Rare monkeys, butterflies, bats, snakes and a dazzling assortment of birds – the forests on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi are known as the ‘Galapagos of Asia’.
But for how much longer?
Humanity’s impact is now endangering the survival of Sulawesi’s creatures, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.
“80 to 90 percent of the wildlife in Sulawesi is facing extinction. We are sleepwalking into ecological disaster,” says Billy, who works at the Tasikoki Wildlife Refuge.
A range of animals, from orangutans, sun bears and birds to crocodiles, can be found at the refuge. All of them have been taken from traffickers or people who kept them illegally as pets.
But Billy says the demand for “bushmeat” poses the biggest threat to animals.
“Mostly they are being caught from the wild, from the forest, for bushmeat … to be served on a plate as food,” he says.
At the Tomohon market, just about every kind of animal is for sale.
“We sell all sorts of things, like bats, wild boar, snakes. We have wild rats, dog,” says David, one of the sellers.
He’s been selling bush meat here for eight years, mostly to indigenous locals.
“It’s a custom that people have,” he says.
But that custom, along with the trend of keeping wild animals as pets and the illegal wildlife trafficking that serves that, is proving a lethal combination.
101 East investigates how people’s insatiable demand for rare wildlife is pushing Sulawesi towards ecological catastrophe.
Join the conversation @AJ101East.