2. Danau Sentarum National Park, Indonesia: A Historical Overview

By Aglionby, Julia | Borneo Research Bulletin, Annual 2010 | Go to article overview

2. Danau Sentarum National Park, Indonesia: A Historical Overview


Aglionby, Julia, Borneo Research Bulletin


This chapter aims to introduce the reader to the history of resource use, protection, research, and development activities in Danau Sentarum National Park (DSNP) and paint a backdrop against which the more detailed and specific essays that follow can be set.

Over the past 20 years, DSNP has attracted an increasingly wide spectrum of interest from the academic community, both Indonesian and international. The disciplines include forestry, fisheries, anthropology, sociology, economics, honey processing and marketing, ecology (including birds, reptiles, primates and fire studies), paleobotany, development studies; the list goes on. The history of local communities, however, has been more neglected except by the researcher in whose memory this section has been collated: Reed Wadley. With his consummate attention to detail and interest in the locale far wider than his specialty, Wadley has left a legacy through his work for which we can all be grateful.

This literature review is meant to summarize the major activities and research findings since the previous special issue of the Borneo Research Bulletin, volume 31, published in 2000. Readers are encouraged to revisit the previous volume to gain a more complete picture of work and activities in the park.

Danau Sentarum National Park is an extensive area (132,000 ha) of freshwater lakes and lowland swamp forests in West Kalimantan, some 700 km up the Kapuas River from Pontianak. The predominant vegetation is swamp forest, and more than 500 species of plants have been identified (Giesen 2000). The forest is flooded for much of the year by seasonal lakes whose water levels can vary by up to 12 meters; these lakes support a high diversity offish, some 211 species (Kottelat and Widjanarti 2005). The lakes also buffer the flow of the Kapuas, thus reducing flooding along the longest river in Indonesia (Klepper 1994). Reptilian and amphibian fauna include crocodiles (Frazier 2000), turtles (Walter 2000), monitor lizards and snakes. The number of bird species is 237 (van Balen and Dennis 2000). With the exception of proboscis monkeys (Sebastian and Dennis 2000) and orangutans (Russon et al. 2001), information on mammals is limited. Danau Sentarum hosts many species not found, or rarely found, elsewhere because of its underlying hydrology and the relatively good condition of the habitats. This site of high biodiversity is home to approximately 10,100 people (Indriatmoko, this volume) who depend on its natural resources for their livelihoods.

Settlement and Resource Use

The following summary of human settlement in DSNP is based predominately upon Wadley's work (2002, 2006). Colfer et al. (2001) provide a detailed timeline obtained from local communities in the Danau Sentarum region.

Precolonial History

Evidence of human activity in Danau Sentarum dates back more than 30,000 years (Anshari et al. 2004). The dating is based on carbon levels in the peat that indicate a higher incidence of fires that cannot be explained through climate change; there is no archaeological or documentary evidence of human activity in the area until much more recent times.

The Kapuas River has been critical for transport and trade through West Kalimantan and was controlled through a series of sultanates, the Kapuas kingdoms. The Selimbau Kingdom, from which many of the residents of the lakes originate, is considered the oldest, reputedly dating from prior to 1500, based on oral histories (www.rulers.org). An increase in interest in genealogical studies has led to a proliferation of websites on the traditional rulers in Indonesia, indicating a long history of governance in the Upper Kapuas and a continuing pride in that history.

The recorded history of the Upper Kapuas dates from the seventeenth century, when Islamic traders who arrived on the coast moved upriver, converting local Dayak communities. The Dayaks who converted to Islam in this area were called Melayu, their name incorrectly implying that they did not originate in Kalimantan. …

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