Giant Clam Refuge

For the protection of the Giant Clams and the exceptional reefs of Sulawesi

Project :

Giant Clam Refuge

The coral triangle of which the island of Sulawesi (formerly Celebes) is the richest site on the planet in clams, extraordinary animals – the largest bivalves in the world – and indispensable for the good health of coral ecosystems and the people that depend on them. However, these are becoming increasingly rare. The cause is the general deterioration of coral reefs but also the excessive collection of these molluscs, which are officially protected in Indonesia, by fishermen from the surrounding villages.

Appeal for donations completed

Thanks to donations from individuals and partners, we have succeeded in achieving the objective of this campaign and will be able to realize this magnificent project in 2021!

Support our other projects for the preservation of the southeast Sulawesi coastline:

For the protection of the Giant Clams and the exceptional reefs of Sulawesi

Ocean pollution prevention and waste recycling in Sulawesi

Our projectGiant Clam Refugeaims to create a sanctuary for these endangered animals in southeast Sulawesi. In addition, this reserve will increase their reproduction rate and will have a beneficial effect on all the reefs of the region. Finally, due to its potential as a tourist attraction, it will provide additional income for the surrounding communities.

A shell among the corals and a diver

A shell unlike any other

Among the largest shellfish in the world, clams can live for more than 100 years, regularly exceed a metre in length and weigh several hundred kilograms.

There are about a dozen species of clam that have a very wide geographical distribution ranging from the coral reefs of the Western Pacific to the Red Sea, via the Indian Ocean. But it is in Asia and in particular on the island of Sulawesi where they are calledkima that one finds the largest number of species of clams (8 species maybe 9), from the smallest to the largest.

Living up to a depth of about 20 metres, giant clams perform very important functions in coral reefs and play a major role in their health. They are both builders and shapers of reefs, food factories, shelters, algae reservoirs and, above all, extremely efficient water filters. As a result, a single clam can filter several cubic metres of seawater each day, helping to maintain a healthy environment for other species. Better yet, they accelerate the regeneration of degraded reefs.

They are therefore essential to the health of coral reefs, which are home to 25% of our planets marine biodiversity.

A yellow giant clam

The giant clams are now one of the most endangered species of molluscs

A context of absolute urgency

Unfortunately, the giant clams are now one of the most endangered species of mollusks (classified Vulnerable by IUCN) and several species have already been completely eradicated from some countries.

In Indonesia, although all species are officially protected and banned from fishing, given the size of these animals and the virtual absence of patrols even in protected areas, there is a strong temptation for fishermen in the surrounding villages to take a few for their meals. In addition to this local use, the clams are poached for aquariophilia, for consumption in restaurants, and as a substitute for ivory for the manufacture of luxury ornaments, especially in China.

Finally, there are two other threats, not only to the clams, but to all the reefs in our area of intervention: runoff from the nickel mines, which are very common in the area, suffocating the reefs under several centimetres of sediment, and the extremely harmful phytosanitary treatments of the palm oil plantations located nearby, which end their course in the ocean.

For more details, see our page on Threats to Sulawesis Ecosystems.

All this degradation has dramatic consequences for marine ecosystems and the well-being of local people. The disappearance of coral reefs leads to depletion of fish stocks, endangering the long-term food and economic resources of millions of people, as well as to accelerated coastal erosion.

Unfortunately, the means put in place to preserve these animals and their ecosystems are largely inadequate or even non-existent, including within marine protected areas.

Divers looking for giant clams - boat

Genesis of the project

The Indonesian association Toli Toli Giant Clam Conservation based in the small coastal village of Toli Toli in southeast Sulawesi, made up of divers concerned about the rapid disappearance of giant clams from the area’s reefs, was the first association to conserve giant clams in Indonesia.

In 2009, the Toli Toli Giant Clam Conservation team, in consultation with local fishermen, identified and demarcated a perimeter conducive to the development of the clams and established a first site for the aggregation of clams in an easy-to-monitor area.

A few years later, almost 8,000 giant clams of 8 different species (+1 potential new species/local variation) and of various sizes, as well as a variety of other marine animals (starfish, sea cucumbers, anemones, etc. ) from nearby falls were welcomed and escaped illegal fishing.

Coral reef

“Protecting giant clams from illegal fishing”

“A marine nursery for increased reproduction”

Our Objectives

With the idea of continuing efforts to conserve giant clams, Toli Toli and Naturevolution want to duplicate this initiative in 2021 by creating a second community-run sanctuary. Located on the Labengki Island side, it will aim to protect existing clam from illegal fishing by gathering several thousand individuals at the new site. This true marine nursery will allow for increased reproduction and a wider swarming of clams, benefiting all the reefs of the marine corridor of southeast Sulawesi.

It will also aim to become a privileged place for scientific research on clams and a vehicle for raising awareness among villagers and local fishermen of the urgent need to protect these animals and their environment.

Finally, a new tourist asset for the region, it will generate additional income for local communities.

Aerial view of an island surrounded by coral reefs, icon of divers

the Location of the site

In recent years, Toli Toli and Naturevolution have identified, during observation dives carried out with the help of eco-volunteers, an area particularly suited to the creation of this new refuge.

Validated as a non-sampling area by the villagers and the manager of the Marine Protected Area (BKSDA Sultra), the refuge will be located on the edge of Labengki Island, within the Teluk Lasolo Marine Protected Area.

our Method

For 3 months, with the help of a boat, the clams located in the fishing areas will be relocated to the protected area thanks to the work of 3 specialized divers.

At the same time, in collaboration with the official marine protected area manager for the province of Sulawesi Tenggara, our coordinator will provide free training in clam population monitoring and, more generally, in the management of this community reserve, for a group of volunteer villagers from the village of Labengki. Responsible for monitoring and managing the site, they will also be the only ones authorized to accompany tourists in the area. The entrance fees and revenues generated by this guiding activity will ensure the sustainability of the project.

Carried out by the project coordinator, awareness-raising activities will also be offered to local communities through village meetings and school interventions in order to promote sustainable management of natural resources.

Finally, information panels will be placed near the site and flyers will be produced to inform and raise the awareness of passing tourists.

Centre of a giant clam

Our needs

We need funds to finance the relocation of giant clams, the training of local residents, actions to develop sustainable and local tourism, and the creation of awareness materials.

We also need to finance the necessary human resources: 1 coordinator (also a diver), 1 captain and his second-in-command and 2 divers.

Scale of funding:

  • 10 giant clams relocated : 35
  • 1 awareness workshop in the villages (2 days) : 250€
  • The monthly salary of a diver : 275€
  • 1 training (5 days) : 650€
  • Design and installation of information panels: 1000 €
  • All necessary diving equipment: 5200€
Corals and Giant Clam

the Beneficiaries

The project will directly benefit:

  • 5 employees of Naturevolution Indonesia and Toli Toli in charge of the development of this project (1 diver project manager, 2 divers, 1 boat captain and his second);
  • The villagers of Labengki, who will benefit from training and awareness-raising initiatives, as well as a new ecotourism spot that they will be able to develop economically;
  • Around 5,000 people in a dozen villages along the southeast coast of Sulawesi will benefit not only from the awareness campaigns, but above all from the preservation of the fishery resources on which they depend.

Why support us

You wish to:

  • contribute to the preservation of an iconic species and marine biodiversity
  • help improve the use of natural resources
  • helping to combat food insecurity
  • participate in the restoration of a coral reef

“Food diversification as a solution to stop deforestation and prevent subsistence poaching”

Taking of a large baitfish by a diver

Who are we?

Since 2014, Naturevolution works  in Sulawesi to preserve karst ecosystems exceptionally rich in biodiversity.

In order to address the threats to the region, its biodiversity and its people, the association, together with local authorities and communities, as well as a network of scientific institutions and conservation actors, is implementing a wide range of initiatives ranging from the creation of protected areas to waste management, awareness raising, advocacy, restoration of degraded forest and coral ecosystems, scientific research and the development of income-generating activities.

Since 2018, Toli Toli Giant Clam Conservation has become our main partner in Indonesia and we are now working together to preserve coral reefs in the region. Toli Toli’s expertise, experience and network are valuable assets to move forward.

our supporters

We are still looking for funds to complete and extend this project. Help us make it happen with a donation!

Project updates