The Maleo Macrocephalon Maleo is a megapode bird endemic to Sulawesi, Indonesia, that lays large eggs at communal nesting grounds in naturally-heated sands or soils. It is classified as ‘Endangered’ and many populations have been extirpated due to overexploitation of eggs and loss of connectivity between forest and nesting grounds. The distribution and status of nesting grounds across Northern and Central Sulawesi are relatively well-established, but almost nothing is known about potential Maleo populations of South-east Sulawesi. In this study we used previously established methods to formally assess the status of three Maleo nesting grounds in Buton, South-east Sulawesi, and interviewed egg collectors at these three sites to determine the trends of populations and threats over time. All nesting grounds were severely threatened and can be expected to be abandoned in the near future due to extensive harvest of eggs and deforestation. Eggs were collected both for the wildlife trade (intensively harvested and sold as luxury items to people from distant cities) and local use (opportunistically harvested and both eaten and sold locally). All egg collectors remarked on an increase in illegal logging around nesting grounds over the previous decade. Though the Maleo’s current situation is dire, previous case studies show that collaborative grassroots initiatives supported by government and NGOs can protect nesting grounds and reverse population declines.
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