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In 1998, Rusli was punched for "daring" to stop encroachers from clearing the forest.
Recounting the bad experience, the head ranger of Rimbang Baling Willdife Reserve shared how during a routine patrol, he chanced upon four encroachers.
When it gets personalInstead of obeying his warning to stop forest clearing, the encroachers intimidated him and his colleague, Ar Azmi, and later reported the incident to their boss. That night, the village head called Rusli to meet the encroachers' boss. A quarrel broke out between Rusli and the boss, who punched Rusli.
The police later investigated the incident, putting a stop to encroachment in the area. “I will never forget the incident,” said Rusli. “At the time, I was very worried I would not survive the fight.”
Not discouragedHowever, this has not discouraged Rusli from going about his work. He still patrols the reserve with his two colleagues to monitor any illegal activities; forest conversion to oil palm plantations is the main threat facing the hilly reserve.
The three-man ranger team patrols the 136,000-hectare Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve with a motorbike. The reserve is an important Sumatran tiger habitat in Central Sumatra.
A lifetime commitmentRusli has spent the greater part of his life dedicated to protecting nature, and tigers in particular. Today, he also is a member of the Tiger Protection Unit (TPU), a collaborative effort of Riau’s Nature Resources Conservation Agency and WWF-Indonesia set up in 2005 to monitor threats to the Sumatran tiger and its habitat.
As Rimbang Baling’s head ranger, Rusli leads the TPU operations in the reserve. The TPU conducts routine patrol around the reserve, removing snares found in the forest, warning encroachers that encroachment is illegal, promoting local people's awareness of the need to protect the reserve, and minimizing human-tiger conflict.
Witnessing the slow fall of a forest“I was very happy to see Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve when I first started work here as it was still very much a virgin forest. But I am so sad now to see encroachment eating away parts of the forest,” said Rusli, who has seen wildlife such as deer and sun bears but only tiger pug marks and scratchings while on patrol. He is very happy to see wildlife in the reserve but is sad whenever he finds snares, which he immediately removes.
A family man and his hopes for the futureSince 1989 when he began ranger duty at Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve, Rusli and his family have lived in the reserve post. It is a multi-function building, providing Rusli with an office and living quarters. Though it is far from the hustle bustle of the city, they are comfortable living there and have many wonderful memories.
Rusli’s wife is an elementary school teacher. They have three children, the first of whom has finished college. Rusli is proud and thankful he can send his children to college. He hopes his children will have a future in which Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve is free from encroachment and wildlife poaching.
He dreams that the reserve can be well protected and wants everyone to take part in saving the area with its priceless natural beauty and resources.
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Married, 3 children
Ranger since 1990
Married, 2 children
Ranger since 2007
Married, 1 child
Ranger since 2011
There is a limit to how much patrolling we can do with one motorbike and three rangers,” said Rusli. “It definitely is a challenge but we have to do our utmost anyway to help protect the reserve.