Mutis-Timau Forest Landscape in West Timor

The woodlands in Timor are very significant for the biodiversity conservation and catchments areas for the survival of the whole dwellers of this island. Some crucial forest areas that its function as the support of this island, namely Recreation Park of Bipolo, Nature Recreation Park of Camplong, Nature Reserve of Gunung Mutis, Protection Forest of Gunung Timau, Hunting Park of Dataran Bena, Nature Reserve of Kateri, and Wildlife Reserve of Maubesi. Among the forest areas, the large of ecosystem of Mutis-Timau forest is the highest (40,000 ha) as well as the highest of representing the types of the forest ecosystem and only at this area can be found 6 endemic birds of Timor.

There are more than four types of dry tropical forests (deciduous tropical dry forest, montane forest, semi-evergreen forest, mangroves). Compared to similar forests in Indonesia, it is here were those forest types are in the highest ecosystem in Indonesia. The available blocks of Ampupu (Eucalyptus urophylla) homogeneous forest at an elevation of 2000 asl indicate the uniqueness of this island compared with the others. These forests are vital to the fresh water reserve areas. The water flows through 3 watersheds and 13 watercourses that cleave the district and Kupang city. This area is the resource for a lot of springs and ground to supply the freshwater for the 1, 2 millions inhabitants of West Timor.

Timor Island is eligible for biodiversity conservation in dry tropical forest.  There are 31 species of protected birds of which 6 are Timor endemics, more than 4 types of dry tropical forests, 16 kinds of butterflies, large python snakes, and Grey kuskus (Phalanger orientalis). An area that holds the highest  ecosystem in Indonesia is found at the block of the Ampupu (Eucalyptus urophylla) homogeneous forest (until 2000 a.s.l.) that indicates the uniqueness of this island compared to the others.  The wealth of flora found in the dry tropical area is also immeasurable, as sandalwood, rattan, betel-areca and some types of medicinal plant. The woodlands in Timor are very important for biodiversity conservation and as catchments areas for the survival of the inhabitants of this island. 

Some of the crucial forest areas that function as the support and backbone of this island are Recreation Park of Bipolo, Nature Recreation Park of Camplong, Nature Reserve of Gunung Mutis, Protection Forest of Gunung Timau, Hunting Park of Dataran Bena, Nature Reserve of Kateri, and Wildlife Reserve of Maubesi.  Among the forest areas, the vast ecosystem of Mutis-Timau forest is the largest (78,000 ha) as well as the richest in biodiversity in terms representing the types of the forest ecosystem and is the home of 6 endemic birds of Timor.  The woodlands of Mutis-Timau are vital as fresh water reserves areas flowing through 3 big rivers and 13 sub-rivers that cleave the district and Kupang city.  This area is the source of numerous springs and ground supply of the freshwater for 1.2 millions of inhabitants in West Timor.


The value of the Mt. Mutis Nature Reserve can be seen at three levels: international, regional, and local. At the local level, Mutis’ forest has long been used and managed by adjacent communities as a grazing area for livestock as well as a source of household water, building materials, and fuelwood. Both non-timber and timber forest products, such as honey and sandalwood, respectively, play a role in supplementing household income. At the regional level, the Mutis forest complex provides a critical water-catchment area for the island of Timor. Boasting the province’s highest peak (Mt. Mutis at 2427m), the complex’s steep forested slopes contain the headwaters of all of West Timor’s major rivers, such as the Benain and Mina, as well as several feeding into East Timor. The hydrological value of Mutis is especially important given its high annual rainfall (2000- 3000mm) and long wet season (approximately seven months) relative to drier surrounding areas (800-1000mm) experiencing a wide, unpredictable range (100-150 days) of rain per year.

At the international level, the ecology of Mutis is unique to Indonesia: the seasonal montane forest is composed of nearly homogenous stands of ampupu (Eucalyptus urophylla), constituting an ecosystem found nowhere else in the country. Furthermore, the forest lies within the transitional zone between the Australian and Asian faunal realms and boasts fauna representative of each continental mass.

According to a national decree issued in 1983, approximately 12,000 hectares of Protection Forest in the Mt. Mutis-Miomaffo complex was designated the Mt. Mutis Strict Nature Reserve (Cagar Alam G. Mutis). The western edge of the reserve is adjacent to the much larger Mutis-Timau Protection Forest (100,000 ha). The area contained within Mutis falls within the two districts of North Central Timor (TTU) and South Central Timor (TTS), in Timor which is part of the eastern Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara (see Figures on power point).

Fourteen villages border directly on Mutis, nine of which are located in TTS and the remaining five in TTU. According to recent census data collected by WWF, the population in these villages is 25,198 residents. The majority of the residents are indigenous to the region and hail from the Mollo and Miomafo peoples. In addition to the indigenous inhabitants, relative newcomers to these villages include immigrants from within Timor (Amanatun, Amanuban, etc.) and from outside the island (Bugis, Sabu, Rote, and Flores).

Several government agencies play a significant role in the management of the Mutis reserve, most notably two branches of the forest department and the livestock service. Several leaders from KSDA have been active in the Conservation Working Group of the Forum DAS NTT  and have worked closely with Forum DAS  partners in designing conservation management strategies for priority sites including Mutis. A relatively recent player in the management of Mutis, KSDA began field level activities in accordance with the protected area’s (incomplete) change in classification to a Strict Nature Reserve. Their main responsibilities include raising awareness about the benefits of conservation and enforcing relevant conservation legislation. In relation to Strict Nature Reserves, legislation explicitly prohibits human activity of any kind (except research and education), although in practice their capacity for enforcing these laws is limited.

The district forest services still operate in Mutis in line with its (former) classification as a Protection Forest. Concerned with safeguarding the hydrological value of the area, their primary activities consist of reforestation programs both within (reboisasi) and outside (penghijauan) of reserve borders. Both the forest services’ and KSDA’s position with regards to free-ranging livestock within the borders of Mutis is that the cattle must be removed in accordance with their respective national mandates regulating protected areas. However, they have delayed the enforcement of these laws primarily because they lack the resources to do so and also because they realize the complexities of attempting the relocation.

Similar to the district forest services, the livestock service (Dinas Peternakan) operates at the district level under both district level governments. The livestock services’ primary task is to increase the population and productivity of breeding stock in line with developing a leading provincial economic sector.

They have a very significant stake in the management of the reserve given that adjacent communities graze the majority of their cattle and horses within Mutis. Their agency’s position regarding the livestock within the borders of Mutis is that cattle cannot be separated from the forest and they have been inclined towards encouraging the perpetuity of free-ranging cattle within the reserve through biannual vaccinations.

  / ©: WWF-Indonesia/Ridha Hakim
© WWF-Indonesia/Ridha Hakim