2,000ha of educational forest developed for Rafflesia conservation

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - As many as 2,000 hectares (ha) of educational forest managed by Muhammadiyah University of Bengkulu (UMB) in Central Bengkulu district, Bengkulu province, was established as a conservation area for the rare Rafflesia flower.

"One of the focus activities in the educational forest is to conserve Rafflesia arnoldii, an endemic rare flower of the Sumatra regions forest," Sunaryadi, Director of Educational Forest of UMB, stated here, Friday.

He said the educational forest located within the protected forest of Bukit Daun had been granted a management permit from the Minister of Forestry in 2015.

The campus group worked with the Bengkulu Provincial Environment and Forestry Office to map and manage the educational forest boundaries.

"We started with mapping, boundary management and description of conditions in the forest," he remarked.

For the conservation of Rafflesia flowers, the university cooperated with the Natural Resources Conservation Center of Bengkulu and Lampung, and designed several joint activities, including mapping of Rafflesia arnoldii flower habitat in the region.

Sunaryadi stated that the educational forest located on the border of Kepahiang and Central Bengkulu districts had partly been converted into a coffee plantation area.

"We will first identify and carry out some activities for the recovery of the area, in accordance with the designation of the protected forest," he mentioned.

In the long term, he stressed, the area would be developed to provide eco-tourism services and to become a research area.

Head of the Natural Resources Conservation Center of Bengkulu and Lampung Abu Bakar noted that preserving the Rafflesia flowers in the educational forest area would support the efforts being made to conserve the rare flower Rafflesia, which has been categorized as a protected flora.

"We appreciate the efforts made by UMB to develop research on Rafflesia arnoldii, because knowledge about the reproductive ecology of this plant is still lacking," he observed.

Bakar said the educational forest area was an essential habitat for Rafflesia arnoldii.

Rafflesia arnoldii is one of the four types of Rafflesia flowers that have been identified in the Bengkulus forest.

In addition to Rafflesia arnoldii, the Bengkulus forest is also the habitat for Rafflesia bengkuluensis, Rafflesia gadutensis and Rafflesia hasselti.(*)