Tarsius tarsier

Why go to Sulawesi?

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One of the most surprising of all human-bat relationships that we found was on Sulawesi, where local people regularly consume bats as food. This island is a paradise for biodiversity and it is located in the heart of the biogeographical region known as Wallacea, where a singular evolutionary change has led to the development of a unique flora and fauna, halfway between the South-east Asiatic region and neighbouring Oceania. Sulawesi is home to a large number of endemic species — for example, of the island’s 127 mammals (of which half are bats), 79 are endemics, that is, they are found nowhere else in the world. Naturalists have traditionally paid more attention to the neighbouring islands of Borneo, Sumatra and Java, and we are surprised to discover that Sulawesi, even today, is not included in the guides that describe the flora and fauna of southern Asia. Even today, strangely, there are still worlds waiting to be discovered. The consumption of bats on Sulawesi has been a concern of conservationists for many years, and it is believed that bat numbers are falling worryingly as a result. Hoping to find out more about this custom and document it, we travel to the north of the island – here the majority of the population is Christian unlike the rest of the island – where traditionally all types of jungle creatures are eaten.

Tarsius tarsier
Spectral tarsier Tarsius tarsier, a small primitive primate that is endemic to Sulawesi
Macaca nigra
The threatened celebes crested macaque Macaca nigra