The Coral Triangle between Asia and Australia, not to be confused with the Coral Sea of Great Barrier Reef fame, lies between Asia and Australia and contains more than one third of the world’s coral reefs. Over 3,000 species of reef fish live there and it is an area of crucial importance for marine conservation.
The central part of the Coral Triangle is known as ‘Wallacea’ – after Alfred Russel Wallace who explored the whole region in the nineteenth century. Operation Wallacea (an international conservation agency) has a marine research establishment on Hoga Island which is in the middle of Wallacea, putting it at the very heart of the Coral Triangle.
The Wallace Line
Wallace was a contemporary of Charles Darwin and proposed a theory of evolution by natural selection at the same time (Wallace’s theory concentrating more on adaption to the environment and Darwin’s on competition between individuals). Wallace collected widely in Indonesia and noticed a clear distinction between the more northerly animals and plants and those from further south. Wallace’s Line runs just north of Sulawesi (Celebes) – plants and land creatures north of the line belong to the Asian biogeographical region, while those to the south are Australasian.
Wangiwangi, Kaledupa, Tomea, and Binongko form an archipelago off the southern end of Sulawesi, and this region is known as the Wakatobi. The Wakatobi Marine National Park attempts to meet the needs of local people while preserving the coral reefs and their amazing biodiversity. It is a legendary diving location.
Ret Talbot could not have chosen a better location for his initial ‘Biotoping’ articles – where he explains how aquarists can set up marine tanks modelled on specific habitats (in this case a nearshore reef off the coast of Hoga Island). The reefs he suggests hobbyists attempt to replicate are central to both marine conservation and coral reef research. This creates the situation where research by hobbyists can be of great value.
If you use ‘Google Earth’ you can find Hoga Island by typing ‘Pulau Kaledupa, Indonesia’ into the search field, or if you prefer to use an atlas it lies at 5 27’ 59.41”S 123 46’’ 32.63”E. However you find it you will be looking at ‘The Paradise Island’ – with only ‘one good house to stay at’ and no fresh water other than that brought in by boat! – but the reefs are fantastic, and there is no reason why a smaller version cannot be displayed in the home.