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Flora & fauna
Coral reefs, dragons and bushes

Travellers which visit Nusa Tenggara should not expect that they will find an exotic world of animals like in Borneo, Sulawesi and Papua. The relatively dry and rocky Lesser Sunda's are not home to impressive rainforests or a big diversity in strange local animals. In fact these islands are kind of low populated with big animals.
Areas which are covered in shrubs are the habitat of deer, wild pigs, bats, snakes, dragons and other lizards. There are only a few local mammals: one kind op wild pig, one kind of mice and the couscous. Heer, monkeys, rats and several pets have recently been introduced by man. The small cacatoo, singing birds, and other birds can also be found on the islands. Statistics report 56 local spiecies, but their numbers are always small.

Underwater Wonderland

It's a totally different view in the underwater world. The coral reefs belong to the richest ecosystems in the world. Nowhere else you can find a more diverse variety of aquatic spiecies. One single big reef in Nusa Tenggara can contain about 1000 spiecies of fish, more than in all seas in Europe combined. The underwater world is very colorfull. Brave anemone-fish defend their living house against the teasing hand of the diver. Groups of coral butterflies float between the reef walls, and other fish cross the reef in couples. The area houses big sea mammals like the sperm whale and the Indian seacow, which looks like a walrus without teeth. Along the border of the reefs you can find big pelagic fish: giant sharks, reef sharks and mantha's, relatives of the shark and the ray.

The Komodo Dragon

The most impressive animal of Nusa Tenggara is the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis), the biggest living lizard in the world, which belongs on Komodo, Rinca and in Western Flores. This robust animal can reach 3 meters in length, and weights upto 150 kg. The heavyweight was only known in the Western world by the start of the 20th century, mainly because Komodo was inhabited. After the island had become the place for the banned, stories about dangerous, seven meter long crocodiles started to emerge. The stories were somewhat exaggerated, however these lizards can scare people. The giant lizard has a fisique which looks like a snake: his jaws can move independently from eachother, so it can swallow an entire prey which can even be larger than it's mouth; it's forked tongue is used for smelling as well as tasting.

Picture: Sea fish

The Komodo Dragon is one of the best equipped predators: it has a powerfull tail to take down it's prey, and strong jaws with sharp teeth to tear the victim apart. It's saliva and stomach juices are very powerfull; they decay horns, bones and hair.

'Wallace Line'

Zoologist Alfred Russell Wallace, which toured through Indonesia from 1854 until 1862, was the first to remark that the size of big land animals changed drastically when crossing the sea lane from Bali to Lombok. From Lombok, there were no elephants, rhino's or tigers anymore; in fact he didn't see meateating mammals at all, accept a spiecies of cat, and no insect eaters as well.
Wallace found Australian spiecies. He remarked that when he went more to the east, he found lesser Asian spiecies and more Australian spiecies. He concluded that the border between the two groups, the two small islands - Bali and Lombok - were as big as the differences between South America and Africa, or between North America and Europe. Still nothing on the map indicated a barrier which is similar with the Atlantic Ocean.
Back in Londok, Wallace reported his findings to the National Geographic Society in 1863. There, he drew a straight red line on the map of the Malay archipelago, between Borneo and Bali on one side and Lombok and Sulawesi on the other side. This line was later named 'Wallace Lince'.
The zoologist was convinced that there was an actual barrier. On the peak of the last Ice Age, the sealevel dropped 180 meters, so it was possible to walk from Singapore to Bali, but not further to the east; the deep Selat Lombok formed an impassible barrier.
During many decaded scientists did discoveries which supported Wallace's theory, but also some which didn't. Among zoologists the 'Wallace Line' was mainly maintained, but among botanics it never was a success since there are no big regional differences in the Indonesian archipelago in the location of the about 2300 spiecies of flora.
Most modern biographers say that the separation between the animals has at least as much to do with differences in habitat as a sea-barrier. Asian fauna is grows best in the western part of the archipelago because of the big percipation and tropical forests, a habitat which is also found on mainland Southeast Asia. The fauna in the east is adapted to dry landscapes, which are also found in Australia.
However the theory of Wallace about impassible sea-lanes has almost been discarded, the area does show a transit between Asian and Australian fauna. In the beginning other biologists drew their own lines, between other islands, but nowadays most talk about a transitional zone, instead of a strict line, To honour the first biogeographer in the world, this zone, as subregion of the Oriental zoogeographical region, is named Wallacea.

Flora Live

Besides several small areas in the west, the vegetation is kind of scarce; it consists of flora which can stand drought very well, like several eucalypus-spiecies. The wide sandel-wood once was the main export product of Timor. Now, the Santalum alba only grows in a few remote areas, however the government has tried to replant the trees. The fire- and drought-resistant lontar-palm (Borassus sundaicus), one of the most important usefull plants in the area is an important source of food.


    
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 LESSER SUNDA ISLANDS PICTURES


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 LESSER SUNDA ISLANDS
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