Morowali Nature Reserve is one of protected area in the Wallacea region which was established in 1980, to protect 525,500 acres of complex habitat types, including coral reefs, mangroves, rainforests, grasslands, swamps, and lakes. Morowali’s mountain habitats include three peaks over 7,000 feet, including the majestic 7,946-foot Mt. Tambusisi. The reserve also contains a little-explored 980-foot deep cave. Morowali serves as a water catchment for five big rivers—Sumara, Morowali, Solato, Sobuko, and Bongka. These rivers provide essential environmental services to people in the surrounding areas, including water resources for irrigation, industries, and domestic use.
An initial survey on the biological diversity of the Morowali Nature Reserve has been done at three (3) sites namely Taronggo, Kea-kea and Uwata which were located arround the reserve from May-June 2007. The surveyed aimed to collect the biological diversity data including vegetation, avifauna and large mammals by using survey methods on transect along 3 km in each location.
The result showed more than 400 number of fertile herbarium specimens which were collected and deposited at the Herbarium Celebense (CEB) Universitas Tadulako. Structure and composition of vegetation in the studied area indicated a specific pattern. We recorded several unique and endemic plant to Sulawesi such as Macadamia hildebrandii (Proteaceae), Knema celebica (Myristicaceae), Gymnacranthera maliliensis, (Myristicaceae) Sarcotheca celebica (Oxalidaceae), Licuala celebica (Arecaceae), Gronophyllum macrospadix (Arecaceae), Korthalsia celebica (Arecaceae), Dinochloa barbata (Poaceae), Deplancea bencana (Bignoniaceae), Dillenia serrata and Dillenia celebica (Dilleniaceae) etc.
Although exact numbers are still not available, initial surveys show that Morowali is home to most of Sulawesi’s endemic large mammals, including lowland anoa or dwarf buffalo, the pig-like babirusa, the Sulawesi pig, and a species of Sulawesi macaque. Morowali’s mountain terrain provides habitat for the Sulawesi giant civet, one of the world’s least-known carnivores, and the small nocturnal cuscus. For avifauna, latest survey recorded that of the 156 bird species, 49 of them are endemic. Notable species that endemic to Sulawesi include the maleo (Macrocephalon maleo), Yellow-crested cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea), Ornate Lory (Trichoglossus ornatus), Snoring Rail (Aramidopsis plateni), Black Pigeon (Turacoena manadensis), and all five endemic kingfishers. Numerous raptors, water birds including the Wooly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus), and nightjars are also found in Morowali Nature Reserve. Reptiles include the bizarre Sail-fin Lizard (Hydrosaurus amboinensis), and huge 12 meter-long Reticulated Pythons (Python reticulatus). In addition, a wealth of fascinating plants can also be seen in the reserve, ranging from massive Agathis (damar) trees to rare orchids and several species of pitcher plants (Nepenthes spp).
Morowali Nature Reserve is surrounded by 21 villages located along the boundary and also inhabited by the indigenous people of Wana, the majority of whom still practice their ancestral patterns of existence by moving house every few years to clear a new patch of forest and plant their crops. They hunt birds and other animals in the forest with blowpipes, snares, and spears, and fish in the rivers and lakes. Almost everything they use is made from the forest, including barkcloth clothes. The Wana people have communal rights to several areas in Tokala Mountain Ranges inside the nature reserve. Despite its important values for biodiversity conservation and economic development, Morowali faces serious threats for its long-term conservation, including illegal logging and hunting, agricultural encroachment, and road development.
Although Morowali’s biodiversity has not yet been definitively catalogued, scientists believe that the reserve’s complex habitat types will yield undiscovered populations of Sulawesi’s endemic flora and fauna species. Based on the threats potentially affect Morowali Nature Reserve, The Nature Conservancy (based on Goal 2015 to establish one million hectares protected area in Sulawesi) and Research Center of Plant Biodiversity Tadulako University (Herbarium Celebense) has planned to take the reserve as a new conservation site. The target for MNR, based on 2007/2008 Work Plan, is to establish complete Management Plan which will be containing details activities and responsibility of every stakeholder in dealing with the reserve within the frame of conservation management plan. The first milestone therefore urgently needed is to formulate the conservation management by initiating coherent planning processes.