25 March, 2024

By Abd. Wahab

This story is about a man named Pak One (Pronounced: On-ea) and a dugong named Mawar, and is set in Alor, East of Komodo.

Alor is one of the islands in Indonesia with diverse and abundant marine resources. One thing that differentiates Alor from other places is that this is the island where seagrass beds, coral reefs, and mangrove ecosystems meet. 

In 2015, the government established a Local Marine Conservation Area in Alor covering an area of 276,693.38 hectares, named Suaka Alam Perairan Selat Pantar dan Laut Sekitarnya or Pantar Strait Marine Reserve Area. 

However, this conservation effort does not just happen. It all happened because of cooperation between many parties, such as the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Local Government, Non-Governmental Organizations, and most importantly, the local community. 

Environmental awareness and concern of local people are the keys to the conservation of an area. Especially in the Alor area, when people talk about conservation, everyone knows one of the conservation initiators in Alor. People call him Pak One. 

Who is Pak One? 

Onesimus Laa is known as Pak One. People know him widely as a conservationist and a man who is friends with a Dugong named Mawar.  

But long before, he was a gangster. He worked under one of the most feared gangster groups in Jakarta.  

“I was a bad guy, a gangster. But these gangsters have changed. I now love the environment.” He said in a video

During the 90s, he quit his job. He returned to his hometown, Alor. Upon his arrival, he promised his wife and two children that he would not leave again. He believed his native land was given by God with tremendous marine resources to them to protect. 

“This environment was created by God. He created us on the last day. That means He gave us the environment for us to protect.” 

Pak One

So, he started by planting mangroves in Sikka Island and Mali Island. However, it is not an easy thing for him to do. Apart from the fact that he needed to do it himself, he also received resistance from his wife. His job is not financially profitable. It’s not enough for him to support his family and send his two children to school by planting mangroves. 

But he is a man of principles. He convinced his wife that his work was worthwhile. The mangroves he planted will save Sikka Island and Mali Island from the threat of abrasion. The benefits, he said, he will not feel now but will be felt by the next generation. 

“I don’t think I will benefit from this conservation now … My principle is that if I die, I will take nothing with me. But one mangrove tree I planted will live, and this is what I will pass on to my children and grandchildren.” 

As time passed, Pak One’s hard work slowly paid off. People are starting to feel the benefits of mangroves and end up helping to protect nature. Even his wife is now joining him in his efforts. 

He now works as the Coordinator of the Kabola Fishermen Communication Forum. He is involved in many of the conservation activities they do in Alor. Starting from supporting traditional and sustainable fishing and preserving coral reefs and mangroves to the most important thing is protecting Alor treasure, namely Mawar the Dugong. 

How Pak One and Mawar the Dugong Meet? 

The unexpected meeting between Pak One and Mawar seemed like an unscripted scenario in a film. One day, when he returned home from planting mangroves on Sikka Island, a dugong followed his boat for three days. 

He believed that this dugong wanted to befriend him. They became friends, and he named it Mawar. Mawar, which means Rose, is a term usually used to refer to someone, usually an unknown woman.  

However, after some time, Mawar was discovered to be male. So Pak One added “di” to the end of his name to become Mawardi. But still, his name is known as Mawar the Dugong. 

a guest watching Mawar the Dugong in Alor from the boat.

Dugong is a marine mammal. Generally, they live in shallow waters and seagrass beds. They are also known as sea cows because they live by eating seagrass. The existence of dugongs on Sikka Island is because this water area has a large area of seagrass beds. 

However, they are now classified as “vulnerable to extinction” after being hunted by humans for a long time. Some people catch it to consume its meat, some to take his tears. Dugong tears are just mucus that moisturizes the dugong’s eyes when the dugong is not in the water. 

But Pak One is different. He didn’t hunt Mawar for his own sake but instead looked after him. He believes that protecting the environment will make the dugongs friendly towards him. Because of this, Mawar continues to live safely in the waters of Alor until now and is even known to the world. 

The story about Pak One and Mawar the dugong began to spread everywhere. People keep talking about it, from small groups to large media. That is also one of the things that attracts people to visit Alor, from local to international tourists. 

The relationship between Pak One and Mawar the Dugong 

Pak One and Mawar the dugong’s friendship grew into a symbiosis mutualism relationship. Since their first meeting, Pak One began to care for Mawar like a member of his own family. 

Likewise, the presence of Mawar brings good fortune to Pak One. Mawar soon became a tourist attraction in Alor. Pak One earns income every time he takes guests who want to visit Mawar, the Dugong. 

Even so, Pak One was well aware of what he was doing. He wanted to keep Mawar safe. He never stops explaining the rules visitors need to know. 

The rules are simple. Visitors may only view Mawar from the boat. No one was allowed to touch or jump into the water to swim with Mawar. Unless for something important like research.  

How Can Your Travel Help Pak One and Mawar? 

The story about Pak One and Mawar the dugong shows an example of the relationship between humans and nature. When you love and protect the environment, the environment will protect you. Everyone can protect nature. Everyone has their role. 

To make the activity sustainable, each guest who visits will get charged a fee. The cost to see Mawar is IDR 200,000/person plus a marine conservation fee of IDR 50,000/group. The price is not expensive because Pak One distributes this money to the local community, widows, and people who need help. 

If you are passionate about preserving the environment while exploring new places, consider opting for a travel experience that supports eco-friendly practices. By doing so, you will enjoy a fulfilling and memorable trip while contributing towards a sustainable future.