Racing Deforestation in Indonesia

Indonesia boasts the world’s third largest rainforest and one of the most ecologically diverse. On its 17,000 islands live 12% of all mammal species, 16% of all reptile and amphibian species, and 17% of all bird species[1]. However, the days of this diversity are limited, despite international efforts to stem the country’s rapid deforestation. Though the Indonesian government has set up national parks and preserves to protect certain areas, the majority of Indonesian logging is done illegally. Here are some of the smallest remaining national parks, and therefore those most at risk.

  1. Kelimutu National Park, Flores (50 km2/20 mi2)

    It’s a 3-hour trek into this volcanic park from the town of Desa Koanara, but well worth the effort. The park is not only a haven for birdwatching, but it is also home to one of nature’s most unusual aquatic phenomena. Visible from the top of Mount Kelimutu are three neighboring lakes, each a different shade of blue, and known to change without warning.

  2. Gunung Merbabu National Park, Java (57 km2/21 mi2)

    This park’s main attraction is the summit of Mount Merbabu, a dormant volcano. To reach it, hikers embark from the town of Kopeng and pass through three different ecosystems over the 8-10 hour journey. Fortunately, camping is an option, which may offer a glimpse of the critically endangered Javan leopard.

  3. Gunung Merapi National Park, Java (64 km2/25 mi2)

    Right next door to Gunung Merbabu, this park offers much of the same scenery and wildlife as its dormant neighbor, except that the volcano is much more active. The last eruption in October 2010 decimated 43% of the park, but now, it is an ideal place to see how life recovers from catastrophe. The local government provides regular safety assessments that are well worth checking.

  4. Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, Java (150 km2/58 mi2)

    A UNESCO biosphere reserve, Gunung Gede Pangrango is home to 251 of Java’s 450 bird species and encompasses at least six different ecosystems. Locals believe that two spirits prevent this park’s volcano from erupting, holding regular ceremonies for them in the caves of Mount Gede. If that kind of people watching doesn’t appeal to you, try the six-hour hike from the town of Cibodas to Suryakencana Meadow, where you can spend all the time you want in a field of edelweiss trying not to break into song. Then again, why resist?

  5. Gunung Ciremai National Park, Java (155 km2/60 mi2)

    Only one hour’s drive from the capital of Jakarta, this park’s location renders it particularly endangered. As of 2012, over 25% of the park’s forest has been illegally logged, despite the area’s importance to the history of Indonesia. It was on these slopes in 1946 that negotiations liberated Indonesia from Dutch rule, and from the town of Linggajati, home to the commemorative museum, one of the trailheads begins. Beyond history, this 7-hour trek to the summit rewards hikers with some beautifully preserved forest (for now) and spectacular vistas.