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Flora and fauna
East of the Line of Wallace

The well-known 19th century ecologist Alfred Russel Wallace discovered that the Indonesian archipelago is inhabited by two different groups of animals. 'Wallace Line' (1876), as this border is still called, runs from between Bali and Lombok and Borneo and Sulawesi. Birds and mamals on these island are remarkably different, however they are not separated by an important natural border. For botanics the line is less clear: the plants on Sulawesi seem to be closely related with those on other dry parts in the archipelago.
The little that is known from the prehistoric animal life comes from fossiles, excavated in river sediments in South-Sulawesi. The findings conclude a huge turtle, a small elephant and a giant wild pig. They look like elephants, but have bent teeth which grow close to eachother. TIt is suggested that they swam from the Lesser Sunda Islands to Sulawesi.
These animals have excinct several thousands of years ago, but nowadays Sulawesi is still known for it's special fauna. Of the 127 local spiecies of mamals, 79 can only be found on this island. The score gets even more remarkable (98 percent) when you don't count the 45 spiecies of bats. In comparison: only 18 percent of Borneo's mamals is endemic. The birds on Sulawesi are less characteristic, but still very exeptional: 34 percent of the spiecies cannot be found elsewhere; after New-Guinee this is the highest percentage in Asia.

Special mamals

The biggest mamal on Sulawesi is the dwarl buffalo or anoa. There are two spiecies: one in the mountains with smooth horns (Bubalus quarleri), and a lowlander with rough horns (Bubalus depressicornis). Some villages have dwarf buffalo's in captivity, but you can better stay away from them. However they look like a small version of the friendly water buffalo, they are agressive and unpredictable; they are feared by the local population. Anoa's usually live a solitary life, but do share their source of water.

Picture: Small animal

The most odd mamal of Sulawesi is probably the mysterious babiroesa (Babyrousa babyrussa): the deerpig. The upper cornerteeth of the male start growing normal, but later turn upwards, until they pierce the skin and curl towards the skull. These teeth are used in fights with other males. Babiroesa's were used to be kept by former rulers and were maybe given as a gift. Probably the Buginese traders brought it to Bali, where they have probably enspired the demonic raksasa-masks. Interesting is that the Babiroesa, which doesn't have split feet, is seen as halal by the local muslems, and can be eaten.

Nice birds and giant reptiles

The most remarkable of the 88 spiecies of birds which only exsist on Sulawesi are the darkgreen bee-eater (Meropogon forsteni), the brightly colored Rhyticeros cassidix, the Celebes sparrow (basilornis celebensis), the whitenecket sparrow (Streptocitta albicollis) with it's long tail, the black and white Celebes crow (Scissirostrum dubium) which nests in the holes which are picked in dead trees. Several spiecies are rare. The blue ayutrichomyas rowleyi from the Sangihe Islands could have been excinct recently becayse forest, it's habitat, has almost completely vanished in favour of coconut plantations. The most remarkable bird is the maleo-bird (Macrocephalon maleo). He breeds his eggs in small mountains heated by the sun, warm sources or vulcanic cracks. The biggest snake in the world can also be found on Sulawesi: the ten meter long python. Seacrocodiles used to be common along the entire coast, as well as in rivers and lakes.

Picture: Anoa

Only several decades ago the river villages had to be protected from these scavengers by firm pillaging. In local stories the crocodiles are often connected with the ancestors and are treated with respect because of this.

Threathened fish and cave-residents

Several of the most remarkable animals live around the high lakes, like Danau Matana, Danau Towuti, Danau Mahalona and Danau Wawontoa. From the sixty kinds of snails, lobster-like and fish, which are unique in these waters, there is only one, a schrimp, which lives in all four of them. Each lake seems to have developped it's own fauna. Danau Poso and Danau Lindu both have representatives in a group of fish which is unknown outside Sulawesi. Unfortunately fish from other parts of Indonesia are introduced because of fishery, without calculating the risks to the local varieties of fish. Some of them have become rare or have even extinct by now.
Sulawesi has big limestone areas in the environment of Bantimurung (near Maros), between Danau Matana and Danau Towuti and southeast of Danau Towuti. Most of these areas have many caves, of with some of them are the longuest in Indonesia. Most can be visited without special equipment until a certain depth. The cave residents which you encounter are swallows and salanganes (Collocalia esculenta), and a diversity of bats; there are also cockroaches, nightmare-like spiders, great scorpions and crickets with giant antennae. Not too long ago, an unknown spiecies of blind shrimp has been found in the caves of Bantimurung, which should have been there long enough to adapt to the dark.

Coconut thieves and seaturtles

The sandbeaches of Sulawesi are used as breeding place by four different seaturtles. The biggest is the leatherturtle (Dermochelys coriacea). It has a darkbrown, rugged shield of sometimes 2,5 meters long and can weight upto 1000 kilograms. It's a powerfull swimmer, which can maintain a body temperature which is 18 degrees higher than the water temperature. Individual animals move over great distances; however their action radius is limited to tropical regions, some of them have been found at the north pole.
A report of Sulawesi's exotics would not be complete without a description of the famous coconut thieve (Birgus latro). This animal used to be widespread, but only lives on Sulawesi on small - preferrably untouched - islands. What is remarkable about this lobster is the legendaric inventivity of collecting food. The stories go that the animal runs into a coconut tree with speed, cuts of the juicy fruit and throws it on the ground so it breaks.


    
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