Borneo. You probably know it for its rainforests, orangutans and world-class scuba diving. But there’s a lot more to this lush tropical island.
Did you know that its jungles provide a rich habitat for rare creatures? It’s also home to the world’s largest (and most pungent) flower, its richest monarch and the highest peak in the Southeast Asia region.
As the third-largest island on the planet, Borneo unsurprisingly offers a wealth of discovery for travelers. To help you navigate its varied wonders and inspire you to visit, here’s our expert’s list of fun and interesting facts about Borneo.
Borneo rainforests are ancient
The rainforest in Borneo is one of the oldest in the world and is estimated to be about 130 million years old. Unfortunately 50 percent of Borneo forests were logged or burned to the ground for oil palm plantations in the 80s’ and 90s’, and the island is still the world’s largest producer of timber. Half of world timber supply come from Borneo.
It has so many amazing plant
There are roughly 15,000 different plant species in Borneo, though not all of its flowers you’d want in your garden at home.
The biggest flower – The Rafflesia arnoldii
The Rafflesia Arnoldii boasts the world’s largest flower, whose secondary claim to fame is smelling like decaying flesh, hence its cute nickname, ‘stinking corpse lily.’ Why does it smell the way it does? To attract flies and other meat-eating pollinators.
The Biggest Orchid Grammatophyllum speciousm
Grammatophyllum speciosum or Giant orchid is native to Borneo and some other near island. This ochid is the largest and heaviest among other species of orchids. In one adult clump, giant orchids or tiger orchid can weigh more than 1 ton and have panicle lengths of up to 3 meters with panicle diameter around 1.5-2 cm. That is why this plant deserves the title of the largest and heaviest orchid or giant orchid.
Super Endemic Carnivorous Plant– Nepenthes clipeata
Nepenthes clipeata has a high endemicity. The natural habitat of this carnivorous plant is only found in Bukit Kelam, Sintang, West Kalimantan. Some efforts to find new populations of N. clipeata outside of Bukit Kelam have been carried out. But until now, there is no another population of N. clipeata has been foundd outside of Bukit Kelam area.
250 Dipterocarp Species
Borneo is the world capital of dipterocarps, trees with two-winged fruits that grow in tropical lowlands and tend to be “emergents,” rising singly above the canopy. It has 380 of the 500 species in existence. 250 are endemic, found only on Borneo, including Shorea faguetana, the tallest tropical tree anywhere, reaching 290 feet.
Over 100 of the animals are endemic to Borneo Rainforest
There are around 222 different species of mammal, with a colorful variety of endemic animals, including aforementioned frogs and orangutans. Aside from that, there are proboscis monkeys with their bulbously adorable noses, the Sumatran rhinoceros, the clouded leopard, Sumatran tigers, palm civets, hornbills and countless insects (scientists have found up to 1,000 different species on a single tree in some areas). Some of this rainforest animal is endemic to Borneo Rainforest.
Endemic means you can only find the animal in that particular place, so for Borneo to have more than 100 of these animals is remarkable. Examples of these animals include:
Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus),
It is estimated there were about 54,000 orangutan in Borneo island, both in Indonesian and Malaysian parts in 2004 (Wich et all 2008). Several rehabilitation centers are open to the public where you can see them in their natural habitat.
Due to habitat loss, the endemic Bornean orangutan is now on the critically endangered list.
Among the three subspecies of Bornean orangutan, P.p. pygmaeus is the most threatened.
Proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus),
Proboscis monkeys are one of the endemic primate to the Borneo Rainforest. This species never straying far from the island’s rivers, coastal mangroves, and swamps. They are a highly arboreal species and will venture onto land only occasionally to search for food.
Bornean clouded leopards
The last great forest home of the Bornean clouded leopard is the Heart of Borneo, a 220,000km2 wild, mountainous region — about five times the size of Switzerland — covered with equatorial rainforest in the centre of the island. Destruction of their habitat is the main threat they face.
Bornean Pygmy Elephant
The pygmy elephants are the smallest elephants in Asia with baby-faced
and oversized ears, plump bellies and the tails is so long they sometimes drag
on the ground as they walk. They are also more gentle-natured than their Asian elephant
Though you may not see one, you might hear one – just keep your ears out for a honking sound when you’re on your jungle cruise adventure.
Hunter-gatherers (Punan Tribe)
There are still hunter-gatherers in the heart of borneo rainforest who hunt with blowguns and leave 100 different signs of bent branches and folded leaves for each other in the forest. And they have 1,200 names for different trees and their corresponding spirits and until two generations ago believed that this is only one of nine different worlds in the cosmos.
Borneo is a haven for wildlife
For peat’s sake Peat might not sound like the most exciting thing, but Borneo’s peat marsh swamps contribute to its rich biodiversity, providing a home for freshwater fish, birds and monkeys. They cover the coastlines of Borneo, with some up to 11,000 years old. Sadly, some of Borneo’s peat swamps are being destroyed to make room for oil palm and rubber tree plantations, releasing C02 into the atmosphere and generally very negatively impacting the environment. (Anti-palm oil campaigns are helping spread the word about the effects of these plantations in Southeast Asian countries).
In 1970, 75 percent of Borneo was covered in tropical rainforest. But in just four decades that figure has been reduced by 30 percent, according to a new analysis published in PLoS One. Logging, oil palm plantations and forest fires are the three biggest culprits behind the rapid deforestation, they found. At the scientists write, “between 1980 and 2000 more round wood was harvested from Borneo than from Africa and the Amazon combined.
The expansion of oil palm plantation happening due to the global demand for palm oil. This oil is the most important tropical vegetable oil in the global oils and fats industry. Within Indonesia, oil palm production expanded from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to over 6 million hectares by 2007.