Endemism means that specific species of plants or animals live only in a particular location, which normally is quite small. An animal or plant doing that is an endemic. For birdwatchers and other wild life watchers endemism is a major issue, as many endemics are rare, hard to find and per definition can only be seen in specific, and often quite small areas of the world. Thus, for some reason, such endemics acquire much interest, and people are prepared to do a lot of travelling to actually see some of the endemics.
Endemism is quite rare in oceans. The main reason for this is that most endemics, not surprisingly, are poor dispersers. Dodos (now extinct) come to mind, as does cassowaries, Galapagos giant turtles, Galapagos finches and a number of other poor dispersers on islands or specific habitats on land. Marine animals generally disperse as larvae, and with the far ranging ocean currents, and the long pelagic (that is “free floating”) stage of most marine animals, such animals generally are found over large areas. A few, with special parental care such as cardinal fish, can be endemic, but otherwise most endemics in oceans are endemics on the scale of an ocean. As an example, the Red sea has a number of endemics, but most of those are found in most of the Red sea, which is a much largher area than one normally would use to describe a species as an endemic on land.
Do we have any endemics here in Lembeh? Well, in the water I am pretty sure the only endemic we see will be the Bangai cardinal fish, which were endemic to the Bangai islands, but now are spread by the ornamental fish trade to both Lembeh and Bali. On land, the picture is very different. I will restrict myself to a couple of examples here from Lembeh island, but there are many other endemics in the region.
First of all, we have the crested macaques. These are best known from Tangkoko national park, just on the other side of the strait. The crested macaques are living in small groups, foraging mostly on the ground and always during day in rain forest habitat. Now there are only between 4000 and 6000 black macaques left in their native area. As the macaques raids fields, they are often seen as pests, and that combined with the loss of habitat during the last many years is problematic with regard to conservation of these monkeys
Second, we have the tarsiers. Tarsiers are also probably best known from Tangkoko national park, but they are regularly seen here at the resort, and are heard every evening. The spectra tarsier, which according to current classifications is the one here in northern Sulawesi, is less well known than the black macaque due to its nocturnal and quite secretive behavior. In contrast to the mainly frugivorous macaques, the tarsier seems to be less dependent on actual rain forest habitat, having quite dense populations in the secondary forests on Lembeh island.
Besides birdwatchers and similar animal watchers, conservationists also care a great deal about endemics. Having a very limited distribution will always be of concern, as changes can threaten a whole population. Some of the quickest extinctions we have experienced happened just to endemics on small islands. Right now, neither tarsiers or black macaques are threatened globally, but, as endemics, it is essential that their population numbers are carefully monitored in the future.