Java Island [Indonesia]. Land of Dragons

An island enveloped in mist receives the new day, south of the continent of Asia. This is just one of the over 20,000 islands stretching from Asia to Australia, but in its interior it holds zoological mysteries which have astonished scientists for generations. When the first European explorers came to the Indonesia archipelago, at the start of the sixteenth century, they could hardly believe their eyes: here, before them, lay a new world of impenetrable jungles and erupting volcanoes.

A world of darkness and mystery. Nature seemed to have lost her senses in this distant land.

Here, they found plants that fed on animals, and fish able to remain out of the water, without perishing, Each fresh discovery brought a new mystery. Three hundred years later, at the start of the twentieth century, a pilot whose plane had crashed into the sea managed to swim ashore on one of these islands. When the rescue team managed to find him, the man appeared to have lost his senses. Delirious, he claimed that the island was inhabited by gigantic lizards which, devoured the natives. Without realising it, those men had ventured into the land of dragons.

During the glaciations of the Pleistocene era, the polar icecaps increased in size, and the level of the sea fell.

Some island remained isolated, while others became joined to the continent. Java was one of these. Once the glaciation was over, the sea returned to its original level, and Java once more became an island, cut off from mainland Asia. From that time on, its fauna and flora took different evolutionary roads from those of the continent.

Roads which would lead to the creation of legendary creatures. Its isolation, and the inaccessibility of its jungles shrouded the island in mystery. The rare visitors from the continent returned with strange stories telling of unfamiliar animals.


The tales spread, were modified and exaggerated, and by the time they reached distant Europe, they had become fabulous legends of mythological creatures Centuries later, when the European colonisers landed on the distant island of Java, they discovered these strange creatures which had inspired the ancient legends. Human beings already lived here in the Neolithic period, over 4,000 years ago.

And their descendents live there still. Over many generations, the local people learnt to live with the jungle and its mysterious inhabitants. They introduced cattle rearing, cut down trees, planted crops and hunted. Still today they retain a way of life and traditions similar to those witnessed by the first Westerners to arrive in these lands. Knowledge was handed down from father to son through the oral tradition.

The new generations learnt from their elders which plants to cultivate and with which techniques, which were the best pastures and which fish were edible. Along with this knowledge, they also had to learn to fear their predators and recognise the innumerable dangers of the jungles which surrounded them. From them, the European explorers received the first descriptions of the fauna of the area. The visitors’ lack of scientific knowledge would transform these explanations into fabulous tales.

It would seem the most fantastic creatures dwelled in the heart of the jungle.

The majority of these animals lived in the most extensive of the ecosystems of the island tropical rainforest. The tree cover is so dense that in some parts barely 5% of the sunlight reaches the ground. The darkness and the thick vegetation make it almost impossible to spot the animals. The only signs of their presence are the sounds which fill the air. It is impenetrable jungle, in which the trees acquire strange shapes, and animals remain hidden to the human eye.

The colonisers were in no doubt: this must be the dwelling place of those animals spoken of in legend.

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