Kapuas, Kinabalu, Tubbataha, and Victoria

A rainforest wetland, a rainforest mountain, tropical reefs, and big pitchers

A lost world: world center of plant diversity and world’s largest limestone cave system

I. Map boundaries: 0 to 10 degrees North; 112 to 120 degrees East

II. Countries (States, Regions, or Districts): Brunei, Abode of Peace; Indonesia (Central Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, East Kalimantan, and West Kalimantan), Malaysia (Labuan, Sabah, and Sarawak), Philippines (Palawan, Tawi-Tawi), and Spratley Islands. The Spratley Islands are claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

III. Overview

On the third largest island in the world, the presence of high, non-volcanic mountains in a tropical rainforest climate zone provides a wide variety of unique habitats promoting plant and animal diversity on land and in sea. Borneo is home to 15,000 species of flowering plants, 34 percent of which are found nowhere else. It is a hotbed of scientific discovery, with three new species being discovered per month. Notable plants are the dipterocarp trees which dominate the lowland rainforests, Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower; and pitcher plants, of which there are 30 endemic species on Borneo. Limestone rocks along the coastlines fronting the South China Sea have led to the development of karst features, including caves, which are especially notable in Sarawak and Palawan. Outside of the high mountains at Kinabalu and along the Malaysia-Indonesia border in Borneo, extensive areas of lowland rainforest are notable in throughout Borneo. The highest mountains are the high-elevation area in northern Borneo dominated by Mount Kinabalu, Trus Madi, and the Crocker Range. High mountains are found in other areas, including the Tawau Hills and Maliau Basin of Sabah, the extensive plateaus along the border between Indonesia and Malaysia, and in the isolated Hose and Dulit ranges. Spectacular caves are found at Mulu and Niah national parks in Sarawak and at Tabon on Palawan. The Indonesia portion includes two large freshwater wetlands associated with the Kapuas River and Mahakam River. Sulawesi, across the Makassar Straight from Borneo, is part of Wallacia, where Asian and Australian fauna mix.

North of Borneo is Palawan, which has unique rainforest flora and fauna. Palawan is home to the world’s largest pitcher plant, Nepenthes attenboroughii, discovered in 2009 on Mount Victoria. N. attenboroughii has pale yellow to light green pitchers that measure up to 30 by 16 cm. The species is found only in serpentine soils at the mountain peak. To the south on the same island, Mount Mantalingahan has its own endemic species of pitcher plant, one of 16 endemic species of pitchers on Palawan. Endemic animals include a bearcat, mousedeer, parrots, hornbills, and pheasants. Palawan is also known for pristine beaches, reef diving in Honda Bay, and waterfall touring. Offshore in the Sulu Sea are reefs of the diverse Coral Triangle, including Tubbataha Reef, a world heritage site. The entire Philippine province is managed as an international biosphere reserve.

Also to the north of Borneo, the South China Sea is dotted with reefs of the Spratley archipelago, while to the east islands in the Sulu Archipelago extend eastward. This is the Coral Triangle, a center of marine biodiversity.

IV. Ecoregions

Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Indo-Malayan Biome

IM 102. Borneo Lowland rain forests. The richest rainforest in the world, rivals New Guinea and the Amazon. There are at least 3,000 tree species and 2,000 orchids. The dominant plant family is the Dipterocarpaceae, of which 267 species are found in the ecoregion. Rare and unique animals are also present, including the world’s smallest squirrel and frog, orangutan and 12 other primates, small carnivores like the clouded leopard and sun bear, Sumatran rhinoceros, and Asian elephant. Found in Brunei, Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Tawi-Tawi (Mapun), Sabah, Sarawak, and West Kalimantan.

IM 103. Borneo montane rain forests. An area in the mountains of Borneo above 1000 m in elevation, this is the most diverse montane flora on Earth. A large contiguous area of this ecoregion extends along the Malaysia-Indonesia border across central Borneo, and isolated mountain ranges such as the Hose and Dulit ranges in Sarawak and the Maliau and Tawau Hills in Sabah also are included. At elevations above 1,000 m, dipterocarp forests give way to oak, chestnut, myrtles, eucalyptus, and cloves. At elevations above 1,500 m, an rhododendron belt forms, which quickly gives way to an alpine meadow on the highest peaks. Epiphytes such as orchids are abundant, and pitcher plants are diverse. There are high-altitude swamp forests present. Found in Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Sabah, Sarawak, and West Kalimantan.

IM 104, Borneo peat swamp forests. These mostly coastal dipterocarp forests are key habitat for the proboscis monkey. Large inland peat swamp forests are found in the Kapuas and Mahakam wetland areas. Found in Brunei, East Kalimantan, Sarawak, and West Kalimantan.

IM 143, Palawan rain forests. These lowland evergreen dipterocarp rain forests have a short one- to three-month dry season. Some forest areas are deciduous during this period. The area is noted for endemic mammals including a tree squirrel and a rat. Found in Palawan, Bugsuk, and Balabac.

IM 148, South China Sea Islands. These 600 coral reef islands barely surface and are mostly devoid of vegetation but could support forest vegetation. Found in the Spratley Islands.

IM 153, Southwest Borneo freshwater swamp forests. The Kapuas and Mahakam wetland areas contain forests of Mallotus and tall legumes, along with long-tailed macaques, orangutans, and 360 birds. Found in East Kalimantan and West Kalimantan.

IM 156, Sulu Archipelago rain forests. These lowland moist rain forests have mostly been cleared. They have a distinct bird fauna compared to nearby areas of Borneo. Found on Tawi-tawi, Sibutu, and adjacent islands.

IM 161, Sundaland heath forests. White sand soils support nutrient-poor scrub forests of dipterocarp trees on old beaches and sandstone plateaus and ridges. The nutrient-poor soils promote insectivorous plants like pitchers, sundews, and bladderwort. Found in East Kalimantan, Sarawak, and West Kalimantan in coastal areas and around the Kapuas and Mahakam wetlands.

Australasia Biome

AA 123, Sulawesi lowland rain forests. Tropical evergreen forests with only seven dipterocarp species. The unique animal fauna includes a fruit-eating pig, dwarf buffalo, macaques, cuscuses, and highly endemic birds. Found in Central Sulawesi.

AA 124, Sulawesi montane rain forests. At elevations above 1,000 m, oaks, chestnuts, and conifers are common, along with epiphytic orchids. There are 33 endemic mammals and 44 endemic birds. Found in Central Sulawesi.

Montane Grasslands and Shrublands

IM 1001, Kinabalu Montane Alpine Meadows. This high-elevation rainforest in northeast Borneo contains a flora of 4,500 species, the richest in the world, along with 114 mammals and 180 birds. There are 78 species of figs and 750 orchid species, and unique gymnosperms. Found in Sabah.

Mangrove

IM 1405, Sunda Shelf Mangroves. Habitat for proboscis monkeys. Found in Brunei, East Kalimantan, Labuan, Sabah, and Sarawak.

V. Freshwater Ecoregions

Southern Asia Region

Tropical and Subtropical Coastal Rivers

741. Kapuas. Found in West Kalimantan.

742. Northwestern Borneo. Found in Brunei and Sarawak.

744. Northeastern Borneo. Found in East Kalimantan and Sabah, from the Padas River in Sabah to the Sesayap River in East Kalimantan.

745. Eastern Borneo. Found in East Kalimantan from the Kayan River south.

749. Sulawesi. Found in Central Sulawesi.

752. Mindanao. Found in Tawi-Tawi.

756. Palawan-Busuanga-Mindoro. Found in Balabac and Palawan.

Montane Freshwater

743. Borneo Highlands. Found in Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Sabah, Sarawak, and West Kalimantan.

VI. Marine Ecoregions

Central Indo-Pacific Realm, South China Sea Province

114. South China Sea Oceanic Islands. Found in Spratley Islands.

Central Indo-Pacific Realm, Sunda Shelf Province

117. Sunda Shelf/Java Sea. Found along coast of Sarawak.

Central Indo-Pacific Realm, Western Coral Triangle Province

126. Palawan/North Borneo. Found along the coast of Brunei, Palawan, Sabah, and East Kalimantan north of Kutai National Park.

128. Sulawesi Sea/Makassar. Found along the coast of Sulawesi and East Kalimantan south of Kutai National Park.

VII. World Heritage Sites

Kinabalu National Park, Sabah, Malaysia. The highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea, 4,095 m, Kinabalu provides the center of plant diversity in southeast Asia and harbors a diverse biota with high endemism. Half of all families of flowering plants are represented; notable plants are 1,000 orchid species, giant Rafflesia, the world’s largest moss to 1 m tall, rhododendrons, and pitcher plants. Of the 326 bird species found here, 23 are endemic. The world’s longest stick insect, Chan’s megastick, was discovered in forests here. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 1001.

Mulu Mountain National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. Tropical karst area (25 miles wide) of deeply incised canyons, wild rivers, limestone pinnacles, and wild rivers. There are 17 vegetation zones and 3,500 species of plants, including 109 palm species. Within the 295 miles of cave passages is the largest-known cave chamber and longest known cave passage. There are peat swamp, dipterocarp, and montane forest areas. Mammals are sun bear, bats, tarsiers, macaques, and gibbons. The area along the Baram River is known as the Headhunters Trail. An Important Bird Area wih 262 species including hornbills and swiftlets. Ecoregions 102, 103, and 104.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Palawan Province, Philippines. The pristine coral reef contains the highest population density known of white tip reef sharks and seven breeding species of seabirds, boobies, and terns. An Important Bird Area. Found off of Palawan. Terrestrial ecoregion 143 and marine ecoregion 126.

VIII. Ramsar Sites

Danau Santarum National Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. An inland floodplain wetland with numerous lakes and connecting waterways, this site represents the last area of primary freshwater swamp forest in Kalimantan. Also present is peat swamp forest. Red arowana fish can be seen leaping out of the lakes. The protected area supports orangutan, false ghavial, Malayan sun bear, proboscis monkey, and estuarine crocodiles. An Important Bird Area known for breeding waterbird colonies. Ecoregions 102, 104, and 153.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Palawan. See description under World Heritage Sites.

IX. Biosphere Reserve

Palawan. The entire Philippine province of Palawan, including Tubbataha Reef World Heritage Site (above), is included in the biosphere reserve. Mount Victoria, Mount Mantalingahan, Honda Bay, Iwahig River, Tabon Caves, Rasa Island, Ursula Island, Bugsuk Island, and Balabac Island are shown on the map. Ecoregion 143.

X. Other points of interest

Balabac Island, Palawan Province, Philippines. An Important Bird Area noted for grey imperial pigeon, Philippine cockatoo, blue-headed racquet-tail, and Palawan hornbill. Ecoregion 143.

Baleh Headwaters, Sarawak, Malaysia. An Important Bird Area; ecoregion 103.

Bario and Kelabit Highlands. A trekking area, where hikers walk from longhouse to longhouse on mountain trails. Ecoregion 103.

Batang Ai National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. A rainforest preserve managed by local people with orangutan, hornbills and gibbons. Ecoregions 102 and 161.

Batu Punggul, Sabah, Malaysia. A limestone pinnacle in the rainforest; caves. Ecoregion 102.

Belait Swamp Forest, Brunei. Forests of Shorea albida dominate the peat swamp forests in this area. The fanged pitcher plant has two appendages on the underside of the pitcher lid. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 104.

Betung Kerihun National Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Lowland dipterocarp and montane oak-chestnut forest, rich in palms. The Muller Range on the border of West Kalimantan and Sarawak contains a diversity of waterfalls, limestone hills, and caves. Mammals are rhinos, leopards, orangutans, and bearcats. An Important Bird Area known for wattled pheasant, and Wallace’s hawk-eagle. Ecoregions 102 and 103.

Brunei Bay, Brunei, Sabah, and Sarawak. An Important Bird Area with mangroves which hosts migratory waterbirds, Storm’s stork, lesser adjutant, and Chinese egret. Ecoregion 1405 and marine ecoregion 126.

Buda National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. A limestone peak 963 m high with extensive caves. An important bird area. Ecoregion 102.

Bukit Tiban National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. A reforested rainforest at the headwaters of Nyalau and Timong rivers. Ecoregion 102.

Crocker Range National Park, Sabah, Malaysia. The largest protected area in Sabah and an Important Bird Area for endemic birds. Within the park is the Rafflesia Centre, which has trails to plants which have the world’s largest flowers. Ecoregions 102 and 1001.

Danum-Linau, Sarawak, Malaysia. An Important Bird Area for Bornean peacock-pheasant. Ecoregion 103.

Danum Valley Conservation Area, Sabah, Malaysia. This protected area operated by the Sabah Foundation contains the most important Old World rainforest scientific research center, the Danum Valley Field Centre. Mammals are rhinos, elephants, orangutans, mouse deer, pigs, leopards, and leopard cats. There are 275 known bird species, including nine endemics. A new bird species, the Spectacled Flowerpecker, was recently discovered in this forest. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 102 and 103.

Dulit Range, Sarawak, Malaysia. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 103.

Honda Bay, Palawan, Philippines. Known for reef diving and pristine beaches. Marine ecoregion 126.

Hose-Laga Mountains, Sarawak, Malaysia. An Important Bird Area; ecoregion 103.

Iwahig River, Palawan, Philippines. Known for firefly watching; managed by Iwahig Community Eco-Tourism Association. Ecoregion 143.

Kayan Mentarang National Park, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Kayan is an extensive mountain plateau on the border between East Kalimantan and Sarawak. Known for sun bears, pangolins, and wild pig migrations. An Important Bird Area with Borneo endemic birds. Ecoregion 103.

Klias Peninsula, Sabah, Malaysia. An Important Bird Area with mangrove forest, freshwater swamp forest and peat swamp forest which hosts large populations of waterbirds. Also noted for firefly watching. The Klias River provides whitewater rafting. Ecoregions 102, 104, and 1405.

Kulamba Wildlife Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia. A coastal area with isolated hills, an Important Bird Area for wrinkled hornbill. Ecoregions 102 and 1405.

Kutai National Park, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Known for rhinos, proboscis monkey, 300 birds, mangroves, rainforests, and orangutan. An Important Bird Area known for great-billed heron and lesser adjutant. Ecoregions 102, 161, and 1405.

Labuan Marine Park, Labuan, Malaysia. Three islets near Labuan are protected coral reefs for snorkeling. Ecoregion 1405.

Labuk Bay, Sabah, Malaysia. A private proboscis monkey sanctuary. Ecoregion 1405.

Ladan Hills, Brunei. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregions 102 and 104.

Lambir Hills National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. A sandstone escarpment hosts dipterocarp forests and waterfalls. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregions 102 and 104.

Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, Sarawak, Malaysia. Virgin rainforest preserve, noted for pitcher plants. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 102.

Lankayan Island, Sabah, Malaysia. An offshore diving resort and part of the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area. Ecoregion 102.

Layang-Layang (Swallow Reef), Spratley Islands. A Navy base and diving resort created by the Malaysian armed forces; divers see hammerhead sharks, rays, and barracuda; an Important Bird Area for Asian great crested terns. Ecoregion 148.

Loagan Banut National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. This peat swamp forest preserve with a large natural lake is known for a great diversity of birds and primates. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 104.

Long Bangum, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. An Important Bird Area with undisturbed lowland forest. Ecoregion 102.

Madai Caves, Sabah, Malaysia. Swiftlet nests are harvested for birds nest soup. Also archaeological sites. Ecoregion 102.

Middle Mahakam Wetlands (Lahan Basah Mahakam Tengah), East Kalimantan, Indonesia. An Important Bird Area containing swamp forest with three large lakes. Ecoregions 104 and 161.

Maliau Basin Conservation Area, Sabah, Malaysia. A saucer-shaped basin surrounded by cliffs to 1,900 m in height and managed by the Sabah Foundation is known as Sabah’s Lost World. There are 280 species of birds, with many endemics. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 103.

Mantanani Islands, Sabah, Malaysia. Three offshore islands with limestone bluffs and rocky shores, an Important Bird Area for pelagic species like frigatebirds. Ecoregion 102 and marine ecoregion 126.

Manuk Island, Tawi-Tawi Province, Philippines. An Important Bird Area with Philippine cockatoo and blue-winged racquet tail. Ecoregion 156.

Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, Palawan, Philippines. The highest mountain in Palawan, stronghold of Palawan striped-babbler. Home of diverse rainforest flora, including Nepenthes mantalingajensis, an endemic species of pitcher plant. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 143.

Niah National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. This archaeological park is the site of 40,000-year old human remains. Painted Cave contains wall paintings which depict the boat journey of the dead to the afterlife. Birds nest collectors harvest swiftlet nests for birds nest soup. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 102.

Padas Gorge, Sabah, Malaysia. A whitewater rafting area. Ecoregion 102.

Pasoso Island, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. An Important Bird Area that harbors the grey imperial pigeon and yellow-crested cockatoo. Ecoregion 123.

Peradyan Forest Reserve, Brunei. Provides hiking in rainforest around two mountain peaks. Ecoregion 102.

Pulong Tao National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. Funded by Japan and Switzerland, this biodiversity preserve in the Kelabit Highlands supports mixed dipterocarp forest and montane forest. Notable plants are a gymnosperm timber species, orchids, pitcher plants, gingers, and rhododendrons. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 103.

Rasa Island, Palawan, Philippines. Home of the endangered Philippine cockatoo and other endangered wildlife. Ecoregion 143.

Sabah Agricultural Park, Sabah, Malaysia. An orchid farm, along with tropical fruit. Ecoregion 102.

Sandakan Rainforest Park (Kebun Cima Forest Reserve), Sabah, Malaysia. The site of early botanical exploration includes 110 type speciments of plants, including the Nepenthes pitcher plants. Ecoregion 102.

Sangalaki Islands Marine Wildlife Reserve and Derawan Islands, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. A coral archipelago hosting sea turtles. A brackish lake on Kakaban Island is known for stingless jellyfish. Terrestrial ecoregion 102 and marine ecoregion 126.

Sangkulirang, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. An area of karst mountains and caves with subalpine birds. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 102.

Sebuku Sembakung National Park, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Mangrove forests, peat forest, forested limestone hills hosting elephants and orangutan. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregions 102, 104, 161, and 1405.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and Kabili rainforest reserve, Sabah, Malaysia. Home to the primates and an Important Bird Area for oriental anhinga. Also includes the Rainforest Discovery Centre.

Seria Coast, Brunei. An Important Bird Area for crestless fireback and lesser adjutant. Ecoregion 104.

Sibutu and Tumindao Islands, Tawi-Tawi Province, Philippines. An Important Bird Area supporting Sulu archipelago endemics. Ecoregion 156.

Similajau National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. Coastal preserve of mangroves and dipterocarp forest. Beach areas are known for dolphin viewing. An Important Bird Area. Terrestrial ecoregions 102 and 1405; marine ecoregion 117.

Siminul Island, Tawi-Tawi Province, Philippines. An Important Bird Area with Philippine cockatoo and blue-winged racquet tail. Ecoregion 156.

Sipidan Island, Sabah, Malaysia. Known for wall diving and called the world’s best by Jacques Cousteau. An underwater drop-off falls 2,800 feet. On land, the islands are an Important Bird Area for small island pigeons and frigatebirds. Ecoregion 102.

Sukao-Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Malaysia. A sustainable development area on the lower Kinabatangan River in Sabah, which includes the Gomantong Caves, noted for one million swiftlets. A forested floodplain that hosts 10 primates and 250 bird species. An Important Bird Area, noted for Storm’s stork and hornbills. Mammals are primates, elephants, and rhinos. Ecoregion 102.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia. Virgin lowland dipterocarp forest and mud volcanoes; an Important Bird Area. Mammals are orangutans and other primates, elephants, rhinoceros, and buffalo. Ecoregion 102.

Tabon Caves, Palawan, Philippines. Over 200 caves and rockshelters, providing a continuous record of 50,000 years of human occupation, including human remains, burial jars,a nd jade ornaments. Managed by National Museum of the Philippines. Ecoregion 143.

Tasek Merimbun, Brunei. A heritage park and Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 102.

Tawau Hills National Park, Sabah, Malaysia. Noted for waterfalls, hot springs, and a volcanic landscape. Bombalai, Borneo’s only active volcano, is found here. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregions 102 and 103.

Tawi-Tawi Island, Tawi-Tawi Province, Philippines. A largely undeveloped island with some primary forest on a central ridge, harbors endemic birds of the Sulu Archipelago, including Sulu bleeding-heart, tawitawi brown dove, and blue-winged racquet-tail. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 156.

Tempasuk Plains, Sabah, Malaysia. A freshwater wetland and Important Bird Area that includes the Kota Belud Bird Sanctuary. Ecoregion 1405.

Tiga Marine Park, Sabah, Malaysia. Site of the first Survivor series; nearby Snake Island is a breeding ground for sea snakes. Ecoregion 102 and marine ecoregion 126.

Trus Madi Range, Sabah, Malaysia. The second largest mountain on Borneo is an Important Bird area for endemic birds; part of the northern highlands of Sabah with Mount Kinabalu and the Crocker Range. Ecoregion 1001.

Tun Sakaran Marine Park, Sabah, Malaysia. Eight volcanic islands with fringing coral reefs in Darvel Bay are the subject of a cooperative conservation project with the Marine Conservation Society and the UK government. Ecoregion 1002 and marine ecoregion 126.

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, Sabah, Malaysia. Five islands off of Kota Kinabalu offer beaches and snorkeling. Ecoregion 102 and marine ecoregion 126.

Turtle Islands Heritage Protected Area, Sabah, Malaysia and Tawi-Tawi, Philippines. A transboundary protected area for green and hawksbill sea turtles. Terrestrial ecoregion 102 and marine ecoregion 126.

Ulu Barito, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. An Important Bird Area on the slopes of Muller Mountains. Ecoregion 103.

Ulu Telen, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. An Important Bird Area noted for mountain barbet, Hose’s broadbill, and Bornean whistler. Ecoregions 102 and 103.

Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei. Noted for its extensive canopy walkway. An important bird area. Ecoregion 102.

Ursula Island Game Refuge and Bird Sanctuary, Palawan, Philippines. Set aside to protect imperial pigeons and rare birds, contains old growth lowland forest. Native birds are being affected by possibly non-native predatory snakes. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregion 143.

Usun Apau Plateau, Sarawak, Malaysia. An Important Bird Area for wattled pheasant. Ecoregions 102 and 103.

Mount Victoria, Palawan, Philippines. Undisturbed lowland and montane forests in the Victoria and Anepahan Ranges. Mount Victoria is noted for the world’s largest species of pitcher plant, Nepenthes attenboroughii. Ecoregion 143.

Wasan, Brunei. An Important Bird Area. Ecoregions 102 and 104.

XI. References

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