The beauty of Raja Ampat, which is often dubbed the Little Heaven that fell to Earth, is increasingly fragrant with the frequent discovery of various types of orchids in its terrestrial areas. This beautiful petaled plant is estimated to number in the hundreds of species, with uniqueness and variants that are narrowed in endemicity compared to the large plains of Papua and other areas. In Papua alone, it is estimated that there are around 3,000 species of orchids, placing it second only to the Andes Mountains in South America, which is estimated to reach 7,000 species of orchids. The existence of orchids is estimated to have around 30,000 species worldwide.
Raja Ampat which consists of 4 large islands still holds many mysteries, especially the biodiversity of orchid plants that have not been explored and studied in more depth. In 1938, a British entomologist, Evelyn Chessman, conducted an expedition on the island of Waigeo and collected several species of orchids found and brought them to England, but not all were identified.
Several local explorations have started since the discovery of Dendrobium azureum Schuit. or this blue orchid. Maurits, who is now a staff of the biodiversity program of the Fauna & Flora International-Indonesia Program (FFI’s IP) – Raja Ampat, explained that during his exploration activities in the wilderness of Raja Ampat, especially on the 4 large islands, there were abundant types of orchids. He found many types of orchids that are unique and different compared to other orchid species in the same tribe or taxa.
In general, the difference is because the orchid species found in Raja Ampat have different colors, shapes, and sizes so that they can be identified and classified as a unique species and cannot be equated with other orchid species found on the large island of Papua, as well as similar species found in Indonesia.
From this exploration and discovery, Maurits hopes that more research on orchids by various parties will be carried out in Raja Ampat. Through hobbies such as photography and academic needs in college, for example, it can attract the younger generation of Raja Ampat to contribute to the exploration and protection of local-scale orchids by the Raja Ampat community itself. For example, through the dissemination of information on the orchids, they found through social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, or other social media, to provoke the curiosity of orchid researchers, both at home and abroad. And you can also upload it on several global-scale social media sites that can help identify uploaded photos of orchids belonging to the public. So, obstacles such as the wide distribution of the Raja Ampat area in islands can be minimized by direct community involvement in orchid conservation in their respective locations.
Maurits’ colleague, Botanist FFI’s IP – Raja Ampat, Yanuar Ishaq Dc, explained that FFI’s IP – Raja Ampat had started several expeditions and further explorations together with other government agencies to collect data and information about orchids in Raja Ampat. From these expeditions and explorations, many potential endemic orchid species were discovered.
Yanuar hopes that this wealth of flora can be preserved so that it does not experience the same incident as hunting one of the wild orchids in Vietnam in 2009-2010. The orchid with the Latin name Paphiopedilum canhii, only discovered in 2009 is hunted and traded until it is almost extinct because of its endemicity and beauty. This was previously written in an international journal entitled Field Survey of Paphiopedilum Canhii: From Discovery to Extinction.
One of the causes of the difficulty in the identification process is that the flower parts have not yet developed and bloomed to be observed as one of the distinguishing characters of the species when found. So according to Yanuar, even though they are in the same clan, there is a uniqueness that can become a new species.
“We have taken various conservation efforts with the support of local government agencies, such as patrols and strengthening and raising awareness of local communities on the importance of biodiversity for survival. Also through the implementation of a webinar themed ‘Kingdom of Plants in Raja Ampat’ some time ago. This is to encourage the spirit of research and conservation of orchids in Raja Ampat. Because there are still many that have not been identified and classified,” said Yanuar.
One of the orchid researchers from the Center for Conservation and Natural Resources (BBKSDA) of West Papua province, Reza Saputra, explained the distribution of orchids in Raja Ampat according to him with orchids in general. The Raja Ampat orchids are dominated by orchid species that live and thrive in the lowlands and coasts of the island. Although there are similarities with the types of orchids in the main plains of Papua, the Raja Ampat orchids have a unique variant and tend to have a larger size.
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