The Talaud Bear Cuscus (Ailurops melanotis) is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and protected under Indonesian law. The species’ geographic distribution is confined to two small islands in Talaud-Sangihe islands, Large Sangihe Island and Salibabu Island, with extremely rare records. This cuscus has been hunted heavily for local consumption, and this threat is exacerbated by the conversion of primary forests for agriculture. 

Other species benefited: Talaud Flying fox (Acerodon humilis) EN; Talaud Kingfisher (Todiramphus enigma) NT; Talaud Red-and-blue Lory (Eos histrio talautensis) NE.

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IUCN SSC Australasian Marsupial and Monotreme Species Specialist Group

This project was implemented by Sheherazade and Asnim Alyoihana Lanusi, from PROGRES (Sulawesi Regional Ecological Conservation Initiatives). It was initially set up to research Talaud Cuscus and formulate a conservation strategy and action plan accordingly.

General goals: 

  1. Start a collaboration with a local expert team on cuscus to foster more engagement and potential membership with local species experts in Indonesia; together with this team; 
  2. Create an evidence-based and locally appropriate action plan for the Talaud Bear Cuscus, for whom no action plan exists and which has an IUCN Red List assessment, but is based on highly outdated data (almost 20 years). This second goal had three particular targets:
    • To estimate the population number and geographic distribution of Talaud Bear Cuscus.
    • To estimate the level of threat for the Talaud Bear Cuscus.
    • To use these data to create a Conservation Strategy and Action Plan for the Talaud Bear Cuscus with the active participation of all stakeholders.

Main results

Successfully established the first long-term conservation program of Talaud Cuscus on Salibabu Island, one of the last strongholds of the species in Sangihe-Talaud Islands, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. This program consists of 1) research to study the latest status of cuscus ecology and levels of threats, 2) capacity building to train and empower local youth as cuscus scientists and champions, 3) outreach and community engagement to protect cuscus habitat and reduce hunting pressure, 4) multi-stakeholder collaboration to create conservation networks to support Talaud Cuscus programs in general, advocate it as the flagship species of the districts, and identify future research priorities and conservation action plan for Talaud Cuscus.

Training – increasing local capacity and Research – knowing the latest status of cuscus population and its threat

From June to July 2021, research training was undertaken on Salibabu for the local youth to equip them with skills to record cuscus presence scientifically and familiarise with the methodology. At the same time, a socioeconomic survey was conducted using in-depth interviews with the local community, traditional leaders, and chief of villages on Salibabu Island, suggesting that Talaud Cuscus has been hunted intensely mainly for local consumptions (e.g. occasional sources of meat, special meat for wedding/religious celebration, and snacks for traditional alcoholic drinks) and only a few were hunted for pet.

Outreach to nurture the sense of pride among community about cuscus

We have created educational materials to initiate a pride campaign on Salibabu island, working together with the girls from the villages and priests to arrange, so far, five campaigns have already been attended by 134 kids. Posters of Talaud Cuscus were put on the public transportation and people's houses. One village, Alude, where the cuscus was most found, had declared its commitment to protect Talaud Cuscus, joined by Musi village. 

Multi-stakeholder collaboration

In the end of project, we have successfully held an online Focus Group Discussion on 1 April 2022, attended by government partners, other conservation NGOs, research institutions, and universities to identify research and action priorities for Talaud Cuscus and integrate it into ongoing conservation programs. The second Focus Group Discussion was held on 3 June 2022 in Melong (the capital of Talaud) and attended by half of the chief of villages on Salibabu Island, local forestry and conservation authorities (BKSDA Sulawesi Utara and representatives from Dinas Kehutanan Sulawesi Utara), and local youth groups. Attendees agreed to work together ahead in formulating island-wide protection for Talaud Cuscus and propose this as part of Talaud development agenda. 

This project is co-funded by Stiftung Artenschutz and activities in 2022 is also co-funded by a new partnership between PROGRES-Stiftung Artenschutz and IUCN SSC Asian Species Action Partnership (ASAP)

Left photo: Focus Group Discussion on cuscus with experts.
Right photo: Discussion with village government and government representatives on cuscus
IUCN SSC Australasian Marsupial and Monotreme Species Specialist Group

People involved

  1. 134 kids in Alude, Sereh Talolang, Kalongan Selatan, Kalongan Utara, dan Sereh Satu villages on Salibabu Island have joined our outreach activities about Talaud Cuscus
  2. 11 local youths have been trained to be cuscus champions, joining Talaud Cuscus population surveys, and leading the outreach activities together with churches
  3. 3 ex-hunters of Talaud Cuscus have joined our conservation teams and become the cuscus guides
  4. Two villages, Musi and Alude, have been engaged closely as our main partners to conduct research, understand local knowledge about Talaud Cuscus, and will later become the potential sites to develop ecotourism with Talaud Cuscus as the main attraction. They set up signboards as prompts to raise awareness about cuscus. Ten more villages have joined to protect Talaud Cuscus.

With our cuscus champions Om Martin and Papa Bule

IUCN SSC Australasian Marsupial and Monotreme Species Specialist Group

Moving forward

This project set up a strong foundation for us to secure more funding to continue the research and conservation works until June 2023. For more information about this project, please visit: Talaud Bear Cuscus conservation program | PROGRES

Contact and further information:
Please tag @SheraGoesBoing (on Twitter), link to our website: 
News coverage:

Follow up activities including research, outreach, community engagement, parliament hearing, working together with chief of villages on Salibabu on cuscus protection, and publishing this project as scientific publications.

IUCN SSC Australasian Marsupial and Monotreme Species Specialist Group