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.


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