Wildlife Malaysia: The Borneo Big 5

When preparing for my trip to Malaysia, I was listing all the animals I could possibly encounter when suddenly I read about the Borneo Big 5. Here’s an overview of the wildlife I have seen in Borneo, the Borneo Big 5 included.

1) Rhinoceros hornbill

This large, black bird always flies over the river in pairs. They have a colorful red and yellow bill with a “banana-shaped” casque on top of the bill. The long white tail has a broad, black band near the center. They have a loud, barking-like call.

Fun Fact: A hornbill named Zazu is the king‘s adviser and one of the characters in The Lion King.

2) Bornean Crocodile

We’ve seen two big Bornean Crocodiles and two baby crocs in the river.

3) Orangutan

Orangutans spend most of their time in trees. They are the most solitary of the great apes: social bonds occur primarily between mothers and offspring.They can live over 30 years. Orangutans are among the most intelligent primates. They use a variety of sophisticated tools and construct elaborate sleeping nests each night from branches and foliage. 

All three orangutan species are considered critically endangered. Human activities have caused severe declines in populations and ranges. Threats to wild orangutan populations include poaching (for bushmeat and retaliation for consuming crops), habitat destruction and deforestation (for palm oil cultivation and logging), and the illegal pet trade. Several conservation and rehabilitation organisations are dedicated to the survival of orangutans in the wild.

We were in our villa when our guide came knocking telling us that an orangutan was spotted on the boardwalk. We ran towards the spot and admired the Orangutan for an hour before he disappeared in the jungle. He was swinging from the branches like a gymnast, eating his leafs and wasn’t bothered by us. At one point he was 2 metres from us! A memory I’m cherishing for life! Bucketlist-item crossed off!

Orangutan in a tree in Sandakan, Kota Kinabatangan river (Borneo, Malaysia).

4) Bornean Pygmy Elephant

At the end of our afternoon safari we were able to spot a herd of pygmy elephants, which are quite rare to spot because they usually hide away from the banks of the river. We only saw them for a couple of minutes before they disappeared.

Bornean Pygmy Elephant in Sandakan, Kota Kinabatangan river (Borneo, Malaysia).

5) Proboscis monkeys

The proboscis monkey or long-nosed monkey is a monkey with an unusually large nose, a reddish-brown skin color and a long tail. These monkeys co-exists with the Bornean orangutan. The proboscis monkey is an endangered species due to habitat loss and hunting in some areas. The monkey is seen as a delicacy, as well as its use in traditional Chinese medicine.

Proboscis monkeys (mother and baby) in a tree in Sandakan, Kota Kinabatangan river (Borneo, Malaysia).

So this is the big 5 you can see in Borneo and I can check that off! I hope you can too! 

Want to know what other wildlife you can spot in Borneo? See for yourself below!

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