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GL BAL TREASURE

INDONESIA

124

Indo-Pacifc region.

r. Gerry Allen discovered Raja Ampat by chance in the mid 1990s, during one of his freshwater fsh surveys in Papua. His survey permit on the mainland was withheld due to political unrest, so he stayed on to discover the richness of Raja Ampat, which was akin to walking into Solomon’s mines. He reported his fndings to Conservation International. I am not sure if they took him seriously in the beginning, but soon, the gallant naturalists came along and The Nature Conservancy also took interest. Today, Raja Ampat is an area of focus for scientifc exploration.

Gerry has broken his own record twice in Raja Ampat for number of species recorded on a single dive. Before diving in the Raja Ampat, his record was 204 different species recorded in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. In 2001, during his Raja Ampat expedition, he documented 283 species of coral fsh at Cape Kri, an experience he had never previously encountered. Then, during the 2002 Nature Conservancy expedition, near the island of Kofau, he set a new personal record by documenting 284 species during one dive, which comes up to one species every fve seconds! It is now established by scientifc data that Raja Ampat Islands is the world’s richest marine biodiversity district – the Bull’s eye of Marine Diversity.

My frst impression of the reefs was that they are extraordinarily healthy, relative to elsewhere in Indonesia. The reefs dazzle with life; hard coral meadows are extensive, limestone structures were festooned with every imaginable species, colour, shape and variety of corals, sponges, tunicates, sea stars, anemone, and ornamental reef fshes. So it is a blessing that these reefs lie farthest east, where sparse population and low

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