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Wildlife in Borneo and Malaysia
Some of the wildlife that can be spotted on a Borneo and Malaysia holiday...
Orangutan (Borneo species: Pongo pygmaeus)
Long-haired, reddish brown primates. This highly intelligent ape spends most of its time up in the trees or in lowland dipterocarp forests, eating mostly fruit and young leaves. Every night, an orangutan will bend branches together into a bowl shape, fill with foliage, and create a nest to sleep in.
Found: Borneo and Sumatra.
Interesting fact: Babies stay with their mothers for up to 8 years.
Proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus)
A reddish brown monkey. The male monkey has a distinct look with his unusually large fleshy nose. This shy monkey eats mostly leaves, seeds and unripe fruit. They are fantastic swimmers, often seen belly-flipping into rivers, and have evolved partially webbed hands and feet.
Found: Borneo’s lowland forests and mangrove swamps.
Interesting fact: can swim underwater up to 20m.
Borneo pygmy elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis)
A subspecies of the Asian elephant. They are smaller with larger ears and straighter tusks. Scientists believe this species was isolated around 300,000 years ago, when elephants trouped across swampy land joining Sumatra and Borneo, when sea levels were lower during the ice ages.
Found: swampy land in Borneo.
Interesting fact: around an estimated 2000 left in the world.
Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus)
Covered in short black fur, with an orange-yellow chest patch, the sun bear’s diet consists of lizards, birds, rodents, insects, termites, fruit and honey. They have large claws making them excellent climbers and sleep high up in the branches of the dense forests. Sun bears have poor eyesight and will become aggressive when cornered.
Found: South Asia tropical forests.
Interesting fact: the smallest of the world’s eight bear species.
Müller’s Bornean gibbon (Hylobates muelleri)
A rainforest dwelling primate in the gibbon family that inhabits northern and eastern Borneo. The fur of the gibbon is grey or brown, with a bright ring of fur around their face. They will live together in monogamist pairs, eating mainly fruit, and defend their family territory with long, loud singing.
Found: endemic to the island of Borneo
Interesting fact: their thumbs extend from the wrist.
Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)
Only recently recorded as a new cat species, so very few facts are known about this type of leopard, which is a master at avoiding humans. It is thought to be a solitary animal, which is mostly nocturnal, and spends much of its life in trees. Clouded leopards eat varied prey, from birds to monkeys and wild pigs.
Found: forests at elevations of up to 2,500m.
Interesting fact: hangs upside-down from branches to spot prey.
Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor)
These quiet, nocturnal deer feed on a wide variety of vegetation. Females live in small herds of up to sixteen individuals and male sambars live alone for much of the year. Females are very protective of their young and will defend them from most predators, which is rare for most deer.
Found: mostly in woodlands.
Interesting fact: has smaller antlers than deer species found in other parts of Asia.
Bornean bearded pig (Sus barbatus)
A large long-legged pig, with a “beard” of coarse, bushy hairs on the bridge of its nose and cheeks. Can swim well, and are good climbers. They are mostly active in the morning and late afternoon, often spending afternoons wallowing in mud, or sleeping. Both sexes have sharp tusks which may grow to 25cm long in males.
Found: in rainforests and mangrove forests.
Interesting fact: hairs in the beard can be up to 15cm long.
Flying squirrel (Pteromyini)
Are not capable of flight like birds but instead will glide between trees. Their diet consists of fruits, nuts, fungi, and birds’ eggs, which they will forage for at night. They have developed membranes between their fore and hind legs, which allow them to launch themselves off trees and glide through the air with outstretched limbs.
Found: forested areas.
Interesting fact: there are 12 species of flying squirrel in Borneo.
These large, noisy and colourful birds feed on fruit and small animals. The hornbill often forms monogamous pairs and during nesting time the female is sealed on a tree or rock hollow and is completely dependent on the male for food. This is thought to protect the nest from rival birds.
Found: forested areas.
Interesting fact: eight species of hornbill are found in Borneo.
Green crested lizard (Bronchocela cristatella)
A species of agamid lizard which is bright green, sometimes possessing a blue tint on its head. The lizard is found in bushes and trees of forested areas and eats insects such as beetles, flies and ants.
Found: forested areas.
Interesting fact: they are able to change colour to a dark brown or grey when threatened.
Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
Also known as the “crab eating macaque”, this primate is native to Southeast Asia. They live in male or female groups. The natal group is dominated by a female hierarchy passed on from mother to daughter. Males leave the group at puberty and join a group of the same gender.
Found: everywhere and is considered a pest.
Interesting fact: tail is longer than their head to rump.
Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica)
The most endangered mammal in the world, the pangolin is also known as the scaly anteater, due to the similarity in their diet, which consists entirely of ants and termites extracted using their long sticky tongue. The entire upper half of the body is covered in brownish scales, which protect it from predators, when curled up into a ball.
Found: forested areas.
Interesting fact: sleep in underground burrows during the day.
Sunda colugo (Glaepterus variegatus)
Known as ‘the flying lemur’ the colugo is specially adapted to glide through the trees with a membrane that attaches their feet to their forearms acting like a parachute. They are nocturnal and completely arboreal living high up in the canopy levels of the rainforest. They are commonly seen at the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok.
Interesting fact: babies often cling to mother’s underside.
Slow loris (Nycticebus coucang)
The slow loris is the only toxic primate in the entire world, using toxins they secrete from scent glands near their elbows; they ingest these toxins giving them venomous saliva. As the name suggests they are very slow moving which is why they only move during the night.
Interesting fact: have large eyes due to their nocturnal existence.
Western tarsier (Tarsius bancanus)
A small primate with wide eyes, long appendages and a hairless tail, they can jump up to 5m (40 times its head and body length). They are light weight and only weigh between 80-160g. Tarsiers can rotate their heads 180 degrees, giving it a large field of vision to spot potential predators.
Found: Borneo’s rainforests.
Interesting fact: can eat up to 10% of their body weight in one day.
False gharial (Tomistoma schlegelli)
An unusual freshwater crocodilian, the gharial gets its name from its slender snout replicating that of the true gharial species, which is perfectly adapted for catching fish, although its diet consists of a variety of insects, crustaceans and small mammals. The false gharial has become extinct from many known areas.
Found: parts of Malaysia and Indonesia.
Interesting fact: males have been reported to grow up to 5m.
Sunda otter-civet (Cynogale bennettii)
A semi-aquatic civet, they eat mostly fish, frogs, crustaceans and freshwater molluscs. The otter civet is rare as it is threatened by the loss of wetlands and other aquatic habitat to development and pollution. Good climbers and can close their ears to exclude water and position its nostrils open upward.
Found: in and near streams, rivers and wetlands.
Interesting fact: weighs approximately 3 - 5kg.
Wallace’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus)
They spend the majority of their time in the canopy, descending only to mate and lay their eggs. When threatened, the frogs will leap from a branch and splay their feet, possessing membranes between their toes that allow them to glide through the air.
Found: dense tropical rainforests.
Interesting fact: when mating, females produce a substance which they beat with their legs into a foamy bundle.