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Indonesia's Wildlife

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Indonesia contains one of the world's most remarkable geographical boundaries in its distribution of animals. This dates back to the glacial period when sea level fell all over the world. During this period the islands of Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan and Bali on the Sunda Shelf were joined together with one another and with the Asian mainland, but Irian Jaya, Aru and the Australian continent of the Sahul Shelf were separated. This early geographical separation explains why the tropical animal species of Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan do not exist in Irian Jaya. For the same reason, the kangaroo of Irian Jaya is missing in the other region.

Maluku, Sulawesi and the Lesser Sunda Islands, which lie between the Sunda and Sahul shelves, have a strikingly different fauna. Most of the eastern fauna do not exist in Sulawesi even though this island is close to Kalimantan, being just across the Makassar Strait. Similarly, the animal species of Irian Jaya are not found on Seram and Halmahera, Irian Jaya's closest neighbors. One possible reason for this is that Kalimantan and Sulawesi might have been separated by a deep straight at one point, while the great depth of the Banda Sea kept them apart during the glacial period. Some scientists have attributed the phenomenon to three faunal lines. ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE (1823-1913) wrote in his book, "The Malay Archipelago," that Nusantara was separated into an Oriental ecological area (west side) and an Australian ecological area (east side) by a Wallace Line that runs from South to North, passing the Lombok and Makassar Straits and ending in the south eastern part of the Philippines. The Weber line which passes the sea between Maluku and Sulawesi, and the Lydekker line which starts at the edge of the Sahul Shelf. Sulawesi Island is in a transition zone known as the Wal-lace Area. The other two faunal lines are the Weber Line, which passes the sea between Ma-luku and Sulawesi, and the Lydekker Line, which starts at the Sahul Shelf and skirts the west-ern border of Irian Jaya and the Australian continent. Other scientists, however, prefer to call the area a "subtraction transition zone".

The Directorate General has adopted a national strategy on natural conservation whereby the entire ecosystem is conserved. This is necessary because it is often impossible to preserve wildlife outside its natural habitat. For example, the orangutan, which literally means "jungleman" (Pongo pygmaeus) and only lives in the jungles of Sumatra and Kalimantan, is very dependent on a primary forest habitat. For this purpose, the Directorate General, in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (W.W.F.), established "orangutan rehabilitation centers" to prepare illegally-captured orangutans for return to life in the wilderness.

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The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), the world's largest lizard, can grow to 3 meters long. Its home is on the Komodo group of reserves, which are composed of Komodo, Padar and Rinca islands, off the coast of Flores in the eastern part of the country.

The "babi rusa", a deer-like pig (Babyrousa, babirussa), and the "anoa," a forest- dwelling dwarf buffalo, are among the interesting indigenous animals of Sulawesi. Other indigenous mammals of Sulawesi are the big civet cat called "musang" (Macrogalidia musshenbroeki); a species of the tersier called "binatang hantu," which literally means "spooky animal" (Tarsius spectrum), and several species of the black monkey or "monyet hitam" (Macacanigra).

Among the vast variety of birds in Sulawesi, the Maleo fowl and the shrubhen are two notable species of the megapode family.

Irian Jaya and Maluku are rich in colorful birds, varying from the big and unable-to-fly cassowaries (Casuarius) and the brilliantly-plumaged birds of paradise that belong to the family of Paradiseidae and Ptilinorhynhidae and number more than 40 species, to a large variety of birds from the parrot family.

Other members of Indonesia's fauna include the hornbill bird, or "rangkong/enggang" of the Bucerotidal family, which is noted for its enormous horn- tipped beak. There are also the Sumatran tiger (Panthera Tigris Sumatrenesis) and the almost-extinct Java tiger (Panthera Tigris sondaica).

The Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra are home to the "beruk," a relatively large monkey often trained to pick coconuts; and the "lutung," or black monkey, which lives on leaves.

The "Badak Jawa" or one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) lives in Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java, but the smaller badak sumatra or two-horned rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) has its habitat in the Mt. Leuser National Park (the largest park in the country) located around the valley of the Alas river in Aceh, Indonesia's northern-most province.

Other notable animals are the "banteng" or wild bull of Java (Bos javanicus); the tree kangaroo (Dorcopsis muelleri) of Irian Jaya; the fresh water dolphin (Orcacella brevirostris) of the Mahakam river in East Kalimantan" and the proboscis monkey or "bekantan," also of Kalimantan.

In addition, there is a great variety of birds, including egrets, herons, kingfishers, hawks, eagles and many others. There are also thousands of species of insects and a large variety of lizards and snakes. Tortoises and turtles, as well as exotic species of fish, crabs, mollusks and other aquatic animals, living both in salt and fresh water, are also found in great abundance.

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Indonesia is known worldwide for her ornamental fish species which are exported to the United States, Japan and Germany. The species most noted for their beautiful colors and shapes include the clownfish (Amphiprion), damselfish (Dascyllus), wrasse (Coris gaimardi), and the Coris aygula, which abound in the Bali Strait.

The most common species is the green wrasse (Thalasoma lunare). The butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae) has a small snout, but long-snouted butterflyfish are also found and include the Forcipiger longirostris and Chelmon rostratus. Another species, the bannerfish (Heniochus acuminatus) has backfins longer than its body length; and the Moorish idol or Zanclus canescens can measure 20 cm.

Angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator), Pomancanthus semicirculatus; Pygoplites-diacanthus, and Auxiphipops navarchus, which belongs to the Pomancanthidae family, are all collected for their beautiful colors.

Surgeonfish (Acanthuridae) and Paracanthurus hepatus are very popular because of their distinguished bluish color. Other beautiful species are the Acanthurus leucosternon, Zebrazoma veliferum and Naso literatus. Living a solitary life is the tiger fish or Balistidae.

Sea horses, or Hippocampus coronatus, of the syngnathidae family are also among the ornamental fish sought. Peacock fish, so named because of their long fins, include the pterois zebra, brachiopterus, volitans, ruselli, miles and radiata varieties. They all belong to the Scorpanidae family. There are many more species of ornamental fish in Indonesia, far too many to mention all.

Pearl oysters found in the country include the Pinctada maxima, the P. margaritifera and the Pteria penquin. These species grow in the waters around Halmahera Island, the Maluku and the Aru Islands in eastern Indonesia.

The pearls are in great demand because of their large size and high quality. In Maluku pearl shells are collected and made into beautiful ornaments.

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FLORA

The rich flora of Indonesia includes many unique varieties of tropical plant life in various forms. Rafflesia arnoldi, which is found only in certain parts of Sumatra, is the largest flower in the world. This parasitic plant grows on certain lianas but does not produce leaves. From the same area in Sumatra comes another giant, Amorphophallus tatinum, the largest inflorescence of its kind.

The insect trapping pitcher plant (Nepenthea spp) is represented by different species in many areas of western Indonesia.

The myriad of orchids is rich in species, varying in size from the largest of all orchids, the tiger orchid or Grammatophyllum Speciosum, to the tiny and leafless species of Taeniophyllum which is edible and taken by the local people as a medicine and is also used in handicrafts. The forest soil is rich in humus which enables the luxuriant growth of a multitude of fungi, including the horse hair blight, the luminescent species, the sooty mold and the black mildew.

Indonesia's flora also abounds in timber species. The dipterocarp family is renowned for its timber (meranti), resin, vegetable oil and tengkawang or illipe nuts. Ramin, a good-quality timber for furniture, is produced by the Gonystylus tree. Sandalwood, ebony, ulin and Palem-bang timber are other valuable forest products. Teakwood is a product of man-made forests in Java.

Because the flora is so rich many people in Indonesia have made a good living of this natural resource. About 6,000 species of plants are known to be used directly or indirectly by the people. A striking example in this modern time is the use of plants in the production of traditional herbal medicine or "Jamu". Flowers are indispensable in ceremonial, customary and traditional rites.

To care for animals and plants in the country, the fifth of November was designated as the national Flora and Fauna Day. To foster the society's love for its fauna and flora, the Komodo reptile (Varanus komodoensis) has been designated as Indonesia National Animal, the red freshwater Liluk/arwana (Scleropage formosus) as the Fascinating Animal and the flying Elang Jawa (Javan Hawk Eagle, Spizaetus bartelsi) as the Rare (endangered) species. These decisions complement the previous designation of Indonesia's national flowers.

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Information provided by the Directorate of Foreign Information Services, Department of Information, Republic of Indonesia.

 


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