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Java island

Java (Jawa) is an island of Indonesia and the site of its capital city, Jakarta. Once the center of powerful Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms, Islamic sultanates, and the core of the colonial Dutch East Indies, Java now plays a dominant role in the economic and political life of Indonesia. Home to a population of 130 million in 2006, it is the most populous island in the world. Java is also one of the most densely populated regions on Earth.


Flora & fauna
Rich and remarkably versatile

The flora and fauna of the great islands in the west of Indonesia - Sumatra, Java, Borneo- belong to the richest and most varied in the world. In the far past these islands were connected to Asia's mainland, the reason why they have lots vegetation-, and species of animals in common. It's more remarkable that Java counts a number of species that doesn't exist on mainland Asia at all.

Even more remarkable is that on this heavy populated island, live species that have been extinct on Sumatra a while ago, like the panther and the Javanese rhinoceros. Also the very rich flora and fauna did not survive the time, but for the nature-lover there is still plenty tot enjoy. Even in the biggest cities live animals as they live on the countryside, snakes for example, and lizards.

Insects are more than enough represented in numerous forms, sometimes to the annoying. On less than one day travel from Jakarta by car there are six national parks, but also one of the survived primary rain-forests. These natural environments give shelter to a big part of the 500 species of vegetation and 300 colorful birds of the island.

When traveling eastwards, a clear change in vegetation can bee seen. The humid tropical forests slowly change into forests that lose their leaves every year, and in the highers areas high savanna-grass gives a dried-up view. Java is on the border of two totally different climatological zones. in the north the always humid region Sumatra, Kalimantan and Malaysia.

On the other side the more dry Nusa Tenggara ('Lesser Sunda Islands'). In opposite to both zones, Java does know a rainy season - January to March - and a long dry period - Juli to October. However the relative dry area is much bigger in the east, there are much less species. Vegetation there is indeed much more varied than in the West, especially in the wet season. West-Java shows mostly orchids and tree-life, which grow good in the humid climate.

The always 'in the scene' animal is the kerbau, the most dominant domestic animal on Java. When not walking in front of the plow, he will accompany a herd with his boss. Other life-stock is kept around the house, and also fed there. Available land is too valuable to service as grassland.
In the villages poor chickens walk around. These so called 'kampong chickens', which try to cross a busy street with true terror, are descendants from the wild chicken. They are both skinny and have the same long legs. They lay small eggs. The cocks are trained, and hopefully they become a first class fighting cock.

In the sawah's, small troops of small, brown ducks draw the attention. They are walking around, in search for snails and small frogs. The villagers mainly keep them for the eggs, which are a true delicacy.

Too much food

A stunning big part of Java is cultivated by humans, 63 per cent, in contrary to ten to twenty per cent on the other islands. The cultivated land consists for 1/3 of irrigated fields, which are used by small farmers and tenants. Seven per cent is being used by great tea-, cacao-, djati-, oilpalm-, and rubber companies.

Al least 55 per cent of the population is farmer. Rice still is the most important crop. Wet rice-fields, or sawah's contain 24 per cent of the total fields. On dry grounds farmers grow corn, potatoes and cassava.

It's hard to imagine that the sawah's with their ingenious systems of irrigation, sometimes more than thousand years ago, piece by piece were built by hand. A prestation that could only happen by working together between villagers. Still most of these sawah's are cultivated by hand, but there are plows and other small tools in use also.

However the most fields are simply too small for machinal producing, crops can be harvested twice a year, at least. Indonesia was in the early seventies the biggest rice importer in the world, but since then it became fully self-sufficient, despite plagues, floods, rats and insects. The better irrigation methods, better rice-fields and fertilizers on Java and Bali were a big deal in that.

Deforestation of primary grounds continues. Virgin forests are shopped away, to be replaced by rice-fields. that causes the deforestation that started centuries ago, is almost completed by now. Due to human actions only about 10 per cent of the original vegetation is still left over. Of those, most lies on high slopes, currently protected forests. It's hard to believe, but a century ago, slopes south of Jakarta were still densely forested and in that time Wallace wrote in his book The Malay Archipelago that a child was killed by a tiger. Nowadays that area is the most densely populated areas of West-Java.

Parks and natural reservations

With the eye on protection of the natural ecosystem the national park Ujung Kulon, with it's tropical forest, Meru-Betiri, and Park Baluran with it's savanna's are declared protected areas. They are very important for the preservation of several different environments on Java.

The National Park Ujung Kulon is less than 150 km from Jakarta in th most western point of Java. Here are the last crocodiles of the island. But more important is that this is the only place where the Javanese rhinoceros still lives, one of the most rare animals in the world. This animal is almost extinguished, only about 60 are still living and counted. Only the lucky and the die-hards do have a chance to see them in real life ( That's why this picture for you ). Visitors have a much bigger chance to meet a herd of Bali-cows. They are shy, and live in small herds, but are much more common.

From Ujung Kulon there is a ferry to the volcanic island of Anak Krakatau ('Child of Krakatau') in the Sunda Street. After the last eruption of the volcano, the vegetation has reconquerred the slopes of the small island.
In one hour you drive southwards from Jakarta, to Bogor, with it's world famous Botanical Gardens (Kebun Raya), which date back to the beginning of the 19th century. The garden stores a nice collection of tropical trees and plants, together with different kinds of spices, giant trees, palms in different heights and forms. This is also the place where the founding father of all Asian palm trees grows, imported from South-America in the late 19th century. Also for bird life this garden is of great importance.

East of Bogor, after the tea-fields of Puncak, is the mountain-land of Parahyangan ('Place of the Gods'), in it's early days also known as Preanger. In this area, in some places still prehistorical forests, lay some more or less active volcanoes. A few of them can be climbed unto the top. After a view into the deep sizzling craters, you can take a dive into the fresh waterfalls nearby.

The central mountain ridge of Western-Java gives a beautiful natural feeling with great mountain peaks and noisy waterfalls. At the southern coast is the holiday resort and reservation of Pangandaran. It's probably the most easy to acces reservation of Java, also after a nine hour bus tour from Jakarta. There are numerous species of birds and monkeys, and on the open fields banteng and deers are grazing.

The reservations in Middle- and Eastern Java are on the whole less good reachable, unless there is good transport with four-wheel drive. But also important is a sleeping bag and enough food to survive for some time. The reservations in the eastern corner of Java are easy to reach from Bali.

Banyuwangi Selatan ('South Banyuwangi') is a true surfers paradise, on the Ijen-plateau with steaming craters people harvest sulfur, in Meru Betiri big sea turtles get on the beach to lay their eggs. A few years ago a Javanese tiger was spotted here, probably the last one. Easiest to reach is the Baluran reservation, the climate makes you think you are in East-Africa. Most of all the dry seasons give the chance to see the wild animals when they hurry to the almost dried-up waters.


Last revised on December 27, 2009
    
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 JAVA ISLAND PICTURES


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 CITIES IN JAVA
 TEMPLES IN INDONESIA
 PEOPLE OF JAVA

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