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Diversity of Forest

The Lower Kinabatangan River: Critical Wildlife Habitat

With a length of 560km, the Kinabatangan River is the longest river in Sabah, and its watershed covers approximately one-third of the State (Map 1 below). The River runs from the upland areas in the south-west of Sabah to the Sulu Sea. The river typically floods during the northeast monsoon season (November–March), creating the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain habitat. The floodplain represents a unique mosaic of habitat types, encompassing seven distinct ecosystems: dry lowland dipterocarp forest, semi-inundated (seasonally flooding) forest, riparian forest, freshwater swamp, mangrove, heath, and limestone karst forest. This variation results in diverse food sources that support a significant level of biodiversity in the area.

Notably, these forest systems contain representatives of all the lowland wildlife species of Borneo. For instance, all ten species of primates in Borneo are found along the Kinabatangan, including the endangered Bornean Orang utan, Proboscis Monkey, Tarsier, Long-tailed Macaques, Pig-tailed Macaques, Dusky Langur, Silver-leaf Langur, Maroon Langur, Bornean Gibbon and Slow Loris. Other unique mammals found in the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain include the Bornean Pygmy Elephant, Malayan Sun Bear, Clouded Leopard, Bornean Bearded Pig, seven species of Civet cats, three species of Otter, and the Irrawaddy Dolphin. In addition, the River is host to significant bird populations including the rare Storm’s Stork, Raptors, Kingfishers, Partridges and nine of Borneo’s eleven species of Hornbill.

Map 1: Kinabatangan River Basin and Water Catchment

Kinabatangan River BasinClick here to view Larger Version

The Chief Minister of Sabah officially gazetted the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (Map 2 below) as a protected area on August 11, 2005 due to the high populations of wildlife and valuable forest habitat. While it is 26,000 hectares in size (260 km²), the sanctuary habitat is not contiguous due to high forest fragmentation over the last 30 years. Instead, the sanctuary is broken into ten lots (Map 2 below), most of which are currently not connected by forested corridors, which are critical for animal migration patterns and the overall health of the habitat.

There are seven villages within the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (Map 2 above), from east to west: Abai, Sukau, Bilit, Batu Putih, Bukit Garam, Lokan, and Balat. The capital of the region is Kota Kinabatangan, which is the administrative centre. The estimated population of all the villages is 6,000, not including Kota Kinabatangan. Sukau is the largest village with a population of approximately 1,000 people. Abai village is located in the eastern part of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and is in close proximity to the largest RAMSAR site in Malaysia (Map 3). The area surrounding the village is highly biodiverse in forest habitat types and in wildlife. In addition, the riverine and mangrove ecosystems near Abai are critical spawning waters for freshwater prawns and fish.

Map 2: Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS)

Kinabatangan River BasinClick here to view Larger Version

Map 3: Lower Kinabatangan Segama Wetlands RAMSAR Site

Kinabatangan River BasinClick here to view Larger Version

Map 3 (above) shows the 78,000 hectares of Mangrove Forest Reserves and Wildlife Forest Reserves located at the lower Kinabatangan-Segama region, which have been designated as a RAMSAR site in 2008. This is the first RAMSAR site in Sabah, and the classification covers the Trusan Kinabatangan, Kuala Segama-Maruap Mangrove Forest Reserve and the Kulamba Wildlife Forest Reserve, making it the largest RAMSAR site in Malaysia.


"The rooms were clean and less basic than we were expecting, having en-suite facilities and comfortable beds. The rooms were well protected from mosquitoes."

- Pete

"We had a fantastic experience and we saw every possible type of animal including a herd of 30 elephants at the edge of the river."

- Boys


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The Tourism Ministry is to act immediately against fraudulent homestay programmes before the scam undermines the tourism industry

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Moido Waloi Homestay

Moido Waloi Homestay Abai lies closest to the mouth of the Kinabatangan River - a picturesque village of about forty houses and a grand population of a hundred people. Every home has a view of the river, with the exception of one which, because it sits on an elbow, has the river on both sides of it.

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