Exploring the Batanta orchids, Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat, 30 April 2022. – Batanta is one of the four major islands in Raja Ampat Regency, located around 34 kilometers west of Sorong, the capital city of Papua Barat Province. The island has various pristine ecosystems, i.e. coastal, lowland tropical rainforest, and lower mountain forests at an altitude of about 1100 m above sea level. The western part of the island is a conservation area, viz. West Batanta Island Nature Reserve. This forest is maintained to support research and protect its biodiversity, as well as the ecosystem. At present, botanical research on Batanta Island is still relatively imminent.

In March 2022, one of the DFI team, Reza from West Papua Natural Resources Conservation Agency, managed an orchid exploration on Batanta Island in collaboration with a researcher from the National Research and Innovation Agency. Despite the limited time, several 90 species were found with some of them being sterile. Plants without flowers were collected and will be cultivated until they produce flowers that are useful for identification.

One of the interesting findings is Dendrobium cuneatum, formerly known only from Sulawesi and Maluku. This finding represents the first for Australasia’s biogeographical realm. Two species also become the first country record in Indonesia. The first is Taeniophyllum torricellense, a ‘root orchid’, formerly known only from the Torricelli Mountains in the PNG and San Cristobal in the Solomon Islands. The second is Dendrobium incumbens, previously known only from Sepik and Morobe on the PNG side. Both of the findings increase the number of orchid species diversity in Indonesia.

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