The lower river basin of the 560 km long Kinabatangan River covers almost 4,000 square kilometres of the State of Sabah in north-east Borneo. It is one of the richest ecosystems on earth, with shallow freshwater lakes, open swamps, and forests, dotted with sandstone and limestone hills. Large areas are periodically flooded during the rainy season.
A CHAIN OF FLOOD PLAIN FORESTS
The mangrove swamps fringing the mouth of the river protect the coast from erosion and are a valuable nursery grounds for replenishing marine resources. To the west, a vast area of the commercial forest reserve is testing ground for sustainable forest management. Unfortunately, much of the floodplain is already covered by oil palm plantations. The remaining pockets of freshwater swamp forest, lowland riverine forests, and dryland forests are home to some of the largest and most diverse concentrations of wildlife species in Borneo, making the lower Kinabatangan increasingly interesting for scientists and visitors alike, especially those in search of wildlife, and eco-tourism.
KINABATANGAN’S NATURAL CAPITAL
The range of biodiversity in the Lower Kinabatangan surpasses that of every other site in Malaysia. It is one of the only two places in the world where ten primate species are found cohabiting, next to some 50 species of mammals and 200 species of bird, amongst others. The rich flood plain habitats are home to Orangutans, Proboscis monkeys, Sabah Pygmy elephants, the almost extinct Sumatran Rhino, the globally endangered Storm’s stork, the rare Oriental Darter and all eight species of Hornbill in Borneo. Other species include freshwater Ray, River Sharks (until recently thought to be extinct), Estuarine Crocodiles, and Monitor Lizards.
Since the 1970s, studies have identified critical sites that are rich in wildlife and need protection. Fortunately today, people are recognizing the value of the lower Kinabatangan, for its natural beauty and its role in supporting sustainable diverse forms of life. The government is now in the process of establishing the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.