What and where
Borneo is a large island in Southeast Asia located southeast of the Malay Peninsula and southwest of the Philippines. The island is split administratively between Malaysia, Indonesia, and the sultanate of Brunei.
Borneo is primarily mountainous, with dense areas of rain forest. The highest peak in Borneo, Mt. Kinabalu, stands at just over 4,000 m (13,455 ft). Borneo is the 3rd largest island in the world, after Greenland and New Guinea. The island’s hilly terrain, unnavigable rivers, and thick forests deterred industrial development until relatively recently, and as a result Borneo’s population is comparatively low at around 16 million.
Borneo is home to the world’s oldest tropical rainforests which, until a few decades ago, completely covered the island. For countless generations, Borneo’s indigenous Dayak subsistence farmers and hunter-gatherers depended upon and sustainably managed these forests as their primary source of livelihood.
Under their stewardship, the forests were able to maintain the highest species diversity of any terrestrial ecosystem, supplying food, medicines, cash crops and building materials. This has changed dramatically with the advent of industrial logging and monoculture African oil palm plantations.
Borneo is very rich in biodiversity compared to many other areas. There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants with 3,000 species of trees (267 species are dipterocarps), 221 species of terrestrial mammals and 420 species of resident birds in Borneo.
The vegetation is also extremely dense – in one 16 acre area of Borneo’s lowland forest, over 700 species of trees have been recorded. In comparison, there are only 171 native tree species in all of eastern North America. It is also the centre of evolution and radiation of many endemic species of plants and animals.
The remaining Borneo rainforest is the only natural habitat for the endangered Bornean Orangutan. It is also an important refuge for many endemic forest species, and the Asian Elephant, the Sumatran Rhinoceros and the Clouded Leopard.
The Borneo jungles are some of the oldest undisturbed areas of rainforest in the world. Some of the best and most spectacular areas of rainforest have been incorporated into national parks. Two of the most popular parks are Mulu National Park in Sarawak and Mount Kinabalu in Sabah.
Much of the dense rainforest remains undiscovered today and the full range of flora and fauna has most likely not yet been fully documented.