May 30, 2008


Borneo Clouded Leopard

The Bornean Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi) is a medium-sized wild cat found on Borneo, Sumatra and the Batu Islands in the Malay Archipelago and publicised under that name by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on March 14, 2007. Its coat is marked with irregularly-shaped, dark-edged ovals which are said to be shaped like clouds, hence its common name. Though scientists have known of its existence since the early 19th century, it was positively identified as being a distinct species in its own right in 2006, having long been believed to be a subspecies of the mainland Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa). WWF quoted Dr. Stephen O'Brien of the U.S. National Cancer Institute as saying, "Genetic research results clearly indicate that the clouded leopard of Borneo should be considered a separate species".


N. diardi's preferred habitat is tropical and subtropical forest at altitudes up to about 2,000 metres (6,500 ft).


The habits of the Bornean Clouded Leopard are largely unknown because of the animal's secretive nature. It is assumed that it is generally a solitary creature.

Etymology and taxonomic history

Despite its name, the Bornean Clouded Leopard is not closely related to the leopard. The species was named Neofelis diardi in honor of French naturalist and explorer Pierre-Médard Diard; in the 19th century Felis diardii designated the Clouded Leopard/Bornean Clouded Leopard, colloquially "Diard's Cat". The local names, "Macan Dahan" in Indonesian and "Harimau Dahan" in Malay (also reported historically in Sumatra), mean "tree branch tiger".

The species was long regarded as a subspecies of the Clouded Leopard, named Neofelis nebulosa diardi. In December 2006, two articles in the journal Current Biology detailed a strong case for reclassifying and redefining two distinct species of Clouded Leopard: Neofelis nebulosa from mainland Asia and Neofelis diardi from the Malay archipelago, except Peninsular Malaysia. A UK study led by Andrew C. Kitchener detailed geographical variations in the Clouded Leopard, indicating a split of two species. The results of a morphometric analysis of the pelages of fifty-seven Clouded Leopards sampled throughout the genus' wide geographical range concluded that there were two distinct morphological groups, differing primarily in the size of their cloud markings. Another study led by Valerie A. Buckley-Beason cited molecular evidence for the species-level distinction of the Clouded Leopard, although the study only used DNA samples from the Bornean population and mainland Asia and not from the Sumatran population. The genetics study found differences in the molecular genetic analyses (mtDNA, nuclear DNA sequences, microsatellite variation, and cytogenetic differences) of the different species of Clouded Leopard. Among the molecular disparities between the two species were thirty-six fixed mitochondrial and nuclear nucleotide differences and 20 microsatellite loci with nonoverlapping allele-size ranges. The study stated that the degree of differentiation was similar to the differences between the five Panthera species, thus concluding that Neofelis diardi is a separate species from Neofelis nebulosa.

Evolutionary history

The genetic analysis of Neofelis nebulosa and Neofelis diardi suggest the two species diverged 1.4 million years ago, after the animals used a now submerged land bridge to reach Borneo and Sumatra from mainland Asia.


Because the Bornean Clouded Leopard's habits make it difficult to study, exact figures of its population do not exist. However, recent studies estimate the population to be between 5,000 and 11,000 great cats left on Borneo, and 3,000 to 7,000 on Sumatra. In the countries of its native range, hunting of the Clouded Leopard is prohibited. However, these bans are very poorly enforced.

A recent study conducted in 2006, focusing on classifying tracks found in Sabah (northeastern Borneo), placed an estimate on the population: 1,500–3,200 cats in Sabah, with only 275–585 of them in large protected reserves.

Encroachment upon and complete destruction of the Bornean Clouded Leopards' natural habitat, primarily by logging and the creation of rubber and palm oil plantations, continues to threaten the whole fauna of Borneo.


Borneo Clouded Leopard With Largest Fangs In Cat World

New species: The Bornean clouded leopard

Long thought to be identical to the clouded leopards living on mainland South East Asia, genetic analysis has shown that the Bornean big cat is in fact a separate species.

Scientists have counted at least 40 key differences in the DNA of the two felines - making the two species of clouded leopard almost as different as a lion is to a tiger.

Some of the differences are clear to the naked eye, with the elliptical spots or 'clouds' which give it its name, being smaller and darker on the island variety.

The Bornean clouded leopard also has darker fur than its mainland cousin.

Dr Andrew Kitchener, of National Museums Scotland, said: "The moment we started comparing the skins of the mainland clouded leopard with the leopard found on Borneo, it was clear we were comparing two different species.

"It's incredible that no one has ever noticed these differences."

The research, which forms part of the WWF's Heart of Borneo conservation project, brings the number of new species to have emerged from the island's jungles in the last year to over 50.

Plants and animals new to science include two species of tree frog and 30 types of fish, including a catfish with an adhesive belly that allows it to stick to rocks.

The scientists say the remote, and for a long time, inaccessible, forests of the world's third largest island are one of the 'final frontiers for science - a Lost World that must be preserved from threats from the logging and rubber industries.

The Heart of Borneo, an 84,000 square mile, wild, mountainous region, covered with equatorial rain forest in the centre of the island, is the last great home of the Bornean clouded leopard.

The island's most fearsome predator, the clouded leopard has the longest canine teeth of any feline, with fully-grown cats boasting fangs that are up to two-inches long.

Only the long-extinct sabre-tooth tiger had longer canine teeth for its body size.

Tails as long as their bodies allow the secretive and solitary creatures to balance in trees, where they perch to pounce on their prey.

Monkeys, barking deer and bearded pigs can be killed with a single bite, with the leopard having no fear of seeking out prey that is bigger than itself.

Such adept hunting skills put the clouded leopard, which at 35 inches from head to start of tail is about the size of a small Labrador, right at the top of the island's food chain.

Stuart Chapman, of the Heart of Borneo programme, said: "Who said a leopard can never change its spots?

"For over a hundred years, we have been looking at this animal and never realised it is unique.

"The fact that Borneo's top predator is now considered a separate species further emphasises the importance of conserving the Heart of Borneo."

It is thought there are up to 11,000 of the new species of clouded leopard, Neofelis diardi on Borneo and a further 3,000 to 7,000 on the neighbouring island of Sumatra.

It is estimated the Bornean and Sumatran populations broke away from mainland populations around 1.4 million years ago.

Some Leopard facts:

  • With a body that measures just over a foot, the clouded leopard is the smallest of the 'big cats'.

  • It is also the best tree-climber, with flexible ankle joints and keen claws allowing it to run down tree trunks head first. It can run along the underside of branches and hang by the back feet alone - freeing up their front paws to snatch at prey.

  • Its two-inch canine teeth are the longest of any living feline and lead to comparisons with the long-extinct sabre-tooth tiger.

  • Its jaws can open wider than those of any other cat and the fangs are as big as a tiger's, even although tigers are ten times bigger.

  • They often ambush their prey from the treetops, landing on the taget's back before delivering one fatal bite.

  • The young, which are born with solid spots, rather than mottled 'clouds', are weaned at five months and become independent at nine months.

  • The creatures, which live up to 11 years in the wild and 17 in captivity, emit calls ranging from pet cat-like purrs, to roars, growls and hisses.
  • Although protected by law, the clouded leopard is still hunted for its beautiful pelt and the supposed healing powers of its bones and teeth.

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    Scientists Find Borneo's Clouded Leopards To Be New Species

    GENEVA, March 15 Kyodo

    U.S. scientists have discovered that the clouded leopard found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra is an entirely new species of cat, the conservationist group WWF International announced Thursday.

    The secretive rainforest animal was originally thought to be the same species as the one found in mainland Southeast Asia, based on their general physical appearance.

    Researchers at the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Genomic Diversity in Maryland found genetic differences between the two types to be equivalent to or greater than those between lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars.

    In terms of appearance, the clouded leopards in Borneo and Sumatra have small cloud markings with many distinct spots within the clouds. They are darker in color than those of the mainland, which have larger cloud markings with fewer spots within the clouds.

    ''For over a hundred years we have been looking at this animal and never realized it was unique,'' Stuart Chapman, international coordinator of the WWF's Heart of Borneo program, was quoted as saying.

    ''The fact that Borneo's top predator is now considered a separate species further emphasizes the importance of conserving one of the most biologically diverse habitats on Earth,'' he said.

    The news comes just a few weeks after a WWF report showed that scientists had identified at least 52 new species of animals and plants over the past year on Borneo.

    WWF roughly estimates there are between 5,000 and 11,000 Bornean clouded leopards and between 3,000 to 7,000 Sumatran ones.

    With the reclassification, the scientific name of the clouded leopard from the mainland remains Neofelis nebulosa, while the clouded leopard from Borneo and Sumatra is now called Neofelis diardi.

    COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning


    Borneo Clouded Leopard Video

    May 28, 2008


    Borneo Porboscis Monkey


    The greatest concentration of wildlife in Borneo, is found near Sandakan, along the lower regions of Sabah's biggest and longest river, the Kinabatangan. Orangutans, macaques, red and silver leaf monkeys, elephants, birds, eight species of hornbills, crocodiles, civet cats and otters are found in this region, but the most famous and most bizarre animal is the Proboscis monkey (a primate found only in Borneo). With its huge pendulous nose, a characteristic pot belly and strange honking sounds, it is one of the most peculiar and ugliest (or beautiful?) animals in the world. There is only one species of the proboscis monkey, Nasalis larvatus. The distinctive physical feature from which this monkey takes its name is the long pendulous nose of mature males. The Proboscis Monkey is found only in the coastal areas of Borneo and the Mentawai islands west of Sumatra living in coastal mangrove swamps and riverine forests on the lower reaches of major rivers coastal and mangrove forests

    CLASS: Mammalia
    ORDER: Primates
    SUBORDER : Anthropoidea

    FAMILY : Cercopithectdae which includes 18 genera and 81 species. These monkeys are widely distributed in the Old World, from southern Europe (Gibraltar) to Africa and through central and SE Asia, including southern China and Japan.

    SUBFAMILY: Colobinae
    GENUS: Nasalis
    SPECIES: larvatus (Proboscis monkey)

    MALAYSIAN NAME: Monyet Belanda - "Dutchman Monkey". The proboscis monkey got its Malay name during the colonial period. The locals felt that the Proboscis resembled the European traders and colonialists (both were hairy, both had big noses, both had pot bellies!).

    SIZE: males -56 to 72 cm
    WEIGHT: 8.2 to 23. kg

    GESTATION: 166 days. One young is born at a time, and breeding is not restricted to a season.

    COLORATION: Reddish-brown or chestnut color on the back, orange on the shoulders with grey limbs and long white tails. A little dark red fur on the top of the head goes down the back

    BEHAVIOUR: Proboscis monkeys move about and live in groups of 11-32. They live in single-male harems with about seven females. The small harems often come together to form multiple-male bands which are thought to be temporary foraging aggregations. Often bands of up to 60 can be found roosting together in trees near rivers at night. Males usually leave their natal groups and can be either solitary or form bachelor herds before getting their own harems. Females may move from one harem to another when young, but otherwise harems are stable. Males confront intruders.

    DIET: Proboscis monkeys are vegetarian and predominantly eat leaves, although fruit, seeds, and flowers are included in their diet when available. The prefer the pedada leaves.

    HABITAT: Proboscis monkeys live almost exclusively in mangrove forests near fresh water and in lowland rainforests. They can be found near rivers edges, resting and sleeping. Areas around human settlements are completely avoided. They are mostly arboreal (tree living) but have been known to leave the trees in order to cross open ground, or pass through nipah palms.

    FEATURES: The male and female are distinguished by the size of the body and the nose. The male is bigger than the female and its nose is more pointed. Females do not have this characteristic. The nose of male, can be 4 inches long, hangs down like a small trunk to the end of the monkey's mouth. In the female and the young, the nose is shorter and turned up at the end. The males' big nose is a secondary sex characteristic: the bigger the nose is, the sexier the monkey is. It has also been suggested that the nose aids in radiating excess body heat. These monkeys are also proficient swimmers and expert at leaping from tree to tree, or from a riverside tree into the middle of a river. They often cross rivers and narrow points in big groups because they run a risk of being preyed upon by crocodiles, while in the water.

    Though protected by law and listed as endangered by the USDI and Appendix 1 of CITES, this unusual monkey is threatened with extinction owing to loss of habitat and hunting. Their habitat is under severe threat from logging and land clearing for plantations. Deforestation is the main threat to the Proboscis Monkey. Hunting by locals, has also contributed to the decline in the monkey's population.
    In 1977, about 6,400 proboscis monkeys were found living in Sarawak. Today there are only 1,000. There are 2,000 in Sabah and maybe 4,000 or so in Kalimantan. A number of conservation measures have been implemented to protect the proboscis monkey. The Sarawak Forestry Department was the first to do a detailed study of the species, and the government has gazetted national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to provide protection. The Forestry Department also has an education unit which educates the people, living in villages, on the importance of wildlife conservation.

    Sabah is Malaysia's most important nature conservation area. The Sabah State Government is in the process of establishing the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. WWF Malaysia has been working with the Sabah Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Development, Sabah Forestry Department and Sabah Wildlife Department since 1983 on a number of projects in the Kinabatangan area. These projects include surveys of crocodiles, orang- utans, waterbirds and other wildlife.


    WWF Official Information On Porboscis Monkey

    WWF official Proboscis Monkey Information

    We support the good work of the WWF but what they do in order to save Proboscis Monkey we hope to hear from them soon. Enclosed their recent info:

    Distribution, habitat and behaviour

    * Endemic to Borneo. Can be found along the coastal areas, mangrove swamps and riverine forests of Borneo.

    * In 1977, there were about 6400 of them in Sarawak, but now there are only about 1000 in Sarawak, with perhaps another 2000 in Sabah and 4000 in Kalimantan. Some populations along the west coast of Sabah have disappeared entirely.

    * The only known reserves to have a sustained and secure proboscis population are Tanjung Puting and possibly Mount Palung National Park in Kalimantan.

    Description and natural history

    * A very bizarre-looking primate, the tree-dwelling proboscis monkey gets its name from its huge pendulous nose. The nose overhangs the mouth and the monkey has to push it aside in order to eat. The female has a shorter and more snubby version.

    * They have pot bellies and are very noisy primates with their strange honking sounds.

    * Only primate species adapted for swimming with some webbing between its fingers. They are proficient swimmers, moving quietly (so as not to attract its natural predator, the crocodile) using a form of dog paddle, and like to dive off a tree branch high above the water, sometimes with babies clinging to their mothers’ fur.

    * The male averages 24kg in weight, twice as much as the female. Hence it tends to move more carefully than the females or younger males do.

    * Adults have an orangey red coat, greyish on their bottom half, and a long thick white tail. Newborns have deep blue faces with upturned noses, but assume adult colouring when they are about nine months old.

    * Lives on a special diet of leaves, flowers and seeds of vegetation found only in riverine, peat swamps and mangrove forests.


    * Because it feeds and lives in mangrove and riverine forests, the draining of wetlands and development along riverbanks for agricultural purposes and human settlement are its biggest threat through habitat loss.

    * Peat fires.

    * Sedimentation of lower river banks that change coastal soil ecology and vegetation.


    * Now listed as an endangered species, their long-term survival is dependent on protection given by gazetted parks and wildlife sanctuaries such as the proposed Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, an important wetland in Sabah.

    * Enforce protection, institute strict regulations on land use of wetlands and pollution management to minimise environmental damage to the specie’s natural habitats.


    Porboscis Monkey Videos

    May 26, 2008


    Borneo Pygmy Elephant


    Common Name - Borneo Pygmy Elephant

    Scientific Name - Elephas maximus or sometimes Elephas maximus borneensis, although they have not been officially determined to be a separate subspecies from mainland Asian elephants

    Habitat - Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

    Location - Sabah, Borneo (northeast tip of the island), Malaysia and occasionally into East Kalimantan, Indonesia

    Status - Endangered

    Population - Unknown, estimated to be 1500 or fewer

    Borneo pygmy elephants are smaller than other Asian elephants. The males may only grow to less than 2.5 meters, while other Asian elephants grow up to 3 meters. They also have babyish faces, larger ears, longer tails that reach almost to the ground and are more rotund. These elephants are also less aggressive than other Asian elephants.


    Major Habitat Type

    Concentrated in Sabah, particularly the floodplain, tributaries and the upper catchment of the Kinabatangan River - but their route has been cut off by illegal loggers and the elephants have not been there in years. They occasionally range into East Kalimantan, Indonesia.

    Biogeographic Realm - Indo- Malaya

    Range States - Malaysia, Indonesia

    Geographical Location - Northeast Borneo

    Physical Description

    Why is this species important?

    Until recently the pygmy elephants of Borneo were believed to be a remnant population of a domesticated herd abandoned on the island by the Sultan of Sulu in the 17th century. But a 2003 DNA analysis carried out by WWF and Columbia University proved that the pygmy elephants were genetically distinct from other Asian elephants, thereby recognizing it as a likely new subspecies and emphasizing its conservation priority.

    According to the DNA evidence these elephants were isolated about 300,000 years ago from their cousins on mainland Asia and Sumatra. During that period, they became smaller with relatively larger ears, longer tails and straighter tusks.

    The evolutionary history of Borneo's elephants justifies their recognition as a separate evolutionary significant unit (ESU).

    Ecology and habitat


    The Asian elephant is one of the largest forest herbivores in the world. A single adult can eat up to 150 kgs of vegetation everyday, feeding mostly on species of palms, grasses and wild bananas. They also require minerals which they receive from salt licks or mineral concentrations in limestone outcrops.


    The primary threat to these elephants is the loss of continuous forests. Mammals of their size require large feeding grounds and viable breeding populations with sizeable male- to female ratios. Shrinking forests have also brought the elephants into more frequent contact with people, increasing human elephant conflict in the region.

    The large blocks of forests they require are now being fragmented by encroachment in forest areas and conversion of natural forests into commercial plantations. Human disturbances within forests such as logging, increased agriculture, building of palm oil mills with associated settlements and hunting are rapidly breaking up contact between sub populations, as well as minimizing the areas of forests available for each small group to live and feed on.


    The Borneo Elephant, also called the Borneo Pygmy Elephant, (Elephas maximus borneensis) is a subspecies of the Asian Elephant and found in north Borneo (east Sabah and extreme north Kalimantan).


    The origin of Borneo elephants is controversial. Two competing hypotheses argued that they are either indigenous, or were introduced, descending from elephants imported in the 16th–18th centuries. In 2003, mitochondrial DNA research has discovered that its ancestors separated from the mainland population during the Pleistocene, about 300,000 years ago. The subspecies currently living in Borneo possibly became isolated from other Asian elephant populations when land bridges that linked Borneo with the other Sunda Islands and the mainland disappeared after the Last Glacial Maximum, 18,000 years ago. Isolation may be the reason it has become smaller with relatively larger ears, longer tails, and relatively straight tusks. Other scientists argue that the Borneo elephant was introduced by the Sultan of Sulu and abandoned, and that the population on Sulu, never considered to be native, was imported from Java. Thus the Borneo elephant may be actually the extinct Javan elephant. Many facts support this hypothesis, including no archaeological evidence of long term elephant habitation of Borneo, a corroboration in folklore and the lack of the elephants colonizing the entire island of Borneo


    The Borneo elephant is smaller than all the other subspecies of the Asian elephant. The Borneo elephant is also remarkably tame and passive, another reason some scientists think it was descended from a domestic collection.

    Conservation status

    Wild Asian elephant populations are disappearing as expanding human development disrupts their migration routes, depletes their food sources, and destroys their habitat. Recognizing these elephants as native to Borneo makes their conservation a high priority and gives biologists important clues about how to manage them.

    In Aug 2007 it was reported that there are probably not more than 1,000 pygmy elephants left in Sabah, after a two year study by WWF.


    Tagging Pygmy Elephants In Borneo


    Tagging pygmy elephants in Borneo
    By Jan Vertefeuille

    There’s an elephant less than six metres in front of me and yet I can’t make out any part of her in the dense Borneo jungle. So congested is the jungle with vines and leaves that seeing and walking become arduous tasks.

    But we can hear her. Immobilized by the sedative shot into her rump but still conscious, the pygmy elephant calls out to her herd for help using infrasound, uttering a soft, low rumble from the back of her throat. Elephants are famously protective of their families and the rest of the herd is distressed by their matriarch’s apparent troubles. There is much trumpeting from the bush. How many elephants are surrounding us, we can’t tell.

    The WWF team moves quickly, and quietly, to lessen the stress on our target elephant. We’re here to put a satellite tracking collar on her as part of WWF’s research to learn more about the pygmy elephants of Borneo and how best to protect them. It’s the first time anyone has ever studied Borneo’s elephants and WWF is collaring five of them on the northeast tip of the island. It will be the largest study ever done to track Asian elephants via satellite.

    Searching for an elephant in a jungle
    The elephant in front of us has been dubbed Nancy, in honour of long-time elephant conservation supporter Nancy Abraham. One member of our team covers the elephant’s eyes with cotton as WWF scientist Dr Christy Williams hoists the 10kg collar over her neck. Enough room is left to ensure the collar isn’t too tight, but not so loose that she could slip it off. The collar houses GPS and satellite units that will convey Nancy’s location to a website checked daily by WWF scientists to track the herd’s movements through the Borneo rain forest.

    The Borneo jungle doesn’t give up its secrets easily. Following in an elephant’s footsteps through knee-deep mud, through walls of vines that cling to every surface, and beneath underbrush dripping with hungry leeches is a slow and sometimes frustrating process. Who would have thought finding and darting an animal as a large as an elephant would be so hard. It’s almost like looking for a needle in a haystack.

    The collaring team from the Sabah Wildlife Department in Malaysia and WWF’s Borneo office are used to spending days, sometimes weeks, inside the jungle looking for the elusive species.

    “If you go inside the jungle, you can feel how big it is,” says William Joseph, a 35-year-old elephant tracker with WWF in Borneo.

    Joseph and his fellow tracker and brother, Engelbert, can look at grass bent over by elephants and know which way they went, or see a pile of elephant dung on the road and know how long since they have passed by and how many there were.

    Make room for the pygmies
    The jungles of Borneo are big. In fact, the island’s forests are one of the only places left in Southeast Asia where it is still possible to conserve forests on a very large scale. But world demand for palm oil — used in common products like hand lotion, ice cream and chocolate — is driving the rapid conversion of the pygmy elephants’ forests into palm oil plantations.

    Elephants — even pygmy ones — require large feeding grounds, as well as access to members of the opposite sex for breeding. Shrinking forests and blocks of habitat cut off from one another make it difficult for elephants to thrive. It also brings the elephants into more frequent contact with people, increasing human-elephant conflict in the region. As forests shrink, elephants are increasingly closer to fields and cultivated land, generating conflict with humans that often result in the death of the elephants by poisoning or capture, as well as economic losses to humans.

    Putting collars on the elephants will be a huge step forward in scientists’ understanding of the pygmy elephants and which forests are most important to them — and hence, the most crucial to preserve. And the collars will make keeping track of them much easier for WWF, the only conservation organization working to protect the population.

    “Our field team has tracked elephants on foot for weeks at a time to gather data, but it’s very difficult and labor-intensive,” says Raymond Alfred, WWF’s project manager of the Asian Rhinoceros and Elephant Action Strategy (AREAS). “We are still in the process of figuring out how to get optimum outputs from the use of this tagging technology.”

    WWF elephant experts expect the collars to give them insight into how much ground each herd covers, what type of forest they prefer to feed in, how they react to logging and other human disturbance in the forest, and what habitat is most crucial to the elephants’ future survival. Nancy doesn’t know it, but she’s helping scientists save her species.

    Survival of the species
    So little is known about the Borneo pygmy elephant that it’s not even known how many there are. WWF’s AREAS Programme estimates that there are about 1,000 to 1,500 of them, but probably no more than that.

    “Further studies are needed to better understand this population and exactly how it differs from other Asian elephants,” said Williams, who leads WWF’s Asian elephant conservation efforts.

    What is known is that Borneo elephants are less aggressive and smaller than other Asian elephants, with males growing perhaps only as tall as 2.5m, while other Asian elephants can grow to 3m. They also have larger ears and longer tails and are more rotund, making even adult pygmy elephants look like juveniles.

    As Nancy gets fitted with her new collar, another member of the collaring team takes her measurements with a very large measuring tape, while another team member does a quick walkaround to check for scars, injuries and other identifying marks. She’s a big elephant, probably around 40, and appears to be pregnant — something the team will be able to determine in the coming months as it starts to keep closer tabs on her.

    Until recently, the origins of the Borneo pygmy elephant were in dispute. Many believed they were remnants of a domesticated herd abandoned on the island by the Sultan of Sulu in the 17th century. If they were simply domesticated elephants gone feral, that would make them a low conservation priority for the Malaysian government. But in 2003, a DNA analysis by WWF and Columbia University researchers proved the pygmy elephants are genetically different from other Asian elephants and thus a separate subspecies. The evidence suggests that they became isolated from other elephant populations about 300,000 years ago and developed their distinctive characteristics over this time.

    As an endangered subspecies, they are of high conservation priority. WWF is moving quickly to learn all we can about them, as much of their rain forest habitat is converted into commercial tree plantations.

    In less than 25 minutes, the collaring is complete. Everyone backs quickly away as a team member injects a dartful of antidote into her rump. Nancy calls to her herd and angry trumpets can be heard from the group as they rush to check on her.

    Wonder what they think of the new neckwear she’s now sporting?

    * Jan Vertefeuille is a Senior Communications Officer at WW-US.


    • The Island of Borneo, the world’s third largest island — split between the countries of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia — is known for its rain forests, which rival those of the Amazon and New Guinea in biological diversity. These rich forests provide habitat for elephants, rhinos and orangutans, as well as a vast array of distinct creatures, from giant moths to flying squirrels, horn-billed birds to color-changing lizards.

    • According to a WWF report — Borneo: Treasure Island at Risk — rampant logging and the conversion of forests to plantations are driving the destruction of Borneo's forests. There about 2.5 million hectares of oil palm plantations in Borneo. With a current deforestation rate of 1.3 million hectares per year, only peat and montane forests would survive in the coming years. Today, only half of Borneo's forest cover remains, down from 75 per cent in the mid 1980s.

    • Through WWF’s Heart of Borneo initiative, the global conservation organization aims to assist Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia to conserve a total of 220,000km² of equatorial rainforest through a network of protected areas and sustainably-managed forest, and through international cooperation led by the Bornean governments and supported by a global effort.


    Pygmy Elephant Videos

    Wild Pygmy Elephant.

    Lok Kawi, Malaysia Wildlife Park.

    May 24, 2008


    Borneo One Horned Rhino



    Greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis),
    Javan rhino (R. sondaicus),
    Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)
    Habitat Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannahs and shrublands, to tropical moist forests
    Location Southeast Asia, South Asia
    Status Endangered to Critically Endangered (IUCN-The World Conservation Union)
    Population Less than 3,000

    Mysterious, often unseen, and very low in numbers, two of the three Asian rhino species hover on the brink of extinction

    Historically hunted for their horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines, and devastated by the destruction of their lowland forest habitat, Asian rhino populations are now distressingly small. These animals are among the world’s most endangered, with one species numbering only around 60 individuals. Throughout their range, their habitat continues to dwindle fast due to illegal logging and other human pressures, and the threat of poaching is ever-present.

    Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia/Gland, Switzerland – A motion-triggered camera trap set up in a remote jungle has captured the first-ever photo of a rhino in the wild on the island of Borneo, the Sabah Wildlife Department and WWF announced today.

    The rhino is believed to be one of a population of as few as 13 individuals whose existence was confirmed during a field survey last year in the interior forests of Sabah, Malaysia in an area known as the “Heart of Borneo”.

    A handful of rhinos are thought to survive in addition to the 13, scattered across Sabah but isolated from each other.

    Conservationists hope that this population of 13 is viable and will be able to reproduce if protected from poaching. A full-time rhino monitoring team was established at the end of 2005 in Sabah to monitor the rhinos and their habitat, and to keep poachers away. The camera traps, set up in February 2006, are remotely activated by infrared triggers when animals walk by.

    “This is an encouraging sign for the future of rhinoceros conservation work in Sabah,” said Mahedi Andau, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department.

    "While the total number of Borneo rhinos remaining is uncertain, we do know there are very, very few. To capture a photo of one just a few months after placing camera traps in the area is extraordinary.”

    The rhinos on Borneo spend their lives in dense jungle where they are rarely seen, which accounts for the lack of any previous photographs of them in the wild.

    “These are very shy animals that are almost never seen in the wild,” said Raymond Alfred, Project Manager of WWF-Malaysia’s Asian Rhinoceros and Elephant Action Strategy (AREAS).

    “Based on the photo, we can tell this is a mature and healthy individual thanks to the availability of plentiful, good-quality forage in the forest. We hope to take more photos over the coming months of other rhinos so we can piece together clues about this tiny, precarious population.”

    The rhinos found on Borneo are regarded as a subspecies of the Sumatran rhinoceros, which means it has different physical characteristics to the animals found in Sumatra (Indonesia) and Peninsular Malaysia. The Sumatran rhinoceros is one of the world’s most critically endangered species, with a total global population of fewer than 300. On Borneo, there have been no confirmed reports of the species, apart from those in Sabah, for almost 20 years, leading experts to fear that rhinos may now be extinct on the rest of the island.

    The main threats to the last rhinos on Borneo are poaching – its horn and virtually all of its body parts are valuable on the black market – and loss of its forested habitat due to land conversion for other uses such as agriculture. WWF is working with the Sabah Foundation and the Sabah Wildlife Department to establish a Rhinoceros and Orangutan Research Programme Centre in the Heart of Borneo forest area to bolster the rhino monitoring and research work in that area.

    Sabah and the forests of the Heart of Borneo still hold huge tracts of continuous natural forests, which are some of the most biologically diverse habitats on Earth, with high numbers of unique animal and plant species. This is one of the world’s only two places – the other being Indonesia’s Sumatra Island – where orang-utans, elephants and rhinos still co-exist and where forests are currently large enough to maintain viable populations.

    WWF aims to assist Borneo's three nations (Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia) to conserve the Heart of Borneo – a total of 220,000km2 of equatorial rainforest – through a network of protected areas and sustainably managed forest, and through international cooperation led by the Bornean governments and supported by a global effort.


    • The Borneo rhino is considered to be a separate subspecies (D. S. harrissoni) from the rhinos on Sumatra and mainland Malaysia. They feed on the leaves of a wide variety of seedlings and young trees. Unlike other rhino species and other large herbivorous mammals in Borneo (elephant, wild cattle, deer), the Sumatran rhino is a strict forest-dweller that ventures out of forest cover only in unusual situations. Sumatran rhinos are currently found in Peninsular Malaysia, and on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

    • The main reasons for the drop in rhino numbers are due to illegal hunting and the fact that the remaining rhinos are so isolated they may rarely or never meet to breed. In addition, there is evidence that a high proportion of the female rhinos on Borneo have reproductive problems. Many of the remaining rhinos are old and possibly beyond reproductive age, so the death rate may be exceeding the birth rate.

    • Other threatened wildlife in Borneo includes clouded leopards, sun bears, and three species of leaf monkeys found nowhere else in the world. The island is also home to ten primate species, more than 350 bird species, 150 reptiles and amphibians and 15,000 plants.

    • A field survey of Sabah’s rhinos in May 2005 involved about 120 people in 16 teams. It was undertaken by the Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Parks, the Sabah Foundation, WWF-Malaysia, the Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project, SOS Rhino, Universiti Malaysia Sabah and Operation Raleigh. Also participating in the effort to protect Borneo’s remaining rhinos are the Sabah Wildlife Department, the Sabah Foundation, SOS Rhino and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.


    Small Group Of Rhino Survie Poaches

    World Wildlife Fund today released the results of a field survey from the island of Borneo which found that poaching has significantly reduced Borneo's population of Sumatran rhinos, but a small group continues to survive in the "Heart of Borneo," a region covered with vast tracts of rain forest.

    The survey found evidence of at least 13 rhinos in the interior of the Malaysian state of Sabah in northeast Borneo. It was conducted in 2005 by teams of more than 100 field staff from the Sabah Foundation, the Sabah Wildlife Department, WWF, Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Parks, S.O.S. Rhino, Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project, University Malaysia Sabah and Operation Raleigh.

    WWF and Malaysian authorities have launched rhino protection units to patrol the area where the rhinos were found.

    "If this band of rhinos is to have a healthy future in Borneo the poaching must be stopped immediately. Their numbers are so small that losing one or two rhinos to a poacher could upset the remaining rhinos' chances of survival," said Sybille Klenzendorf, lead biologist of WWF's Species Conservation Program. "Conservationists and Sabah government agencies are hopeful that there is a chance to save this group of rhinos and are diligently working to protect them."

    In addition to the 13 rhinos found in the interior of Sabah during this survey, a few individuals still survive in other parts of the state that weren't covered in this survey. Previous estimates of rhino numbers had suggested there were 30 to 70 rhinos on the island of Borneo. Populations in other parts of the island are believed to be extinct.

    There are believed to be fewer than 300 Sumatran rhinos left in the world and they are considered one of the most endangered rhino species because of the intensity of poaching. Sumatran rhinos are only found in widely scattered areas across peninsular Malaysia, Borneo and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Rhino numbers globally have been devastated because rhino horn carries a high price on the black market, where it is predominantly sold for use in traditional Asian medicines.

    As poaching is such a threat to this species, the survey results were not released until strong protection measures could be put in place in the areas where the rhinos are found. Those security measures were recently installed. WWF and partners last month launched a five-year project called "Rhino Rescue," which will organize rhino protection units and other activities to deter poaching.

    "The results from the survey of Borneo's rhinos are crucial additions to our scientific understanding of the species," said Dr. Christy Williams, of WWF's Asian rhino program. "We believe this population may be viable and could recover if their habitat is protected and the threat of poaching is eliminated."

    Sabah and the forests of the "Heart of Borneo" still hold huge tracts of continuous natural forests, which are some of the most biologically diverse habitats on Earth, with high numbers of unique animal and plant species. This is one of the world's only two places – the other being Indonesia's Sumatra island – where orangutans, elephants and rhinos still co-exist and where forests are currently large enough to maintain viable populations.

    WWF aims to assist Borneo's three nations (Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia) to conserve the "Heart of Borneo" – a total of about 84,942 square miles of equatorial rain forest – through a network of protected areas and sustainably managed forest, and through international cooperation led by the Bornean governments and supported by a global effort.

    Related Malaysia to phase out Borneo logging in parts of Sabah state 03/16/2006
    The Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo announced it will phase out logging in large parts of its remaining rainforests. Sabah, once home to some of the world's most biodiverse forests, was largely logged out during the 1980s and 1990s but some parts of the state still support wild populations of endangered orangutans. In recent years, the Malaysian government has set aside protected areas and sponsored reforestation projects in the state.


    Extinct Borneo Rhino Caught On Tape

    Above: camera trap footage of the rare and elusive Borneo rhino - the first-ever footage observing the behaviour in the wild of one of the world’s rarest rhinos.


    Species Greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis),
    Javan rhino (R. sondaicus),
    Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)

    Habitat Tropical and subtropical grasslands,
    savannahs and shrublands, to
    tropical moist forests

    Location Southeast Asia, South Asia

    Status Endangered to Critically Endangered
    (IUCN-The World Conservation Union)

    Population Less than 3,000

    Mysterious, often unseen, and very low in numbers, two of the three Asian rhino species hover on the brink of extinction

    Historically hunted for their horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines, and devastated by the destruction of their lowland forest habitat, Asian rhino populations are now distressingly small. These animals are among the world’s most endangered, with one species numbering only around 60 individuals. Throughout their range, their habitat continues to dwindle fast due to illegal logging and other human pressures, and the threat of poaching is ever-present.

    Sumatran rhino

    The smallest rhino species

    The Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino is the smallest rhino species and the only Asian rhino with two horns.

    Also called the lesser two-horned rhino or hairy rhino, it once ranged from north-eastern India through Indochina, Malaysia, and the islands of Sumatra (Indonesia) and Borneo (Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia). Their numbers are thought to have at least halved between 1985 and 1995.

    Today, the population is estimated at less than 300 individuals in small pockets of Sumatra, peninsular Malaysia, and Borneo. The Borneo population is considered a distinct sub-species, numbering perhaps fewer than 25 animals.

    Greater one-horned rhino

    A growing success story

    Also known as the Indian rhino, the greater one-horned rhino is enjoying the greatest conservation success. Its original range extended from Pakistan all the way through India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar. However in 1975, only 600 remained.

    By 2002, conservation efforts resulted in the swelling of greater one-horned rhino populations to 2,400 in the Terai Arc Landscape of India and Nepal, and the grasslands of Assam and north Bengal, northeast India.

    This success aside, however, the greater one-horned rhino is still listed as Endangered as only two populations number more than 100 individuals.

    Javan rhino

    Probably the rarest large mammal species in the world

    The Critically Endangered Javan rhino is also known as the lesser one-horned rhino, and is probably the rarest large mammal species in the world. No more than 60 individuals are thought to survive in the wild, and there are none in captivity.

    The Javan rhino historically roamed from north-eastern India through Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam, and the islands of Sumatra and Java (Indonesia).

    Today, just 28–56 are estimated to remain in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, and no more than 8 survive in Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam. Both groups belong to distinct sub-species.

    May 22, 2008


    Borneo Rhinoceros Hornbill

    Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros)

    Hornbills are large, black or brown, and white, mainly arboreal birds, with long, heavy bills. Many species have large protuberant casques on top of the bill which may be gaudily coloured. Hornbills are found throughout Africa and tropical Asia, and throughout Indonesia to New Guinea. They eat fruit and insects and have harsh, penetrating calls.

    The nesting habits of the family are interesting. The incubating females are usually sealed into tree hole nests with mud, leaving only a small aperture through which food can be passed by the male. When the young are hatched the female breaks out but reseals the nest entrance again until the young are ready to leave. Ten species of hornbill occur in Sumatra, eight in Borneo, but only three are found in Java.

    Description: Very large (110 cm), black and white hornbill with large yellow and red bill and casque, and diagnostic white tail with a broad black band. Head, back, wings, and breast black; belly and thighs white.
    Iris-white to blue in females, red in males; skin around eyes-dark grey; bill yellow with red base and surmounted by upturned spiralling casque; feet-greenish grey.

    Voice: Loud, harsh roar kronnk, repeated by either sex and often given in chorus with one partner slightly later than the other. Sharper gak note given just before flight.

    Range: SE Asia, Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, Borneo, and Java. Absent from Bali.

    Distribution and Status: This species is found in low densities in most large blocks of lowland and hill forest. It is very conspicuous because of its size, habits, and call but in fact is generally present at low density.

    Habits: Pairs inhabit the crowns of the tallest trees. A regular visitor to fruiting giant strangling figs. Gives a dramatic whooshing sound of wing-beats in flight.


    Rainforest's Rafflesia Flower


    Rafflesia is a genus of parasitic flowering plants. It was discovered in the Indonesian rain forest by an Indonesian guide working for Dr. Joseph Arnold in 1818, and named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the leader of the expedition. It contains approximately 26 species (including four incompletely characterized species as recognized by Meijer 1997), all found in southeastern Asia, on the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra and Kalimantan, West Malaysia, and the Philippines. The plant has no stems, leaves or true roots. It is an endoparasite of vines in the genus Tetrastigma (Vitaceae), spreading its root-like haustoria inside the tissue of the vine. The only part of the plant that can be seen outside the host vine is the five-petaled flower. In some species, such as Rafflesia arnoldii, the flower may be over 100 cm in diameter, and weigh up to 10kg. Even the smallest species, R. manillana, has 20cm diameter flowers. The flowers look and smell like rotting meat, hence its local names which translate to "corpse flower" or "meat flower" (but see below). The vile smell that the flower gives off attracts insects such as carrion flies, which transport pollen from male to female flowers. Little is known about seed dispersal, however, tree shrews and other forest mammals apparently eat the fruits and disperse the seeds. Rafflesia is an official state flower of Sabah in Malaysia, as well as for the Surat Thani Province, Thailand.

    The name "corpse flower" applied to Rafflesia is confusing because this common name also refers to the Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) of the family Araceae. Moreover, because Amorphophallus has the world's largest unbranched inflorescence, it is sometimes mistakenly credited as having the world's largest flower. Both Rafflesia and Amorphophallus are flowering plants, but they are still distantly related. Rafflesia arnoldii has the largest single flower of any flowering plant, at least when one judges this by weight. Amorphophallus titanum has the largest unbranched inflorescence, while the Talipot palm (Corypha umbraculifera) forms the largest branched inflorescence, containing thousands of flowers; this plant is monocarpic, meaning that individuals die after flowering.

    Comparison of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences of Rafflesia with other angiosperm mtDNA indicated that this parasite evolved from photosynthetic plants of the order Malpighiales.[1]. Another study from that same year confirmed this result using both mtDNA and nuclear DNA sequences, and showed that three other groups traditionally classified in Rafflesiaceae were unrelated. A more recent study found Rafflesia and its relatives to be embedded within the family Euphorbiaceae, which is surprising as members of that family typically have very small flowers. According to their analysis, the rate of flower size evolution was more or less constant throughout the family except at the origin of Rafflesiaceae, where the flowers rapidly evolved to become much larger before reverting to the slower rate of change.


    * Rafflesia arnoldii
    * Rafflesia azlanii
    * Rafflesia baletei
    * Rafflesia banahawensis
    * Rafflesia bengkuluensis
    * Rafflesia cantleyi
    * Rafflesia gadutensis
    * Rafflesia hasseltii
    * Rafflesia keithii
    * Rafflesia kerrii
    * Rafflesia lobata
    * Rafflesia manillana
    * Rafflesia micropylora
    * Rafflesia mira
    * Rafflesia patma
    * Rafflesia pricei
    * Rafflesia rochussenii
    * Rafflesia schadenbergiana
    * Rafflesia speciosa
    * Rafflesia tengku-adlinii
    * Rafflesia tuan-mudae

    Unverified species

    * Rafflesia borneensis
    * Rafflesia ciliata
    * Rafflesia titan
    * Rafflesia witkampii


    Borneo Orang Utan


    Scientific classification, Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Mammalia, Order: Primates Family: Hominidae, Subfamily: Ponginae

    Pongo pygmaeus / Pongo abelii

    The orangutans are two species of great apes known for their intelligence, long arms and reddish-brown hair. Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, they are currently found only in rainforests on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, though fossils have been found in Java, Vietnam and China. They are the only surviving species in the genus Pongo and the subfamily Ponginae (which also includes the extinct genera Gigantopithecus and Sivapithecus). Their name derives from the Malay and Indonesian phrase orang hutan, meaning "man of the forest". The orangutan is an official state animal of Sabah in Malaysia.


    The word orangutan (also written orang-utan, orang utan and orangutang) is derived from the Malay and Indonesian words orang meaning "man" and hutan meaning "forest", thus "person of the forest". Orang Hutan is the common term in these two national languages, although local peoples may also refer to them by local languages. Maias and mawas are also used in Malay, but it is unclear if those words refer only to orangutans, or to all apes in general.

    The word was first attested in English in 1691 in the form orang-outang, and variants with -ng instead of -n as in the Malay original are found in many languages. This spelling (and pronunciation) has remained in use in English up to the present, but has come to be regarded as incorrect by some.

    The name of the genus, Pongo, comes from a 16th century account by Andrew Battell, an English sailor held prisoner by the Portuguese in Angola, which describes two anthropoid "monsters" named Pongo and Engeco. It is now believed that he was describing gorillas, but in the late 18th century it was believed that all great apes were orangutans; hence Lacépède's use of Pongo for the genus.

    Ecology and appearance

    Adult female orangutan

    Orangutans are the most arboreal of the great apes, spending nearly all of their time in the trees. Every night they fashion nests, in which they sleep, from branches and foliage. They are more solitary than the other apes, with males and females generally coming together only to mate. Mothers stay with their babies until the offspring reach an age of six or seven years. There is significant sexual dimorphism between females and males: females can grow to around 4 ft 2 in or 127 centimetres and weigh around 100 lbs or 45 kg, while flanged adult males can reach 5 ft 9 in or 175 centimetres in height and weigh over 260 lbs or 118 kg.

    The arms of an orangutan are twice as long as their legs. Much of the arm's length has to do with the length of the radius and the ulna rather than the humerus. Their fingers and toes are curved, allowing them to better grip onto branches. Orangutans have less restriction in the movements of their legs unlike humans and other primates, due to the lack of a hip joint ligament which keeps the femur held into the pelvis. Unlike gorillas and chimpanzees, orangutans are not true knuckle-walkers, and walk on the ground by shuffling on their palms with their fingers curved inwards.

    Flanged adult male

    Adult male orangutans exhibit two modes of physical development, flanged and unflanged. Flanged adult males have a variety of secondary sexual characteristics, including cheek pads (called "flanges"), throat pouch, and long fur, that are absent from both adult females and from unflanged males. Flanged males establish and protect territories that do not overlap with other flanged males' territories. Adult females, juveniles, and unflanged males do not have established territories. A flanged male's mating strategy involves establishing and protecting a territory, advertising his presence, and waiting for receptive females to find him. Unflanged males are also able to reproduce; their mating strategy involving finding females in estrus and forcing copulation. Males appear to remain in the unflanged state until they are able to establish and defend a territory, at which point they can make the transition from unflanged to flanged within a few months. The two reproductive strategies, referred to as "call-and-wait" for flanged male and "sneak-and-rape" for the unflanged male, were found to be approximately equally effective in one study group in Sumatra, though this observation did occur during a period of instability in flanged male rank and unflanged male mating success may be lower in Borneo.


    Fruit makes up 65% of the orangutan diet. Fruits with sugary or fatty pulp are favored. The fruit of fig trees are also commonly eaten since it is easy to both harvest and digest. Other food items include: young leaves, shoots, seeds and bark. Insects and bird eggs are also included.

    Orangutans are thought to be the sole fruit disperser for some plant species including the climber species Strychnos ignatii which contains the toxic alkaloid strychnine. It does not appear to have any effect on orangutans except for excessive saliva production.

    Behaviour and language

    Like the other great apes, orangutans are remarkably intelligent. Although tool use among chimpanzees was documented by Jane Goodall in the 1960s, it was not until the mid-1990s that one population of orangutans was found to use feeding tools regularly. A 2003 paper in the journal Science described the evidence for distinct orangutan cultures.

    According to recent research by the psychologist Robert Deaner and his colleagues, orangutans are the world's most intelligent animal other than humans, with higher learning and problem solving ability than chimpanzees, which were previously considered to have greater abilities. A study of orangutans by Carel van Schaik, a Dutch primatologist at Duke University, found them capable of tasks well beyond chimpanzees’ abilities — such as using leaves to make rain hats and leakproof roofs over their sleeping nests. He also found that, in some food-rich areas, the creatures had developed a complex culture in which adults would teach youngsters how to make tools and find food.

    Orangutan "laughing"

    Zoo Atlanta has a touch screen computer where their two Sumatran Orangutans play games. Scientists hope that the data they collect from this will help researchers learn about socializing patterns, such as whether they mimic others or learn behavior from trial and error, and hope the data can point to new conservation strategies.

    Although orangutans are generally passive, aggression toward other orangutans is very common; they are solitary animals and can be fiercely territorial. Immature males will try to mate with any female, and may succeed in forcibly copulating with her if she is also immature and not strong enough to fend him off. Mature females easily fend off their immature suitors, preferring to mate with a mature male.

    Orangutans have even shown laughter-like vocalizations in response to physical contact, such as wrestling, play chasing, or tickling.


    All About Orang Utan

    Along with the bonobo, the chimpanzee, and the gorilla, the orangutan is remarkably similar to humans, in terms of anatomy, physiology, and behavior. Like the other great apes, orangutans are highly intelligent, as seen in their advanced tool use and distinct cultural patterns. Their native intelligence is often used to solve problems related to arboreal travel and food processing. However, their rainforest habitat is continuously being destroyed by illegal logging, mining, farming, and palm oil plantations. Despite formally protected status, the wild orangutan continues to be a critically endangered species and could soon become extinct in the wild. Experts predict wild orangutans could become extinct as natural populations in ten to twenty years.


    Ten thousand years ago, orangutans were found throughout Southeast Asia ranging all the way into southern China. Their populations probably numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Today, however, the few orangutans left live in the tropical rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

    Indonesia's forests represent 10% of the world's remaining tropical forests with an area of 260 million acres. According to the European League, by 2001 Indonesia has lost 99 million acres of forest in the last 32 years, which is equivalent to the combined size of Germany and the Netherlands. In total, Indonesia has lost 80% of its original forest habitat and continues to lose 6.2 million acres a year.

    Indonesia is one of the five most species-diverse countries in the world, with 12% of all mammal species, 16% of reptile and amphibian species, and 17% of bird species. Of these, 772 are threatened, giving Indonesia the third highest number of threatened species, falling behind Malaysia and the United States. Of Indonesia's approximately 40 primate species, 20 were found to have lost more than half their original habitat in the last 10 years.

    Females become sexually mature when fully grown, although they will not have their first offspring until 13 to 16 years of age in the wild. Males may attain sexual maturity in their teens, but their cheek pads may not become fully-developed until they are in their twenties since the presence of a dominant cheek-padded male within the sensory range of a younger adult male may inhibit the younger orangutan's development. Generally, males are not successful in attracting sexually receptive females until they get their cheek pads. Thus, as sub-adults, the males frequently resort to "forceful copulation."

    The female orangutan's menstrual cycle is 29 to 32 days, with menstruation lasting three to four days. The gestation period is approximately eight months. Usually a single offspring is born, weighing about 3 � pounds. The young stay close to their mothers until they reach adolescence. Orangutans have the longest "childhood" of the great apes.


    Orangutans primarily eat fruit, along with young leaves, bark, flowers, honey, insects, and vines. One of their preferred foods is the fruit of the durian tree, which tastes somewhat like sweet, cheesy, garlic custard. They discard the skin, eat the flesh, and spit out the seeds. In some regions, orangutans also occasionally eat soil, thus ingesting minerals that perhaps neutralize the high quantities of toxic tannins and acids in their vegetarian diet.


    Orangutans are diurnal animals, spending a large portion of daylight hours searching for and consuming food. Most of their lives are spent in trees where they travel from branch to branch by climbing, clambering, and brachiating. Usually each night, a new nest for sleeping is constructed from branches and built 15 to 100 feet up in a tree. Although mostly arboreal, males will occasionally come to the ground to move between stands of trees. While females stay near their mothers home ranges, males emigrate long distances. This helps minimize inbreeding within populations.

    In the wild, orangutans have been observed making simple tools to scratch themselves. They also use leafy branches to shelter themselves from rain and sun, and sometimes even drape large leaves over themselves like a poncho. They have also been observed using branches as tools during insect foraging, honey collection, and protection against bees, and to fish for branches or fruit that is out of reach.

    Adult male orangutans usually keep a considerable distance between one another; their participation in social groups is usually limited to temporary sexual "consortships" with adult and adolescent females. Adult females may be seen with their young, with adult females, and with adolescents who are not necessarily their own. The mother-young relationship lasts for many years, whereas the time spent with non-related orangutans is relatively short. Sub-adult males usually associate with females. Adolescent females travel together when age differences are minimal. This semi-solitary social system may have evolved as a result of the scattered food distribution and a lack of large predators.

    Whereas the female orangutan can often remain sexually passive, a male must pursue his reproductive interest, using his pendulous laryngeal sac for the "long call," parts of which sound like a loud roar. The male orangutan's call plays an important role in repelling male rivals and advertising his availability to sexually receptive females, helping him to compete aggressively with other adult males. Thus, mature male orangutans appear to be intolerant of each other, and the meeting of two mature males usually results in either aggression or avoidance.


    Male orangutans are approximately twice the size of females, weighing up to 300 pounds and reaching a height of 5 feet. The male's larger size may be an adaptation for mating, as strong competition among males for females tends to promote this type of sexual dimorphism. The orangutans long, narrow hands and feet are especially useful for grasping branches. Their opposable thumbs and big toes are short to facilitate the hook-like function of their hands and feet.


    Not long ago, many people thought culture was unique to the human species, but in recent years, scientists are finding increasing evidence of socially learned traditions elsewhere in the animal kingdom. In January 2003, a group of researchers, including primatologist Dr. Carel van Schaick of Duke University and OFI's president, Dr. Birut Mary Galdikas, described two dozen behaviors that are present in some orangutan groups and absent in others. According to the report, these practices are learned from other group members and passed down through the generations. In parts of Borneo, for example, orangutans use handfuls of leaves as napkins, wiping leftover food from their chins. Orangutans in parts of Sumatra, conversely, use leaves as gloves, helping them handle spiny fruits and branches, or as seat cushions in spiny trees.


    Orangutan Video And Quick Facts


    Prehistorically, the number of orangutans was probably in the hundreds of thousands, their range extending from Southern China through Southeast Asia. Today, their total numbers range from 50,000 to 60,000 in the wild. On northern Sumatra, their numbers are critically low at 7,500 individuals. They are now endangered in the wild, primarily because illegal logging, mining, farming, the spread of palm oil plantations, and forest fires have altered or destroyed more than three-fourths of their rainforest habitat. Additionally, poachers often kill orangutan mothers to secure an infant for the live animal trade - about six to 10 orangutans die for every one that survives. The orangutans reproductive rate is also very slow; in the wild, they have only one infant every seven or eight years.

    Under ideal conditions, these solitary animals roam the forests in search of widely distributed food sources. The reduction of suitable habitat is forcing orangutan populations into smaller areas that cannot support them. Though protected by law in Indonesia, Malaysia, and internationally, enforcement of these laws is extremely difficult in many areas. If the alarming rate of forest destruction continues at today's pace, the orangutan species as we know it could be completely gone in as little as five years.

    Quick Facts!

    1. Class: Mammalia

    2. Order: Primates

    3. Super family: Hominoidea

    4. Family: Pongidae

    5. Genus: Pongo

    6. Species: abelii (Sumatran) and pygmaeus (Bornean)

    7. Length: males - about 40 inches from top of head to rump; females - about 30 inches

    8. Weight: males - 110 to 300 pounds; females - 66 to 110 pounds

    9. Life Span: 60 years or more

    10. Gestation: about 8.5 months

    11. Number of Young at Birth: usually 1, very rarely 2 (in captivity)

    12. Size at Birth: 3.3 to 4.5 pounds

    13. Age of Maturity: males - about 15 years; females - about 12 (in captivity)

    14. Conservation Status: Pongo pygmaeus (Bornean) is endangered; Pongo abelii (Sumatran) is critically endangered

    Fun Facts!

    1. In Malay orang means "person" and utan is derived from hutan, which means "forest." Thus, orangutan literally means "person of the forest."

    2. Orangutans arms stretch out longer than their bodies - over 7 ft. from fingertip to fingertip - and are used to employ a "hookgrip." When on the ground, they walk on all fours, using their palms or their fists.

    3. When male orangutans are about 15 years old, they develop large cheek pads, which female orangutans apparently find attractive.

    4. When males are fighting, they charge at each other and break branches. If that doesn't scare one of them away, they grapple and bite each other.

    5. For the first few years of his/her life, a young orangutan holds tight to his/her mother's body as she moves through the forest in search of fruit. Later, he/she will follow the mother as she moves through the trees.

    6. Like humans, orangutans have opposable thumbs. Their big toes are also opposable.

    7. Orangutans have tremendous strength, which enables them to brachiate (swing from branch to branch) and hang upside-down from branches for long periods of time to retrieve fruit and eat young leaves.

    May 20, 2008


    Borneo Forest Faces Extinction

    Niall McKay

    Illegal logging is destroying the equatorial rain forests of Indonesian Borneo, bringing the island, once known as the lungs of Asia, to the brink of an ecological disaster.

    Not only has 95 percent of the forest legally set aside for logging been cleared but nearly 60 percent of protected national parkland has been illegally logged, according to a new report in this week's Science by professor Lisa M. Curran of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

    The illegal timber is turned into plywood and is exported to other parts of Asia. It is also used to build furniture for Japanese, European and U.S. markets. The island of Kalimantan's valuable old growth, called meranti (Philippine mahogany), is used for hardwood flooring and provides wood trim for luxury automobiles.

    If the current rate of destruction continues, the report says, Kalimantan, which is about the size of Texas, will be completely stripped of its rain forests in the next three years. This will have a drastic effect on the wildlife, the native population and the local weather patterns. Animals such as Malaysian sun bears, hornbills, bearded pigs and orangutans are rapidly becoming endangered species, according to the report.

    The report combined aerial and satellite photographs with data from geographical mapping systems and remote sensing devices. It was carried out between 1999 and September 2003.

    "Already, what is left (of the forest) is too small and too fragmented to support many of the species that depend on the forest," said Curran, director of the Tropical Resources Institute at Yale University. "For the first time we have seen large mammals, such as orangutans and Malaysian sun bears, wild boar, starving."

    There are more than 420 different birds and 222 mammal species in Kalimantan, half of which depend on the rain forests for survival. Furthermore, the indigenous people of Borneo, the Dyaks, depend on boar as a primary source of protein.

    "Clearly the animals are in crisis," said Curran. "In Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan, for example, the orangutan population will drop by a third in the next couple of years."

    Curran said she believes that at the current rate of decline, many of the rain-forest animals will become extinct in less than 10 years. "We won't see extinctions until we reach some sort of threshold," she said. "We are very close to that threshold now and once we reach it will be too late to stop."

    The rapid growth of oil palm plantations, which have undergone a 40-fold increase since 1992, is further exacerbating the problem because large areas of the rain forest have been clear-cut to make way for the crop, and the plantations serve as barriers to migrating animal populations.

    Kalimantan's rain forests' growth cycles interact with the El Niño weather system. Forest fragmentation has transformed El Niño from a regenerative force into a destructive one. As the forest is cleared, droughts become more frequent and severe, giving rise to more frequent wild fires.

    Borneo is the first land mass the El Niño-Southern Oscillation weather system hits. And the El Niño wildfires in Borneo and Brazil in 1997 and 1998 created more carbon dioxide emissions than the whole of Western Europe's industrial output, according to Curran.

    There are many explanations offered for the destruction of the rain forest, including a lack of oversight from a decentralized government and opportunism by locals.

    But Curran said she believes that the real causes of the destruction of the forest are international demand for the timber, a massive industry suffering from a lack of legal timber, and corruption that started during, but is not limited to, the former Suharto dictatorship.

    Over the past two decades, the volume of timber harvested on Borneo exceeded that of all tropical wood exports from Latin America and Africa combined. At its height in the mid-1990s it was a $9 billion-a-year industry. Now it's nearly gone -- more than 90 percent of the Indonesia's timber production is illegal.


    Wild Orangutans Declining More Sharply In Borneo

    ScienceDaily (July 6, 2008) — Endangered wild orangutan (Pongo spp.) populations are declining more sharply in Sumatra and Borneo than previously estimated, according to new findings published this month by Great Ape Trust of Iowa scientist Dr. Serge Wich and other orangutan conservation experts in Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation.

    Conservation action essential to survival of orangutans, found only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, must be region-specific to address the different ecological threats to each species, said Wich and his co-authors, a pre-eminent group of scientists, conservationists, and representatives of governmental and non-governmental groups. They convened in Jakarta, Indonesia, in January 2004 to address the threats to orangutan survival and develop new assessment models to guide conservation planning.

    New orangutan population estimates revealed in the July issue of Oryx reflect those improvements in assessment methodology – including standardized data collection, island-wide surveys, and better sharing of data among stakeholders – rather than dramatic changes in the number of surviving orangutans.

    The experts’ revised estimates put the number of Sumatran orangutans (P. abelii) around 6,600 in 2004. This is lower than previous estimates of 7,501 as a result of new findings that indicate that a large area in Aceh that was previously thought to contain orangutans actually does not. Since forest loss in Aceh has been relatively low from 2004 to 2008, the 2004 estimate is probably not much higher than the actual number in 2008. The 2004 estimate of about 54,000 Bornean orangutans (P. pygmaeus) is probably also higher than the actual number today as there has been a 10 percent orangutan habitat loss in the Indonesian part of Borneo during that period.

    “It is clear that the Sumatran orangutan is in rapid decline and unless extraordinary efforts are made soon, it could become the first great ape species to go extinct,” Wich et al. wrote. “Although these revised estimates for Borneo are encouraging, forest loss and associated loss of orangutans are occurring at an alarming rate, and suggest that recent reductions of Bornean orangutan populations have been far more severe than previously supposed.”

    The new numbers underscore important issues in orangutan conservation. With improved sharing of data and deeper collaborations among stakeholders, the experts determined that 75 percent of all orangutans live outside of national parks, which have been severely degraded by illegal logging, mining, encroachment by palm oil plantations and fires due to a general lack of enforcement by regulatory authorities, who are either unable or reluctant to implement conservation management strategies.

    However, some recent conservation successes – keyed on political and financial support, media attention and advocacy by conservationists – offer cause for cautious optimism that illegal logging in protected areas can be effectively reduced and improved management of protected areas can be attained, according to the experts.

    “It is essential that conservation measures are taken to protect orangutans outside national parks, and these measures will by necessity be specific to each region,” Wich et al. wrote.

    The experts reported positive signs that forest conservation is gaining prominence as a political agenda. For example, habitat loss has stabilized in some parts of Sumatra with a temporary logging moratorium in the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, where most of the island’s orangutans occur, both in and out of national parks. Opportunities also exist to develop reduced-impact logging systems on the island of Borneo, where most orangutans live in forests already exploited for timber.

    Although other threats to orangutan survival exist, such as hunting in agricultural areas where human-orangutan conflicts exist, the biggest by far is forest destruction associated with the burgeoning palm oil industry in Indonesia and Malaysia. Together, they are the world’s largest palm oil producers with a combined global market share of 80.5 percent. Rapid expansion of the palm oil industry coupled with poor land-use planning are further pressuring forests and the orangutans who depend on them for survival.

    For example, in Sumatra, the controversial Ladia Galaska road project in the Leuser Ecosystem will, unless halted, fragment two of the three largest remaining orangutan populations, Wich et al. wrote. A similar project in 1982 split the Gunung Leuser National Park, and the improved access facilitated uncontrolled illegal settlements inside the park, large-scale illegal encroachment and logging, and poaching of threatened species. Also cited as an example of faulty land-use planning was a mega rice project, funded primarily by Indonesia’s reforestation fund, which eliminated 10,000 square kilometers of peat swamp forest and killed an estimated 15,000 orangutans from 1996 to 1999.

    “Both are examples of ill-advised projects with few benefits to local economies but major environmental costs,” Wich et al. wrote. “However, as such projects provide substantial revenue for a small group of individuals with considerable political influence, unprecedented political will is needed to prevent similar projects in the future.”

    The experts’ report includes sweeping recommendations for:

    • Effective law enforcement and prosecution to stop hunting orangutans for food and trade;

    • Mechanisms to mitigate and reduce human-orangutan conflict in agricultural areas, including large-scale plantations;

    • The development of an auditing process to assess the compliance of forestry concessions to their legal obligation to ensure orangutans are not hunted in concession areas;

    • Increased environmental awareness at the local level, following examples set by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program and the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project that promote awareness of conservation of forests and the importance of biodiversity;

    • Development of mechanisms to monitor orangutan populations and forest cover, building on those in place on both Borneo and Sumatra;

    • Continuation of surveys in less explored regions; and
      Continued improvement of survey methodology to include nest-decay rates.
    “All efforts to monitor orangutans, however, will be to no avail unless the decline in numbers is halted, and this requires a change in political will,” Wich et al wrote. “It is essential that funding for environmental services reaches the local level and that there is strong law enforcement. Developing a mechanism to ensure these occur is the challenge for the conservation of orangutans.”

    Great Ape Trust Director of Conservation Dr. Benjamin Beck said the paper makes a significant contribution to orangutan conservation discussion.

    “First, we have an unambiguous, scientifically rigorous answer when regulators and policymakers ask us how many orangutans really remain, and how that compares to historical population sizes,” Beck said. “Those responsible for environmental stewardship cannot hide indecisively behind purported scientific uncertainty.

    “Second, those answers are the results of pooled knowledge of nearly two dozen high-profile investigators who set aside their own professional reputations and agendas to collect data in a standardized format and share the results for a very high, common priority: the literal survival of the species that they study and love,” Beck continued. “In addition to being a critical contribution to orangutan conservation, this paper is an exemplar of collaboration among conservation scientists and practitioners.”

    Dr. Rob Shumaker, director of orangutan research at Great Ape Trust, said Wich’s paper is historically important and verifies the crisis situation for wild orangutans. “This represents enormous amounts of work from the authors and demonstrates their commitments to the science of orangutan conservation,” he said. “It’s a particularly notable achievement for Dr. Wich and continues his extraordinary dedication to the study of orangutans.

    “It is my fervent hope that these data inspire action on the part of everyone who can positively affect orangutan conservation.”

    In addition to his responsibilities at Great Ape Trust, Wich is co-manager of orangutan research at Sumatra’s Ketambe Research Center, one of the longest-running orangutan field study sites in the world.

    Adapted from materials provided by Great Ape Trust of Iowa.