The traditional way of life of a community is deeply intertwined with nature, encompassing both plants and animals. The relationship between humans and their environment is examined in the field of ethnoecology, which is a discipline that studies the activities of traditional societies in their interactions with the surrounding environment. In such conditions, humans play a significant role in utilizing animals while also bearing responsibility for their preservation.

One of the animals known to have a very close relationship with humans is the highland dog. According to the local population, the highland dog is not just an ordinary canine but also a part of the natural wealth and biodiversity of Papua. Based on the historical development of the highland Papua communities, highland dogs have been distributed in the region since ancient times.

The highland dog is a species with a kinship to Canis in the Australia-Southeast Asia region. These types belong to the Asian dog species that began to be distributed approximately 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. The highland dog is a medium-sized Canis with hunting, attacking, killing, and consuming prey with sizes ranging from small (rats, birds, possums, and pangolins) to much larger than itself, and it is known not to bark.

Based on interviews with several tribes knowledgeable about the highland dog, they have reported that the presence of highland dogs has become increasingly rare over the last five years. This underscores the importance of conservation efforts for the highland dog.

Conservation efforts begin with three principles of biodiversity protection: preservation, conservation, and sustainable utilization. Sustainable utilization of the highland dog involves the ecosystem, the species, and genetics. These three components are essential and interconnected.

In Indonesia, there are several policies that regulate the designation of conservation status for a species. Some of these policies include:

  1. Law Number 5 of 1990 concerning the Conservation of Biological Resources.
  2. Government Regulation Number P.106/Menlhk/Setjen/JUM.1/12/2018 regarding the second amendment to the minister of environment and forestry regulation number P.20/Menlhk/Setjen/KUM.1/6/2018 concerning protected plants and animals.

Government Regulation Number 7 of 1999 governs the procedure for designating a species as protected. Articles 5 and 6 state that valid data is required when declaring a species in need of protection. Three criteria are necessary: (1) a small population of highland dogs, (2) a sharp decline in the number of individuals in the wild, and (3) a highly restricted distribution area. These criteria serve as the basis for designating the species as protected and in need of preservation.

Article 6 also states that plant and animal species in need of protection may be referred to international categories, such as those established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Furthermore, Minister of Environment and Forestry Regulation Number P106/Menlhk/Setjen/KUM.1/12/2018 explains that the minister can receive proposals from other government agencies or non-governmental organizations to protect a plant or animal species, provided there is scientific information to support the designation. In the case of proposals to protect plant and animal species, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), as the government’s scientific authority, can directly designate protection for plant and animal species.

In summary, a comprehensive effort is needed from relevant agencies to save the highland dog. This can be achieved through:

  1. Enacting national laws that protect the highland dog.
  2. Recognizing the highland dog as a native mammal monitored by Lorentz National Park.
  3. Establishing conservation areas for the highland dog funded by the government and breeding programs within Lorentz National Park.
  4. Promoting and providing education about the highland dog.
  5. Advocating for the protection of the highland dog as a vulnerable/endangered species.
  6. Lobbying the government to prohibit hunting of highland dogs.
  7. Establishing and promoting highland dog sanctuaries (legal protection, signage, biodiversity education).

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