Siberut National Park with an area of 190,500 hectares occupies more than a third of the Siberut island, Mentawai Islands district, West Sumatran province. Stretching from north to south and filling the western part of Siberut island which is directly facing the Indian Ocean, is a lowland forest with 4 endemic animals: Bilou (Hylobates Klossi) or pygmy gibbon, Simakobuk (Simias Concolor) or pig-tailed monkey, Bokkoi (Macaca Pangensis) who is famous as Mentawai monkey, and Joja (Presbytis Potenzianiwho is also known as the Mentawai langur. Therefore, all four of them are objects of great interest to animal observers and photographers. In order to be able to see directly the four species, we must first enter the heart of Siberut upstream of the river. Anyway, the waterway from Muara Siberut to inland area with winding river terrain which flanked by forest and passing it by riding a typical Mentawai boat called "pompong" will certainly be an adrenaline pumping trip for the adventure lovers.
Besides the four endemic animals, the Mentawai tribe which has inhabited the lowland forest since thousands years ago also takes the main part to make Siberut National Park so interesting. Ady Rosa, an Art lecturer at Padang Government University through his research on the art of tattooing the Mentawai tribe claims that: Mentawai tribal tattoo is the oldest tattoo culture in the world, even it is said to be older than the tattoos found in the history of ancient Egyptian civilization. Regardless of whether the claim is valid or not, it is clear that the Siberut landscape has been inhabited by a group of people for a long time, with a distinctive culture, in more popular language it is known as indigenous people. At beginning, they stayed in groups based on ethnicity, then their population and way of life continued to grow so that currently the territory of the Mentawai indigenous people has been divided into villages as it is found in the Indonesian government system generally.
The ancestors of Mentawai people flowed the blood of genuine hunters whose pulse is still felt today, and it must be admitted that one of the factors that threaten the animal population and the Siberut ecosystem is the habit of people who do not limit the types of animal protein for their daily consumption. Besides, the farming pattern of the Mentawai tribe is also still quite traditional. Sago, banana, and taro are the main food where the three types have been provided free of charge by the beautiful forest of Siberut. Therefore, it is said by some Mentawai people that no problem for them to live without money for months. What demands them to have money is the modern lifestyle that has infiltrated to Siberut inland.
With the lifestyle of Mentawai indigenous people which depends on the forest, meanwhile the government through a forum for protecting the area called a national park also has an obligation to protect the eco system, so that the friction between the National Park Authority and the indigenous people often happens. Amanalangi for example, the sikerei admitted that he and several other sikereis had confronted about 30 national park officers with poisoned arrows and machetes several years ago. Indigenous peoples do not accept when access to their land is suddenly closed. However, this challenge was answered by the Siberut National Park Office by compiling a new spatial management of conservation areas with a zoning system. After going through the studies and discussions with related parties, this zoning system was finally approved by the Directorate General of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Conservation (Dirjen KSDAE) dated on April 28, 2021.
Lugi Hartanto as the new head office of National Park Siberut who has been in charge since a year ago explained that in the spatial system of the national park area, the Siberut landscape is divided into 6 zones, namely: core zone, jungle zone, special zone, utilization zone, rehabilitation zone, and traditional zone. To accommodate the interests of indigenous peoples, traditional zones are provided spread over several points with a total land area of 37,574.04 hectares, or about 13.97% of the total area of Siberut National Park that can be accessed by indigenous peoples for their cultural interests. It is expected that this zoning system can be used as a guideline for the utilization of the national park area according to its designation. As the National Park itself realizes that the Mentawai indigenous people cannot be separated from the forest which has shaped their culture in such a way as we can see today.
However, this potential is tried to be emerged by one of the partners of of Tropical Forest Conservation Action for Sumatra (TFCA-S) namely STP-Trisakti. So, from the 12 buffer villages directly adjacent to Siberut landscape, 3 villages were selected by STP-Trisakti namely Muntei, Madobag and Matotonan. One of the three villages is in direct contact with the national park area, namely Matotonan village. It consists of five villages (Mabekbek, Matektek, Maruibaga, Kinikdog and Onga), Matotonan village is inhabited by more than 400 families and there are about 48 Sikerei people, making it as a tourist village with unique and authentic local cultural objects through TFCA-S support which facilitated by Pundi Sumatra as a facilitator for the central and southern of Sumatra area, STP-Trisakti.
In fact, the tourism sector in Mentawai has been one of the pillars of the community's economy for a long time, but its implementation is still far from equal and the concept is not clear yet.So, here is STP-Trisakti plays a role and carries out the ecotourism concept where it does not only think about income for local communities, but also prioritizes the ecological interests. Although STP-Trisakti does not develop from beginning, at least it offers an integrated tourism system between the three villages, namely: Muntei, Madobag and Matotonan. Jasmardi, one of pokdarwis members in Matotonan village whose also double job, one of them as the administrator of sikerei.id briefly described that how tourism was managed at the village level before the mentoring program from STP-Trisakti.
“In the beginning, right there, if there are guests who coming from outside where the management had not been organized. And who gets the guests, he will be the host which must manage everything. Of course, the chef, drivers and all workers that he needs to be recruited should be his close relatives as he can manage all of them well, while the others are just watching," he said in an interview at the exhibition location in one of the hotels in Padang city dated August 19, 2021
At this moment, the three assisted villages have been formed Pokdarwis to manage all tourist needs started from transportation, homestays,meal, even up to attractions such as welcoming ceremonies for guests. And a tour package simulation has also been carried out in the three villages. Although there are still many shortages in several ways, at least tourism management is not focus on one or two persons but all villagers are involved and get the income.
It is also expected that the people who live in buffer villages of Siberut National Park area is able to maximize the tourism sector which is so potential in their area by making Mentawai culture as "superior product" packaged in the ecotourism concept whose main goal is to maintain and protect the ecology of Siberut which make it sustainable. Therefore, this is a fair way as the relationship between the Mentawai indigenous people and the forest is like fish and water, two inseparable things. Siberut landscape is the water where the Mentawai indigenous people live, from their ancestors to future generations of Mentawai tribe.