INDONESIA RAINFOREST TOUR: Indonesian rainforest photo slideshow

50+ pictures of rainforests in Indonesia


Indonesia has the third largest area of rainforests. Only Brazil and the Democratic Republic have more rainforest.

Indonesia is made up of more than 17,500 islands, but the majority of its rainforest is found on just four: Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi, and New Guinea.

Sumatra is the western-most of Indonesia's large islands. It is the only place in the world that has tigers, orangutans, rhinos, and elephants all living in the wild.

But Sumatra's rainforests are highly endangered and are disappearing faster than forests in any other part of Indonesia.

Borneo is the largest island in Indonesia and the third largest in the world. Indonesia shares Borneo with two other countries: Malaysia and Brunei. But Indonesia controls most (about 73 percent) of the island. It calls this part "Kalimantan".

Borneo is famous for orangutans, although many other species live there too.

Borneo's rainforests have disappeared very rapidly since 1980. About half have been destroyed since then.

Sulawesi is a strange island. It is shaped like a funny-looking lower-case "k".

Sulawesi's wildlife is very unique due to its history: it has never been connected to other islands in Indonesia. Sadly, about 80 percent of Sulawesi's forest has been damaged or destroyed.

Indonesia controls about half of New Guinea, which is the second largest island in the world. Indonesia calls its part of New Guinea, Papua and West Papua.

Indonesian New Guinea still has a lot of forest cover, although logging, mining, and agricultural projects are increasing.

Indonesian New Guinea is most famous for its incredible mix of tribes. More than 250 languages are spoken between Papua and West Papua.

Including both land and sea ecosystems, Indonesia has more species than any other country on Earth.

Indonesia has many famous animal species.

Indonesia is probably best known for the orangutan, which lives on Sumatra and Borneo. It is endangered due to deforestation, the pet trade, and hunting.

Indonesia also has the Sumatran tiger, which lives on Sumatra. The islands of Bali and Java also used to have tigers, but both went extinct during the 20th century.

Borneo and Sumatra are home to "pygmy" elephants, which are also endangered.

Indonesia has two critically endangered species of rhino: the Javan and the Sumatran. Both are likely to go extinct in the wild.

Indonesia has a wealth of herps: reptiles and amphibians.

Indonesia also has an incredible diversity of birds, including hornbills, parrots, cockatoos, and cassowaries.

There are few groups in Indonesia living in fully traditional ways. Some of the more traditional are the Orang Rimba and the Talang Mamak in Sumatra; various sub-groups of Dayaks in Borneo; and tribes in parts of Indonesian New Guinea.

Indonesia's forests are important for many reasons.

Forests help protect against flooding and drought.

Forests reduce soil erosion and landslides, especially in mountainous areas.

Forests are a source of food, building materials, and medicine.

Forests absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, helping fight climate change.

Some forests grow on top of peat soils, which store large amounts of carbon and soak up water like a sponge, helping contribute to a steady supply of water.

But Indonesia's rainforests are fast being destroyed.

About 40 percent of lowland forests in Sumatran and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) were chopped down between 1990 and 2005.

There are several reasons for deforestation in Indonesia, including logging, agriculture and plantations, mining, fire, and urbanization.

Logging has long been a major cause of forest loss in Indonesia, which has highly valuable timber.

Much of the logging in Indonesia is illegal, meaning that little care is taken to minimize the impact on the environment.

Roads built by logging companies contribute further to deforestation by providing access to forest areas by miners, plantation developers, and farmers.

In recent years, plantations have become a big cause of deforestation in Indonesia.

Large areas of rainforest have been cut down and replaced with oil palm, a type of tree that produces a fruit used to make palm oil.

Palm oil goes into many processed foods, especially snack foods like cookies, candy, and crackers. Palm oil is also used in soap and make-up.

Rainforests have also been cut down for rubber trees to make tires and acacia and eucalyptus trees to make paper. Paper production has become a huge cause of deforestation in Sumatra.

Coal mining has caused a great deal of environmental damage in Indonesia over the past decade. Mining is expanding fast in Indonesian Borneo, New Guinea, and Sumatra.

Forest fires are a big concern in Indonesia. During especially dry years, like el Niño events, fires set by loggers and plantation developers can burn out of control for months, destroying vast areas of forest and peatlands.

These fires are a major reason why Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions are the third highest of any country. More than 80 percent of Indonesia's emissions come from fire, deforestation, and degradation of peat swamps.

But while deforestation remains very bad in Indonesia, there are reasons for hope.

In 2009 Indonesia's president announced a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. His goal was to shift Indonesia toward a "green" economy.

In 2010, Norway offered $1 billion to help Indonesia reduce deforestation.

In 2011, Indonesia launched a two-year moratorium or ban on granting logging permits in old-growth rainforests and peatlands.

At the same time, some Indonesian companies have announced policies to better protect the environment.

Still a lot needs to be done to help Indonesia protect its forests.

There are things you can do to help.

Tell your friends and parents about Indonesia's forest what and is happening to it.

Be sure to recycle and reduce energy use. Try to produce as little garbage as possible.

Ask questions about the products you and your family buys. Do these products harm the environment? Look at the ingredient list on the side of the package of snacks you buy. Do these snacks contain palm oil? If so, is that palm oil "certified" as "eco-friendly"?

Join an organization that is working to protect Indonesia's rainforests.

This tour was created by Rhett A. Butler, the founder of