starlings at the Bali Bird Park ( or The Begawan Foundation’s Bali Starling nursery on the campus of Green School.

There are staff on hand as well who can answer questions.

2. Don’t keep endangered pets.

The Bali Starling and all wild animals flourish best in the wild. Future generations will be able to experience these beautiful birds only if we allow them their own space in nature, rather than keeping them caged.

3. contribute financially.

The efforts of organizations like the Begawan Foundation ( to re-establish healthy flocks of Bali starlings in the wild-including breeding, monitoring and education–cost money.

You can support their efforts by visiting their Bali-based shop on Jl Bisma and/or by making a donation.


Real madrid football star Cristiano Ronaldo an international ambassador for the Mangrove Care Forum Bali, has helped propel the modest mangrove into the spotlight with his recent visit to Bali to support these unsung heroes of the tropics.

Mangrove forests play a crucial role in moderating climate impact, serving as a buffer between land and sea.

They can absorb the powerful surges produced by hurricanes and thereby decreasing damage by the storms to coastal communities.

Mangroves also sequester four to five times more carbon than land-based forest, so they help mitigate climate change caused by increasing carbon-based fuel emissions.

Mangroves also provide habitat for a cornucopia of plant and animal species—some species of shrimp and shark, for instance, safely harbor in the mangroves as juveniles.

Destruction of these habitats renders future generations of many species that rely on them highly vulnerable.

Mangroves have been destroyed over the past few decades, largely due to shrimp farming and other unsustainable aquaculture.

Indonesia has suffered massive conversion of mangroves to aquaculture, which can only be sustained with conventional methods for about three to five years before the area must be abandoned or properly rehabilitated.

What you can do?

1. Patronize responsibly.

Bali offers a wide variety of options to visitors who wish to enjoy the natural and cultural bounty.

Development of large scale hotels, restaurants and golf courses that destroy and disregard natural coastal ecosystems are usually part of the problem.

Consider smaller establishments, even homestays and warungs, which are more likely to contribute directly to local livelihoods as well as less likely to destroy mangroves.

2. Mind what you eat.

Most mangroves in Indonesia are cleared due to shrimp aquaculture. Generally, farmed shrimp in Asia are not a good choice.

Tiger prawns are almost always farmed. It’s hard to tell whether the shrimp or fish you’re considering for dinner is from a clean, healthy, sustainable source just by looking at the menu or even by looking at the animal.

It doesn’t hurt to ask—your grocer or server may not know or care where their seafood offerings come from, but they are more likely to take an interest if they think you care.

3. Invest responsibly.

Consider how the development of your property affects local communities and habitats, as well as how it affects your bottom line.

Support the “Mangrove Action Project Indonesia” at

Compiled by Janet Nicol and Melinda Chickering

Cover photograph by Madeline Stine

Cashless at Green School Bali


RECENTLY, in the wake of an initiative to improve the nutritional value of American school lunches, my newsfeed has been bombarded by pictures of gross-looking American school lunches with the hashtag: #thanksmichelleobama, protesting against the change.

While I cannot relate to my school lunches being disgusting, I can relate to something drastic happening at my school which seems out of my control.

In the fall of 2014, Green School switched from a place that is cash-friendly to one that only accepts a cashless card.

As students of a progressive school, we get used to things changing every now and again.

However, as with any new drastic shift, it is not always easy to adjust right away. The teachers and high school students were given the cards a week in advance to try out the system.

At first, there was much resistance, and complaints were made such as: “It’s not fair, we did not have a say in this change,” and, “this is just so inconvenient.”

There were meetings held to try and get more justification on why the changes were made.

I believe that most of the turmoil around the subject was due to a lack of communication from management to the rest of the school community as to why the system was changed.

After all, it is much easier to protest something that does not seem justified.

To be perfectly honest, I was not instantly swayed by the new cashless system either.

It did not seem necessary, and I was spending far more money than I had before (as I could just swipe a card and get my food).

Sometimes, half of my lunch time periods were spent waiting in a line to get money put onto my cashless card, and it was much harder to lend out or borrow money for lunch if somebody forgot or had lost their card.

Being the “Green” School, every new idea that is brought to the table must be assessed on an environmental level.

There was some criticism about how “green” these plastic cards really were. However, this issue has been resolved as you can now simply say your name or give a PIN number to get your food.

From talking to other members of the school’s community questions were raised about other related issues, such as: “What do we do at bake sales?” or, “What happens when four groups come to visit the school?”

However, it is simply a fact that such struggles are normal when trying to adjust. I decided to talk to our head of school to further understand the rationale behind the new system.

From what I gathered, there were many reasons why we made this switch. First and foremost, going cashless enabled the school to track all financial records and purchasing trends.

The management could see where all money was going, and track the most and least popular foods.

Other reasons for the change included: hygiene (touching money and touching food is not a safe mix), and lost or stolen money.

However, it could be said, if we do not trust our students to not steal or treat others with respect, what does that reflect about the community as a whole?

This new system also closely resembles how money is dealt with in the “real world,” and introduces students to the experience of handling their own electronic accounts.

The cashless system is a fairly new concept, though it has recently been implemented in some schools in the United Kingdom.

Many schools have contacted Green School about our system, inquiring about its successes and implementation.

Now that some time has passed, the entire turmoil over this change is starting to feel more and more like a distant memory.

Likewise, the #thankmichelleobama posts are few and far between. People adjust, but there are many ways to implement change, and some are more effective than others.

Also, after being at Green School for some years I have seen how many conflicts are created just out of differences in people’s definitions of what “Green” means.

There are a lot of approaches you could take. One being that the cards are plastic – which is unsustainable and perhaps an odd choice for Green School to use.

I suppose we do not know for sure where the future of money is going, but Green School is going somewhere, and other schools are following.

Some say that money in itself is unsustainable, so if we are a leading “green“ school perhaps we could find an alternate method of payment altogether!

There are so many unique and progressive things occurring at the Green School. Stay tuned, as much happens here and the world is watching us.

Shanti is a current Grade 12 student at the Green School. She is an aspiring journalist and world traveler.

Here is a link to her blog and website:

Going green.. one village at a time

The ballooning dilemma of trash and pollution has become a scourge on this island, once deemed a natural paradise.

The accumulation of garbage on roads, in rivers and on the coastlines is not only an eyesore, but an escalating environmental and health hazard.

Plastic bags, foil wrappers, batteries, styrofoam and rubber tires are swept into piles, and then burned in close proximity to homes and schools, or dumped into streams or crevices that line sidewalks.

Unfortunately, the city of Ubud, one of the main hubs of Bali’s tourism industry, is a microcosm of this growing environmental menace.

One only has to peek behind restaurants, hotels and businesses to witness how plastic bags filled with garbage are tangled up in tree limbs or blocking water passageways.

Many expats, locals and yayasan (foundations) have started clean-up campaigns of their own.

But, after years of false starts and a lack of consensus in central Ubud, one young Balinese man and a group of locals are already making a visible difference.

With hands-on collaboration from his aptly-named Palemahan* team, I Made Gandra is already changing the face of Padangtegal – one collection bin at a time.

If he has his way, the rest of Ubud and its surroundings will follow suit.

*Palemahan refers to the harmonious relationship that humans should strive to maintain between themselves and nature.

It reflects one part of the three-pronged Balinese philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, which also includes man’s relationship to other humans, and to the divine.

Gandra is the bendesa of Padangtegal, one of Ubud’s largest villages, stretching from Jalan Raya down to the Monkey Forest.

Every village in Bali is led by a kepala desa (administrative head) as well as a bendesa (head of customary village or desa adat pakraman).

The bendesa is responsible for the overall organization and coordination of all ceremonies, temple rituals, meetings and activities related to the traditional aspects of village life.

Armed with an accounting degree, and a successful businessman in his own right, Gandra has earned a reputation for getting things done.

He also has a team of colleagues, staff and friends who are critical to the implementation of his ideas.

Gandra stresses that “this project is not going to be a success without the support from my team and my village members.”

Even though Gandra was elected in February 2012 to the position of bendesa with an 80% majority, he says that back then “the elders believed [he] was too young and inexperienced to take on the role.”

But, at the age of 43, he has proven them wrong, daring to initiate and implement programs that require community-wide buy-in and compliance.

With a population of 3,000 (650 families) and nearly 600 businesses and restaurants under his supervision, some of whom have shown resistance to the project, Gandra has his work cut out for him.

With a trimmed beard and mustache, the tanned Gandra cuts a striking figure himself when we first meet; he is dressed in traditional garb, wrapped in a double sarong, with a traditional udeng (head-piece) firmly placed on his head.

As he glances out to a grassy space, Gandra’s manner is casual yet serious.

But then, with a gleam in his eye and a smile spreading across his face, like a sneaky fourth-grader with something hidden up his sleeve, he hints at bigger things to come.

As one of Padangtegal’s top decision makers, Gandra acknowledges that he now wields an extraordinary degree of power.

With that power comes civic responsibility. Indeed, Gandra’s long-term vision includes improving the residents’ quality of life.

Since February, free health care and medicine has been offered to all villagers, with hopes of later extending those services more widely around Ubud.

English language courses have already begun and other educational classes are planned for the future.

But at the moment, foremost on his list of priorities is making Padangtegal clean and environmentally-friendly.

If the bright green trucks trolling through the narrow streets of Padangtegal are anything to go by, Gandra and his team have already made an impact.

Since February, two trucks have been roaming around the village, stopping long enough for a crew of seventeen to sort through bins marked Organic and Non-Organic that line the sidewalks in front of compounds.

Businesses are expected to get on board in May, along with the addition of one more truck.

The employees, brightly clad in blue coveralls, yellow helmets and rubber boots, are paid a daily salary of 50,000 rupiah, with the additional incentive of earning a hefty commission by selling the fruits of their labor to recycling companies.

Their daily routine is the same: they sort through bins, then dump and separate the refuse into the truck’s compartments.

It’s a new experience for these workers, all of whom hail from other parts of Bali. It’s also a first for Ubud.

If you get stuck behind such a truck on one of Ubud’s notoriously narrow streets, be patient and show your support for this crew.

The genesis of Gandra’s eco-initiative goes back a decade to when he first learned about the importance of recycling and composting.

He figured that he should lead by example so last year he began to implement the same at home with his wife Ni Made Sariani and their three children.

At the same time, Gandra recognized the widespread dwindling of Padangtegal’s green spaces and a shrinking eco-system for the ever-growing monkey population.

This awareness led to a more expansive vision, which includes increasing the size of the forest and the planting of more trees.

In August 2012, with a budget of USD$200,000 derived from entrance fees to Monkey Forest, Gandra launched the “Clean and Green” project.

At the annual village meeting, a sacred gathering at which attendance by a representative from each family is mandatory, he conducted a slide show presentation that lasted four hours.

During the meeting, he explained the importance of recycling and composting, and handed out educational materials to every family.

A colorful booklet, called “Ubud Clean & Green” was given to each compound and business in the village.

The booklet explained how to separate garbage, how to compost with worms, and how to care for the environment.

But it wasn’t enough to explain the risks and requirements in writing; in light of a known preference among Balinese for visuals over words, Gandra’s staff filled the pages with photographs and illustrations, depicting piles of garbage and its effects on the environment, wildlife and human health.

In the first few months of the project, some villagers refused to attend meetings, criticized the idea or were slow to comply.

Gandra says that indifference and laziness can be attributed to the fact that many store and restaurant owners are not local. He intends to change that by starting to impose fines.

Ni Ketut Yudani, a longtime resident and owner of the Asti Bali store on Jalan Hanoman, is an avid supporter of Gandra’s initiative.

The divorced mother of two, now living in the same compound where she grew up, says that some of her neighbors and fellow store owners are lazy so she scolds them when she notices them sneaking non-organic trash into the wrong bin.

With eyebrows raised, Yudani exclaims, “Even my 81 year-old mother recycles! She screams at my children and others in our compound, reminding them to put plastic bags into the non-organic bin.”

Yudani says she learned about the importance of recycling and composting at a young age. As far back as 1980, her family was digging holes for compost in the garden.

When her older brother joined the the student environmental group Mahasiswa Pecinta Alam, Yudani learned more from him, and eventually, joined the group herself.

She hopes that Gandra’s outreach will be the catalyst to teach her neighbors what she has known for decades: “If we can recycle and reduce, it will help our earth.”

Despite the setbacks, Gandra’s sights are set on cleaning up the island.

He thinks Ubud’s garbage collection trucks should be repaired, refurbished, repainted and then repurposed into recycling trucks.

He also intends to ask the bupati (regent) of Gianyar regency to implement a similar program throughout the regency’s 400 villages.

Earlier this year, when word of his initiative caught the attention of administrators in Denpasar, Gandra was invited to make a presentation in the capital city. It was favorably received.

More signs of “going green” keep popping up. Just in time for this summer’s tourist season, the village assembly of Padangtegal recently approved a plan to set up a central location outside of Ubud for tourist buses to park and for smaller and less fume-emitting vans (or, possibly, electric vehicles) to shuttle visitors around town.

It’s potentially a big step forward. Once this initiative is implemented, the vision of a cleaner village will come closer to reality.

If it were up to him, Gandra says he would implement most of his team’s plan in 2013.

But, in a uniquely Balinese twist, his hands are tied: a massive communal cremation is taking place later this summer and, since daily routines are put on hold while preparations are made for this ceremony, for the time being, that trumps all.

When not writing, blogging or snapping photos around Bali, Amit swims, practices Iyengar yoga and Reiki, meditates and walks long distances – most recently clocking nearly 900 kms on Spain’s legendary Camino de Santiago.

She also designed and installed a walking meditation labyrinth at a retreat center, possibly the first one on the Island of the Gods.