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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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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
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