North Sulawesi - Introduction


SULAWESI, Indonesia's fourth largest island, splays like a drunken spider on the seas between Borneo and Malukku. The long narrow arm of the mountainous northern peninsula contributes most to the island's contorted shape. The province of North Sulawesi occupies the majority of this strikingly beautiful peninsula and accounts for 13% of Sulawesi's 159,000 sqkm of land area.

The island's physical beauty, with its forested mountains and stunning coral reefs, is surpassed only by its intriguing biology. Sulawesi is the largest and most central island of Wallacea, a unique region of the world where plants and animals from Asia and Australia mix. Here we find Asian monkeys sharing the forests with cuscus, pouched mammals of Australian origin. Throw in peculiar species such as the Babirusa, or "deer-pig", with tusks that curl upward through the snout and the maleo, a chicken-sized bird that incubates large eggs in hot volcanic soils, and we have a queer and unique mix.

"Wallace's Line" refers to the remarkable change in wildlife that takes place east of a line drawn between Bali and Lombok and between Borneo and Sulawesi. Many characteristic Asian animals like the great forest cats terminate their ranges on the west side of this line. Both the geographic region and the line are named for the famous English naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, who traveled to Sulawesi in the late 1850s. Wallace was the first to write about the unusual characteristics of the region's wildlife in his still fresh and insightful book The Malay Archipelago. A contemporary of Charles Darwin, Wallace independently and simultaneously developed the theory of evolution, his ideas were stimulated by what he encountered during his extensive travels in Indonesia. Wallace is considered the father of biogeography, the study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals. Although North Sulawesi is very different today than when Wallace first stepped ashore, it still holds much of the fascination that captivated naturalists almost 150 years ago.

North Sulawesi