Gray herons (Ardea cinerea), Kuala Selangor.

Rainy season in Malaysia
Note: scientific names of some species shown on this page are missing or uncertain. I'll appreciate any expert advice on their identification.
Malaysia is a wonderful place. Of all countries in tropical Asia, it was the only one to succeed in combining economic development with preserving large tracts of rainforests.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital.
Both Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo have well-protected and easily accessible national parks and Nature reserves, sometimes very close to cities. Although the country has its share of environmental problems, and endless oil palm plantations don't look much better than "rice deserts" of China or India, its ecology is in much better shape than almost anywhere else in Asia. city
Georgetown, Penang.
bird bird bird bird bird bird bird
Birds of Malaysian city parks, left to right: Artamus leucorhynchos (mother with brood, two photos), Chloropsis sonnerati (at feeder, two photos), Merops philippinus, Irena puella (two photos).
Forest-dwelling Negrito are the most ancient
human inhabitants of Malay Peninsula. Nowadays
they mostly live in remote places. Taman Negara.
People of Malaysia are very friendly and well-educated: even in the remotest village someone always speaks good English. Tourism industry is well developed, but almost free of associated problems such as theft. face
The Dayaks of Borneo, such as this boatman, are
often described in guidebooks as fierce warriors
and merciless headhunters. Kinabatangan River.
toad frog frog frog frog frog frog
Most frogs of Malaysia belong to flying frog family (Rhyacoforidae), so called because some of its members use enlarged toe webs (central photo) for gliding flights. But there are also true toads (Bufonidae, left photo), true frogs (Ranidae, right photo), and many other groups.
Toad (Bufo sp.), Gunung Mulu.
Not surprisingly, it is a popular destination for traveling naturalists. But most people visit Malaysia during relatively dry months (May-September), while in October and November of 2002 I had most forest trails all to myself. More trees were fruiting, more animals were active, and frog choruses after rain were very beautiful. toad
Toad (Bufo sp.), Gunung Mulu.
Tree cockroach,
Sepilok, Sabah.
Gunung Mulu.
Terrestrial flatworm,
Gunung Mulu, Sarawak.
Niah Caves.
Taman Negara.
Neurothemis dragonfly,
Gunung Mulu.
Insects, except butterflies and moths, and mushrooms were particularly abundant and easy to find. dfly
G. Mulu.
Each night walk through a forest was an endless show of living wonders, most of them small. dfly
Neurothemis dragonfly,
Gunung Mulu.
mushroom mushroom mushroom mushroom
Mushrooms of Sabah, left to right: unidentified, Ganoderma, Cortinarius, Dictyophora.
Approaching thunderstorm, Kinabatangan River.
The rainy season was just beginning, so it wasn't so bad: evening showers now and then, and clear most of time. Only on Mount Kinabalu did I get twelve hours of nonstop rain, but this place is interesting in any weather. view
Rainy morning, Mt. Kinabalu.
view view view
Views of Mount Kinabalu, Sabah.
View from Mt. Kinabalu.
At about 4,100 m/13,450', Mt. Kinabalu is the highest peak between the Himalaya and New Guinea. Many plants and animals are found nowhere else on Earth, except for a few nearby mountains. view
View from Mt. Kinabalu.
bird bird bird bird bird bird
Birds of Mount Kinabalu, left to right: Dicrurus hottentotus, D. leucophaeus, Aethopyga temminckii, Dicaeum monticolum, Copsychus striclandi, Pericrocotus solaris.
Bornean trepee (Crypsirina
), Mt. Kinabalu.
Birds are most diverse at 800-2000 m, in mountain rainforests. Most can be seen around the park headquarters or along the summit trail. Only a few species are limited to higher altitudes, such as friendly bush-warbler (below). I videotaped an interesting display behavior by these birds, probably never filmed before. 1,275 Kb .wmv video view
Bornean trepee (Crypsirina
), Mt. Kinabalu.
Short-tailed magpie
(Cissa thalassina),
Mt. Kinabalu.
Mt. Kinabalu friendly
bush-warbler (Bradypterus
), Mt. Kinabalu.
Mt. Kinabalu friendly
bush-warbler (Bradypterus
), Mt. Kinabalu.
Mt. Kinabalu friendly
bush-warbler (Bradypterus
), Mt. Kinabalu.
Indigo flycatcher
(Eumyias indigo),
Mt. Kinabalu.
Mountain tree-shrew
(Tupaia montana),
Mt. Kinabalu.
Unlike birds, mammals of Mount Kinabalu are usually difficult to see, and even more difficult to photograph. The rarest one I saw there was Kinabalu black shrew (Suncus ater), previously known from only one specimen (sorry, no picture). Squirrels and tree-shrews are easier to find, but often too fast for good photos. civet
Hose's civet
(Hemiglaus hosei),
Mt. Kinabalu.
Long-nosed squirrel
(Rhinosciurus laticaudatus),
Mt. Kinabalu.
Bornean mountain squirrel
(Dremomys everetti),
Mt. Kinabalu.
Bornean, or yellow, muntjac
(Muntiacus atheroides),
Poring Hot Springs, Sabah.
Dawsonia, one of the
world's largest mosses,
Mt. Kinabalu.
Hundreds of endemic plant species include beautiful mosses, about forty oaks, and many coniferous trees. Forests at 1,800 - 2,600 m are probably the most beautiful cloud forests in the world, and they have the highest concentration of endemics. Alpine vegetation at 2,600-3,000 m is also very interesting. tree
Baby tree Podocarpus
, a conifer.
Mt. Kinabalu.
orchid orchid orchid orchid orchid
Orchids, Mount Kinabalu.
orchid orchid Orchids and insectivorous pitcher plants are also particularly diverse in cloud forests. orchid orchid
Orchid, Mt. Kinabalu. Orchid, Mt. Kinabalu.
pitcher pitcher pitcher pitcher pitcher pitcher pitcher pitcher pitcher
pitcher pitcher Pitcher plants of Mt. Kinabalu, upper row, left to right: Nepenthes rajah, N. albomarginata, N. lowii, N. reinwardtiana, N. ampullaria, N. gracilis, N. burbridgiae, N. fusca, N. bicalcaratum; lower row, left to right: N. villosa, N. rafflesiana, N. pilosa , N. edwardsiana. pitcher pitcher


Among Mt. Kinabalu's ten rhododendron species, Low's rhododendron is the most beautful one.

Rhododendron lowii, Mt. Kinabalu. Rhododendron rugosum, Mt. Kinabalu.
View from Mt. Kinabalu.
The summit of Mount Kinabalu above 3,000 m is less interesting for a biologist - it is an almost barren granite plateau. The views are great, though: most of Sabah can be seen in good weather. view
View from Mt. Kinabalu.
Rafflesia is a parasitic
subterranean plant,
consisting of a root and
occasionally produced
flower buds. Tambunan.
Most buds die before
opening for unknown
reason, and even the lucky
ones only bloom for
two-three days. Tambunan.
For pollination to occur,
a male and a female flower
must open nearby at the
same time. Most flowers
die unpollinated.
Rafflesia flowers are usually
pollinated by carrion flies.
Why do they have such a
strange inside structure is
unknown. Tambunan.
R. keithii is a much larger
and more rare species. It
occurs near Poring Hot
Springs in the foothills
of Mt. Kinabalu.
Rafflesia pricei - flower and bud,
The most impressive plants of Bornean mountains are Rafflesia. They occur from Thailand and the Philippines to Sumatra and Java, but all 16 known species are rare and extremely local. Tambunan Rafflesia Reserve on Crocker Ridge, where R. pricei grows, is one of the most accessible places to see them. flower
Rafflesia pricei is a relatively small
species. Tambunan.
As any Vodoo Lily,
Amorphophallus hewittii
begins its life as a plant with
a single, umbrella-like leaf.
Gunung Mulu, Sarawak.
Lowland forests of Borneo have their own bizarre giant - Vodoo Lily, or Elephant Arum. flower
Every year a new, larger leaf
is produced, until after about
5 years the first flowering
appears. After that, the plant
blooms once in three years.
Its composite flowerings are made up of thousands of small flowers, and can be 2 m/6' tall. flower
In remote areas, local people
sometimes destroy the plant
out of belief that it is a
dangerous man-eater.
Gunung Mulu, Sarawak.
Lowland forest of Borneo is taller and more open
than most of the world's rainforests. May be that's
why many gliding species live here: flying frogs,
snakes, lizards, lemurs, and squirrels. Sepilok.
Perfectly camouflaged, flying lemurs (Cynocephalus variegatus) are among the largest of gliding animals.
Lowland rainforests have mostly been logged, but there are still some pristine areas.
Hill forests are also dominated by dipterocarps,
but their fauna is different from lowlands.
The best place to see Bornean hill forests
is Danum Valley Conservation Area, Sabah.
Rhinos make so-called wallows in
the forest - deep mud pools, used to
wait out the hottest hours of the day.
Danum Valley Conservation Area.
Foam-made frog nest above a rhino wallow. Hatching tadpoles fall in the water below. Danum Valley.

Some of the world's rarest animals, such as Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), live in Malaysia's parks.
Sumatran rhinoceros, photographed at
a wallow. There are approximately
10-20 Sumatran rhinos left in
Danum, and 100-200 worldwide.
deer deer deer
Rhino wallows are used by numerous mammals and birds as watering holes. Greater mouse deer (Tragulus napu) at a rhino wallow, Danum.
bird bird Diversity of plants and animals in the lowland and hill forests is even higher than in the mountains. bird bird
Two of Malaysia's 14 barbet species: Calorhampus fuliginosus (left), Megalaima henrichii. Danum Valley. Two of Malaysia's 12 pitta species: Pitta moluccensis (left) and P. sordida. Danum Valley.
Unidentified tree,
Danum Valley.
Ptychozoon gecko,
Danum Valley.
Sambar deer (Cervus
), Danum Valley.
Chrysopelea flying
snake, Danum Valley.
Etlingera plant,
Danum Valley.
Slow lories (Nycticebus coucang)
spend daytime hiding. Danum Valley.
The best time to see most rainforest animals, except for a few diurnal groups such as songbirds, dragonflies, and squirrels, is after sunset and before dawn. Frogmouths, civets, tarsiers, some insects and bats are most active around midnight, while deer keep grazing all night. lory
At night, lories turn into
effective insect hunters. Danum Valley.

Dhole (Cuon alpinus), photographed in captivity.

Part 2