If you have never seen the old Sarawak coat of arms, you can spot it on the pediment above the pillars of the Kuching General Post Office on Jalan Tun Haji Openg.
There you will see the shape of an animal on top of a shield and the words “Dum Spiro Spero”.
Now comes the question what is that animal? It is actually a European badger, an animal that cannot be found in Sarawak.
If you are not familiar with a badger, remember Trufflehunter from The Chronicles of Narnia, one of Aslan’s followers?
Why is there a European badger on the old Sarawak coat of arms?
The heraldic arms of the Brooke dynasty were based on the emblem used by James. It consisted of a red and black cross on a yellow shield, crested by a badger.
This animal, in Middle English, was known as a “brock” and was also a nickname for people named “Brook” or “Brooke”. Hence the animal refers to the dynastic surname.
There are different kinds of badgers out there such as honey badger, American badger, European badger, Asian badger and Japanese badger.
The closest thing we have to the European badger (Meles meles) on the coat of arms is the Bornean ferret-badger (Melogale everetti). Although its only known certainty of location is on Mount Kinabalu and nearby regions in Sabah, it is suspected it can be found in Kalimantan and Sarawak too.
The current Sarawak coat of arms
Instead of a badger, we have our own Rhinoceros hornbill befitting the state’s nickname ‘Land of Hornbills’. The bird itself wears a shield on our current coat of arms. This design was established in 1988. The hornbill’s wings have 13 feathers representing all the Malaysian states.
It also features Malaysia’s national flower, the hibiscus.
Right below the hornbill is a banner bearing Sarawak’s motto “Bersatu, Berusaha, Berbakti” which means ‘Unity, Effort, Service’.