British Council Indonesia director, Paul Smith, left, and AIPI president Sangkot Marzuki, open Wallacea Week 2017 at the National Library in Jakarta on Monday (16/10). (JG Photo/Sheany)

Work of Naturalist Wallace Is Indonesia-UK 'Shared Heritage': Wallacea Week


OCTOBER 16, 2017

Jakarta. Indonesia's biological diversity is highlighted in the legacy of Alfred Russell Wallace at Wallacea Week 2017 at the National Library in Jakarta, which part of a series of events aiming to strengthen Indonesia-United Kingdom relations in science and culture.

Born in Wales in 1823, the British biologist and explorer is known for co-discovering natural selection with Charles Darwin.

His fieldwork brought him to the Amazon River and to the Malay Archipelago, where he later identified what is now called the Wallace Line — a division indicating two distinct origins of the archipelago's fauna. The islands to the west of the line, including Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Borneo, share a fauna similar to that of East Asia, while those in "Wallacea" — Sulawesi, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Sumba, Timor — are populated by animals similar to those in Australasia.

"We think that Alfred Russel Wallace is probably the most significant figure known that connects Britain and Indonesia in any century," British Council Indonesia director Paul Smith said during the event's launch on Monday (16/10).

According to president of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI) Sangkot Marzuki, many Indonesians are still not aware of Wallace's work in the region.

"The Malay Archipelago," which chronicles his scientific exploration of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, was originally published in English 1869. It was translated to Indonesian in 2000.

In the work, Wallace explored Indonesia's rich biodiversity and shared his discoveries of unique species, and gave extensive descriptions of natural life in Wallacea.

According to Sangkot, both Wallace and the Wallacea region are part of Indonesia's and Britain's "shared heritage."

Wallacea Week, which will conclude on Oct. 22, features lectures, exhibitions and film screenings. The event precedes celebrations planned for the 150th anniversary of "The Malay Archipelago" publication.

Next year, the British Embassy and British Council will launch a number of research collaborations, open lectures, conferences, post-doctoral fellowships and exchanges for Indonesian and British scientists, as well as the Wallacea Expedition program to follow the footsteps of Wallace in Indonesia and promote Wallacea as a tourism destination.

Smith said Indonesia remains "one of the greatest hopes in the world" to represent "the importance of diversity," which was recognized by Wallace more than a century ago.

The British Council director broadened the scope of diversity in his speech by referring to Indonesia's pluralism, which according to him should be an example for the international community.

"Wallace would say this is your [Indonesia's] story for the world, this is what Indonesia should tell the world – don't be afraid of differences, love your diversity, it makes for a great world," Smith said.