The wildlife of Borneo

Borneo, the third largest island in the world, was once covered in dense rainforest. While the size of the rainforest has unfortunately decreased over the years what remains is still a bio-diverse haven holding many marvellous creatures. Unfortunately, with their diminishing habitat comes dwindling numbers of wildlife making it harder to spot them in the wild. However, if you journey into the rainforests and jungles of Borneo hopefully you’ll be rewarded with some incredible sightings of these incredible creatures in their natural habitat.

Bornean orang-utan

Meaning ‘person of the forest’ in Malay, the name orang-utan perfectly suits these human relatives who spend 90% of their time in the trees. Asia’s only great ape, they use their enormous arm span which can reach up to seven feet to swing from branch to branch. Walking through the national parks and hearing their ‘long call’ echo through the trees, the rustling of the leaves above you as you catch a glimpse of their tufty dark red hair is an incredible Borneo experience. Nicknamed the ‘gardeners of the forest’ due to their part in spreading seeds throughout the area, their decreasing numbers is having a huge effect on the other animals and people of the rainforest.

Wildlife of Borneo - orang-utan
With their orange fur and long arms, orang-utans are the iconic animals of Borneo

Pygmy elephant

The pygmy elephants of Borneo, also called Borneo elephants, are the smallest species to be found on the continent and have been likened to cartoon versions of Asian elephants. With baby faces, huge ears, short trunks, round bellies and long tails, which trail to the ground in-between their stumpy legs, they have a much gentler temperament than their mainland counterparts. With less than 1,500 in the wild, not much is known about the Borneo elephant and they were once believed to be extinct before being re-discovered on the island in 2008.

Wildlife of Borneo - pygmy elephant
Borneo elephants look like a cartoon version of their Asian counterparts

Proboscis monkey

One of the areas slightly weirder looking animals, the proboscis monkey is a very unique species and is indigenous to Borneo, never deviating far from the island’s rivers, swamps and mangroves. The different sexes can be distinguished by their comical noses, the male’s oversized and droopy, which they use to amplify their mating and warning call, while the females have slightly smaller upturned pointy snouts. They live together in groups, residing in the trees and regularly taking to the water. To add to their bizarre list of features, they have webbed feet and hands to help with their expert swimming.

Wildlife of Borneo - proboscis monkey
The proboscis monkey is instantly recognisable by their comical noses

Sun bear

The sun bear is named after the golden patch on their chest which is said to represent the rising sun. The smallest member of the bear family, they only grow to five feet in height making it much easier for them to move from tree to tree high above the rainforest floor and rest in their sleeping platforms made from branches and leaves. Their excellent climbing is helped by their six inch claws which they also use to scoop out honey and grubs. Their love for honey, licking it up with their tongue which can reach nine inches in length, has earned them the nickname of honey bear. A reclusive creature, not much is known about this nocturnal bear..

Wildlife of Borneo - sun bear
The sun bear is also known as the honey bear due to its love of honey

Rhinoceros hornbill

It is clear to see where these vivid looking birds get their name from with an extension of its beak curving above its head and looking similar to a rhino horn. Like the proboscis monkey, the birds use this hollow casque to amplify their calls throughout the jungle. The males and females are very alike in appearance apart from the male having an orange or red ring around their eyes while the females have a white circle. When mating the birds pair off and build a nest in a hollow tree which is sealed off using mud with the female inside, the male passing food through a small hole while the females are busy incubating the eggs.

Wildlife of Borneo - Rhinoceros hornbill
Rhinoceros hornbills are found in the high altitudes of Borneo’s rainforest

Want to head into the jungles and rainforests of Borneo in search for these incredible creatures? Join our group tour to enjoy Borneo’s wilderness.

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