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Top 20 most amazing facts about Sabah’s biodiversity

Apart from its rich culture, Sabah is also widely known for its rich biodiversity.

Did you know that Sabah’s rainforest even inspired the live action remake of The Jungle Book?

One of the movie’s visual effect artists, Helen Brownell reportedly drew inspiration from her adventures in Sabah for some of the landscapes in the film.

We bet Brownell is not the only one who is amazed by its diverse flora and fauna combined with its unique topography.

For the uninitiated, here are 20 amazing facts about Sabah and its nature:

Do you know all top three peaks in Malaysia are found in Sabah?
1.Malaysia’s top 3 highest mountains are found in the Land Below the Wind

This Malaysian state of Borneo was given the nickname Land Below the Wind because it lies below the typhoon belt of East Asia.

The highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu stands tall at 4,095m. It is also the highest peak in the Malay Archipelago as well as the highest mountain in Malaysia.

Lonely Planet even named it as one of the world’s 50 most epic hiking trails.

The second highest mountain is Mount Trusmadi at 2,642m and Mount Tambuyukon closing in at 2,579m.

2. 59% of Sabah is covered by forest!

In the ’70s, the forest cover for Sabah was up to 90%. However due to agriculture and development, the number went down to 59% over recent years.

Why it is still amazing is because 59% of Sabah is about the same size as Denmark.

3. There is one place nicknamed the ‘waterfall capital’.

That place is Maliau Basin! Located at the center of the state, the 390 sq km area has at least 28 waterfalls towering over 5 m. This perhaps shows that Maliau Basin may house the highest number of waterfalls per unit area in the world, if not in Malaysia. The one waterfall that stands out is the majestic 7-tier Maliau Falls.

4. 76% of the world’s coral species is found here!

Sabah is home to at least 612 coral species! The state is also part of the Coral Triangle; an area of tropical marine waters of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Philippines and Timor-Leste. It is recognised as the centre of world marine biodiversity.

5.The largest giant clam species Tridacna Gigas in the world can be found in the Land Below the Wind.

One of the amazing creatures living in Sabah’s water is the giant clam. The largest of them all, Tridacna Gigas can weigh up to 200kg!

In the wild, it has an average lifespan of over 100 years. Apart from Sabah, it also can be found off the shores of the Philippines.

6. There is a safe haven for marine turtles.

Do you know that the oldest marine turtles conservation programme in the world is in Sabah? Established in 1966, the first turtle conservation site in Sabah was on Selingan Island, Sandakan.

Together with Little Bakungan and Gulisaan, these three islands made up Turtle Islands Park which lie in the Sulu Sea.
This park is considered the safe haven for green and hawksbill turtles.

There is a place which can be considered a safe haven for marine turtles and it is in Sabah.
7. Sipadan is one of the top dive sites in the world.

What do The Guardian, CNN Travel, Dive Magazine, Deacon Herald and Deeper Blue have in common? They all named Sipadan as one of the top dive sites in the world.

Located off the east coast of Sabah, the island was formed by living growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone.

One of the highlights of this island is its Turtle Tomb. It is an underwater cave with maze-like tunnels and chambers where many turtles skeletons have been found from turtles who got lost and ended up drowning in this cave.

8. The largest crocodile species is found in Sabah.

Apart from Sarawak, reptile lovers can also find the largest crocodile species in the Land Below the Wind.
Measuring possibly up to 7 meters in length, the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the largest of all living reptile.

9.Reticulated Python, the longest snake in the world called Land Below the Wind home.

If saltwater crocodile is the largest reptile in the world, the longest reptile is the reticulated python.
Plus, it is also one of the three heaviest snakes in the world. Besides Sabah, this reptile can also be found slithering around South Asia and the Indo-Australian Archipelago.

10.Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands is the largest Ramsar Site in Malaysia.

A Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. As of 2016, there are 2,231 Ramsar Sites throughout the world and the largest one in Malaysia is Lower Kinabatangan-Segama (78, 803ha).

11.The world’s smallest elephant is found here.

Speaking of Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands, one of the species calling that places home is the Borneo pygmy elephant.
It is the world’s smallest elephant, a subspecies of Asian elephant.
However according to IUCN, the population has been declining for the past 75 years die to habitat loss and hunting.

12.The world’s tallest tropical tree is here too.

In July 2018, scientists found the world’s tallest tropical tree in Tawau Hills Park. Towering at 96.9m, the tree is Shorea faguetiana located at about 24km from Tawau town.

That tree is even taller than the Statue of Liberty (93m)! Prior to this, the then tallest tree was also found in the state, at the Danum Valley Conservation Area, recorded at 94.1m.

13.  Sabah is home to one of the most wanted birds in the world.

Here in Sabah, you can find one of the world’s most wanted birds by birdwatchers. It is the Bornean Bristlehead, an uncommon species and endemic only to Borneo.

14. One of the oldest tropical rainforest in the world is in Sabah.

Danum Valley Conservation Area, about 2 hours’ drive from Lahad Datu, is not only the largest protected rainforest area in the state, it is also estimated to be almost 140 million years old.

15. Malaysia’s largest marine park is Tun Mustapha Park.

Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) is Malaysian biggest marine park spanning over 898,763ha, off Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas districts.

It comprises more than 50 islands including Banggi and Balambangan.

16. You might see the Bornean Falconet, the smallest raptor in the world here too.

The Bornean Falconet or white-fronted falconet is the smallest bird of prey in the world. Endemic to Sabah, this raptor is about 15cm.

17.The most expensive orchid, Rothschild’s Slipper orchid is only found in the Land Below the Wind.
Mount Kinabalu is where many of Sabah endemic species are found. Credits: Pixabay.

Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Malaysia houses many interesting plants and animals. It also harbours the most expensive orchid in the world. One of its stems on the black market is reported to be worth up to $5,000. No wonder it is called “the Gold of Kinabalu” orchid. As always though, we at KajoMag urge our readers to conserve and preserve nature.

18. The world’s longest stick insect is found near Kinabalu Park.

Besides the most expensive orchid, Kinabalu Park is home to the world’s longest stick insects called Phobaeticus chani. Visitors might confuse it with a real stick as it measures at more than 50cm in length.

19. The largest rafflesia species is found in Sabah.

Rafflesia is widely known as the largest individual flower in the world. The largest of the rafflesia species is Rafflesia arnoldii which can also be found in this state.

20. The biggest pitcher plant is found on Mount Kinabalu too.

Here is an interesting fact; the biggest pitcher plant is named after the first White Rajah of Sarawak but it is only can be found in its neighbouring state of Sabah. Hugh Low first collected Nepenthes rajah in 1858 on Mount Kinabalu and named it after his friend, James Brooke.

Growing up to 40cm high and 20cm wide, this plant can even trap small mammals!

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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