Wildlife travel: What animals can I see in Borneo?

Asia’s largest island is home to a wealth of wildlife, from the biggest flowers to the smallest elephants.

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Illustration by Dawn Cooper

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1. Helmeted hornbill, Paya Maga Highlands

Hunted for its spectacular casque, the helmeted hornbill – the largest member of the family that is found in Asia – lives at elevations of up to 1,500m.

2. Rafflesia, Tambunan Rafflesia Information Centre

Gunung Gading, Sarawak, Malaysia

Rafflesia © Marek Stefunko / Getty

Parasitic, rootless and leafless, Rafflesia is a genus of plants that includes the species with the world’s largest known flower – blooms of R. arnoldii can reach an impressive 1m in diameter and have a fetid scent that attracts pollinating carrion flies.

3. Proboscis monkey, Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

Asie,Bornéo,Malaisie,Sarawak,Parc national de Bako,Nasique de Bornéo // Asia,Borneo,Malaysia,Sarawak,Bako National Parkproboscis monkey or long-nosed monkey (Nasalis larvatus)

Proboscis monkey © Sylvain Cordier / Getty

Remarkable for the size of its nose, the proboscis monkey is increasingly rare and only found on Borneo, though sightings are virtually guaranteed at Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

4. Pygmy elephant, Danum Valley Conservation Area

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Pygmy elephant © Emile Sechaud / Getty

Thanks to low hunting pressure, Danum Valley’s 70m-tall dipterocarp forest is a refuge for large mammals such as pygmy elephants, which are roughly 20 per cent smaller than their relatives living in mainland Asia.

5. Bornean orangutan, Tanjung Puting NP

Bornean Orangutan female 'Lady Di' carrying her son 'La Betty' aged 3 years  (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii). Camp Rasak, Lamandau Nature Reserve, Central Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia. Jul 2010. Rehabilitated and released (or descended from) since 1998.

Bornean orangutan © Anup Shah / Getty

Made famous by Canadian primatologist Biruté Galdikas, who founded Camp Leakey here, the peat swamp forest of Tanjung Puting is one of the best places for sightings of Asia’s gentle great ape.

6. Bornean peacock-pheasant, Sungai Wain Protected Forest

Strikingly beautiful but frustratingly elusive, the Bornean peacock-pheasant is one of the must-see bird species for anyone visiting the island. Sighting it will be a challenge, however.

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