Borneo, the land below the wind is very fortunate as it is richly blessed with some of the globes most amazing natural mixtures. The Bornean wilderness is known as one of the oldest tropical forests in the world. Unspoiled site, such as the Maliau Basin have not yet been fully explored, and many new researches find flora and fauna species which are unknown to Science. Data from Sabah’s state forestry department indicates that Sabah’s forest conceal about 3.59 million hectares and its formidable topography, rare habitats and climate, its relative isolation and the fact that even during the ice ages there was very little change have contributed to present’s biodiversity.
Out of these huge hectares, only approximately 910,914 hectares are considered a virgin forest. Therefore, roughly about 2.68 million hectares have been categorized as commercial forest, which means logging activities are allowed. For the past thirty years, Sabah’s amazing rainforest has much deteriorated which brings to an unfortunate side effect as vast tracks of the world’s rainforest have been used freely to develop the country. As of now, the remaining jungles are well protected, many of them in National Parks, but most of them are still easily accessible and with excellent infrastructure for travelers.
How does this affect the animals living in Borneo’s jungle you may inquire? Habitat loss, poaching for parts which is used in traditional medicine as well as pet trade are among the common key threats that led to a high percentage decline of wildlife population in the last three decades. Among the most endangered animals living in the Sabah forests are the Orangutan, Proboscis Monkeys, Pygmy Elephants, Bornean Rhinoceros and Sun Bear.
The Orangutan: The Orangutan is probably the best known primate in Borneo. It is native to Indonesia and Malaysia. Orangutans are currently found in only the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. In Sabah, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation is located approximately 25 kilometres west of Sandakan, which is the second largest city in Sabah, East Malaysia. This centre was opened in 1964 as the initial official orangutan rehabilitation project, which aims to rescue orphaned baby orangutans from the dangerous logging sites, plantations as well as illegal hunting by irresponsible individuals. These orphaned orangutans are trained to survive again in their natural habitat and will be released as soon as they are ready.
Proboscis Monkey: With its scientific name of (Nasalis larvatus), this animal is well-known for its long-nose. It is a reddish-brown arboreal Old World monkey that is endemic to the South East Asian Island of Borneo and can be found in all three nations that divide the island: Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. It is most common in coastal areas and along rivers. This species is restricted to lowland habitats that may experience tides. Proboscis monkey also goes by the ‘Malay’ name of ‘Monyet Belanda’ (Dutch Monkey). Indonesians stated that the Dutch colonizers back in the days often had similarly large bellies and noses. To witness proboscis monkey in person, visitors can take a cruise along the Kinabatangan River, which is one of the most famous destinations within Sabah.
Pygmy Elephant: The Borneo elephant or also known as the Borneo pygmy elephant inhabits northeastern Borneo. Elephants are confined to the northern and northeastern parts of Borneo. In 1980s’s, there were two separate populations in Sabah ranging over the Tabin Wildlife Reserve and adjacent mostly logged forest on steep terrain; and in the hilly interior, which was largely untouched at the time. The main threats to the Pygmy Elephants today are habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, which are driven by an expanding human population. This led to growing conflicts between humans and elephants when elephants eat or trample crops. Expanding human development disrupts the elephant’s migration routes, depletes their food sources, and abolishes their natural habitat. In Sabah’s wild there are about 1,500 Borneo pygmy elephants left with a status that is rightly listed as endangered. In order to meet the Borneo Pygmy Elephant, a trip to the north and north-eastern parts of Sabah such as in Tabin, Lower and North Kinabatangan and Sabah’s central forests.
Bornean Rhinoceros: Early 20th century, Bornean Rhinoceros was extensive over Borneo Island. It suffered serious declination in distribution and numbers due to illegal hunting. By early 1980s, loss of forest habitat through conversion to permanent agriculture, specifically palm oil plantations had become another contribution to the threat towards this species. Habitat loss and illegal poaching continue to be the main threats to this species with creation of access roads deep into the rhino’s forest home which led to an influx of poachers. The Bornean rhinoceros, also known as hairy rhinoceros or Asian two-horned rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), is a rare member of the family Rhinocerotidae and one of five extant rhinoceroses. It is the only extant species of the genus Dicerorhinus. It is the smallest rhinoceros, although it is still a huge mammal. The Lokkawi Wildlife Park (zoo) located in Lokkawi, Sabah approximately 20 minutes from Kota Kinabalu showcase Borneo Rhinos in hopes to bring exotic animals of Borneo to those who are on a short stay in Sabah or perhaps have no luck finding these animals in the wild.
Sun Bear: The sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) can be found in the tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia, ranging from northeastern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam to southern Yunnan, a province in China, as well as on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. This species is classified as endangered by IUCN as the huge-scale deforestation that has occurred throughout the region over the past thirty years. It has radically reduced suitable habitat for the sun bear. It is alleged that the global population of sun bear has declined by more than 30% over the past three bear generations. Character wise, the sun bear’s fur is usually black, short and shiny with some under-wool and some of them are reddish or gray. It is a forest-dependent species and the amount of forest available reflects the space of habitat they have. For the past decades, the whole forested area across the region is worryingly declining, so, when the forest is gone, the bear will be as well. Sabah’s government is determined to increase the proportion of forest in the total land area to save the natural habitat of this endangered species. Visitors can get close to the world’s smallest bear at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre which is situated next to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation centre in Sandakan.