Conservation Commentary: One Forgotten Island Showcases Indonesia’s Incredible Riches

Not "the" island but a beautiful rainforest ecosystem similar in its lushness where orangutans can thrive.  Photo; from OC archives
Not “the” island but a beautiful rainforest ecosystem similar in its lushness where orangutans can thrive. photo: from OC archives

In this intriguing commentary, scientist and conservationist Erik Meijaard reveals a hidden island where a glimpse of what Indonesia could be actually exists…

By Erik Meijaard for the Jakarta Globe

As our boat sailed towards the forest-clad island, I had no idea what surprise awaited me…

A few months ago I was asked to conduct a wildlife survey on a rarely visited island somewhere in Indonesia. For reasons explained below I will not disclose its name. Suffice to say it is one of the thousands of Indonesian islands without people on it. In terms of the wildlife I saw, the absence of people really showed.

I have worked in Indonesia as a conservation scientist and practitioner for over 20 years. This work has taken me to some pretty amazing places, a few of them really remote. But this recent visit to the forgotten island stands out as one of the most remarkable.

Probably because there are no people and there is thus no hunting on the island, wildlife was very common. I went for a day-time hike, expecting not to see much at all. In most Indonesian forests, and especially those that are hunted, animals hide during the day and come out to feed at night. Not on this island.

Within 10 minutes I saw four species of large and medium-sized mammals that would normally be very hard to see. I didn’t just see the animals, the animals saw me too. And they simply looked, without quite knowing what to make of me. Clearly, the concept of being shot at was entirely foreign to them, unlike their brothers and sisters elsewhere in Indonesia.

We found a huge python, curled up among the stilt roots of a large tree. This species appears to be the main predator on the island, gorging itself on the abundant wildlife.

The trees themselves were remarkable too. There was no sign of logging, no tree stumps, or big open gaps. Just giant pillar-like trees, such as those described in the naturalist literature of the 19th century.

This excerpt from an article appeared in and is courtesy of The Jakarta Globe.  To read the full article please click here.

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