Malaysian Borneo is no stranger to some of the most unique and fascinating wildlife species in the world – most of which will not occur anywhere else outside of Borneo. Danum Valley has been one of the top destinations for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers to capture these creatures. The 130-million-year-old rainforest reigns supreme as the oldest rainforest in the world and even knocking out the Amazon from claiming the title.
While species such as the Western Tarsier, Clouded Leopard, and the elusive Pygmy Elephants remain wildlife favorites, we’ve compiled a list of some under-rated species with their own special appeal.
While herpetology enthusiasts do make their rounds in Borneo, snakes sometimes do not make it to the list of wildlife must-sees.
Formerly part of the Wagler’s Pit Viper species complex, you can find the Bornean Keeled Pit Viper awaiting its next prey of either birds or arboreal rodents in lowland primary rainforests, mature secondary forests or even riverine and coastal forests. Their heat-sensing pits (which is where its name derives from) are especially hypersensitive allowing them the ability to detect body heat and striking with pinpoint accuracy even in total darkness.
The females of these species are definitely the ones that lucked out in aesthetics with bicolored bar markings encircling the body along the flanks. While the males are just as stunning, their markings are more subdued and do not extend across the width of their body.
The Bornean Keeled Pit Viper is an exclusively arboreal species and can be seen at heights ranging from low vegetation to mid-canopy levels.
A Malayan Civet isn’t in any way uncommon in Borneo and can be found in a variety of habitats including forests, cultivated land, and the periphery of villages. However, its nocturnal behavior would pose a challenge to photographers who aren’t as adept with night photography.
Their distinct features include throat markings, black stripe along the midline through the 15 black bands along the tail, upper greyish parts, and black spots plentiful – certainly makes for an exciting sight during night treks or drives.
Nightly prowls for Malayan Civet are usually terrestrial but they are also known to occasionally climb trees to satisfy their meat-based diet of small animals such as rodents, lizards, snakes, and frogs with a side of insects and other invertebrates.
As the smallest of the Hemiprocnidae family with an average length of 15 to 17cm, the tiny Whiskered Treeswift is easily overshadowed in by the more popular Broadbills and Trogons bird species in Danum Valley.
Unique features such as their long wings which reach beyond its tail and white parallel stripes from their forehead to hind nape and a second stripe from chin back to neck side are definitely something that deserves a share of the spotlight within the lowland rainforest residency.
While little is known on their courting behavior, this sedentary species can often be spotted in breeding pairs as they remain in their nesting territory throughout the year.
Although very easily spotted throughout Danum Valley, if for some reason you’re having difficulty spotting them, it’s best to heighten your sense of hearing during your search for them. Their calls are much quieter than their larger species counterparts within the family. Contact calls between pair-members comprise of high-pitched “chew” or “kweeo” or a repeated series of “kwee kwee, kwi-kwi-kwi-kwi” uttered while in flight or perched on open branches.
The rainforests of Danum Valley wouldn’t be complete without the iconic territorial calls of wild gibbons.
Although the most common species of gibbons in Borneo, the Gray North Bornean Gibbons are difficult to spot due to their small stature, shyness, and preference of forest canopies. However, when they are visible, you can see them leap effortlessly from one tree to another with outstretched arms.
They typically travel in small family groups of up to 5 and prefer tall virgin forests but observations have shown that they are also able to survive in degraded logged forests. These creatures will, however, keep away from areas where hunting is regular and this could be due to their fixed territories.
Decreasing populations in the last several years have categorized them as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, but if you keep those binoculars at the ready, you can definitely spot them at Sepilok, Kinabatangan, Tabin, Danum Valley, and Tawau Hills.
To call the Colugo ‘unique’ would be an understatement for they are definitely one of the more bizarre arboreal mammals on our wildlife radar. Sometimes mistaken as a squirrel, these “flying lemurs” have once been thought to be closely related to bats but further research and observations have shown that it may instead have close relations to primates.
Their coloring can differ among one another – some gray with heavy black and white markings, others have a tinge of reddish-brown, and then there are those who truly stand out from the lush greens of Danum Valley with a full reddish-brown coat.
The most fascinating feature of this creature would definitely have to be its gliding membrane – essentially a giant piece of ‘skin’ called the patagium – stretching from its face to the tips of its hands and all the way to the end of its tail. Dubbed as the most skilled gliding mammal in Borneo, mother Colugos would often glide from tree to tree with their young, which works out well for the baby Colugo as they are born highly underdeveloped.
We’re only skimming the surface of this list as Borneo’s biodiversity makes it the perfect habitat for an abundance of wildlife. Appreciation for these endemic species will definitely heighten if you’re lucky enough to come across them during your travels in Malaysian Borneo.
For a more comprehensive list, check out our previous article on the “Top 10 Wildlife Encounters in Sabah, Borneo”.
At Sticky Rice Travel, our focus has always been to provide meaningful adventures unique to each of our clients’ needs and requests and delivering only the highest wildlife encounters Sabah, Malaysian Borneo has to offer. If you’ll be traveling to Danum Valley for the first time, be sure to check out www.DanumValley.net for extensive destination information or if you’d like to craft a custom trip of your own, get in touch with our experienced Travel Consultants via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.