Wildlife in Malaysia
Malaysia has its fair share of environmental problems.
Excessive logging has been a major problem for many years;
various plantations have appropriated large sections of the
natural environment to the detriment of wildlife, and Indonesian
fires have caused air pollution levels to rise considerably
in its neighbouring country. Yet, a growing recognition of
Malaysia's lush, ancient rainforest and hugely diverse flora
and fauna as valuable national resources have led to the formation
of many eco-friendly projects involving locals, government,
business and tourists.
A number of national parks now exist in Malaysia, perhaps
the most famous of which is the Taman Negara National Park
on Peninsular Malaysia. Famed for its glorious, pristine rainforest,
Taman Negara is, however, not the best place in the country
to view wildlife in its natural habitat. Sightings of elephants,
rhinos, tigers and so on do occur but tend to be few and far
between in comparison to areas in Sarawak and Sabah that are
more remote but teeming with tropical wildlife.
Wildlife spotting on the Batang Kinabatangan
Annual flooding along the 400 miles of Sabah's longest river
forms a vast freshwater swampland area of thriving biodiversity.
This is one of the best areas in South East Asia to see an
abundance of wildlife in its natural habitat, including elephants,
orang-utans, crocodiles, civet cats, macacques, otters,
a variety of birds and monkeys.
The most famous attraction is the Proboscis Monkey,
found only in Borneo and recognisable by the male's long,
distinctive nose and a peculiar mix of colours - grey legs,
white belly and tail, and an orange coat. A trip down the
Kinabatangan River almost certainly guarantees you several
sightings of this large yet surprisingly graceful primate,
as it flings itself forcefully from tree to tree, or watches
you lazily from a comfortable lofty branch.
Logging has devastated much of the upper domain of the Kinabatangan
River, so the lower section is now the best place to see wildlife.
Even this area has been threatened by palm oil plantations
fragmenting the environment and restricting the movement of
wildlife, but - thanks to recent intervention of the Malaysian
WWF - the Partners for Wetlands project is uniting
locals, conservationists and oil growers in the common aim
of compromise to aid conservation. Ecotourism plays a vital
part, convincing local people that the environment is worth
preserving for commercial as well as conservational reasons.
Independent travel to the river remains difficult and it is
best to arrange a trip to the area from the nearby town of
Sandakan. Boat trips are the most relaxing, and least
environmentally-damaging method of viewing wildlife, transporting
you with ease into the heart of the rainforest. Most animals
- and humans - lie low during the midday heat, but late afternoon
trips can be arranged from Sandakan, with some tour operators
providing overnight accommodation at Sakau for those
who would like an early morning rainforest adventure.