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Former poachers find new lives protecting the natural habitats they used to destroy: '[We] try to influence their souls'

"He is the one who educated us that corals are essential for fish life."

Spermonde Archipelago

Photo Credit: iStock

The Spermonde Archipelago comprises some 120 islands along southwestern Sulawesi in Indonesia. The area is characterized by a high density of rich and diverse marine life. 

However, illegal fishing practices — including using dynamite and cyanide to kill fish — have destroyed much of the habitats in the region, largely consisting of coral reefs.

But now, some of the poachers responsible for this habitat destruction have reversed course and are learning how to save coral reefs instead of destroying them.

Euronews Green reported the story, which involves a scientist and university professor named Syafyudin Yusuf, who has been fighting to save coral reefs for two decades. His newest strategy involves taking some of the coral reefs' biggest enemies and turning them into allies.

Yusuf, known as "Mr. Ipul" to his ex-poacher students, teaches the former hunters how to install structures known as spider module frames, which support coral regeneration. Together, he and his students have already managed to restore two hectares of destroyed coral reefs around Badi Island, where three hectares total have been severely damaged. 

The eventual goal is to restore a total of 11.5 hectares (over 1.2 million square feet) of damaged coral reefs.

"We enter their lives and try to influence their souls and mindsets to be able to change from destructive fishing to being conservationists," Yusuf told Euronews Green

As for the former poachers, they are learning not only the impacts of destroying habitats but also that the only way for fishing to remain sustainable is to preserve the habitats where the fish live.

"We thought he would actually destroy the corals and our lives, but he was the one who educated us that corals are essential for fish life," one of Yusuf's students told EuroNews. "So Mr. Ipul gave us knowledge, and our welfare has increased by maintaining and caring for coral reefs."

Coral reefs are threatened throughout the world due to human-caused pollution and changing climates. However, some efforts of rehabilitation have been successful, while other coral reefs have demonstrated remarkable resilience, leaving some room for optimism.

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