Ujung Kulon National Parks is one of the lastremaining natural forest on Java and one very few areas offering a profile of sea shore to mountain top tropical vegetation. The Park holds well over 700 species of plant life of which at least 57 are classified as rare in Java and perhaps the world.
LOWLAND RAIN FOREST
Amongst the most fascinating of the Park's plant life are the many species of figs. These can take the form of trees, climbers or epiphytes and are the larders of the forest that provide abundant fruit for the wildlife. The strangling fig begins from seed deposited in cavities in the trunks or branches of large trees by birds, bats and other small animals. Once germinated, the fig sends veils of tendrils down into the soil witch then form a lattice work of roots around the trunk of the host tree. Eventually, over-whelmed by the vigorous fig, the host tree dies and rots away, leaving within the roots of the fig the hollow shape of the original tree, its strangled victim. A number of trees such as the kigentel, the tokbrai and the kondang produce flowers and fruit on their lower trunks or larger branches rather than at the usual twig ends. Why this interesting characteristic, called cruciform, has evolved is puzzling. One theory is that the fruit of these plants, being more accessible to larger animals, allows the seed to be scattered over a wide area. However other animal such as monkeys and birds become more vulnerable because they must leave the safety of the forest canopy to feed upon the cauliflorous fruit.
The climbing lianas are a feature of rain forest and grow towards the light without damaging the host tree. These vines only fruit and flower in the forest's canopy and to regenerate must reach the sunlight. They create aerial pathways for wildlife, assisting in their search for food and in seed dispersal. Several species which include kowao, leksa and asahan are water-logged with sap.
Not only animals benefit from climbing plants. Certain climbers are of high medicinal value and are used in the treatment of cancer and in Indonesian traditional tonics jamu. Others provide the Derris root powder used in insecticides or the latex in chewing gum while yet another produces a substance that is 1,500 times sweeter than sugar. Another climber is the aggressive rattan, valued in furniture making, which use the thorns on its whip-like tendrils to attach itself to vegetation and passer-by. The angle of the thorns enable the rattan to anchor deeper with any attempt to pull away from it. As with other palms, its tightly folded immature leaves are very palatable to wildlife
One of the characteristics of Ujung Kulon's forest is the wide variety of palms of which the most common is the langkap. Although these forests are found in very few others locations in the whole of the Malayan region, its rapid regeneration and ability to spread into undisturbed forest has made this a dominant species in Ujung Kulon. Rain forests also hold a wide variety of epiphytes and although they also grown on trees, inflict no harm. They include the splendid bird's-nest. ferns and an abundance of orchids. The brilliant white with a yellow centre Moon orchid, the deep red Pipit orchid, the white to purple-pink Dove orchid, and the tiny white Squirrel tail which only opens for one day, are just a few of the varieties.
The most obvious characteristic of these areas are large trees with high canopies and ore open undergrowth which usually makes walking in this type of forest not difficult. The argent area of primary forest in the park stretches from the highest point of the Gunung Honje Range to the south coast. On the Ujung Kulon Peninsula, roughly a third is primary forest. It covers most of the Gunung Payung Range with a narrow band crossing eastward to a large oval-shaped tract in the central Telanca Plateau. Peucang island also has a fine, although unusually spacious example while on Panaitan island it is isolated to the slopes of Gunung Raksa. The tallest of the trees in Ujung Kulon's forest include the fan palm gebang, the bengang and the salam which can grow beyond the high canopy species to heights of 40 meters. Just beneath them are the large trees such as bayur, gadog and in the Gunung Honje region the putat, all of which may grow to 35 meters with under-stories at 20 to 30 meters beneath the closed canopy. Of these trees, the salam, bayur and putat are the ones which have the largest plank buttresses flowing from their trunks to the soil.
The young secondary forest lies between the primary forest and the coast, occupying most of the Ujung Kulon Penninsula, Panaitan Island and the lower slopes of the Gunung Honje Range. The density of the vegetation can make this type of forest impenetrable and jungle-like in places. A common tree of the secondary forest is the bungur. This tree produces a spectacular purple display and its prolific flowering around October to November is believed by local people to indicate the beginning of the rainy season. Most of the bamboo species found in Indonesia are not truly native but this does not apply to the two predominant species in Ujung Kulon. The bambu cangketeuk favours steep slopes and river banks while the bambu haur like the wet soil of the uplands. the impressive giant bamboo, used in furniture making, is not common in the park and tends to be associated with former cultivation sites.
The most outstanding trees of the coast include the pagoda-shaped ketapang and the bust nyamplung which has bunches of bright green fruit resembling large marbles.The sands are often scattered with the magnificent white-petered flower of the broad, low-branched butun tree. These flowers are as large as an opened hand and hold numerous pink tipped stamens which exude a strong, rich perfume. They drop to the ground in the early mornings where they are raided by pollen collecting wasps before rapidly wilting. The hibiscus-like flower of the waru laut change in color from bright lemon to a deep brownish pink and are also widely found on the sea shores. Of the coastal vegetation the most distinctive is the giant pandanus. Its notable features are large reddish pineapple-shaped fruit and a network of tripod-like supporting roots emerging from the trunk some metres above the ground. Large stands of pandanus arre found along the south coast of Ujung Kulon. The coconut palms, although not numerous, are believed to have been mostly planted by people rather than washed up by the sea and often indicated the sites of earlier cultivation in the park.
Beneath the canopy species of the shores are stretch of tarum, a shrubby lupin-like tree with yellow flowers and long thin pods behind which shelters the white spidery-flowered bakung lily, used by local people as fishing lures. While twining across the sands from the verges of the forest are the bright pink flowering convolvulus. The mangroves forest of Ujung Kulon are mainly situated along the shores of Welcome Bay and their root systems can vary in appearance. Some are stilt-like, as found in the surprisingly attractive mangrove lined rivers of the Cihandeuleum and Cikabeumbeum. Another species has roots poking above the mud allowing them to breathe at low tide and these can be seen south of Tamanjaya. Yet another has tendril-like roots hanging from lower branches.
The mangroves' fruit and seed systems also have special adaptations such as seedlings that germinate while still attached to the parent tree allowing them to quickly take root once they drop. Their seeds come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and being buoyant can drift in water for weeks. Mangrove forest support a wide range of other life forms including marine life and are one of the most productive of all the natural environments that the bounteous rain forests contribute to our planet..
Ujung Kulon has a vast array of wild life, quite a number Ujung Kulon has a vast array of wildlife, quite a number of which are endangered or rare. Some of the animals are so unafraid that they freely wonder in and around the tourist lodges, others are sighted almost every day, many are heard rather than seen, and some are rarely seen.
The most precious of all the animalism the parks is the Java one-horned rhinoceros, the rarest large animal on earth. Once found across much of south east Asia, the first accounts of the Java rhino date back to China's Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-906) when Java was noted as a source for rhino horns. In Java during the 1700?s rhinos were so numerous and damaging to the agricultural plantations that the government paid a bounty for every rhino killed, bagging five hundred within two years. Ujung Kulon's rhino population is now estimated at around fifty individuals and they were believed to be the last remaining Javan rhino in the world until a small population was recently discovered in ietnam. However, these are so few in numbers that their viability is unlikely and so Ujung Kulon remains the last home of this magnificent pachyderm. In appearance the Javan rhino is closest to the Indian rhino, both having a single-horn and skin folds or plates but there are distinct differences between their neck plates and skin textures.
The Javan rhino also has a long prehensile upper lip which extends below the lower allowing it to grasp foliage. The body shape of the Javan rhino is designed to push aside the undergrowth and only the male Javan rhino has a prominent horn while the female has a lump similar to a halved coconut. Earlier this century Javan rhinos were measures as being over 170 cm. At the shoulders, more than 3 meters in length and 2,200 kg. In body weight but a recent photographic survey indicates that the largest rhino in Ujung Kulon may be around 150 cm. in height. Rhino's range over a maximum distance of 15 to 20 kilometers a day in the densely forested lowlands of the Ujung Kulon Peninsula and to the east of its isthmus. They are most mobile at nights, like wallowing in mud pools and sometimes venture onto beaches and grazing grounds. Although actual sightings of rhinos are rare, their prints and droppings are often found on the trails, sometimes unnervingly fresh. Javan rhinos are believed to be capable of running as fast as a person and so advice to visitors, should they happen to come across one, is to climb the nearest tree and take a photo - in that order.
Far more obvious animals in the park are the Javan rusaa deer that freely graze around the tourist lodges. These are the largest of the three deer species in Ujung Kulon. The rusa ags are at their most magnificent in the mating season around August to September when the antlers have shed their velvet and territorial battles between the stags begin.
The smaller Barking deer has a long sleek head and measures around 60-70 cm. at the shoulders. The stags have short, two-pointed antlers and tusk-like canine teeth. Their favorite habitat is low to the ground and when fleeing their white under-tail catches the eye. The smallest is the Mouse deer which measures only 20-25 cm. in height and has a
reddish-brown coat with white underpants. The stag does not have antlers but instead has long curving canine teeth that extend outside the mouth. In the early years visitors to Ujung Kulon witnessed a Mouse deer ripping open the stomach of a rival during a mating fight. Their habitat is within the forest and they rarely venture onto beaches and clearings.
Since pre-historic times these wild cattle have lived throughout Java and in the 17th century were used to carry loads but now the herds roam wild and are found in just a few locations throughout the island. The males have black coats while the females are usually a golden brown and both have white buttocks and stockings. A mature bull can measure over 170 cm. at the shoulders and although both sexes have horns, only the males are large and curved. Banteng favor open grassy clearings for grazing particularly early and late in the day but also feed on the forestâ€™s young secondary growth and are found throughout the Peninsula and southern Gunung Honje regions.
Ujung Kulon has five species of primates with the brown, long-tailed, Crab-eating, macaques being the most commonly seen especially on beaches and reefs at low tide. Peucang Islands supports four separate groups numbering over two hundred individuals.
The macaques? strongly hierarchical society is based on a matrilineal system - daughters stay with the mother as long as they live while juvenile males usually leave the group to join another group or become solitary. Within the group structure there can be several adult males with one being the dominant but tolerant leader.
Female macaques usually rank just below their mothers and, interestingly, above older sisters so that even babies from highly ranked mothers can control adult males and females. Primarily fruit eaters, the macaques? diet includes a wide variety of food and their cheek pouches can hold the equivalent of a stomach load of food which allows for hasty food gathering to be eaten later. Each group has its own territory and although they sleep in trees they do not build nests and unlike the parkâ€™s other primates they are equally at home on the ground or in trees.
Another primate, only found in Java, is the glossy blackish-brown Javan silvered leaf monkey which has long, slender limbs and tail. They frequent most regions of the park particularly the Gunung Honje Range but unlike the macaques their groups are small and usually contain one adult male, several females and their young. The rarely seen Grizzled
leaf monkey in slightly heavier than the Javan silvered leaf monkey and has a grey coat, long tail and head crest. Very small populations of this extremely rare and endangered monkey live in the Gunung Payung and Honje Ranges.
Also endangered is the Javan or Moloch gibbon which is unique to West Java and its habitat in Ujung Kulon is the primary forests of the Gunung Honje Range. These tail-less primates have grey fluffy coats and black faces and make a distinctive hooting call resembling their Indonesian name Owa. Gibbons are monogamous, mate for life and live in small family groups consisting of a male, female and one or more young. The young adults leave the group to roam the forest searching for a mate and new territory. The parks? fifth primate is the Slow Loris and being nocturnal, sightings are uncommon. Around 25 to 30 cm. in size, it has an ash-grey coat and large round eyes for night vision. The notable characteristic is its slow, smooth, perfectly co-ordinate movementsâ€™ which allow it to freeze in mid-movement for self protection if disturbed.
Ujung Kulon has two types of wild pig, the Eurasian wild pig and the Javan warty pig. Similar in size and weight, the Eurasian wild pig sometimes has a light grayish-white stripe from the head to the chest while the male Javan warty pig has three pairs of lumps or warts on the face which can give an old male a monstrous appearance. The coat of the young Eurasian piglet has long yellowish-brown stripes and when disturbed they often make short loud grunts while warty pigs have a high pitched cry. Wild pigs are pressingly good swimmers and have been known to cross the 700 meters channel between the Peninsula and Peucang Island.
The cat family was represented by five species although the last positive sighting of a Javan tiger in Ujung Kulon was in the 1950?s and it is believed that they are now part of the long list of the world's extinct animals. However, leopards measuring over half a meter at the shoulder and over 1.5 meters in length, number as many as sixty in Ujung Kulon and their tracks are sometimes seen on beaches and stream beds. The black rosette on their coat have background colors that can vary from a light straw yellow to orange-yellow and it is not uncommon for the leopards to have completely black coats. Fishing cats, named for their ability to scoop fish out of water, are considerably smaller than leopards but larger than domestic and the jungle or leopards cats, which tend to frequent the boundary regions of the park near settlements.
Between a fox and ferret in size with short legs, long muzzle and tail the same length as its body, the most often seen of these predators is the Common palm civet which is found throughout the park including Panatian Island.
These are quite different from the domesticated village dogs seen throughout Indonesia as they are smaller, squatter, have a red-brown coat and a fox like appearance. They live hunt in packs and in 1846 there was an account of hundreds of large turtles, some of hitch were well over a meter in length, being over-turned and killed by a dog pack on Ujung Kulonâ€™s south coast. Then unaccountably their numbers decreased to the point where they were never seen in Ujung Kulon until earlier this century when they again re-appeared, possibly partly due to the dwindling tiger population.
Although over 250 species have been recorded in Ujung Kulon, the birds are not always easily seen as many live high in the forest canopy or are vigilant inhabitants of the dense undergrowth. However it is the constant bird calls of Ujung Kulon that contribute to the atmosphere of the forest, for seldom is the park silent.
The world's vast numbers of invertebrate species, which out-number the animals by ten to one, have extremely important roles as pollinators, re-cycles, pest controllers and generally keep the forests alive and healthy
The park has a wide variety of marine habitats. The rocky shores, mangrove swamps, mud flats, sea grass beds, coral reefs and sea trenches, providing diverse and fascinating insights into the underwater world.
The easiest to find particularly on the shores of Peucang islaand are the brilliantly colored reef browsing fish with colors and patterns from nature at its most vivid and creative.
Of these perhaps the most beautiful is the black, white and lemon vertical striped Moorish Idols with long, sweeping dorsal fins emphasizing its gracefulness.
Delicate yet boldly patterned butterfly fishes come in various shades white, yellow and orange with black markings and often have a black vertical stripe through the eye. usually found in pairs, when alarmed they use their fins and spines to firmly wedge themselves in crevices in the reef.
The most common clownfish in Ujung Kulon are golden brown in color white bands across the body. Often found sheltering amongst the tentacles of sea anemones, the mucous of the clownfish contains a substance that makes the stinging anemone believe it is one of its own. Other outstanding fishes include the imaginatively patterned angelfishes of which the Emperor Angelfish with thin blue and yellow horizontal striped and a bright orange tail is a wonderful example
Yet another spectacular species is represented by the Lionfish which motionlessly hovers over the reefs spreading black usually placid, if approached too closely can inflict an extremely painful sting from the row of poisonous spines along its back.
Often the larger fish are just as eye-catching with brilliant red rock cod and snapper, range striped trigger fish, banded and mottled morays eels and exquisitely patterned surgeon fish. The colorful parrotfish has teeth that are fused into a parrot-like beak with which it crushes corrals and mollusk into fine coral sand. They sleep inside lose cocoons constructed of mucous, sand and weeds in crevices in the reef. Marine mammals that visit the coastline include the regularly seen dolphins and the unusual and rarely seen dugong or sea cow
The reef builders, the stony or hard corals make up the reefs of shallower waters. During the day many of these area are dull brown color but at nights they are transformed into miniature marine forests of plankton feeding tentacles
Hard corals are built from the skeletons of tiny marine animals called polyps and come in a wide variety of shapes. These can resemble rocks or branching stag horns, be flat-topped or cup shaped, appear like up-turned mushrooms or have fungi-like folding on tours. Their color tend to be more subdued than the soft corals because of the extra sunlight in shallow waters. The soft corals, colonizers of established reefs, do not have the limestone skeleton of the reef builders and instead are numerous polyp gathered around a fleshy centre. Their lovely formations vary from fan-like shapes to branching varieties or have finger-like tendrils and whips in colors that vary from the delicate to the vivid. The more delicate or leafy forms tend to be found in deeper waters as they are too fragile for strong currents
ESTUARIES AND FRESHWATER
The mudflats and stream of Ujung Kulon also hold a fascinating array of life forms. Mangrove swamps, rich in nutrients are home to two unique species of fish, the skipper and the archerfish. The bulging-eyed mudskippers, constantly seen hoping across the water surface, often venture onto land but must return to the water to replenish their gill chamber reserves. Mudskippers also have the most unusual attribute of being able to climbing trees. The clever little archerfish is named for its practice of squirting shafts of water over 2 meters high to knock insects off overhanging leaves.
Yet another fascinating fish, that lives in the fresh waters of the park is a tool using fish. It clings to the underside of floating leaves which it then maneuvers, often against the current and from its hiding place preys on smaller fish. Ujung Kulon is alive with crabs of many sizes and colors. Perhaps the most common is the small whitish Ghost crab, aptly named because of its quick disappearances, which deposits tiny sand balls in fan shaped designs on beaches. Hermit crabs are the species that live inside shells, exchanging them for larger ones as the crab matures. The large holes found on the forest floor, sometimes many kilometers from the sea, are made by mature hermit crabs that have abandoned their shells.
Fiddler crabs of colors that include bright red and turquoise are also easily identifiable because they have one claw far larger than the other and are sometimes seen engaging in group claw waving sessions in defense of their holes. the reefs and waters of the Park have an enormous variety of marine life. A vast world of shells, sponges, anemones, slugs, seahorse, squids, sea cucumbers, lobsters, shrimps, snails, jelly-fishes and worms- these are just a few of the numerous creatures for visitor to discover (Source: Indonesia's Ujungkulon National Park Handbook, written (by Margareth Clarbrougks).