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8 wildlife species to see in Borneo

From elusive cloud leopard to roaming herds of elephant, Borneo is bursting with unique wildlife encounters. Here are 8 different wildlife species to look out for on your next trip to Borneo.
Written by: Akemi Bunce, Digital Content Executive at Explore
Published on: 24 March 2023

Bornean Orangutan

Bornean Orangutans are one of the smallest orangutan subspecies, and are also the most critically endangered. Thanks to the Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary, many of these fascinating primates are successfully rehabilitated and returned to the jungle. During a Borneo Wildlife Tour you’ll see this vital work in action through a visit to the centre. Follow this up with a river cruise along the Kinabatangan, one of the best habitats for spotting orangutan in the wild.

Slow Loris

This wide-eyed, furry mammal may be cute and unassuming, but the slow loris can prove to be lethal. With a potentially venomous bite, slow loris typically live among the trees, using strong hands to grip the branches. Unlike other primates, they rarely move quickly through the forest. Instead they move sluggishly, as their namesake suggests. While in Borneo you’ll have the chance to take a night walk in the jungle where you may spot these bug-eyed creatures in the trees.

Borneo Pygmy Elephant

A subspecies of the Asian Elephant, Borneo Pygmy Elephants are smaller and rounder in appearance. While they are the largest of Borneo’s mammals, they are under threat from deforestation. Since they are typically found in the Lower Kinabatangan region, this area has ongoing protection to ensure the conservation of Bornean elephants. On a cruise to Kelenanap Oxbow Lake you may be lucky enough to spot these mammals grazing on the river edge.

Sun Bear

As the smallest bear in the world, the sun bear is under threat by forest degradation and illegal poaching. With short black fur and a distinctive light muzzle they often move during the night, spending much of their time among the trees. With uniquely inward-turned feet and large claws, sun bears are adept climbers and can dig deep for termite and ant colonies. While they mainly roam the tropical forests, you'll also have the chance to spot them in the Kinabatangan River area.

Hornbill

Eight different species of hornbill can be found in Borneo, including the Rhinoceros Hornbill and White-crowned Hornbill. As their name suggests, these birds have a large casque on their beak, often in the shape of a horn. Each species boasts its own unique casque, with motifs being found throughout Dayak culture. During your wildlife tour of Borneo you’ll often wake to the sound of hornbills, and spot them flying over the waterways of the KInabatangan river.

Sunda Clouded Leopard

With distinctive cloud-shaped markings, the Sunda Clouded Leopard is a mysterious and elusive creature thanks to their nocturnal nature. Their long, sleek bodies and broad paws make them expert climbers and skilled hunters among the trees. For the best chances of spotting these timid mammals, the Tabin Wildlife Reserve is home to a multitude of Borneo’s most endangered species, including the Sunda Clouded Leopard.

Civet Cat

While the civet may look and behave similarly to felines, these small mammals are more closely related to weasels and ferrets. They’re often spread out across a range of habitats, and can even thrive near humans, but will secrete a scent when threatened. Though they have short legs and are often found foraging on the forest floor, they are also excellent climbers.

Tarsier

On a night walk through the jungle during a Borneo wildlife trip, you may spot the wide-eyed tarsier clinging to the trees. Their eyes are their most distinctive feature, but their elongated limbs and appendages are also easily recognisable. These primates are only active at night and spend almost all their time in the tree canopies, leaping from branch to branch in search of insects, birds and bats.

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