Indonesia’s rich diversity extends beyond the people, culture, and ethnicities. The sprawling archipelago is also home to a myriad of wildlife that will fascinate anyone. From birds to primates, discover awesome native animals you can only see in Indonesia.
There are many ways to describe this peculiar species found in the exotic islands of Komodo, Rinca, Padar, and Flores in Indonesia. Some observe the measurements and conclude it is the tallest and biggest lizard in the world at three meters long. Others focus on the evolution of this dragon, labeling Komodo as one of dinosaurs’ close relatives and the oldest ancient species still living today. It’s safe to venture off the Komodo Islands to spot one of these carnivorous big lizards while enjoying the picturesque landscape of the exotic islands, just make sure you learn the safety rules thoroughly.
This adorable primate with large black eyes and almost humanlike manners is the prima donna of Indonesia’s lush and extensive forest. Tourists can’t get over how exotic and precious these friendly creatures are, hanging about the trees or feeding their infants. Unfortunately, deforestation has led to the endangerment of this species, so if encountering orangutan is something you’d be interested in, you might as well volunteer to help build and rehabilitate their habitat. That’s much more meaningful and interactive than observing them from outside the rails of a zoo.
Sulawesi is home to thriving wildlife, especially a myriad of endemic birds. Even so, the Maleo birds still set themselves apart for many reasons. First, there are the bizarre physical features, with turkey-like body structures, cheery tail, a bleak black body feather, peach belly, and a curiously more colorful head and casque. Then there are the peculiar manners that make observing these birds so pleasing — their swift feet movements and nesting habits are surely captivating.
This bird’s physique is indeed fascinating, with its iconic bright helmet and extensive wingspan. But perhaps what makes this helmeted hornbill so remarkable is the cultural meanings given to the species. In West Kalimantan or Borneo, this hornbill species is celebrated as a symbol of the divine realms, often manifested in traditional arts and carvings. While it may be challenging to spot one of these peculiar birds nowadays, you can hear their uncanny shrieking sound, which many say sounds like loud laughter, from two kilometers away.
In the Indonesian language, the name of this species is composite of pig (babi), and deer (rusa). And that’s one valid way to describe this striking creature. At a glance, babirusa looks like an odd jumble of a pig’s head and deer’s legs, and savage tusks. Babirusas do belong to the pig family, but the deer-like features extend to the physical and even digestive systems, making this species so fascinating to observe. Babirusa can be spotted in North Sulawesi and some of the province’s nearby islands.
Often described as midget buffalo, anoa’s physique resembles a scaled-down water buffalo, with a hint of a deer in its appearance. Different species of anoa live in the mountain and lowland, typically in lush rainforests in Sulawesi, Indonesia. With two sharp backward-facing horns, the world’s smallest buffalo is a fascinating creature to observe. Unfortunately, locals are increasingly hunting anoas for their meat, pushing them onto the dreaded endangered list.
The Black Ape
Officially the Celebes crested macaque or black macaque, this stunning primate is almost entirely black, with the exception of some silver-ish feathers on the shoulder range. Being a social animal, black macaques live in groups of five to 25 or more, where female adults usually outnumber the males. Human population has been a great threat to the black apes’ sustainability, but many of these creatures live somewhat more freely in the small neighboring islands of Sulawesi, compared to the ones in the mainland.
Cendrawasih is an endemic species that belongs to the family Paradisaeidae, or birds-of-paradise. These majestic, vibrantly colorful birds can be found in Papua, the easternmost island of Indonesia. These birds, especially the males, have very ornate and delicate feathers with bright inviting colors and long tails that hang gracefully from their bodies. Cendrawasih can have multiple mixes of colors, from yellow, brown, red, orange, to different hues of blues and violets.
Similar to common rhinoceros, this species from Java has the firm armor-like skin and strong anterior structure. One distinctive bodily feature of the Javan rhinos is their relatively small one horn, in contrast to two, as usually boasted by other rhino species. Once one of Asia’s most widespread rhino, illegal hunting and deforestation have killed most of its population, leaving just a couple of dozen in the western tip of Java.
Sumatran tigers are distinguishable from their relatives by their darker fur color with stronger contrast of orange to reddish brown and black stripes. They are also known for being the smallest tiger sub-species, but not any less ferocious. The populations of Sumatran tigers are scattered across the island of Sumatra, typically in deep forests and national parks, but sadly their population is rapidly declining due to habitat loss and illegal trade.
This stunning avifauna has been the emblem bird of Bali, mostly found in their pristine habitat in the northwestern part of the island paradise, far away from the much more touristy spots. The endemic bird has mostly clear white feathers, with a striking bright blue patch around each eye and varyingly spiky feathers on the top of their heads. The Bali starlings are often part of temple ceremonies, where several of them are being released as a traditional ritual.