Sulawesi & Maluku Islands


Sulawesi (formerly known as Celebes /ˈsɛlɨbiːz/ or /sɨˈliːbiːz/) is an island in Indonesia, one of the four Greater Sunda Islands, and the world’s eleventh-largest island. The island is surrounded by Borneo to the west, by the Philippines to the north, by Maluku Islands to the east, and by Flores and Timor to the south. It has a distinctive shape, dominated by four large peninsulas: the Semenanjung Minahassa; the East Peninsula; the South Peninsula; and the South-east Peninsula. The central part of the island is ruggedly mountainous, such that the island’s peninsulas have traditionally been remote from each other, with better connections by sea than by road. Three bays dominate the island: Gulf of Tomini, Tolo Gulf, and Bone Gulf, while the Strait of Makassar runs the western side of the island. The island slopes up from the shores of the deep seas surrounding the island to a high, mostly non-volcanic, mountainous interior. Active volcanoes are found in the northern Minahassa Peninsula, stretching north to the Sangihe Islands. The northern peninsula contains several active volcanoes such as Mount Lokon, Awu, Soputan, and Karangetang.

Celebes_Island

The island is subdivided into six provinces: Gorontalo, West Sulawesi, South Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, and North Sulawesi.  The largest cities on the island are Makassar, Manado, Palu, Kendari and Gorontalo.

Sulawesi is part of Wallacea, meaning that it has a mix of both Asian and Australasian species. There are 8 national parks on the island, of which 4 are mostly marine. The parks with the largest terrestrial area are Bogani Nani Wartabone with 2,871 km² and Lore Lindu National Park with 2,290 km². Bunaken National Park which protects a rich coral ecosystem has been proposed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are 127 known mammalian species in Sulawesi. A large percentage of these mammals, 62% (79 species) are endemic, meaning that they are found nowhere else in Indonesia or the world. The largest native mammals in Sulawesi are the two species of anoa or dwarf buffalo. Other mammalian species inhabiting Sulawesi are the babirusas, which are aberrant pigs, the Sulawesi palm civet, and primates including a number of tarsiers (the spectral, Dian’s, Lariang and pygmy species) and several species of macaque, including the crested black macaque, the moor macaque and the booted macaque. Although virtually all Sulawesi’s mammals are placental, and generally have close relatives in Asia, several species of cuscus, marsupials of Australasian origin, are also present.

The ornate lorikeet is endemic to Sulawesi. By contrast, Sulawesian bird species tend to be found on other nearby islands as well, such as Borneo; 31% of Sulawesi’s birds are found nowhere else. One endemic bird is the largely ground-dwelling, chicken-sized maleo, a megapode which uses hot sand close to the island’s volcanic vents to incubate its eggs. There are around 350 known bird species in Sulawesi. An international partnership of conservationists, donors, and local people have formed the Alliance for Tompotika Conservation, in an effort to raise awareness and protect the nesting grounds of these birds on the central-eastern arm of the island.

Sulawesi also has several endemic species of freshwater fish, such as those in the genus Nomorhamphus, a species flock of livebearing freshwater halfbeaks containing at least 19 distinct species, most of which are only found on Sulawesi. In addition to Nomorhamphus, the majority of Sulawesi’s 70+ freshwater fish species are ricefishes, gobies (Mugilogobius and Glossogobius) and Telmatherinid sail-fin silversides. The last family is almost entirely restricted to Sulawesi, especially the Malili Lake system, consisting of Matano and Towuti, and the small Lontoa (Wawantoa), Mahalona and Masapi. The gudgeon Bostrychus microphthalmus from the Maros Karst is the only described species of cave-adapted fish from Sulawesi, but an apparently undescribed species from the same region and genus also exists. There are many species of Caridina freshwater shrimp and parathelphusid freshwater crabs (Migmathelphusa, Nautilothelphusa, Parathelphusa, Sundathelphusa and Syntripsa) that are endemic to Sulawesi. Several of these species have become very popular in the aquarium hobby, and since most are restricted to a single lake system, they are potentially vulnerable to habitat loss and overexploitation. There are also several endemic cave-adapted shrimp and crabs, especially in the Maros Karst. This includes Cancrocaeca xenomorpha, which has been called the “most highly cave-adapted species of crab known in the world”. The genus Tylomelania of freshwater snails is also endemic to Sulawesi, with the majority of the species restricted to Lake Poso and the Malili Lake system.

The lowland forests on the island have mostly been removed. Because of the relative geological youth of the island and its dramatic and sharp topography, the lowland areas are naturally limited in their extent. The past decade has seen dramatic conversion of this rare and endangered habitat. The island also possesses one of the largest outcrops of serpentine soil in the world, which support an unusual and large community of specialized plant species. Overall, the flora and fauna of this unique center of global biodiversity is yet documented.

Maluku Islands

The Maluku Islands or the Moluccas /məˈlʌkəz/ are an archipelago within Indonesia. Tectonically they are located on the Halmahera Plate within the Molucca Sea Collision Zone. Geographically they are located east of Sulawesi, west of New Guinea, and north and east of Timor. The islands were also historically known as the “Spice Islands” by the Chinese and Europeans, but this term has also been applied to other islands outside Indonesia.”Spice Islands” most commonly refers to the Maluku Islands and often also to the small volcanic Banda Islands, once the only source of mace and nutmeg.

Moluccas_Island

The Maluku Islands formed a single province since Indonesian independence until 1999, when it was split into two provinces. A new province, North Maluku, incorporates the area between Morotai and Sula, with the arc of islands from Buru and Seram to Wetar remaining within the existing Maluku Province. North Maluku is predominantly Muslim and its capital is Sofifi on Halmahera island. Maluku province has a larger Christian population and its capital is Ambon.

The majority of the islands are forested and mountainous. The Tanimbar Islands are dry and hilly, while the Aru Islands are flat and swampy. Mount Binaya (3027 m) on Seram is the highest mountain. A number of islands, such as Ternate (1721 m) and the TNS islands, are volcanoes emerging from the sea with villages sited around their coasts. There have been over 70 serious volcanic eruptions in the last 500 years and earthquakes common.

Biogeographically, all of the islands apart from the Aru group lie in Wallacea, the region between the Sunda Shelf (part of the Asia block), and the Arafura Shelf (part of the Australian block). More specifically, they lie between Weber’s Line and Lydekker’s Line, and thus have a fauna that is rather more Australasian than Asian. Malukan biodiversity and its distribution are affected by various tectonic activities; most of the islands are geologically young, being from 1 million to 15 million years old, and have never been attached to the larger landmasses. The Maluku islands differ from other areas in Indonesia; they contain some of the country’s smallest islands, coral island reefs scattered through some of the deepest seas in the world, and no large islands such as Java or Sumatra. Flora and fauna immigration between islands is thus restricted, leading to a high rate of endemic biota evolving.

Rainforest covered most of northern and central Maluku, which, on the smaller islands has been replaced by plantations, including the region’s endemic cloves and nutmeg. The Tanimbar Islands and other southeastern islands are arid and sparsely vegetated, much like nearby Timor. In 1997 the Manusela National Park, and in 2004 the Aketajawe-Lolobata National Park have been established, for the protection of endangered species.

Nocturnal marsupials, such as cuscus and bandicoots, make up the majority of the mammal species, and introduced mammals include Malayan civets and wild pigs. Bird species include approximately 100 endemics with the greatest variety on the large islands of Halmahera and Seram. North Maluku has two species of endemic birds of paradise. Uniquely among the Maluku Islands, the Aru Islands have a purely Papuan fauna including kangaroos, cassowaries, and birds of paradise.