When it comes to Indonesia, people talk about the richness of its nature, biodiversity, and the uniqueness of its culture. In 1850s, a naturalist from England named Alfred Russel Wallace explored one of the big islands in Indonesia, Sulawesi. The largest island in the “Wallacea” region is home to one of the largest marine biodiversity areas, with over 700 different species of coral and fish, and where Australian marsupials and Asian monkeys living next to one another.


Pathway to the jungle

Nestled in the northern part of the island is Manado, where Tangkoko Nature Reserve located. Spanned for around 8700 hectares of forested area comprised of hills and valleys, Tangkoko calls many endemic animal species and unusual plants as its inhabitants. Black crested macaques, tarsiers, Sulawesi bear cuscus, and hornbills are some of them.

Black crested macaque or locally known as yaki is a critically endangered species according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. These black macaques are considered a local delicacy and hunted at an unsustainable rate. Thus, the main threats for yaki are poaching, illegal encroachment, and forest fires; but poaching remains the biggest concern.


Two macaques lounging on a block of wood

There are currently two main groups of yaki, known as Rambo 1 and Rambo 2, and they’re hoping that there will be more Rambos in the upcoming years. (I read from an online source that there are actually 4 Rambos, but the field officer told me that there are only 2 Rambos. So, the value is up for updates)


Small macaque sitting on a tree branch

According to one of the forest rangers, it is very difficult to protect the nature reserve since ideally they need 10 people per resort, while they only have three people working right now. Two in Batuputih, and one in Batuangus area. He also mentioned that most of the poachers are doing it for living, and only a few of them are seasonal poachers (fishermen on dry seasons). It is also hard to trace these hunters since they usually hunt at night and travel by boat.

One of the biologists who traveled with me into the wilderness of Tangkoko told me that we were very lucky to spot a cuscus there since they’re quite shy in nature and tend to hide when caught off guard. Apparently, cuscus are the only marsupials that exist in Asia, and one of the most primitive possums on earth.


Cuscus watching


Sulawesi bear cuscus peeking from a tree

Tarsiers are also the main attraction of Tangkoko. These cute little animals are probably the smallest primate in the world. I was told that they would only come after six in the afternoon, but I hesitated to go to the sleeping tree at four, and spotted them in all their furry glory.


Tarsius tarsier, vulnerable little primate

While watching tarsiers, one of the biologists pointed to the tallest part of a tree and said that there was a couple of rare hornbills sitting up there. I managed to take a blurry picture of them. It costed me a neck pain afterwards.


Can you even spot the hornbills?

I also met a lot of lovely people there. For instance, these kids, Dylan and Argen. They spent their day running around in the shore area, fishing, and also playing with yaki. I’ve never seen kids that close with nature before.


Argen, Dylan, and I have a really bad memory, I forgot her name.


Dylan, Argen, dan sekantong ikang. (Dylan, Argen, and a bag of fishes)

It was nice to spend a whole day exploring a forest. We closed the day by travelling back to the city where I was given a book written by Alfred Wallace titled The Malay Archipelago, and now my goal is to explore his findings in life.

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Chapter XVII of The Malay Archipelago

People of Tangkoko
Chapter 17: Manado, June-September, 1859 (Taken from The Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace)




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