The word mere Borneo conjures up images of dark, menacing jungles and wild rivers flowing through low lying forests as depicted by Joseph Conrad in the Heart of Darkness; however, it is Borneo’s wildlife in the Sabah state that makes the country truly unique: from orangutans swinging in the trees to proboscis monkeys protruding their bellies out to passerbys to the plentiful hornbills crowding the Kinabatangan River, Borneo’s ecological biodiversity is astounding
Borneo’s Wildlife: The Orangutan
One of the country’s most remarkable mammals is the orangutan, an animal that once ruled the jungle but due to rampant deforestation is now confined to the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. However, these precious species are still at threat as a result of illegal logging and slash and burn agriculture. Rehabilitation centres in Sumatra (Bukit Lawang, Bohorok Orangutan Viewing Centre) and Borneo (Kalimantan, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation centre) house the largest population of these semi-wild primates.
The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, takes in these apes in order to be rehabilitate and send them back into the wild. To get an up close and personal look at these fascinating animals, arrive at feeding time (around 10am and 3 pm) to view them clambering up trees, swinging from ropes and playing with one another.
Borneo’s Wildlife: The Proboscis Monkey
One of the most unusual animals, the proboscis monkey, is known for its protruding nose, big tummy and relationship with Borneo – the proboscis monkey is found only in the Borneo region, particularly in the state of Sabah. Known as the bekantan in Malay or simply the “Long-Nosed Monkey”, its nose can grow up to 7 inches, which is characteristic of males who use their distinguishing body part to attract females. Unfortunately, these rare creatures are at risk for extinction, as they require large tracts of forest to sustain their population. While visible in only a handful of rainforests in Malaysian Borneo, I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of this wonderful species while winding my way through the Kinabatangan River. They were as playful as most monkeys and were usually found hanging out in groups of 2 more swaying from the branches.
Borneo’s Wildlife: Hornbills in Borneo
While Hornbills can be found throughout Asia and Africa, they are hard to spot in the wild, due to threats of extinction. However they are abundant in Borneo’s rainforests, particularly along the Kinabatangan River. They are characterized by their long, down-curved bill frequently vibrantly coloured. They are found primarily around the Kalimantan region in Borneo where the indigenous people, called the Dayak, believe that the hornbill is sacred as it in charge of the world since “God left us behind”.
Borneo’s Wildlife: Getting to Sabah
Most travelers arrive via Kota Kinabalu’s international airport. Three major carriers fly in and out of Sabah: Malaysian Airlines (to/from Kuching), FAX (Limbang) and Air Asia (Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok). The airport is located 7 km outside the city and a variety of transportation options are available to new arrivals: from a minivan ($0.60) to local buses ($0.30 this is a bit inconvenient if you have a large load as you have to walk 10 minutes past the terminal) to the priciest and more convenient option a taxi ($6.50).
Borneo’s Wildlife is truly speculator, not only because of its uniqueness but because of its abundance and diversity.