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Malaysia Travel Guide

Bizarre wildlife found in the jungles of exotic Borneo

Ask any Malaysian what is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Sarawak and we bet most of them would give you the same answer: Magnificent mountains, wildlife, age-old rainforests, beautiful beaches and colossal caves.

This natural landscape allows for extraordinary biodiversity to exist while nurturing some of the world’s best-kept secrets… Or should we say, creatures? Most people have heard stories about the ubiquitous Hornbill that’s emblemetic to Sarawak but what’s out there that maybe you haven’t heard about?

Read on and learn about some of the most exotic and adorable, (OK sometimes!) animals that call our beautiful jungle home. We’ll even tell you where you can find them so you can play your own fun game of “Where’s Waldo?” Malaysian Wildlife edition! Believe us, there is #MoreSarawak than you know!

Horsfield’s Tarsier

These adorable little critters look eerily similar to a particular character from Star Wars. If you’re guessing Yoda, you’re right! Except that they don’t talk in riddles or read your minds – their superpower lies in their excellent leaping and climbing skills.

They are nocturnal, but thankfully, their big eyes to help them manoeuvre in the dark. Interesting fact, the size of one eyeball of the Horsfield’s Tarsier is the same as their brain. This makes them the largest-eyed mammal in the world relative to their body size!

Tarsier clinging to a branch

Photo by Christine Wehrmeier on Unsplash

Don’t be fooled by their cute demeanour, though! They are the only living carnivorous primate species. They feed on insects and small invertebrates, using their sharp sense of hearing and their nifty hands to detect and ensnare their prey.

Where to find them: Mulu National Park

Sun Bear

Even though they’re small, they can be very aggressive so if you see one, don’t mistake it for a cuddly teddy bear! The sun bear is arboreal, so you’ll need to keep your eyes on the trees if you want to see one and you can only see them in our rain forests in Southeast Asia.

They are essential to our ecosystem because they help disperse seeds while also keeping pesky termites in check, which means there is less destruction of our tropical trees which in turn means our atmosphere is clean enough for us to live healthily.

When they do come down from the trees, they also dig for invertebrates in the soil, enhancing the forest’s nutrient cycle through the mixing of rich and poor soil. Unfortunately, their global population has declined 30% over the last few years, making them the second rarest bear species next to the Giant Panda.

wildlife in Borneo - sun bear

iStock: wrangel

Their tongues are up to 25 cm long and help them to satiate their voracious appetite for honey. Because of this, they are also sometimes known as “honey bears”. You can tell the Sun Bear apart from other bear species from the horseshoe marks on their chest. Fun fact: No two markings are the same!

Where to see them: Matang Wildlife Centre

Microhyla Nepenthicola

If that’s too much of a mouthful, you can call it the “Matang narrow-mouthed frog”. That’s only the easy part. Spotting one of these rare creatures in the wild is, well rare! This newly discovered species is the second smallest frog in the world, around the size of a pea, and they make their homes around pitcher plants. They can only be found near Mount Serapi which is located in Kubah National Park.

wildlife in Borneo - second smallest frog in the world

Source: Reuters

They were discovered after scientists tracked the unique and powerful croaks of the males. Talk about a little body with a big voice! Because they were only discovered recently, not much is known about them. However, if you are lucky enough to spot one, make sure you are wearing ear plugs!

Where to find them: Kubah National Park

Sambar Deer

Did you know that the heaviest recorded Sambar Deer weighed an eye watering 550kg?! That’s slightly more than half a ton! So if you do go looking for the Sambar deer, make sure you are wearing running shoes!

sambar deer at matang wildlife center

Source: Matang Widlife Center

Despite their relatively large stature, these animals are pretty elusive; They are only really active at dusk and at night. When disturbed, their first instinct is to freeze before responding to predators with loud barks and foot stomping.

If that isn’t enough to frighten anyone or anything, their mane will rise in a confrontational manner! Imagine this half-a-ton of muscle and jungle survivor towering over you! Like I said, make sure you are wearing running shoes.

Where to find them: Mulu National Park and Matang Wildlife Center

Lesser Mouse Deer

Don’t be fooled by its name! Even though they look like a combination of a mouse and a cute deer, the mouse deer is neither a mouse nor a deer! Confusing I know but you can’t blame us for its name!

These shy, mysterious little critters are less than 50cm long and can be found on forest floors feeding on leaves, shoots, fruits and sometimes even fungi. With round bodies and spindly legs, they look almost like plush toys!

lesser mouse deer

Source: critterfacts.com

But while they may look like toys, peek inside a Mouse Deer’s mouth (we don’t recommend you do so), and you’ll find long fangs that give Dracula a run for his money!

Despite being land mammals, they can also hold their breath for up to four minutes and to escape prey, they’ll often leap into water and actually scurry across river beds to avoid getting caught! Yes, they can even hold their breath for 4 minutes underwater!

Due to their small size, they are commonly preyed upon by other animals, so they have to live quiet and secluded lives. However, a male will angrily beat his hooves when agitated or to ward off predators and warn other Mouse Deer of danger.

Where to find them: Lambir Hills National Park

Hornbill

There are so many things to be said about our state mascot. Sporting majestic beaks, Hornbills have impressive neck muscles (to support the weight of their regal bills) and are incredibly loyal to their families. They mate for life and will bond to defend each other against predators!

These beautiful feathered creatures also have their own ‘language’ – They speak to each other in a sort of morse code! It’s been said that the noise resembles that of a steam engine. This form of ‘communication’ is especially important and it’s how a male Hornbill sends messages to his mate through the barricade she makes during her nesting period.

rhinocerous hornbill

Source: Casper1774 Studio/Shutterstock

Hornbills have a great significance in Dayak culture. For them, Hornbills signify the spirit of God, and they have to be treated with respect. It is said that if a Hornbill is sighted flying over their residences, good luck will be granted to the whole community!

Altogether there are 54 species of Hornbills in the world, 8 of which are found in Sarawak! No wonder Sarawak is known as the “Land of the Hornbills”.

Where to find them: Piasau Nature Reserve, Mulu National Park, Tanjung Datu National Park and Batang Ai National Park

Slow Loris

Tiny, cute, big eyes… But not cuddly! Although they look adorable, these nocturnal creatures are one of the few venomous mammals in the world.

slow lorris clinging to tree branch

Source: wordatlas.com

Surf the internet long enough and you might recall watching a video of a Slow Loris getting tickled. What many people don’t know is that the pose of the Slow Loris of its arms raised is a defensive pose and not one of enjoyment.

Unfortunately, not many people knew this, and when this video gained traction, many people wanted to own Slow Lorises as pets because of how ‘cute’ it looked.

As slow lorises are venomous with a potentially deadly bite, their sharp pointed teeth are often clipped with nail cutters without anaesthesia for the pet trade.

This makes the pet trade one of the greatest threats to the survival of this species, which places them as vulnerable on the IUCN red list. Here in Sarawak we’re protecting all our Slow Loris as best we can. Have fun looking for them but don’t try and tickle them!

Where to find them: Bako National Park

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Article source: http://sarawaktourism.com/blog/feed/

Categories
Tourism Malaysia

The land below the wind

THE LAND THAT INSPIRED THE MOUSE

If there is one thing we’ve learned from our Taming Borneo adventure in Sarawak, it’s that when in Borneo, always expect the unexpected!
Talking about what’s unexpected, we’ve come to learn that Sabah’s rainforest is in fact the prime inspiration for the environment setting of Disney’s 2016 live remake of The Jungle Book? True story.
So the story is that one of the main VFX artist (Visual effects, fyi) for the movie, Helen Brownell, went on a 10-week expedition trip in Sabah 10 years ago.
10 years later, Helen was instantly transported back into the heart of the Sabahan jungle upon hearing her involvement with The Jungle Book remake. She said;
“I can still vividly remember the sounds, colours and the textures of the Borneo jungle. The gibbon’s constant calls, the constant humming of insects and birds” #tbt
It’s wonderful to think that Helen’s short stint in the Sabahan jungle 10 years ago, could still immensely inspire her when she brought the jungles in The Jungle Book to life. In her words;
“Nothing can compare to the real experience of being in the jungle. But having the challenge of re-creating such an amazing environment in CGI was a real joy. So many things during the project would spark up memories of my Borneo adventure. I was excited to re-create some of the beautiful and unique environments from my trip, and let my adventure influence a lot of the work I did towards the jungle in the film.”
It’s pretty cool that Sabah had contributed its magic of the jungle to the magic of the house of mouse.
So, coming to Sabah, the bar was pretty much set high and we couldn’t wait to see what it was installed for us.

THE ONE WHERE WE MADE IT TO SABAH

Let us start by saying Sabah is home to some of Borneo’s best attractions. Like Sarawak, it’s one of the best places in the world to immerse yourself in the wild and see rare primates like Orangutans, both in vast forest sanctuaries and out in the wild. But Sabah offers so much more than that to keen adventurers like us. So this time, in our blog and video series, we are going to tell you the best of the best that Sabah has to offer.
Situated at the northern tip of Borneo, Sabah is also fondly nicknamed The Land Below the Wind for its relative distance from the typhoon belt. First, let us tell you the 3 initial attractions that gravitated us towards this part of paradise;

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*speechless*. Kinabalu Park, Sabah

THE CULTURE

Like Sarawak, the state itself has an impressive diversity of culture, 32 officially recognized indigenous tribes. But comprising of two groups with 40 sub-groups, Kadazan-Dusun is the largest indigenous group in Sabah. Here we got to see the beautiful handicrafts made at the Rungus Longhouse, learn how they harvest honey in Kampung Gombizau and the handcrafted gongs at Kampung Sumangkap. Seriously, if you want to know more about the traditional arts and culture of Borneo, Sabah is your destination.

If you’re following our video series, you’d also be excited to know that Sabah is also home to the Bajau Laut people, some might recognize them as “Sea Gypsies” or “Sea Nomads”, popular for their seaborne lifestyle.

THE BEAUTY

With its national parks, wildlife reserves, and pristine untamed Bornean jungle, Sabah is truly the place to be if you want to root yourself back to mother nature (Besides Bako National Park). Pun intended. There is more than one way to enjoy the tropical beauty of the land. As for us went for a trek on Gunung Kinabalu to see the breathtaking mountain view of the land, but others who might want to have a more laid back trip can go for a gentle cruise on the Kinabatangan river. Other than that, one of the main star attraction here is Canopy Walk at Danum Valley which stretches across the tree canopies where we enveloped ourselves yet again in a sea of green, this time with the view of the jungle wildlife below. Whichever how you choose to view the land, Sabah’s natural beauty will leave you in awe the same.

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End of the world? Tip of Borneo, Kudat, Sabah

THE WILDLIFE­­

For all birdwatching enthusiasts, Sabah’s Danum Valley is also home to half of the bird species in all of Borneo. That’s approximately find 290 bird species including 8 species of rare Hornbills. But other wildlife lovers would also be satisfied with its 92,400 hectares of virgin forest, that habituates rare and some even endangered animals like Sumatran Rhino, Sun Bear, Benteng and Pygmy Elephants, primates such as Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey, Leaf Monkey, Tarsier, Slow Loris and Macaque, highly secretive cats such as the Sunda Clouded Leopard, Bay Cat and Leopard Cat.

On a last note, we’d really say that Sabah is a haven for all eco and thrill seeking tourists out there so we definitely urge you to plan your trip a head of time to make sure your itinerary is in check and is booked ahead of time. Just so your trip would go as smooth as possible. Trust us, with everything they have here, you’re going to want to turn yourself into a scheduling freak so you’d get the most out of your time here. Cause if you do plan your trip well, it’s going to be an adventure of lifetime!

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Not worried about piranhas! Sepagaya Reserve Forest, Sabah

If you have more questions regarding our Taming Borneo adventure, please do leave a comment in the comment section below, or start a discussion; tell us your personal Taming Borneo experience!

Also do follow along our adventure on our social media platforms:

Instagram: @MyTourismChannel or #tamingborneo

Catch up with the latest episodes of Taming Borneo by clicking on the thumbnails below:

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Sabah: EP13

Sabah: EP14

Sabah: EP14

Sabah: EP15

Sabah: EP15

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