Despite comprising less than 2 per cent of the world's land mass, an astonishing 300,000 animal species reside within the borders of Indonesia. That equates to roughly 17 per cent of known species on the entire planet. Tragically, Indonesia also claims more endangered animal species than any other nation. Because of this, it's important to try and educate yourself and friends about all the different groups of animals found in the small Asian country. You'll find they're worth saving.
With 515 mammal species, Indonesia has more than any other nation. Unfortunately, in 2003, 147 of those warranted placement on the endangered species list. Among the most prominent species are the Bengal tiger and orang-utan. The Bengal tiger, a large orange and black striped cat, can grow 10 feet from head to tail and weigh up to 272 Kilogram. A member of the greater big cats, the Bengal preys on some of Indonesia's other mammals like pigs and monkeys. Orang-utans, large, critically endangered apes, live only on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo. These human looking primates sometimes grow to be 5 feet tall and weigh up to 113 Kilogram. Both of these animals are suffering dwindling numbers due to hunting and poaching.
A haven for bird enthusiasts, over 1500 species of birds call Indonesia home. As of 2003, 114 Indonesian bird species were on the endangered species list. Two noteworthy species are the great hornbill and white-throated kingfisher. These curious birds give a quick sampling of the diverse and wonderful avian population in Indonesia. The great hornbill has a large beak resembling that of a toucan. However the hornbill's beak also has what looks like a horn growing from the bird's head. The strange beak helps it eat fruit seeds and small animals. The white-throated kingfisher is a modestly sized bird with big colours. They can often perch along open paths and river-ways waiting to dive-bomb their prey of small aquatic creatures or insects.
Many reptiles live in the Indonesian rainforest. In fact, the country has over 200 endemic species-- species found nowhere else. Perhaps the most formidable of these is the Komodo dragon. The largest lizard in the world, Komodo dragons reach up to 10 feet and can weigh over 113 Kilogram. They often consume an astonishing 80 per cent of their body weight in one meal. Though primarily scavengers, Komodo dragons often hunt and kill animals as large as water buffalo and have a toxicity to their bite which enables them to do so with little effort.
Three hundred ninety-two species of amphibians reside in the Indonesian rainforest, 175 of them endemic species. These include frogs, toads, and, most interestingly, several types of a strange group of amphibians known as caecilians. The bizarre creatures seem a weird hybrid between worms, salamanders and snakes. Legless, earless and practically eyeless, caecilians spend their lives burrowing through a network of underground tunnels searching for meals. They eat other small amphibians, snakes and insects, always swallowing their meal whole. The longest caecilian ever recorded was almost 5 feet long.
Insects are the most populous group of the animal kingdom in the world, and their omnipresence reaches to Indonesia. Though the rainforest plays host to a tremendous variety of insects, many visitors may find the large number of butterflies particularly interesting. Indonesia has over 80 endemic species of swallowtail and milkweed butterflies. Swallowtails are an especially beautiful group of butterflies known for the long trailing ends adding an extra aesthetic element to their wings. Look for them on the edges of the rainforest and among flowers. Milkweed butterflies lay their eggs on or near different types of milkweed plants. The caterpillars hatch and feed on the milkweed until they emerge as butterflies. This serves as a powerful deterrent to would-be predators because milkweed is poisonous to many animals. By eating the plant the butterfly absorbs the toxins into itself, making it a nasty mouthful to anyone who might want a bite.
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