“When I decided to make this travelling fairy tale, it was my hope that the children I meet could become heroes for their environment, heroes for saving Indonesian rare animals, Indonesian forests and preserving mangroves in our country,” the 50-year-old Indonesian environmental activist Samsudin told Reuters.
He visits villages to teach children about coastal erosion and how mangrove trees can help preserve the environment. He educates them while wearing a rhino hat and carrying a box labelled “dongeng keliling” which means fairy tales in Bahasa Indonesia.
Samsudin recently visited Indramayu, one of the areas in the country which has suffered the most severe erosion damage due to the loss of mangrove swamps, which act as a natural barrier against strong waves.
He uses puppets to illustrate his conservation fairy tales and kids participate in the stories, pretending to be a mangrove trees standing up to the strong sea waves to defend Indonesia’s coast .
In December, President Joko Widodo formed the Peatland and Mangrove Restoration Agency, with the aim to rehabilitate 150,000 hectares of mangrove per year in nine provinces until 2024.
Over the years, tracts of mangoves have been lost due to illegal logging and areas being redeveloped into facilities like shrimp and fish farms.
Samsudin’s team of environmentalists have been planting young trees in areas which used to be covered by mangrove trees.
“People think we are crazy, and what we do is ‘unuseful’, and they see mangrove planting as a disturbance. So after we planted, a lot of it was pulled out, but that’s a challenge and we have to keep doing it,” Samsudin said.
Based on satellite image data from the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) and Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), nearly 90 percent of the entire 114 km coastline of Indramayu have experienced erosion and around 6,100 hectares of land are now flooded by seawater.
In total, Indonesia has about 3.3 million hectares of mangrove; more than 600,000 hectares of which are in critical condition, according to the Peatland and Mangrove Restoration Agency.