In search of the Maleo in Northern Sulawesi

posted in: Conservation, Nesting | 1

The Maleo (Macrocephalon maleo), a chicken-like bird, is an endangered species according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (above). The total population in the world is estimated to be between 8,000 and 14,000 individuals and declining. These are confined to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Samson Tan’s earlier visit to Tangkoko National Park in North Sulawesi specifically to see this endangered bird was a disappointment. He was informed that Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park is the place to go. So four years later he made another trip to Sulawesi, this time to the right park (above) using the services of Manado Safari Tours LINK.

His party met up with the local guide when they arrived at Manado Airport. From here they were driven to Tambun where another 8 hours drive led them to a nearby home stay (above). They started their search early next morning at 4am to look for the elusive Maleo in its natural habitat (below).

The Maleo is a communal nester. The female lays her egg in a geothermal site or a sandy beach, burrowing into the ground after which she covers it with soil. The image below could be a new nest considering the freshly covered soil.

The egg relies on the geothermal radiation or solar heat for incubation. It takes up to 2 to 3 months before the egg is hatched. The chick takes up to 2 days to dig its way to the surface. Once out of the burrow, it is able to fly and fend for itself. The adults do not look after their young.

The staff from the Conservation Centre demonstrated how the eggs were retrieve from the nest (above) and transferred to a protected site for incubation. If let unprotected, the eggs and the newly hatched chicks would risk predation by monitor lizards and wild pigs.

The egg of the Maleo is about five times bigger than the egg of the chicken (above).

There were two newly hatched chicks in the center ready for release back to the wild (above, below). Samson had the honor of releasing one of the chicks that he named Mini-Samson. Once released, the young birds were on their own, to defend themselves from predators and to look for food.

Samson Tan
June 2014

  1. Lee Chiu San

    Maleo was also the name of the Indonesian National Car conceived by Dr. B J Habibie when he was vice-president of the country. Habibie was an aeronautical engineer, who, besides his political office, also headed Industry Pesawat Terbang Nasional (National Aeronautical Indistry) a company engaged in trying to get a national aircraft off the ground. Some members of the cabinet suggested that he do something more down-to-earth and start a project that the common people could benefit from. Well, aeroplanes were likened to birds, and birds fly. The Maleo was a bird that was believed not to fly, so it was considered an appropriate name for a contraption to be produced by IPTN. Besides, it laid big eggs, so could be considered capable of bringing big benefits to the people. I was a member of one of the international automotive industry teams that bid for the project. We all got egg on our faces.

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