Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Javanese Rhino Fate Depends on Volcano

June 27, 2010

Javanese Rhino

It recently came to our attention that three of the world’s population of no more than 60 Javanese rhinos have died. 

The Javanese rhino was once the most widespread of all species of rhino, ranging from Java as far as the Eastern provinces of India.  Today they survive in two pockets, one in Vietnam, which hosts less than eight, the other in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park where perhaps 50 survive.  One of the dead rhinos was from the Vietnamese group, it was poached for its horn (the horns are used as an ingredient in Chinese herbal medicine).  The other two died of natural causes in the Indonesian reserve, their complete skeletons were found in separate locations.

 The main reason these rhinos no longer inhabit most of South East Asia is because of the loss of their habitat, which is low lying jungle.  The Vietnam War also caused huge deforestation and also the wholesale scattering of land mines.  It also put guns in the hands of every villager.  The rhinos living in Java itself were more fortunate, although they also suffered from loss of habitat and hunting.

After the eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in 1883, much of the Ujung Kulon peninsula was devastated and the human population was evacuated.  This allowed wildlife there to quickly flourish and Javanese rhinos colonised the area as their mainland habitat was continuing to shrink.  The government of the time sealed the peninular and declared it a national park and so the rhinos living there were protected.

A survey in the 1960s found 25 Javanese rhinos living in the Ujung Kulon peninsula and by 1980 the population had risen to about 50.  Since then the numbers have been stable.  The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) believes the park could support greater numbers, but the rhinos compete for food with native buffalos.

While the surviving rhino community seems safe enough for now, they really have all their eggs in one basket.  It would only take another unfortunately placed eruption or a tsunami to effectively exterminate the last of these creatures.  The Indonesian government and conservationists are talking about building an electrified fence to enclose a second area nearby which would house part of the existing population. 

The Javanese rhinoceros is not thought to be naturally agressive, but it has been known to attack if it feels threatened.  When this happens, it charges using the incisor teeth on its lower jaw, which are long and sharp and then strikes upwards with its horn.  Normally the horn is used for scraping away mud to form its wallows or for bringing down saplings to eat or for clearing paths through the jungle.

Very little is known about this species of rhino, naturalists are cautious about disturbing them for study for fear that it will affect their habits.  But some less intrusive study is being undertaken now with one group about to set up camera traps in their habitat, so we can expect to learn more about the Javanese rhino in the coming months.


Pinocchio Frog among Many Recently Discovered Animals

June 18, 2010

Indonesia’s biodiversity is second only to Brazil.  New animals are being discovered all the time.  I sometimes wonder how much has been lost in the drive to extend the palm oil plantations.

The long nosed tree frog (pinocchio frog) in the picture was discovered in the Foja mountains in Indonesia’s West Irian Jaya province during an expedition by Conservation International.  Paul Oliver, an amphibian expert, noticed the frog sitting on a bag of rice at the base camp.  He didn’t even have to go outside to find it!

During the four week expedition undertaken two years ago, the team also discovered the world’s smallest kangaroo, a new bat, a gecko, a pigeon, a giant woolly rat and a dozen insects.  And much else besides.  You can be sure there’s still plenty more out there, but who knows for how much longer?

His Wife a Cow, She Died soon after Marriage

June 12, 2010

Unfortunately he isn’t interested in the sort of cowgirl shown in the pic above.  18 year old Ngurah Alit of Jembrana in Bali was caught stark naked in the act of bestiality with a cow in the middle of a rice paddy.  You can’t get more ‘caught’ than that. 

Alit claimed the cow magically assumed the form of a beautiful girl and it seduced him.

Instead of throwing him in jail, local custom has its own way of dealing with such cases.  Alit was forced to marry the victim of his crime in a full traditional wedding ceremony, presumably with the intention of shaming the man so much that he will never do this crime again.  In fact the ceremony, involving the entire village, police, press and curious people from other villages, had such an effect on him that he was overcome and fainted.

Following the ceremony, man and ‘wife’ were bathed and symbolically drowned in the beach.  The cow was actually drowned and Alit had just his clothes thrown into the sea.  This was done to cleanse Alit and the village of his desecration.

If Alit had comitted his crime in a Western country, it is likely that he would be put through the court system and receive a criminal record, maybe even spend some time in prison.  I think that this Balinese method is a far better way of dealing with these cases.  He has been ridiculed in front of everyone he knows, and so he will surely never do such an act again and people seeing his punishment will think twice before they try to copy him.  Although he will bear the shame all his life, at least it is not officially recorded, it will not prevent him from travelling or getting a job in the future.  Most of all, his village has not lost a good worker to Crime University – the prison system.

As for the cow?  Well, it won’t be seducing any more farm boys.  You may think its fate was harsh, but it really was the most humane decision.  The animal would probably not feel comfortable around humans and in any case, there is no danger that someone will again defile it.

Tiniest Seahorse Found in Indonesia

June 7, 2010

At a mere 14mm in length (actual height 11mm) , Hippocampus Satomiae is the smallest seahorse ever found.  Better known as Satomi’s pygmy seahorse, it was named in a study in December 2008 after Satomi Onishi, a Japanese dive guide.  The reason it’s taken so long to discover it is due to its size, camoflage and the fact that it’s nocturnal. It hides during the day and gathers in groups of 5 or 6 on sea fans at night.

It was discovered at Derawan Island off the coast of Kalimantan, but has since been found as far away as North Sulawesi.  I guess people have known where to look since the discovery was published.  Imagine how many more tiny wonders are out there waiting to be discovered.

When they’re born, they’re jet-black, the same shape as their parents, but only 3mm long.

Here’s another pic, 4 or 5 have gathered together on a sea fan:

Ultimate Fishing – Man Style

May 28, 2010

Most weekend fishermen are happy to bring home a couple of herring.  They might dream of snagging a whale.  For the people of Lembala Island, it’s a matter of survival.

They hunt in the traditional way, with techniques and customs passed down through generations.  Their tools are also hand made, more from financial necessity than anything else.  So they don’t use much metal or plastic, no nails are used to build their boats.  Everything comes from the island, so all the materials are wood or fibre, although nylon is starting to replace their hand made palm fibre rope.

Fishing this way doesn’t kill enough whales to threaten their survival.  These people are also victims of modern industrial fishing methods used by other countries.

There are obvious dangers, but the reward is their village can survive another season.

For the complete article:

Psychedelic Frog Fish

May 21, 2010

This new species of fish was discovered last year off the coast of Ambon.  While it has beautiful markings, its shape and movement look clumsy.  The colour and markings are to make it easy to disguise itself like coral, which is why it hasn’t been discovered until recently – the divers just didn’t see it.

Its tail curls around to one side which makes it impossible for it to swim in a straight line.  Instead it lurches forward bumping into things.  Luckily it has a tough skin that protects it from coral scrapes.  It also has little arms just to make it look a bit more weird.

Baby Dragon Found

May 18, 2010

Winged lizards are found in the Lambusango Forest Reserve on Buton Island near Sulawesi.  Here’s what she looks like with the wings folded:

Jakarta Street Food: Nasi Bebek Madura

April 29, 2010

Madurese duck rice.  The duck is a bit skinny as it didn’t grow up in a factory, but probably spent its days wandering around the paddy fields with thirty or forty of its friends. The owner leaves them out in the fields all day and just before evening comes they follow him back to their pen.  All that walking and foraging means they don’t get too much fat on their bones.  There isn’t much meat, either.  I would usually order a couple of serves for lunch just to feel like I’ve had enough meat.  But that’s just my Western eating habits coming through. 

Notice the line of Teh Botol bottles on the table?  This company, Sosro, is a fine example of Indonesian commercial success.  The sweet bottled iced tea successfully competes with Coca Cola, you can find it throughout Java.  Elsewhere too, no doubt.  My only concern with it is they need to add quite a few chemicals to the formula to stop the tea from stewing.  Those bottles on the table are, of course, warm.  If you want one, they will have some in their refridgerator, or they will give you a glass filled with ice to cool the liquid.  Ice is quite safe to put in your drink, it’s one thing which is well regulated in Indonesia.

Jakarta Street Food: Pecel Lele

April 13, 2010

Warning: some may consider this clip a little bit cruel.  But as regular readers know, it can never be as cruel as my tongue.

Fried catfish, quite a common dish in Indo.  Yes, it’s fresh… maybe a bit too fresh for some tastes?  (Maybe it’s better not to look.)  And it’s cheap as chips.  Delicious too.  But Catfish are scavengers and they sift through the mud to take whatever nutrients are available.  This makes them very easy to raise and feed, but you can’t really be sure they’re kept in an unpolluted environment, so you’re taking a risk of ingesting heavy metals along with your catfish meal.  Try it once or twice if you must, but remember – if you wouldn’t eat it in your own country, don’t eat it when you’re visiting a foreign one.

Indonesian Coral Reefs: Stunning Photos

April 10, 2010

Coral reef in Raja Ampat

Britain’s Guardian Newspaper has recently run a few articles on Indonesia’s wonderful endowment of spectacular coral reefs.  In another sad example of the ‘tragedy of the commons’, Indonesia’s marine heritage has been much abused through pollution and chemically assisted fishing.

The Indonesian Navy is not going to stop this process.  It seems the only way of reversing this trend is to make preserving the reefs into a better economic proposition than destroying them.

Here’s a link to the pretty pictures:

And here’s a link to a story about how tourism development in one region of West Papua, combined with recognition of traditional stewardship is helping to preserve the coral:

It sounds like quite a long way to reach Raja Ampat, two nights if the connecting flights aren’t delayed.  Prices are rather steep when you get there, too.  Although I imagine they’re going for the luxury end of the market.  I’d say you’d be able to find budget accommodation within reach of the reefs, though you would need to be a bit adventurous.