THE WALLACE LINE
The 19th-century naturalist Sir Alfred Wallace (18221913) observed great differences in fauna
between Bali and Lombok - as great as the differences between Africa and South America. In
particular, there were no large mammals (elephants, rhinos, tigers etc) east of Bali, and very few
carnivores. He postulated that during the ice ages, when sea levels were lower, animals could
have moved by land from what is now mainland Asia all the way to Bali, but the deep Lombok
Strait would always have been a barrier. Thus he drew a line between Bali and Lombok, which
he believed marked the biological division between Asia and Australia.
Plant life does not display such a sharp division, but there is a gradual transition from pre-
dominantly Asian rainforest species to mostly Australian plants such as eucalypts and acacias,
which are better suited to long dry periods. This is associated with the lower rainfall as one
moves east of Java. Environmental differences including those in the natural vegetation are
now thought to provide a better explanation of the distribution of animal species than Wallace's
theory about limits to their original migrations.
Modern biologists do recognise a distinction between Asian and Australian fauna, but the
boundary between the regions is regarded as much fuzzier than Wallace's line. Nevertheless,
this transitional zone between Asia and Australia is still called 'Walacea'.
Bali is a small island, midway along the string of islands that makes up the
Indonesian archipelago. It's adjacent to the most heavily populated island of
Java, and immediately west of the chain of smaller islands comprising Nusa
Tenggara, which includes Lombok.
The island is visually dramatic - a mountainous chain with a string of ac-
tive volcanoes, it includes several peaks around 2000m. Gunung Agung, the
'Mother Mountain', is over 3000m high. The agricultural lands are south and
north of the central mountains. The southern region is a wide, gently sloping
area, where most of the country's abundant rice crop is grown. The northern
coastal strip is narrower, rising rapidly into the foothills of the central range.
It receives less rain, but coffee, copra, rice and cattle are farmed there.
Bali also has some arid, less-populated regions. These include the western
mountain region, and the eastern and northeastern slopes of Gunung Agung.
The Nusa Penida islands are dry, and cannot support intensive rice agricul-
ture. The Bukit Peninsula is similarly dry, but with the growth of tourism
and other industries it's becoming more populous.
Bali is volcanically active and extremely fertile. The two go hand-in-hand
because eruptions contribute to the land's exceptional fertility, and high
mountains provide the dependable rainfall that irrigates Bali's complex and
amazingly beautiful patchwork of rice terraces. Of course, the volcanoes are
a hazard as well - Bali has endured disastrous eruptions in the past and no
doubt will again in the future. Apart from the volcanic central range, there
are the limestone plateaus that form the Bukit Peninsula, in the extreme
south of Bali, and the island of Nusa Penida.
As with Bali, Lombok's traditional economy has driven intensive rice cul-
tivation. The wooded slopes of Gunung Rinjani have provided timber as have
the coconut palms which also provide fibre and food. The land use has been
environmentally sustainable for many years, and the island retains a natural
beauty largely unspoiled by industry, overcrowding or overdevelopment.
Keeping birds has been a
part of Indonesian culture
for centuries. It's common
to see caged songbirds
and they are sold in most
dense jungle in the river valleys; forests of bamboo; and harsh volcanic
regions that are barren rock and volcanic tuff at higher altitudes. Lombok
is similar in all these respects.
The Malay Archipelago
by Alfred Wallace is a
natural history classic by
the great 19th-century
biologist and geographer,
who postulated that the
Lombok Strait was the
dividing line between
Asia and Australia. The
book remains in print.
Bali has lots and lots of lizards, and they come in all shapes and sizes. The
small ones (onomatopoetically called cecak ) that hang around light fittings
in the evening, waiting for an unwary insect, are a familiar sight. Geckos are
fairly large lizards, often heard but less often seen. The loud and regularly
repeated two-part cry 'geck-oh' is a nightly background noise that visitors
soon become accustomed to, and it is considered lucky if you hear the lizard
call seven times.
Bats are quite common, and the little chipmunklike Balinese squirrels are
occasionally seen in the wild, although more often in cages.
Bali has more than 300 species of birds, but the one that is truly native to the
island, the Bali starling, is just about extinct (see the boxed text, p282). Much
more common are colourful birds like the orange-banded thrush, numerous
species of egrets, kingfishers, parrots, owls and many more.
Bali's only wilderness area, Taman Nasional Bali Barat (West Bali National
Park, p280) has a number of wild species, including grey and black monkeys
(which you will also see in the mountains and East Bali), muncak (mouse
deer), squirrels and iguanas. Bali used to have tigers and, although there are
periodic rumours of sightings in the remote northwest of the island, nobody
has proof of seeing one for a long time.
There is a rich variety of coral, seaweed, fish and other marine life in the
coastal waters. Much of it can be appreciated by snorkellers, but the larger
marine animals are only likely to be seen while diving. The huge, placid sun
fish found off Nusa Penida lure divers from around the world.
Dolphins can be found right around the island and have unfortunately
been made into an attraction off Lovina.
Birds of Bali by Victor
Mason and Frank Jarvis
is enhanced by lovely
The island is geologically young, and while most of its living things have
migrated from elsewhere, true native wild animals are rare. This is not hard
to imagine in the heavily populated and extravagantly fertile south of Bali,
where the orderly rice terraces are so intensively cultivated they look more
like a work of sculpture than a natural landscape.
In fact rice fields cover only about 20% of the island's surface area, and
there is a great variety of other environmental zones: the dry scrub of the
northwest, the extreme northeast and the southern peninsula; patches of
.profauna.or.id) is an
nonprofit that works to
protect the environment.
It's active in Bali and has
worked on issues such as
saving sea turtles.
GONE TO THE DOGS
For many people, the one off-note memory of their visit to Bali has been the hordes of mangy
ill-tempered and ill-treated anjing (dogs). Why are there so many? Because for many Balinese they
barely exist, inhabiting a lowly world of trash-eating and scavenging. Left to their own devices, the