Jun 3, 2008


Rare Species Animals From Borneo

Borneo, the third largest island in the world, was once covered with dense rainforests. With swampy coastal areas fringed with mangrove forests and a mountainous interior, much of the terrain was virtually impassable and unexplored. Headhunters ruled the remote parts of the island until a century ago.

Borneo's forests are some of the most biodiverse on the planet. According to WWF, the island is estimated have at least 222 species of mammals (44 of which are endemic), 420 resident birds (37 endemic), 100 amphibians, 394 fish (19 endemic), and 15,000 plants (6,000 endemic) -- more than 400 of which have been discovered since 1994. Surveys have found more than 700 species of trees in a 10 hectare plot -- a number equal to the total number of trees in Canada and the United States combined.

Several distinct ecosystems are found across Borneo. These are reviewed in WWF's " Borneo: Treasure Island at Risk" report (2005).

A rare and reclusive leopard that hunts among the dense island forests of Borneo and Sumatra in south-east Asia has been identified as an entirely new species of great cat.

Genetic tests and pelt examinations have revealed that the animal, now called the Bornean Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi), is as distinct from other Clouded Leopards that roam mainland Asia as lions are from panthers.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

RAFFLESIA - The Worlds Largest Flower
Rafflesia are endemic to Southeast Asia recorded 17 known species, the Rafflesia flowers have been found only in Indonesia - Sumatra and Java, Malaysia, including Borneo island and south Thailand. Rafflesia have small, brownish, scale like leaves and fleshy, foul-smelling flowers of various sizes from few inches to meter big in diameter. Rafflesia classified as parasite, which means it just takes the nutrient out of its host.

The Rafflesia can be found at altitudes of between 500 and 700 meters in the forests of Malaysia, Southern Thailand, Sumatra and Java in Indonesia. In these tropical rainforests, the climate is continuously warm and humid, with very high humidity. The Rafflesia is rare and fairly hard to locate. It is especially difficult to see in bloom; the buds take up to 10 months to develop and the blossom lasts for just a few days. However, how many these strange plants are survived in primary rainforest is still unknown.

Jun 2, 2008


Borneo Island

Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located at the centre of Maritime Southeast Asia. Administratively, this island is divided between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Indonesia's region of Borneo is called "Kalimantan" (although Indonesians use the term for the whole island), while Malaysia's region of Borneo is called East Malaysia or Malaysian Borneo. The independent nation of Brunei occupies the remainder of the island.Brunei is the richest and wealthiest state in the island of Borneo.


Borneo is surrounded by the South China Sea to the north and northwest, the Sulu Sea to the northeast, the Celebes Sea and the Makassar Strait to the east, and the Java Sea and Karimata Strait to the south. It has an area of 743,330 km² (287,000 square miles).

To the west of Borneo [1] are the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. To the south is Java. To the east is the island of Sulawesi (Celebes). To the northeast is the Philippines.

Borneo's highest point is Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, with an elevation of 4,095 m (13,435 ft) above sea level. This makes it the world's third highest island.

The largest river systems are the Kapuas River, with approximately 1,143 km the longest river in Indonesia, the Rajang River in Sarawak with some 563 km the longest river in Malaysia, the Barito River about 880 km long and the Mahakam River about 980 km long.

Borneo is also known for its extensive cave systems. Clearwater Cave has one of the world's longest underwater rivers. Deer Cave, thought to be the largest cave passage in the world, is home to over three million bats and guano accumulated to over 100 metres high.


The Island of Borneo is divided administratively into:

* The Indonesian provinces of East, South, West and Central Kalimantan
* The Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak (the Federal Territory of Labuan is
located on nearshore islands of Borneo, but not on the island of Borneo itself)
* The independent country of Brunei (main part and eastern exclave of Temburong)


Political divisions of Borneo

In the 15th century, the Majapahit rule exerted its influence in Borneo. Princess Junjung Buih, the queen of the Hindu kingdom of Negara Dipa (situated in Candi Agung area of Amuntai) married a Javanese prince, Prince Suryanata, and together they ruled the kingdom which is a tributary to the Majapahit Empire (1365). In this way, it became a part of Nusantara. Along the way, the power of Negara Dipa weakened and was replaced by the new court of Negara Daha. When Prince Samudra (Prince Suriansyah) of Negara Daha converted to Islam and formed the Islamic kingdom of Banjar, it inherited some of the areas previously ruled by the Hindu kingdom of Negara Daha.

The Brunei Sultanate during its golden age from the 15th to 17th centuries ruled a large part of northern Borneo. In 1703 (other sources say 1658), the Sultanate of Sulu received North Borneo from the Sultan of Brunei, after Sulu sent aid against a rebellion in Brunei. During the 1450s, Shari'ful Hashem Syed Abu Bakr, an Arab born in Johor, arrived in Sulu from Malacca. In 1457, he founded the Sultanate of Sulu; he then renamed himself "Paduka Maulana Mahasari Sharif Sultan Hashem Abu Bakr". Subsequently HM Sultan Jamalul Ahlam Kiram (1863-1881) the 29th reigning Sultan of Sulu leased North Borneo in 1878 to Gustavus Baron de Overbeck & Alfred Dent representing the British North Borneo Company [2] in what is now Sabah part of Malaysia. The company also exerted control on inland territories that were inhabited by numerous tribes. In the 19th Century coastal areas ruled by the Brunei Sultanate in the west of the island were gradually taken by the Brooke dynasty.

By the 18th century, the area from Sambas to Berau were tributaries to the Banjar Kingdom, but this eventually shrunk to the size of what is now South Kalimantan as a result of agreements with the Dutch. In the Karang Intan Agreement during the reign of Prince Nata Dilaga (Susuhunan Nata Alam) (1808-1825), the Banjar Kingdom gave up its territories to the Dutch Indies which included Bulungan, Kutai, Pasir, Pagatan and Kotawaringin. Other territories given up to the Dutch Indies were Landak, Sambas, Sintang and Sukadana.

In the early 19th century, British and Dutch governments signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 to exchange trading ports under their controls and assert spheres of influences, in which indirectly set apart the two parts of Borneo into British and Dutch controlled areas. China has had historical trading links with the inhabitants of the island. Some of the Chinese beads and wares found their way deep into the interior of Borneo.

Moreover in the 19th century, the Dutch admitted the founding of district kingdoms with native leaders who were under the power of the Dutch (Indirect Bestuur). The Dutch assign a resident to head their rule over Kalimantan. List of the residents and governors of Kalimantan:

1. C.A. Kroesen (1898), resident
2. C.J. Van Kempen (1924), resident
3. J. De Haan (1924-1929), resident
4. R. Koppenel (1929-1931), resident
5. W.G. Morggeustrom (1933-1937), resident
6. Dr. A. Haga (1938-1942), governor
7. Pangeran Musa Ardi Kesuma (1942-1945), Ridzie
8. Ir. Pangeran Muhammad Noor (1945), governor

Since 1938, Dutch-Borneo (Kalimantan) was one administrative territory under a governor (Governor Haga) whose seat was in Banjarmasin. In 1957 following the independence of Indonesia, Kalimantan was divided into 3 provinces which is South Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and West Kalimantan. The province of Central Kalimantan separated from South Kalimantan to have their own territory in 1958.

During the Second World War, Japanese forces gained control of Borneo (1941–45). They decimated many local populations and Malay intellectuals, including the elimination of the Malay Sultanate of Sambas in Kalimantan [4]. Borneo was the main site of the confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia between 1962 and 1966, as well as the communist revolts to gain control of the whole area. Before the formation of Malaysian Federation, the Philippines claimed that the Malaysian state of Sabah in north Borneo is within their territorial rights based on historical facts of the Sultanate of Sulu's leasing agreement with the North Borneo Company, is presently an unresolved claim against Malaysia. Several other territorial claims such as Sipadan were resolved at The Hague international courts.


Nepenthes villosa, a species of pitcher plant endemic to Kinabalu National Park, Borneo.

Borneo is very rich in biodiversity compared to many other areas (MacKinnon et al. 1998). There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants with 3,000 species of trees (267 species are dipterocarps), 221 species of terrestrial mammals and 420 species of resident birds in Borneo (MacKinnon et al. 1998). It is also the centre of evolution and radiation of many endemic species of plants and animals. The remaining Borneo rainforest is the only natural habitat for the endangered Bornean Orangutan. It is also an important refuge for many endemic forest species, and the Asian Elephant, the Sumatran Rhinoceros, the Sumatran tiger[citation needed], the Bornean Clouded Leopard, and the Dayak Fruit Bat.

Tropical Rainforest in Borneo

The World Wildlife Fund divides the island into seven distinct ecoregions. The Borneo lowland rain forests cover most of the island, with an area of 427,500 km². Other lowland ecoregions are the Borneo peat swamp forests, the Kerangas or Sundaland heath forests, the Southwest Borneo freshwater swamp forests, and the Sunda Shelf mangroves. The Borneo mountain rain forests lie in the central highlands of the island, above the 1000 meter elevation. The highest elevations of Mount Kinabalu are home to the Kinabalu mountain alpine meadow, an alpine shrubland notable for its numerous endemic species, including many orchids.

The island historically had extensive rainforest cover, but the area shranked rapidly due to heavy logging for the needs of the Malaysian plywood industry. Two forestry researchers of Sepilok Research Centre, Sandakan, Sabah in the early 80's indentified four fast-growing hardwoods and a breakthrough on seed collection and handling of Acacia mangium and Gmelina arborea, a fast growing tropical trees were planted on huge track of formerly logged and deforested areas primarily in the northern part of Borneo Island. One half of the annual tropical timber acquisition of the whole world comes from Borneo. Furthermore, Palm oil plantations are rapidly encroaching on the last remnants of primary rainforest. The rainforest was also greatly destroyed due to the forest fires in 1997 to 1998 which were started by people and coincided with an exceptional drought season of El NiƱo. During the great fire, hotspots could be seen on satellite images and a haze was created that affected Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

In order to combat overpopulation and AIDS in Java, the Indonesian government started a massive transmigration (transmigrasi) of poor farmers and landless peasants into Borneo in the 70's and 80's, to farm the logged areas, albeit with little success as the fertility of the land has been removed with the trees and what soil remains is washed away in tropical downpours.

Ethnic and biological diversity

Satellite image of the island of Borneo on August 19, 2002, showing smoke from burning peat swamp forests.

There are over 30 Dayak sub-ethnic groups living in Borneo, making the population of this island one of the most varied of human social groups. The native ethnic groups are Dayak Austronesians and their languages belong to the Malayo-Polynesian language family. Some sub-ethnicities are now represented by only 30-100 individuals and are threatened with extinction. Much culture, language, ethnomusic and traditional knowledge has yet to be documented by anthropologists. Ancestral knowledge of ethnobotany and ethnozoology is useful in drug discovery (for example, bintangor plant for AIDS) or as future alternative food sources (such as sago starch for lactic acid production and sago maggots as a protein source).

Mount Kinabalu, a major center of biodiversity in Borneo.

Certain indigenous Dayak people (such as the Kayan, Kenyah, Punan Bah and Penan) living on the island have been struggling for decades for their right to preserve their environment from loggers and transmigrant settlers and colonists. Land reform is needed for future development in the face of rapid economic changes.

The type of rainforests found in Borneo include the high diversity mixed dipterocarp forest, the rare peat swamp forests and heath forest.

Researchers scouring swamps in the heart of Borneo island have discovered a venomous species of snake that can change its skin color. Scientists named their find the Kapuas mud snake, and speculated it might only occur in the Kapuas River drainage system.

World Wildlife Fund has stated that 361 animal and plant species have been discovered in Borneo since 1996, underscoring its unparalleled biodiversity. In the 18 month period from July 2005 until December 2006, another 52 new species were found.

Jun 1, 2008


A Treasure For South East Asia

Borneo forest magic - A treasure for Southeast Asia
15 Mar 2007

There is only one place remaining in Southeast Asia where tropical rainforests can still be conserved on a very large scale – a place where endangered species such as orangutans, elephants and rhinos, and countless other undiscovered species continue to thrive.
This area straddles the transboundary highlands of Indonesia and Malaysia, and reaches out through the foothills into adjacent lowlands and to parts of Brunei.

We call this area the Heart of Borneo.

The forests of the Heart of Borneo are some of the most biologically diverse habitats on Earth, possessing staggeringly high numbers of unique plant and animal species.

The Heart of Borneo's forest area is 1 of the only 2 places on Earth where orang-utans, elephants and rhinoceros still co-exist and where forests are currently large enough to maintain viable populations.

WWF aims to assist Borneo’s 3 nations (Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia) to conserve the area known as the Heart of Borneo – a total of 220,000 km² of equatorial rainforest - through a network of protected areas and sustainably-managed forests, and through international co-operation led by the Bornean governments, supported by a global effort.

The future of this transboundary area depends on the collaboration of all 3 governments as no one country can protect these unique uplands alone.

The Heart of Borneo presents a unique opportunity to conserve pristine tropical rainforest on a huge scale - almost 30% of the world’s third largest island.

But if the Heart of Borneo is going to happen, it has to be now or never.

Find out about Borneo animals and plants, the island’s people and the problems they all face.


New Species Discovered In Borneo

Evolution in all its magnificence

10 years, 360 species discovered

New life forms keep coming in.

Between 1994 and 2004, at least 361 new species have been described from Borneo: 260 insects, 50 plants, 30 freshwater fish, 7 frogs, 6 lizards, 5 crabs, 2 snakes and a toad.

Yet, this is most certainly an underestimate, as many species discovered have not been published in the scientific literature or the press. In fact, whole groups of animals remain understudied.

Still, amongst larger mammals, key discoveries have been made about the genetic distinctiveness of the Bornean elephant and the orang-utan.

Hide and seek in the rainforest
Conducting studies in the rainforest is no easy task, hence the lack of knowledge about the species still at large in Borneo. Most species are highly cryptic (secretive or difficult to distinguish) in their appearance and behaviour.

Further, many species are active at night, hiding in burrows or tree holes during the day. Even their capture and systematic study requires considerable effort, with generally low trapping success.

In Borneo's tropical rainforests, endangered species such as the pygmy elephant and the Sumatran rhino meet orang-utans, along with an assortment of other animals with colourful names including the clouded leopard, the moonrat and the sun bear.

Here squirrels, lemurs and foxes fly. And what some species don't have in a name they make up for in appearance. For example, the proboscis monkey’s nose, long and flattened, is one of the most characteristic in the animal realm.

Only in Borneo

Borneo is conservatively estimated to hold 222 mammals (including 44 endemic – not found anywhere else in the world), 420 resident birds (37 endemic), 100 amphibians and 394 fish (19 endemic).

Borneo has a cat species unique to the island, the bay cat, which is considered one of the rarest cats in the world. Just in the Heart of Borneo, a 220,000-km2 region in the mountainous centre of the island, there are 10 primate species, over 350 bird species, and 150 reptiles and amphibian species.

At least 15,000 plants, of which 6,000 are found nowhere else in the world, grace the swamps, mangroves, and lowland and montane forests of the island. The Heart of Borneo is home to approximately 10,000 of these.

What accounts for Borneo’s huge biodiversity?

Borneo’s tropical rainforests and climate provide the ideal conditions for a wide variety of species to thrive. Dipterocarp trees hold the greatest insect diversity on Borneo - as many as 1,000 species have been found in just 1 tree.

They are also home to thousands of plants, lichens and fungi, which in turn form the base of a food chain that nurtures a wide array of species. This web of life is at the heart of the Borneo tropical rainforests.

Find out more about dipterocarp forests

Science magnet

Borneo has lured scientists for over 150 years, and has played a key role in the discovery of evolution. Notably, Alfred Wallace's theories of natural selection were inspired by his travels on the island in the 19th century.

Since that time, scientists have busied themselves discovering and naming new species, and the latest research suggests that they will continue doing so for decades to come - if the forests are not wiped out by deforestation.

Where to look for rare wildlife

The place that holds the largest potential for new discoveries is the Heart of Borneo, as it harbours large, and more importantly, continuous tracts of virgin montane forest, many of which remain unexplored.

The montane forests of Borneo form high altitude islands in a sea of lowland dipterocarp forests. As a result of their isolation, these places harbour a unique and rich selection of species from Asian and Australasian families, making Borneo's montane habitats some of the most diverse on Earth compared to similar ones elsewhere.


Eaglewood or Gaharu

Apo Kayan plateau, Kalimantan

In the mountainous area of northeastern Kalimantan, close to the border with Sarawak, lies the Apo Kayan plateau.
To get there, visitors must brave dense forest, rugged terrain and dangerous rapids. The only relatively safe way to reach the destination is by hitching a ride on one of the small planes operated by the Missionary Aviation Fellowship.

Apo Kayan is mostly inhabited by Kenyah people, a Dayak indigenous group. Their territory is still recognized as one customary land, or wilayah adat, under the leadership of the customary chief, or kepala adat besar, in the village of Long Nawang .

Introducing eaglewood
One of the activities still practised in the Apo Kayan area is the extraction of non-timber forest products. Gaharu is one example. Also known as eaglewood or aloes wood, the fragrant resinous wood produced by a fungal infection in trees of the genus Aquilaria, it is an export product which is used in the manufacture of incense, perfume, and medicinals. There is no local use for gaharu in Apo Kayan.

A few guidelines for collectors
How does one obtain gaharu? First, the telling signs have to be identified, such as evidence of infection, specific colour of the leaves or the texture of the bark. Local people recognize that this method, while based on local ecological knowledge and experience, is not certain.

Moreover, there is no way to tell what part of the tree might contain the infected heartwood. Sometimes, gaharu collectors might decide to cut a tree with no apparent sign of infection, just to check if it has any.

From small trade beginnings…
In the past, gaharu was traded in small quantities from the Apo Kayan during expeditions to the lowlands. A small collecting boom took place in the 1970s, but it was limited in scope.

Collectors were mostly coming from neighbouring Kenyah villages to harvest high-grade aloes wood. The traders were also mostly Dayak entrepreneurs.

…to serious business
Then things suddenly changed. In early 1991, an increasing number of outside collectors organized in teams and sponsored by traders based in Samarinda, on the south coast of Kalimantan, started appearing. This first gaharu rush lasted until 1995.

After a brief lull, a surge in activities with involvement of outside middlemen and traders re-occurred in 1998, in the sub-district of Kayan Hilir. Today, the trade is still ongoing. With some brief exceptions, the market value of gaharu has increased steadily or, at least, remained constant over the years. Prices rose dramatically right after the economic crisis hit the Southeast Asian countries in 1997-1998.

Credit to WWF news.