Together with the Institut Mosintuwu, we organized the first Seminar on Lake Poso Biodiversity on November 29, 2023. We invited selected lecturers and, above all, several dozen representatives of schools from the vicinity of Lake Poso – from principals to teachers to students. The aim for the day was to introduce them to the biodiversity of the lake and present the plan that Institut Mosintuwu and Sulawesi Keepers have: to bring biodiversity to schools. Either through an aquarium or other educational materials and activities.

For the inhabitants of the region, Lake Poso is very important. Unfortunately, it is threatened by the recently built hydroelectric power plant, the use of which does not respect the natural cycles of the lake. At the mouth of the lake into the river of the same name and further downstream, sand is mined with the help of heavy machinery. Farming on the shores of the lake brings problems in the form of chemical fertilizers or waste. There are a large number of non-native fish species in the lake, which disrupt the original community of endemic species. At the same time, traditional fishermen depend on catches of small species of fish or on the population of eels, for which Lake Poso is an important location and the Poso River with its built dam is an irreplaceable migratory route. Therefore, all threats not only have a negative impact on the native endemic species, but also on the social and economic stability of the region and on the culture of the local people. Therefore, we believe that cooperation with local communities is not only necessary around Lake Poso, but also that all prerequisites for it are fulfilled.

The first lecturer was Dr. Meria Gundo of Sintuwu Maroso University in Palu, Sulawesi. She introduced groups of endemic biota, their ecosystem function, human use and associated risks and lack of regulation. Then I, Markéta Rejlková as a representative of Sulawesi Keepers, presented the underwater beauty and diversity of Lake Poso using underwater images incorporated into the outline of the book that we are preparing together with Institut Mosintuwu and which is intended to serve mainly schools. Third in line was Dr. Muh. Herjayanto from the conservation organization Celebica and the Ekspedisi Riset Akuatika Indonesia team. He encouraged the audience to test their knowledge of endemic, native and introduced fish species. He pointed out the uniqueness of the local aquatic fauna and the possibilities that arise from this for scientists and local schools. Kurniawan Bandjolu from Institut Mosintuwu then spoke, showing other remarkable endemic species from the immediate vicinity of the lake, mainly birds and plants. And finally, Reza Permadi from Atourin presented the possibilities of developing ecotourism.

The lectures were varied, full of pictures and interesting data – how could it be otherwise when it was about fantastic endemic biodiversity! The feedback was very positive and the attention of the participants was great. The fact that the lake is important to the local people was also confirmed in the subsequent discussion. It was clear from the questions that people are interested in the biodiversity of Lake Poso, they mainly know the economically important species of fish, the probably already extinct goby, etc. They asked for details, they thought about wider contexts.

In the afternoon part of the seminar, together with Lian Gogali, the chairwoman of Institut Mosintuwu, we presented our plan for bringing biodiversity to schools. Specifically, we would like to put aquariums in schools with appropriate support materials, our help and with instructions leading to the happy life for their residents. However, the possibilities of exploring biodiversity and cooperation leading to the conservation of the lake do not end with the care of the aquarium, we also offer additional support in teaching: materials and proposals for research in the aquarium and in the lake, etc. A lively discussion followed again with many technical questions, ending with the comments of students from several different schools . They were excited, they would very much like to be involved in the study of biodiversity and would like to have an aquarium with endemic species in the school and they hope that the management of their schools will support this idea.

About seventy seminar participants praised the event, and so did we. We will continue to work intensively on this project, cooperation with schools is extremely important for the future of Lake Poso.

Markéta Rejlková