And there is so much more to learn about Raja Ampat (which when translated in English means ‘The Four Kings’). The first comprehensive scientific survey of the area was only conducted in 2001, a record-breaking census which found nearly 1,000 tropical fish species—many of the species discovered had been previously unknown.
Where is Raja Ampat?
The Raja Ampat archipelago, part of the Coral Triangle
, located at the northwest corner of Indonesia’s West Papua province, encompassing 40,000 km² of land and sea and including a series of more than 1,500 islands which surround the main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo.
Located at the intersection of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, Raja Ampat has been described as a ‘species factory’.
Powerful deep-sea currents funnel nutrients into Raja Ampat’s delicate fringing coral reefs, blue water drop-offs, mangrove flats, and seagrass beds to form the foundation of the food chain which feeds a spectacular diversity of marine life.
Discovering Raja Ampat: Experiencing the Coral Triangle’s ‘Species Factory’
With the discovery of Raja Ampat’s biodiversity still in progress, WWF has teamed up with the Indonesian government, local community groups, and conservation partners such as Conservation International (CI) and The Nature Conservancy to create the Bird’s Head Seascape.
Encompassing an area of 183,000 km², the Bird’s Head Seascape also includes 7 marine protected areas within Raja Ampat totaling 9,100 km².
Scientists have discovered that many coral species within Raja Ampat may be more resistant to rising ocean temperatures due to global warming, providing hope that the marine protected area might help replenish other nearby coral reefs which have been severely damaged by coral bleaching events.
Raja Ampat threats
Raja Ampat’s relative isolation has been one of the marine protected area’s greatest defenses against overuse and exploitation.
However, as more coastal environments lying closer to human population centers become degraded, relatively pristine coral reefs such as Raja Ampat are becoming increasingly tempting targets.
Local subsistence fishermen have used dynamite blast fishing methods in the past, and some fragile ecosystems have been threatened by logging, mining, and oil exploration.