About me & the Course

” Eh, what species is this??”


    Hi, I’m Ling from Sarawak (Land of Hornbills), the largest state in Malaysia. I majored in Microbiology at UKM Malaysia. Before I joined my current company, I thought all trees are the same. They have same green leaves, brown bark, etc. During my undergraduate, I took courses on plant physiology, carbon absorption and oxygen production, viruses and bacterial pathology, DNA technology and recombinant, etc. but not plant taxonomy. I learned some basic plant taxonomy in high school. I knew nothing about plant taxonomy prior to my project assignment (floristic composition study) by my supervisor. Since then, I have much interest on plants. It was very fascinating. I enjoyed going to field work, especially when I was surrounded by plants from different families and environment. Each time when I saw a plant, my mind start wondering, “what species is this”? That is why I’m very excited to join this course, “The Biodiversity of Borneo 2008”.

    I have the opportunity to discover the diversity of Borneo and also to experience different forest type, other than forest in Sarawak. What I like the most about this course was climbing Mount Kinabalu, followed by marine life at Gaya coral reefs. The very well known Mount Kinabalu, finally I get the chance to go there. Its was very exciting, and tiring though. I get to know the different forest type, montane forest, which I have never experience before. It was totally amazing. In tropical forest, such as Borneo, you can find this type of forest, which the temperature is below 0 °C. The coral reefs at Gaya was the most beautiful reefs I have ever seen before. Actually it was my first time snorkeling too.

“About the course:”

a) Course syllabus

The course was all about the biodiversity of Borneo based on our textbook which is “Tropical Rainforest of the Far East” by Tim Whitmore 1984. Eight different ecosystem were visited during the course, such as Lowland mixed dipterocarp rain forest (Lambir, Sepilok and Maliau), Montane forest (Kinabalu), Alpine zone (Kinabalu), Heath forest (Maliau), Mangroves (Gaya), Forest on Limestone (Niah), Coral reefs (Gaya), and Caves (Niah). The complexity of each ecosystem were introduced and also the reason behind the diverse forest in Borneo. The high diversity of flora and fauna in Borneo (especially Lambir) are related to the forest dynamic, limitation of dispersal by mother tree and also variation of soil in the forest. Most of the lectures have themes which related to the; species origin and biogeography; phylogeny and phenotype revolution; habitat and variation in species composition; species interaction and coexistence; land use and biological conservation; and biodiversity informatics. For biodiversity informatics, various tools (R, Mesquite, TreeView, OpenOffice, GIMP, JabRef, Notepad+++ and etc.) were introduced and used by all the students during their projects analysis. All the software are free and can be download from the web browser. It was a very intensive and informative course. Within five weeks of lectures (indoor and outdoor) and training, all the students now have more understanding on the biodiversity of Borneo and the challenges for conservation work here.

b) Vegetations

Lambir is the most diverse and richest forest in term of species composition among all the forest we have visited.  Various study have been done by CTFS to understand the diversity of this fo rest. This forest are dominated by Dipterocarp species, such as Dipterocarpus globosus, Dryobalanops aromatica, Dryobalanops longifolia and Shorea spp. There are  few flowering or fruiting of trees species were observed during our  stayed at Lambir. Only one species of Hopea sp. was  flowering; an d Glochidion sp. and Diplospora sp. were fruiting. For monocotyledon plants, few flowering and fruiting were occurred. Most of them from Zingiberaceae (Etlingera, Amomum, Plagiostachys, Boesenbergia, and etc.) Maranthaceae, Musaceae (Musa sp.) and also lianas  (Gnetum and Fabaceae). Besides, many species of fungi can be observed along the trail in the national park or in the CTFS-AA plot.



For Gaya island, fruits of Dipterocarpus grandiflorus and rattan were collected on the trail to Mangrove area. Most of the time when we are on the island, we were observing the different types of corals and different marine animals live near the reefs rather than the terrestrial forest.


Most of the flowering and fruiting plants were observed during our visit to Sepilok. They are planted at the Botanical Garden of Forest Research Centre. Many species of gingers (Etlingera fimbribracteata, Globba, Zingiber and etc.), Costaceae,  Begonia spp., figs, water lilies, Dillenia sp., orchids, pitcher plants and other exotic ornamental plants. It is interesting to note that, Orchidantha inouei (Lowiaceae) of Borneo can be found in the Garden. Its imitates the scent of dung in order to attract dung beetle as pollinators. This botanical garden consisting various species of plants from all over the world and when flowering occurred, the garden turned into a spectacular view with different colors and shape of flowers within the garden. I’m impressed by the colorful flowers and fruits there.

Deramakot Forest Reserve (DFR) is the first successfully managed sustainable forest management in Malaysia. The project started since 1989 in collaboration with German Technical Agency until 2000. since then, the reserve is totally managed by the Sabah Forestry Department. Most of the forest here are well managed and along the nature trail, plants such as Begonia spp. , Plagiostachys sp., and Globba sp. can be found either flowering or fruiting. Near the logging road, flowers and fruits of Etlingera elatiator (Bunga kantan) can be found. Reforestation and silviculture were practiced here. Kapur paji (Dryobalanops lanceolata) seedlings were planted after the logging activities and for silviculture, weeding of climbers and climbing bamboos were practiced in order to enhance better timber crop growth. The logging road and skid trail are small enough to allow the growth of pioneer species such as Macaranga spp. and kelampayan. Sustainable management is a long term investment and it can be successful as long as it was fully supported by the government.


In Kinabalu park, the forest is covered by lower montane forest and  most of the trees are smaller than lowland   mixed dipterocarp forest. During our stayed at the park, I observed Ficus sp., Etlingera sp., Alpinia havilandii, Hedychium cylindricum, some orchids, and also Begonia sp. either flowering or fruiting or both. Orchids and gingers of Sabah are mostly found in Kinabalu park. This may due to the cold weather condition and also different elevation which stimulate speciation to occur. Along the trail to the summit, the forest zone changed from lower montane forest to sub-alpine forest, to montane forest, and when we reached the summit, no vegetation can be found except for some small plants and grass grow on the soil trapped within the granite stones. The trees become smaller and stunted, covered by moss and lichen. After 2000 m elevation, gingers composition decreased rapidly, and pitcher plant composition increased. Along the trail to the mid-elevation hut (Laban Rata), Hornstedtia reticulata, Rhododendron  spp., Nepenthes spp., orchids, wild raspberries (Rubus sp.) and other plants live there were  observed. From Laban  Rata to the summit, Schima brevifolia, buttercups, wild raspberries, celery pines, Leptospermum sp., Euphrasia sp., Rhododendron ericoides and some other species were observed. Most of the flowering and fruiting plants were pollinated by wind. But some species such as Schima brevifolia. is pollinated by birds. All these plants must be able to adapt to the harsh environment near the summit, such as cold weather, ultrabasic soil, high ultraviolet rays and also lack of animal pollinator and dispersal to produce succeeding offspring. This types of conditions lead to species evolution and finally endemic to Kinabalu.


 Maliau Basin Conservation Area, also known as Sabah lost world, consisting an area of 588.4 km2 and covered by mixed dipterocarp forest and heath forest. The whole basin consist of single huge water catchment area and drained by single river which is Maliau river. From the three days hiked, I observed flowers and also fruits of; Etlingera fimbribracteata, Globba sp., Alpinia ligulata, few unique gingers which I’ve never seen before (Boesenbergia sp., Elettaria sp., and two morphospecies), Begonia sp., Costus sp., orchids, Melastoma sp., and other species. In heath forest, the land are platter and lack of thick undergrowth. Above the ground, a layer or carpet grass grow on the top soil. Here, huge Agathis borneensis trees were observed and its fruits can be found on the ground near the mother tree. Only one species of Nephenthes was found during the hiked. Along the trail to Seraya Camp, a Aquilaria sp. tree was found and this tree was wounded by someone who intended to infect the tree with fungus so that this tree can be harvest and sell for a good price. Along the trail to Seraya Camp, we managed to spot buds of Rafflesia tengku-adlinii. This species is endemic to the conservation area.

c) Wildlife

During the course, various species of wildlife were observed from Lambir to Maliau. For instance, during a night walk at Lambir, a Slow loris, krait (snake), Tarantula (spider), Bornean angle-headed lizard, a sleeping spider hunter and also snails were encountered by us. In Lambir, numerous species of insects and frogs can be found and observed along the trail to  Latak waterfall. Large mammals such as bearded pig (Sus barbatus) and gibbon can be seen at Maliau Basin Study Center. Unfortunately, we were unable to see Bornean pygmy elephant and “Tembadau” at Maliau and Deramakot, though these animals are commonly found there. Only dungs from the elephant were spotted on the logging road to Deramakot Forest Reserve. Footprints of Sambar deer were observed near the study center in Maliau. The occurrence of large mammals (Sambar deer and wild boar) were high as no hunting activities were observed during the trip. This animals even wandered near to the houses within the study center in Maliau.


 We encountered three species of hornbills flying surrounding the study centre at Maliau, which are, Black hornbill, Rhinoceros hornbill, and Helmeted hornbill. These hornbill were seen almost everyday flying and making noises near the study center and also while we are hiking to Ginseng Camp and Seraya Camp. This is the first time I saw helmeted hornbill. This hornbills are in pairs and have very distinct longer tails than other species.


At mount Kinabalu, near the shelters, this Bornean mountain ground squirrel can be seen easily. They are attracted to human and foods given to them. They can be very closed to us and waiting for foods. Near the sub-alpine zone, birds such as mountain Blackeye (Chlorocharis emiliae) can be seen and glossy swiftlet (Collocalia esculenta) can be seen building their nest on the shelter. Near the summit peak, small mammal such as mouses can be seen wandering around the cracked granite stones. We are fortunate that we encountered the giant red leech and also the giant earth-worm. Apparently, this giant red leech only feed on the giant earth-worm.


At Gaya island, copious species of fishes and corals were observed near
  the coral reefs.  Marine creatures such  as, demselfish, wrasses, razor fishes, sea urchins, butterfly fish, angel fish, shrimps and other sea life were seen while snorkeling. They are also many different species of corals such as, Acropora sp., Porites sp., Favites sp., Favia sp., Platygyra sp., Fungia sp., Euphyllia sp., Plerogyra sp., and Herpotidae sp. can be observed too. The coral reefs near the island are very diverse and rich in species (marine animals) and are well conserved by the Sabah Park. This place is one of the tourist favorite place of interest.

Projects Focal Taxon Invertebrate of Kinabalu Photos Home