Wild Indonesia another world

  Montage of Animals

There is a place on Earth where two worlds collide, and a new one is born. It is a mysterious world where ancient cultures converge amid dazzling natural diversity. The collision has yielded a land teeming with wild beauty and bizarre extremes: Indonesia.

Indonesia has a violent past. Geologically, it is where two massive pieces of the Earth’s crust collide. The huge continental plates of Asia and Australia have ground together and torn apart to create a spectacular, island nation. The land and sea between these two great continents have boiled with eruptions, and as it turned out, the titanic collision between the two shaped Indonesia’s natural destiny.

Two million years ago, the battle calmed. A luminous island world beckoned, and life grabbed its chance to colonize this new, tropical Eden. The same warm welcome greeted the sea life swarming in Indonesia’s sheltered tropical waters, which are the richest in the world. Indonesia’s islands bridge a vast expanse that stretches from mainland Asia to Australia. More than 17,000 islands are spread across the distance between New York and London. These islands show signs of a violent birth, yet everywhere, there is a choice selection of habitats ready for occupancy.

ElephantsAs the young islands settle, a less obvious explosion gets underway. As if from nowhere, creatures claim their corners of the earth, sea and sky. In all shapes and sizes, conquering armies arrive from neighboring lands. No country on earth is home to both tigers and kangaroos except Indonesia. Its wildlife originates from two worlds: mainland Asia, with its tigers, elephants and monkeys, and Australia, the land of marsupials, with its kangaroos, wallabies and possums. This magical diversity is Indonesia’s greatest treasure, and its greatest mystery.

The islands of Indonesia are nature’s most extraordinary living laboratories. The inhabitants have been transformed through time and isolation into unique colonies of survivors. Their remarkable life story continues to unfold, often in strange and surprising ways. Indonesia is more water than land but what land there is has given us wildlife like nowhere else on earth. Evolution's probing in every corner of island habitat has yielded astonishing variety. There are more different species of animals here than in Africa, more mammals than any other country, many of them found only here.

People: New Guinea
People of New GuineaThe first human settlers on New Guinea encountered an exotic, unknown land. Today, some residents of New Guinea live much as their ancestors did when they first arrived, more than 25,000 years ago. Here, an extraordinary range of cultures coexist. There are 700 distinct languages still in use, some spoken only in small isolated communities. These Indonesians have changed little since they arrived; there has been little need for change. The forest and the sea still provide most of what they need.

When the early hunter-gatherers turned to cultivation more than 5,000 years ago, they used agricultural methods still in use today. (Some of the crops have changed.) Early explorers introduced sweet potatoes here. New Guinea's soils and tropical climate suited the sweet potato so well that it has become the staple crop for these people. The settlers from Asia brought their domestic animals with them. Their new home has hardly meant a great change in their lifestyle.

People: The Bugis
People of The BugisFour thousand years ago, a seafaring people called the Bugis arrived at the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. They were at the vanguard of a major wave of human settlers.

Their ship-building skills are still an important source of their livelihood. So successful are their designs that there has been little need to deviate from traditional methods and materials. The planks are still shaped by eye to fit the hull of a new boat. A layer of pulverized bark ensures a water tight seal. Hand-shaped wooden dowels anchor the new plank in position. Strength is important; this hull will have to withstand some heavy seas.

In an island nation, demand for boats is strong. But the Bugis' long association with the sea has a more notorious side. They were once fierce pirates, attacking trading ships, and became so infamous that they were known as "boogie men," whose image still haunts childhood nightmares.

home | about the series | enter the dragon | birth of an island | another world | filming indonesia

Buy the Video | Wild on the Web | Classroom Resources | Screensaver | Credits | PBS Online