Colorado Author Writes Guidebook to Benefit Endangered Wildlife in Indonesia
New Book Features Wildlife, Scuba, Adventure Destinations
DENVER—A Colorado author hopes to attract more visitors to Southeast Asia to help save Indonesia’s tigers, orangutans, elephants, rhinos and other endangered species.
Colorado native Gary R. Chandler, a public affairs and environmental consultant in Denver, in collaboration with Hippocrene Books (new York, NY), just published the second edition of the Language and Travel Guide to Indonesia. Chandler will use the book as a platform to help this island nation develop more eco-tourism opportunities, which can help the local populations preserve the rainforest, while discouraging illegal wildlife poaching. The new book offers travelers valuable insights and tips for a variety of activities, including jungle adventures, wildlife viewing, volcano treks, scuba diving, and the indulgence of Bali’s spas and resorts. The new guidebook also includes a dictionary and phrase guide to help visitors communicate effectively throughout the country.
Indonesia has some of the largest and most exotic islands in the world, including Bali, Borneo, Java, Komodo, New Guinea, and Sumatra—more than 17,500 islands in all. With more than 210 million people, Indonesia is the fourth most-populous country in the world. These islands only represent one percent of the world’s land area, but they are home to more than 10 percent of all mammal species—more known mammal species than any other country. As a result of a growing human population, Indonesia now has more endangered mammals than any other country, including the orangutan, Javan rhinoceros, Komodo dragon, Sumatran tiger, and the Sumatran elephant.
“Indonesia has some of the most amazing biodiversity in the world, but many ecosystems are under siege by the economic pressures of this rapidly growing nation,” Chandler said. “The country is doing its best to balance development and conservation, but it’s a challenge. If we can help this beautiful country expand its eco-tourism opportunities, it will help the locals support their families, while defending their ecosystems, which will benefit the country and the world.”
Chandler penned his first Indonesian guidebook in 1994. He also has written eight other books about environmental success stories from around the world. The new guidebook book has been updated, expanded and published to emphasize wildlife and marine destinations across numerous Indonesian islands. Chandler will donate profits from the book to wildlife conservation groups that are active in Indonesia, including Conservation International, Orangutan Foundation, and World Wildlife Fund.
Indonesia is home to the second-largest rainforest in the world—second only to Brazil—with 350 million acres. These diverse forests contain an estimated 4,000 species of trees, 30,000 flowering plant species, 500 species of mammals, more than 1,500 species of birds, and 5,000 varieties of orchids.
In the middle of the 19th Century, British zoologist Alfred Russel Wallace observed that the fauna east of Bali and Borneo were closely associated with Australia, while those to the west of Lombok and Sulawesi were associated more with the Indo-Malayan region of Southeast Asia. This invisible border has since been named the Wallace Line. For example, the largest mammals in Indonesia, such as the tigers, elephants, rhinos, and orangutans are only found on a few the western-most islands, most notably on Sumatra.
“This is a fascinating country that offers something for all travelers,” Chandler said. “You don’t have to be an adventure traveler to appreciate the beauty of Indonesia.”
Asian Elephant: The Asian elephant is the largest mammal on earth. In Indonesia, it roams the wilds of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The largest populations are concentrated in Way Kambas National Park and the Air Sugihan Reserve in southern Sumatra.
Sumatran Tiger: Of all the animals that visitors to Indonesia hope to see, the Sumatran tiger often tops the list. However, this beautiful animal rarely shows itself. Each animal needs a very large area, as much as 50 square kilometers (20 square miles) to survive. Unfortunately, human encroachment has already pushed two other tiger species in Indonesia into extinction. The Javan tiger was declared extinct in 1994 and the Balinese tiger was last seen several decades before that. Fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers are left in the wild and the number is dropping steadily.
If habitat destruction and poaching across Asia are not stopped, wild tigers have just a few years to survive. Tiger bones and body parts are sold on the black market for use in traditional Chinese medicines, while the forests where they live are being destroyed for timber, mining, and farming.
Orangutan: The orangutan is another favorite attraction among wildlife enthusiasts. Its name in Indonesian means man of the forest. The orangutan is the only great ape found in Asia and it is highly endangered. Orangutans live in the wet and hot forests of Sumatra and Kalimantan (Borneo).
The orangutan is one of the most impressive and famous apes in the world. The orangutan is the largest tree-dwelling animal on the planet and it’s the second-largest great ape behind the gorilla. A full grown male is as large as a man, but several times stronger. The mature male has large, fleshy cheek pads and a heavy throat pouch. It can weigh more than 250 pounds. The full-grown female is about half that weight.
Adult orangutans have an intelligence level similar to that of a five-year-old child. They move through the forest high in the canopy, swinging from tree to tree—using its weight to bend branches like giant swings. They range over large areas in pursuit of food, including fruit, bark, leaves, flowers, and insects. They feed by moving in the jungle canopy. They live a nomadic lifestyle that depends on food availability.
The males frequently come down to the ground to travel longer distances, however, females rarely leave the trees. They have a solitary lifestyle, unlike other species of monkeys or apes. However, mothers will intentionally bring their young together to play. They make new beds high in the trees every day because they refuse to use the same bed twice.
Komodo Dragon: The Komodo dragon is a type of monitor lizard with close ancestors that date back more than 100 million years. The Komodo dragon is the largest living lizard in the world, but not the largest reptile (alligators and crocodiles can grow larger). Contrary to popular belief, alligators and crocodiles are more closely related to dinosaurs than Komodo dragons.
The local villagers call the Komodo dragon ora, which means land crocodile. The dragons are normally a sandy brown with dark markings against very coarse and dry scales. They have a long neck and a tail that is longer than their body. They have strong, sharp claws that are used in combat with other dragons and during feeding frenzies.
There are about 3,000 – 5,000 Komodo dragons alive in the wild and they are limited to a few volcanic islands in Indonesia. Komodo Island is now a nature reserve where the dragon is protected. It is highly advisable to keep them at a safe distance and always look for them when touring their domain. More than a dozen human deaths have been attributed to dragon bites over the last century. A Swiss tourist sat down to relax while the rest of his tour group went onward. He was attacked and eaten by a dragon. All that was left was a piece of his camera.
The discovery of the Komodo dragon is one of the zoological surprises of the 20th
Century. Large lizards were assumed extinct until 1912, when a party of pearl fishermen went to Komodo Island and brought back stories of an enormous, prehistoric creature.
An expedition followed from the Buitenzorg Zoological Museum on Java. A report about the dragons was published, but received little attention in the years leading up to World War I. In 1926, an expedition from the American Museum of Natural History traveled to Komodo Island to investigate the dragons. The expedition confirmed the stories and returned with some specimens they killed on their adventure.
Sumatran Rhinoceros: The forests of Sumatra and Java also support the small and increasingly rare one-horned rhinoceros. As with many other species around the world, it is threatened by loss of its natural habitat. Poaching also threatens their existence. Tracks have been seen in the swamps of Kalimantan, which indicate that a few of these creatures may still be alive on the island of Borneo, but so far none have been seen there.
CONTACT: Gary Chandler