Wildlife and Nature in Mega-Diverse Malaysia


Wildlife of Malaysia is the most diverse on earth and it is called a megadiverse country.  There are only 17 countries across the globe that come under this classification.  Megadiverse country refers to any one of a group of nations that harbour, most of Earth’s species and high numbers of endemic species.  Most of the Malaysia is covered in rainforest, which hosts a huge diversity of plant and animal species.  It is estimated that Malaysia contains, 20% of the world’s animal species, and includes some of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. There are approximately 210 mammal species, 620 bird species, 250 reptile species and 150 frog species found in Malaysia.

Malaysia is almost a hub of economic activities which has been drive by abundance of natural resources.  The country has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with its GDP growing at an average of 6.5% per annum for almost 50 years.  Rapid development has been done at the cost of deforestation which severely affects natural habitats of animals, fungi and plants.  Malaysian government aims to balance economic growth with environmental protection, but has been accused of favouring big business over the environment.

Visit to Sabah

The land of Sabah is in a tropical geography with equatorial climate.  The jungles of Sabah host a diverse array of plant and animal species. The forest reserve areas account for half of Sabah landmass of 7.34 million hectares.  Its forest reserve is part of the 20 million hectares equatorial rainforests demarcated under the “Heart of Borneo” initiative.   The forests surrounding the river valley of Kinabatangan River is the largest forest-covered floodplain in Malaysia.

Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) invited International Journalists from 7 different countries to experience the Nature & Wildlife at Sabah.  The activities covered as part of this event were-

  • Boat cruise along Sg. Kinabatangan River
  • Visiting Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary
  • Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC)

Visit to Sabah was part of a planned as part of bigger Education Program that did span across a week between 13-17 November 2017.  International Journalists were from the following countries – India (2), China (1), Netherlands (1), Pakistan (3), Russia (3), Bangladesh (1), and Egypt (1).  Other activities included in the Program were – Field Trips across Oil Palm Plantations, Attending PIPOC 2017 Conference, Meeting MPOC & MPOB Teams and Cook-off event showcasing usage of Palm Oil.

In this blog, I will be sharing details regarding our Visit to Sabah for experience nature and wildlife.

Witnessing Nature and Wildlife at Sandakan

This was one of my favourite part of the entire Educational Program.  We travelled nearly 2 hrs from KL to reach another part of Malaysia, called Sabah.  This place is famous for Kinabatangan River, Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary and Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC).

Boat cruise along Sg. Kinabatangan River

The boat cruise across the Kinabatangan River was simply awesome.  We were sitting in a small boat that could hardly seat 10-15 people and were wearing the life-jackets.  It felt like one of the wildlife and nature photographers working for National Geographic, Discovery or Animal Planter.  We cruised along the river which happens to be the 3rd largest in the country and flows across 560kms.  Across both sides of the river, is the rain-forest which is the home for Orang Utan living in the wild, Proboscis Monkeys, Asian Elephants and many migratory birds.

  • During the cruise, we were lucky to spot one of the Orang Utan that was sitting on a branch.  We slowed down the boat and watched the Orang Utan move across branches.  It was great sight to spot the mammal in this natural habitat.
  • We were also lucky to spot a group of Proboscis Monkey perched on tree top and playing around.  It is always special watching the animals in their natural surrounding rather than seeing some videos and pictures.
  • After cruising along 2-3 hours, when we almost about to dock, we spotted a jungle owl.  The owl was looking very beautiful and I was amazed by the colour combination & mesmerized by God’s creation.
  • There isn’t much commercial activity around this area which is reflection of Government effort to maintain natural reserves.

Visiting Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary

Orang Utans are quite famous because of they have nearly 96% like Human genes.  We can also call them as the closest ancestors to humans and they generally prefer living alone in the wild.  They are smart mammals and can make nearly 15-20 hand-tools which is a sign of their intelligence.

Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre Sanctuary is a home for many young Orang Utans that were either separated or abandoned by parents.  They have an area set aside with ropes and poles which is like Orang Utans natural habitat in the jungle.  It also helps the young Orang Utans get trained before being released in wild.

One of the section is used for placing food in the morning, which attracts few Orang Utans living in the wild to come and grab a bite.  It is always a great sight if we can get to see a elder Alpha Male come up to the location.

Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC)

Rain Forest Discovery Centre is another place very next to the Orang Utan Centre, that has a walk way setup nearly 50 feet above the ground.

It is located right inside Rainforest and lets us walk amidst the trees on the iron-railing.  There are multiple viewpoints which gives a view of the father regions in rain-forest.

While walking across the RDC centre, we can see types of tree that have creeper.  There are few trees which seem to have been destroyed by burst of lighting from sky.

I spoke to officials at RDC who mentioned that they get some rare species of migratory birds.  Some of the ornithologist end up coming and spend nearly a week or more at the RDC looking to get a good photo.

It is a great place to relax for a city-dweller who is used to sound from traffic and chaos in city.

Overall Experience

This was one of the best experiences of visiting the Rainforest area.  The boat cruise across Kinabatangan river to notice the wildlife in this natural habitat was good.  We were lucky to spot Orang Utan and Proboscis Monkey, which are usually rare sightings.  The visit to Orang Utan Rehab centre, to see Orang Utan live in action was an awesome sight.  These mammals, closest ancestors to humans showed amazing flexibility and strength while swinging across the ropes & various structures.  We could see the flexibility and strength of individual Orang Utans while they were swinging across ropes on a continuous basis.  The rain-forest discovery centre was also excellent, and I felt like a wildlife enthusiast/photographer & most importantly one with nature.  I loved the sight of rainforest from the Viewpoints and the walk across the Iron-structure.

I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the MPOC team to organize such a beautiful trip cross the country to showcase Nature & Wildlife.  Special thanks to Bhavana Shah (MPOC Country Representative, India & Srilanka) for selecting me to be part of this International Exposure.  Thanks to Fizan (MPOC)Suzanna Mohamed (MPOC) for planning and coordinating during the entire Educational Program.  Special thanks also to MPOC CEO, Dr.Kalyan Sundaram for leading the MPOC.  This initiative will help in building a good image for Malaysian Palm Oil Internationally.

This blog is the fifth among the many blogs related to MPOC Educational Program.  Refer to the links below to read about other activities.


MPOC – Malaysian Palm Oil Council

MPOB – Malaysian Plan Oil Board

Kinabatangan River

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

RDC – Rainforest Discovery Centre

Malaysian Palm Oil – Educational Program

Malaysian Palm Oil – The Road Ahead

Field Trip to Malaysian Palm Oil Plantations

Cook off using Palm Oil by MasterChef Jochen Kern

Wildlife and Nature in Mega-Diverse Malaysia