Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wild Cats of Borneo

Bornean Wild Cats One of the most charismatic animals of the Bornean rainforest are the wild cats, it can be found in almost all types of forests from the lowlands to montane forests The Bornean clouded leopard is the largest and often difficult to see, many sightings are encountered in search of nocturnal animals, particularly these elusive wild cats by rivers of Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Tabin Forest Reserve and Danum Valley. My best wild cat sightings have been in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sandakan in Sabah, Malaysia.

Leopard Cat
The most widely distributed Asian small cats, its name is derived from the leopard-like spots prevalent in all subspecies, but its relation to the leopard is distant. The size is about a domestic cat, but more slender, with longer legs and well-defined webs between its toes. Its small head is marked with two prominent dark stripes and a short and narrow white muzzle. It inhabits all kinds of country, forest, plantations and even suburban areas. Its natural prey consists of small mammals and birds, lizards and frogs, It mews harshly and purrs when pleased but is difficult to tame; kittens taken very young sometimes become docile.
Leopard cat along the riverbanks of Kinabatangan approx 11.00 in the evening

Leopard cat seen around 9.00 in the evening crossing the Kinabatangan river
Leopard at early evening hunting, at Tabin Forest reserve, Lahad Datu
Leopard cat seen around 10.00 in the evening along the Kinabatangan

Clouded leopards 
Clouded Leopards are wild cat that live throughout the forests of Southeast Asia. The smallest of the big cats, they are secretive and rare in the wild, preferring to remain alone and hidden from view. This is one of the most beautifully marked of al lthe cats. Its home is in the forests of eastern Asia, Malaya, Sumatra and Borneo. In size it is between the 'great cats' (tiger and panther) and the small ones and it is largely arboreal, spending more time in the trees than on the ground.  Its hunting habits are similar to those to the leopard but with the emphasis on smaller game. Is has no reputation of being dangerous to man. Clouded leopards are nowhere common and are more strictly confined to forest than the tiger and panther.
Clouded Leopard cat seen around 11.00 in the evening along the riverbanks of Kinabatangan, near Sukau.

Until 2006, there was thought to be a single clouded leopard species. However, recent genetic and morphological research has shown that there are two distinct species. The cats on mainland Asia and Taiwan kept the traditional species name (Neofelis nebulosa) while the cats from Borneo and Sumatra took the name the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi). Furthermore, this also changed the number of subspecies. All nebulosa subspecies have been combined into one group, while the diardi populations seem to be split into two subspecies: N. diardi borneensis on the island of Borneo and N. diardi diardi on Sumatra.

Flat-Headed Cat 
Rarer of all cats, it has a more restricted range from southern Thailand and Malaya to Sumatra and Borneo.  Is is dark or grayish-brown above, paler below, with a speckled or grizzled appearance.  The fur is short and the tail very short, a litter over a quarter of the body length.  The kittens are gray. the Flat Headed cat is ideally adapted for a life of fish-eating and water  hunting. It has a long slopin snout and the top of the skull is flattened (hence the name), and it has unusually small ears.

Flat-headed cat seen around 8.00 in the evening along the Kinabatangan near Sukau
Flat-headed cat seen around 8.00 in the evening at the Kinabatangan near Sukau, it prefers swampy areas, oxbow lakes and riverine forests.
It is listed as endangered by the USDI and Appendix 1 of CITES. 
All photos were taken around Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and Tabin Forest Reserve
Equipment used are 500mm, 300mm, 70-200mm and Nikon D3s
The photo hunt for these wild cats have been challenging due to elusiveness, shy of human presence, when sighted, careful handling of the flash photography. Not to upset the animals.

Photo copyright of Cede Prudente and downloading is disallowed without written permission All rights reserved 2015©

Expeditions and

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hornbills of Borneo - 'Burung Enggang Borneo'

There are 45 species in the World, 13 in South-East Asia, 8 in Borneo.

Ten species of hornbills found in Malaysia: the Rhinoceros Hornbill Buceros rhinoceros, Great Hornbill B. bicornis, Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil, White-crowned Hornbill Aceros comatus, Wrinkled Hornbill A. corrugatus, Black Hornbills Anthracoceros malayanus, Oriental Pied Hornbill A. albirostris, Bushy-crested Hornbill Anorrhinus galeritus, Wreathed Hornbill A. undulatus and the Plain-pouched Hornbill A. subruficollis. Asian hornbills belong to the avian order Bucerotiformes, family Bucerotidae. These birds are known as hornbills because of its features; a long curved bill and a protruding casque. Hornbills pair for life, They nest in large hollows found in large tree trunks, where female is sealed in for protection against predators. Hornbill always lay 2 to 5 eggs, but pair breeders usually only produce one young.They are unable to excavate their own hollow, so they need to find one that is naturally formed. The hollows may also be formed by other wild animals such as the woodpecker and the sunbear. Hornbills are known for their habits of reusing a nest cavity year after year. Two species, Bushy-crested and White-crowned, are cooperative breeders, in which family group all help to feed the helpless female and young. The other hornbills are pair breeder where only male feeds the female. The longest nesting hornbills, the Helmeted Hornbill and the Red Knobbed Hornbill can spend between 167 days to 172 days! Hornbills also consume insects, birds and mammals, particularly during their breeding period. During the breeding period, the chick requires a lot of protein to grow strong and healthy. Source: (Ravinder Kaur)(Phillipp's Field Guide to Birds of Borneo), Photographs taken around Sabah.

Wrinkled hornbill (Aceros corrugatus 75cm): Semi nomadic, moving from area to area dependent on local fruiting. Like Wreathed – non territorial. Only last two-thirds of tail is white, where as Wreathed has all-white tail. Males have a yellow bill and more prominent reddish casque while females have an all yellow bill and casque. Call: deep, echoing calls, rowwow, wakowwakowkow…

Helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil 120cm+25cm tail extension): The rarest hornbill, Perhaps the most unique and least observed hornbill. Has heavy solid ivory, used in aerial clashes, in territorial and feeding disputes. Long tail feathers, grey with white tip. The bill is short and red in color with a square-shaped solid casque. Call: The most distinctive bird call in Borneo, a series of identical, loud, hollow took notes, gaining speed before drawing to a climax of maniacal laughter!

White-crowned hornbill (Berenicornis comatus 85cm): The rarest and most carnivorous of he hornbills. Prefers dense, shrubby, vegetation next to rivers in lowland and hill forest, where it hunts in family parties of 4 to 6 for insects and small animals. Adult white distinctive ‘spiky’ crest and long white tail. Call: The quietest hornbill, lively, hollow, pigeon-like – kuk kuk, kuk kuk kuk (Mackinnon)

Bushy-crested hornbill (Anorrhinus galeritus 70cm): Common of inland logged and virgin forests of lowland to hills, throughout Borneo. No white in plumage, occurs in small noisy flocks of 8 to 12 hunting in the canopy. A co-operative breeder. Call: a shrill yelping, like young puppies. The group territorial call given sitting shoulder to shoulder is rising and falling gobbles, series of sharp cries, that rise in pitch and finally end in high loud pitched screams (Leighton)

Wreathed hornbill (Rhyticeros undulates 100cm): Semi-nomadic wide ranging and non-territorial. Widespread throughout Borneo. The only hornbill fouond on higher levels on Mount Kinabalu. When not breeding usually in flocks, A large, primarily black hornbill whose tail is all white with no black at the base. Both sexes have a pale bill with a small casque and a dark streak/mark on the throat pouch. Call: harsh, dog-like bark to maintain flock coherence.

Oriental pied hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris 75cm): More common on islands and in coastal and secondary forest and inland rivers. Seen in noisy flocks. a smaller hornbill, black with a white belly. Bill and casque are pale yellow with black at the base. Call: Strident crackling and yacking.

Asian Black hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus 75cm):.A common bird of primary forest, peatswamp, and tall mangrove forest. A territorial pair breeder but sometimes seen in flocks. Ahs the most variable plumage of all the Bornean hornbills. Distinguish by all white bill of male. The males have a very large whitish-yellow bill; the females have black bills with smaller casques. Some birds have a streak of feathers on the side of their heads that is white/grey in color. Call: A coarse, rasping note that recalls of a nervous squealing pig. (Holmes)

Rhinoceros hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros 110cm): The Rhinoceros hornbill is one of the largest birds in rainforests of Asia. They spend their entire lives on treetops. Found in primary forest throughout Borneo. Heavily hunted for feathers used in traditional ceremonies. Male has red iris and female white iris. They have a colorful red and yellow bill, with curling casque on top of the bill. The long white tail has a broad, black band near the center. Their wings beat ‘swoosh, swoosh’ are prominent when in flight. Call: a series of loud honks, barking-like call as the bird flies off.
They nest in large hollows found in large tree trunks, where female is sealed in for protection against predators. 

Rhinoceros hornbills are pair breeder where only male feeds the female. 
Incubate: 37 – 42 days, Lays: 1-2 eggs, Fledge: 90 days
Her mate will use this small opening to deliver food to the female and the chicks. The female remains sealed inside the cavity through incubation of the eggs and brooding of the chicks. This is not an insignificant amount of time; a female can be sealed inside the nest for almost 100 days. She molts during this time. 

The longest nesting hornbills, the Helmeted Hornbill and the Red Knobbed Hornbill can spend between 167 days to 172 days!

Ficus racemosa

What Rhinoceros Hornbill eats?

Cocoa family (Kalumpang sarawak?)

OIl palm fruit



Fishtail palm fruit

Skink (lizard)


Fig fruit (Ficus racemosa)

'wild berries'

One of the best places to see hornbills in Sabah, the Rainforest Discovery Centre at Sepilok Forest, Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Hornbills of Borneo Series

Photo copyright of Cede Prudente and downloading is disallowed without written permission All rights reserved 2015©

Expeditions and

Monday, May 18, 2015

Big Trees of Borneo's Rainforest

The Few Last Survivors of Borneo's Forest King

Manggaris Tree, Danum Valley Conservation Area
Borneo is known for its pristine jungle and consequently famouse for its rich wildlife…

and timber supplier alike as it is blessed with an abundance of giant trees. 11 out of 33 species of living tallest trees in the world are found in Borneo, measuring up to 88.33 metres tall (Shorea faguetiana).

It has been a reliable place for capitalizing on timber industry and making quite a profit for years. Jobs for loggers and drivers were provided and the word “Kayu Balak” was made popular and a well understood subject in the market. Accesses to deep jungles were made available and everyone was heading into its heart to find treasures that Mother Nature has installed. It was well to go until what was left were footprints and young trees who maintain themselves to be on that stage of growth, perhaps fearing the worst to happen as what they have witnessed happening to the elder towering trees that are now probably pieces hammered wall, painted with gold and silver. 

The said industry didn’t stop there but infact is growing stronger as presently, the whole country is among the world’s largest exporter of tropical logs, plywood, sawn-timber and furniture to international markets. With much credit to Borneo, Sarawak collected RM7.08 billion from its timber export for the whole of last year. And by the year 2020, the country is believed to achieve a target of RM53 billion in the export of timber and timber related products. 

As natural consequences of this event, Borneo’s wildlife population dramatically drops and it gets warmer each day (clearly not a part of the dubbed 'Warm and Humid Malaysia). Loggings were banned in most part of the region and forests were reserved to save what was left of it and as to say, for the future generation.

Menggaris Tree, Sepilok Forest Reserve
In the very deep interior of North Borneo, passing trough muddy trucks and rivers, there stood a legacy of the past creating both a picture of old days’ beauty and a bitter lost as it stands firm but lonely, praying for itself to be saved from being cut to pieces.

Belian Tree, Imbak Canyon Conservation Area
Taken last 2011 in the deep jungle of Imbak Canyon Conservation Area, awesome Belian tree standing up to 250 feet, one of the tallest in the Tropical world. Same year, this specie of tree has a domestic cost of RM 1,114 per meter and timber price goes up yearly. Do the math and you’ll get an attractive worth of money…but this tree takes 100+++++ years to grow and few hours to fall it down. 
Kapur Tree, Imbak Canyon Conservation Area (RM 1,106 per metre in 2011)
As William Laurence, a research professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia points out that  "Only a small number of tree species have the genetic capacity to grow really big. To grow into giants trees needs good growing conditions, lots of time and the right place to establish their seedlings. Disrupt any one of these and you lose them."
Bayur Tree (Pterospermum javanicum) standing up to 60 metre tall , Imbak Canyon Conservation Area

Nowadays, big trees such as this are declining globally just like the old forest they inhabit due to selective harvesting by loggers aside from habitat fragmentation, exotic invaders and the effects of climate change. The danger is that, their demise will have substantial impacts on biodiversity and forest ecology, while worsening climate change as forest would release their stored carbon, promting a vicious circle of further warming and forest shrinkage.

Leaving them standing tall will shelter us and keep us cool at the pick of high noon and save us from the impending danger of  the current worsening of global warming.

Fingers crossed, Borneo's remaining jungle and its Kings will continue to survive until the next generations will move forward in saving them from extinction and will also save Mother Nature and its dependents (which includes us) in the long run.