Legendary underwater explorer and conservationist, Jacques Cousteau is said to have called the Wakatobi islands – then known as the Tukangbesi islands, an “underwater nirvana.” UNESCO is soon to designate Indonesia’s Wakatobi National Marine Park in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, as a World Biosphere Reserve, said Wakatobi District Head, Ir. Hugua. UNESCO’s charter is to be handed over in September of 2011.
The extensive Wakatobi National Park is rich in the diversity of its coral reefs. It is estimated that the seas of Wakatobi alone possesses 90% of the entire coral reef species in the world. “There are a total of 850 coral reefs species in the world, of which 750 can be found in the Wakatobi seas alone,” said Hugua.
Aside from its rich coral reefs, Wakatobi is habitat to various marine biota, including 942 species of fish. “These had been identified by marine researchers from Operation Wallacea, a research institute based in London, England,” continued Hugua.
Another important consideration on the part of UNESCO is the fact that the Wakatobi district government has constantly applied conservation practices in managing and preserving the coral reefs. The government is consistent in its efforts to continue to preserve the Wakatobi marine environment since it provides a source of food for millions of people.
“As a huge potential of food resource for humanity, the coral reefs need to be protected against all kinds of threats and must be preserved through consistent conservation efforts,” said Hugua. Thus, the designation of Wakatobi as a World Biosphere Reserve represents the international world’s efforts to protect global coral reefs from destruction.
Prior to the official handing over of the UNESCO charter, Hugua has been asked to give a presentation on the conservation of coral reefs in Wakatobi at the UNESCO assembly held in Dresden, Germany, today, on June 28, 2011.