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The Maluku Islands are an archipelago in Indonesia, and part of the larger Maritime Southeast Asia region. Tectonically they are located on the Halmahera Plate within the Molucca Sea Collision Zone. Geographically they are located east of Sulawesi, west of New Guinea, and north of Timor. The islands were also historically known as the Spice Islands by the Chinese and Europeans, but this term has also been applied to other islands.

Buru Island
Pulau Buru

Buru is a tropical island in the Maluku province of Indonesia. It is located west of Ambon and Seram. The chief port and town is Namlea on the northeastern coast. During former President Suharto's New Order administration, Buru was the site of a prison used to hold thousands of political prisoners. While held at Buru, writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer wrote his Buru Quartet novels.

At 9,505 km˛, Buru is the third-largest island in the Maluku Islands. The center of the island is mountainous, with a flat coastal plain where about eighty percent of its 124,084 inhabitants live. The highest point is on Gunung Kapalat Mada at 2729 m. The island has a tropical rainforest climate. Ebony, teak, sago, and coconuts are important products.

The natural vegation of Buru is tropical evergreen rain forest and the island has been designated an ecoregion in its own right, the Buru rain forests and is part of the Wallacea biosystem consisting of a mixture of plants and animals from Asia and Australasia.

The main trees of the rain forest are dipterocarps: Anisoptera thurifera, Hopea gregaria, Hopea iriana, a White Meranti (Shorea assamica), Shorea montigena, Shorea selanica, and Vatica rassak.

There are few indigenous mammals but these do include four near-endemic species: three fruit bats, the Ceram Fruit Bat (Pteropus ocularis), Moluccan Flying Fox (Pteropus chrysoproctus), and the Lesser Tube-nosed Bat (Nyctimene minutus) as well as the wild pig Buru Babirusa (Babyrousa babyrussa). Buru also has a large number of endemic butterflies, in particular species of Pieridae and Swallowtail butterflies (Papilionidae).

Original vegetation on the coastal plain has been cleared and much of the mountain forest on the northern side of the island has been burned out and replaced for commercial logging and agriculture, but two large areas of stable rain forest still exist in the mountains. These are currently protected areas, Gunung Kapalat Mada and Waeapo.

Buru islanders recognize a clear distinction between the majority coastal people and the smaller number of mountain-dwellers. The population of the coastal region is generally Islamic, and about one third is considered indigenous, while the rest are immigrants. In the local understanding, however, immigrants are defined broadly, because many have lived on Buru for many generations since moving from other islands in Maluku.

There is also a population of Javanese transmigrants who have moved to the island since the 1960s. The smaller mountain-dwelling population differs from the coastal peoples in that they are not Muslim, and have limited social interactions with the coastal people and outside of the island.

History of the island

Buru island was identified in 14th century Majapahit manuscript, Nagarakretagama, as Hutan Kadali, the island with thick forest in eastern area near Ambon, Maluku, in the Spice Islands. Before Dutch colonization, Buru was within the Kingdom of Ternate's sphere of influence.

The island was occupied by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1658. The colonizers forcibly moved a large part of the population from their interior villages to the coastal plain, where they could be more closely controlled. In the nineteenth century, as the VOC was replaced by formal Dutch government control, the Dutch appointed native leaders, called raja on Buru, to manage the island for them.

Buru became a part of Indonesia upon the nation's independence in 1950. During President Suharto's administration (1965-1998), the island was the site of a large prison camp holding alleged communists and other dissidents. By 1977, about fourteen thousand prisoners were held on the island. The most famous of the inmates was author Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Denied pen and paper, he composed the stories that became his Buru Quartet, by telling them orally to other prisoners.

Location map of Buru Island

All text in this article is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Last revised on May 20, 2011
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