About Togean Islands
The Togean Islands archipelago, labeled the ‘Jewel of Central Sulawesi’, is located in the centre of Tomini bay, stretching over a distance of about 90 km. This archipelago contains 66 islands and islets of which Una Una, Batudaka, Togean, Talatakoh, Waleakodi, Waleabahi and Malenge are the largest. The land area of the Togeans covers 755 km2 and mainly consists of hilly terrain with a maximum elevation of 354m. The name of the Regency in which Togeans is located is Tojo Una-Una which includes the mainland town of Ampana and surrounding areas.
Six main ethnic groups, Bajau, Bobongko, Togean, Saluan, Bugis, and Gorontalese, live side by side in 59 villages. The total population is almost 50,000. While the Bajau community relies almost solely on trading fish, octopus, and sea cucumber, most villages are also engaged in some form of farming, primarily coconut, clove, and patchouli. Tourism provides significant employment opportunities. The entire population depends heavily on the sea for their own food.
The forests, mangroves, seagrass meadows, and coral reefs support a rich array of flora and fauna including many rare and endemic species. Six species found in Togeans are critically endangered, 23 are endangered, 171 are vulnerable and a further 131 are near threatened.
Mangrove forests total around 4000 hectares of Togean’s coastal areas and provide critical habitat for many species, as well as timber, medicines, fuel, and food for locals.
Extensive reefs that surround the islands were found to have the highest coral diversity in Indonesia, including some Acropora species that are unique. Many corals found in Togeans are also endangered or vulnerable. The reefs are also famous for their Togean pygmy seahorse. All four kinds of reef systems exist in Togeans; barrier, fringing, atoll and patch reef. There’s also a lake containing at least two species of stingless jellyfish. Dolphins and whales can be spotted around the islands and extensive seagrass meadows support a small population of dugongs. Endangered green turtles and hawksbill turtles nest on the islands' empty beaches.
On land, species endemic to Wallacea region can be found including the Sulawesi Red-knobbed hornbill, Maleo, Sulawesi fruit bat, and Sulawesi bear cuscus, while species endemic to Togean Islands include the Togean macaque, Neimeitzi tarsiers, Togean babirusa, Togean hawk-owl, Togean white eye, and Togean monitor lizard.
The islands attract domestic and foreign tourists and are well known for exquisite diving and snorkeling. Togean Islands were designated a National Park in 2004 and awarded UN Biosphere Reserve status in 2019.
Unfortunately, the richness of the Togean Islands is under threat mainly due to human activities. Loss of habitat due to clearing native forests for agriculture, clearing mangroves for village expansion and firewood, illegal logging, coral mining, and loss of turtle breeding grounds due to resort expansion and sand mining are among some of the challenges currently faced.
Exploitation of threatened species, such as fish, sharks, bats, parrots, turtles and coconut crabs occur at times as well as farmer-wildlife conflict with species such as babirusa and macaques. Fresh water sources are becoming scarce due to forest loss. Anchor damage, walking on reefs, illegal fishing practices, over-fishing, sedimentation due to soil erosion, pollution and rising sea temperatures are some of the major threats coral reefs face. Tourism is increasing but little consideration has been given as to how to safeguard terrestrial and marine wildlife from the potential negative impacts of tourism. An ever growing population of feral dogs and cats pose threats to endangered wildlife.
Many of these issues are driven by poverty, and by a lack of awareness, education, service provision and suitable alternative livelihoods. Climate change poses significant threats for local populations and their future food and water security.
These urgent issues need to be addressed at all levels by government, private sector and local communities. It is for this purpose that Togean Conservation Foundation has been established. There is much to do if we are to turn around the future outlook for Togean Islands and to preserve its rich culture, natural heritage, and coastal resources. The need for effective policy and capacity building to assist the community to sustainably manage their natural resources is pressing.