Asia Travel News

Greeting orangutans and other Borneo wildlife

Dense and thriving jungles make Borneo the epitome of adventure travel in Asia. One of its top attractions are the impressive and endangered Borneo orangutans, but with hundreds of endemic species and new ones continually being discovered, there's plenty more wildlife worth seeking out. 

Borneo's tropical rainforests are a sight to behold. Surrounded by water on all sides, the island has served as an isolated study in the evolution and proliferation of species. Yet, its many altitudes and environments have also given way to rich sub-sections of biodiversity within the island, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Spanning swamps, mountains and unexplored jungle are some 222 types of mammal, 420 birds and nearly 400 fish, dozens of these animals found nowhere else in the world. As the WWF reports, an average of three species is discovered every month. 

Orangutans
This Bornean mammal is actually the only great ape in all of Asia, as well as the largest tree-climbing mammal in the world, according to the WWF. These brawny, lanky creatures stand at a stout 3.3 to 4.6 feet tall and weigh anywhere from 66 to 220 pounds. There is an estimated 45,000 to 69,000 orangutans living in Borneo, which may seem like plenty, but the numbers are few enough to earn them a spot on the endangered species list. Part of the problem is hunting, which not only profits from orangutan parts, but also from turning the animals into prized pets. Other activities, such as logging, mining and agriculture have also hurt numbers by encroaching on their natural habitat. 

Despite the threat to their existence, it's still possible to see orangutans in the wild. In fact, according to The Mirror it's easier than one may think. The once-intimidating prospect of braving Bornean jungle to spot an orangutan is becoming more agreeable for travelers due to a steady stream of tourist trips that ease some of the legwork involved. Guides will lead tourists through the brush in search of the creatures, which may pop down on the trail looking for food. Once spotted, the only concern is to keep a suitable distance. 

Contenders, big and small
Orangutans may be the largest ape in Asia - and Borneo may be home to some sizable snakes, birds and insects - but some of the most captivating animals are notably diminutive. Borneo is home to rhinos and elephants, both of which are endangered, according to the WWF. They also happen to be much smaller than their African and Asian brothers and sisters. 

The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of all living rhinoceroses, approximately 3 to 4 feet tall. It's unique in that it has two horns. The rhino is also the most critically endangered of its kind. Meanwhile, the pygmy elephant stands at around 8 to 10 feet once fully grown. They have oversized ears, plump bellies and gentler demeanor than other species of elephant, according to the WWF. 

Other adorable animals abound. Tiny pygmy squirrels prowl the forest, while flying squirrels soar above. The slow loris, a nocturnal primate, is just one of the more recent discoveries.

New faces and frontiers
Scientists continue to unearth new species roaming the jungles of Borneo. According to The Guardian, humans in the past decade alone have observed lungless frogs, colorful slugs, fire-backed snakes and the world's longest insect - a walking stick more than a foot long. With much of the Heart of Borneo yet to be tamed, there are likely more creatures just waiting to be found.

If you're interested personally discovering new species, Borneo is just one of many destinations offering rich and interesting wildlife. Asia's jungles are a good place to start, though African safaris will introduce travelers to some of the most iconic animals around. Those fascinated with primates may want to check out Madagascar for the lemurs that call the island its only home.

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