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Forest Fauna of Malaysia
The animal community in the forests of Taman Negara comprises an intriguing variety of life forms. The list of Malaysian fauna is impressive — 200 mammals, over 1,000 butterflies, 600 birds, and over 100 species of both snakes and frogs.
While there are many animals in the park, visitors will probably hear them and locate their tracks more than they will see the creatures themselves. The forests provide natural camouflage for most animals and therefore they are hard to spot. Endangered species like Sumatran Rhinoceros are only seen once in a lifetime by park rangers, so while such species are mentioned here, don’t be frustrated by their elusiveness. Instead, relax in the knowledge that they are there in the park and if you are lucky enough to see one, it really is a moment to treasure for life.
The park hides (bumbun) adjoining salt licks are the best place for patient wildlife watchers. (See page 31 for details of hides). Sambar Deer, Barking Deer, Wild Boar and Tapir are often seen around the licks and are best viewed with binoculars.
The following account describes a few of the better known species of animal in the park.
Some 200 mammal species are known to live in Taman Negara.These range in size from the smallest shrews to the largest elephants. Some are virtually impossible to find while others are guaranteed sightings.
TAPIR (TOPIRUS INDICUS)
Tapirs are one of the strangest rainforest animals, looking like a cross between a pig and a miniature elephant. They are protected in Malaysia but are still keenly sought by foreign zoos. It is thought that this family once had a much larger range, including Europe and North America, but today it is confined to South-East Asia and South America. Adults are about the size of a large pig but black and white in colour young tapirs have distinctive pale markings on a dark body. Being nocturnal feeders on young leaves and fruits, they are best seen after dark from one of the park’s hides.
SUMATRAN RHINOCEROS (DICERORHINUS SUMATRENSIS)
One of the rarest animals on Earth, with just over 120 thought to be still alive in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, this is the smallest of the world’s five rhinoceros species and has two horns. The horns are composed of hardened hair, and the supposed aphrodisiac powers of this horn and other parts of the animal’s anatomy have led to ruthless hunting. This combined with the widespread destruction of its forest habitat has brought the rhino ever closer to extinction. The animal is indeed a rare sight and a visitor to Taman Negara is highly unlikely to see one. This large herbivore needs extensive tracts of undisturbed rainforest, where it often rests during the heat of the day in a mud wallow, shaded spot or ridge top.
There are only about 1,000 elephants remaining on Peninsular Malaysia, many of them. Within Taman Negara their numbers in the park have been increased by a translocation programme from other parts of Peninsular Malaysia.
The clearing of lowland forest has meant that the range for these animals is considerably reduced. Elephants are seldom seen, but are more active in rainy weather and some say, on bright moonlit nights. A nearby herd betrays its presence with low rumbling sounds, the snapping and cracking of branches, and occasional trumpeting. such herds are sometimes sighted around Bumbun Kumbang and near Kuala Keniam. Asian Elephants stay within range of areas with
access to fresh water, natural salt licks and an ample supply of food. Adult elephants can consume up to 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of vegetation a day. They feed mainly on the growing parts Palms, soft grasses and banana SCMs and need a large feeding range to survive. As large parcels of land are cleared for plantations the nation’s wild elephant population is being reduced to several isolated herds on shrinking islands of for Physical boundaries and bottlenecks constrict their movement and suppress opportunities for genetic exchange necessary for their long-term survival.
SELADANG, GAUR OR WILD CATTLE (BOS GOURUS)
This animal stands almost 2 metres (6 feet) high and can weigh up to 900 Kilograms (2,000 pounds). It is the world’s largest species of cattle and is distinguished by a ridge that runs from the neck to half way down the back. It is endangered, with only about 600 animals left in Malaysia, though it is distributed in other parts of South-East, and India. It grazes in open areas adjoining forests, but prefers to rest in the cooler shaded areas. It also frequents salt licks r valuable e nutrients. Mostly black, t a conspicuous white forehead and ‘stockings’.
SAMBAR OR RUSA DEER (CERVUS UNICOLOR)
This nocturnal deer is the largest in the rainforest, growing to the size of a pony- it a grey-brown in colour and it is more usual to see females and their young than antlered males, who tend to lead a solitary existence. A few tame individuals can offset; be seen around theTNR.
BARKING DEER (MUNTIACUS MUNTJAK)
This small deer, slightly larger than a goat, is deep orangy-red in colour with markings on the head and a patch of white on the rump under the tail. It is seen feeding at dusk and dawn — especially around Bumbun Tabing.
LESSER MOUSEDEER (TRAGULUS JAVANICUS)
The Mousedeer is a secretive and mostly solitary little creature, the size of a dog, and brown in colour with a white stripe at the side of the throat.The G Mousedeer (Tragulus napu) is also found in the park. In Malaysia, the Mousedeer a well-known animal called a Kancil, after which one of Malaysia’s national cars is There is also a famous Malay folk tale hero called Sang Kancil.
WILD PIG (SUS SCROTA)
These widespread animals are grey in colour, usually covered in mud, and smaller domestic pigs. They are often seen in small groups along park trails and heard on evening grunting around the chalets at the TNR. The wild pig is omnivorous and tubers, roots and fruits as well as small animals such as reptiles.
BLACK GIANT SQUIRREL (RATUFA BICOLOR)
Squirrels belong to the rodentia order of animals so they have similarities with and mice. The two species of giant squirrel are usually found by themselves ho trees and the Canopy Walk is a good place to look. Both are about the size of a and the black squirrel is predominantly black with white cheeks and underparts
CREAM GIANT SQUIRREL (RATUFA AFFINIS)
This species shares the size and characteristics of the black squirrel but is brown in colour.
PREVOST’S SQUIRREL (CALLOSCIURUS PREVOSTII)
Prevost’s is the most colourful of the tree squirrels, being mostly black with a nut belly and legs and a white stripe along the flank.This squirrel is about 20-25 timetres (8-10 inches) long.
FLYING LEMUR OR COLUGO (CYNOCEPHOLUS VARIEGATES)
The Flying Lemur is not a true lemur since, unlike lemurs, it is not a primate. Neither strictly speaking can it fly, but actually glides from tree to tree using a flying membrane that stretches between its arms and legs. Its amazing camouflage, with grey-brown and off-white patches, resembles the lichen patches found on the trees where it lives. This camouflage and its largely nocturnal lifestyle make it difficult to spot during the day.
Long-tailed or Crab-eating Macaque (Macaw fascicuiarrsi Chances are, any monkey visitors see in Taman Negara will be a Long-tailed Macaque. This common species has a reddish-brown back- grey front- limbs and whiskers and is often seen along rivers, especially the Tembeling. It is rarely found alone but more normally in large troops of at least ten adults and young.
DUSKY LEAF-MONKEY (PRESBYTIS OBSCURA)
Leaf-monkeys, also known as langurs, are distinguished from macaques in that they have longer tails, longer hair and they eat only leaves. This species is dark, with conspicuous white rings around the eyes and mouth that have led to its alternative name of Spectacled Leaf-mon key. They are not that common in Taman Negara but are found along the Jenut MuclaTrail and the Kuala Tahan to Kuala Trenggan Trail. Groups may be heard crashing through treetops when disturbed.
BANDED LEAF-MONKEY (PRESBYTIS METALOPHOSL)
Grey with black face, feet, tail and hands, these monkeys have long tails and crash very loudly through the forest when disturbed. Often seen at dusk around some of the aides, as well as along the Jenut Muda Trail. Frequently calls at night.
WHITE-HANDED GIBBON (HYLOBATES LAR)
Gibbons are the smallest apes and the ones least closely related to Man. They have tail, but long hands and arms on which they swing through the rainforest canopy Iron tree to tree at great speed. Gibbons live in family groups that jointly defend a territory in the treetops. They rarely come out of the canopy to feed and therefore are seldom seen, although their ringing calls are frequently heard in the forest early n the morning. The colour of this species varies from black to cream but it always has a pale ring around the face.
SIAMANG (HYLOBATES SYNDACTYLUS)
The Siamang is the largest of the gibbons. It is completely black with rather shaggy fur and a bare throat patch that inflates when the animal is calling. Early in the morning a group’s ‘whooping’ calls can boom across the hills and valleys for several kilometres. and are one of the most memorable sounds of the dawn chorus.This call can sometimes be heard high up in the trees along the Canopy Walk. The Siamang’s diet consist mainly of leaves, flowers and fruits – especially figs.
Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang)
The Slow Loris is a small nocturnal primate whose large eyes are best sighted on a night walk or spotlighting adventure. As the name suggests, it moves slowly through the forest trees, feeding mainly on insects, small animals, birds and fruit.
Malayan Sun Bear or Honey Bear Helarctos malayanus With a body length of just over one metre (3 feet), the Malayan Sun Bear is the smallest of the world’s seven bears and the only species found in South-East Asia, where its In range extends deep into the region. It feeds on fruits, small animals, and the nests of termites and bees. It is very rarely seen and its population is believed to be declining. A typical sign that a Sun Bear has been present are its claw marks on trees that are in fruit or that contain the nests of bees and termites. These animals are generally harmless, but recent reported attacks in other parts of Malaysia suggests some caution if they are encountered. The Sun Bear has poor eyesight and hearing but has an acute sense of smell. It is an able climber, and uses its powerful claws for leverage. Sun bears are more active in daylight. While bears are fully protected under the law they are still threatened by illegal hunting – mostly for spurious medicinal and aphrodisiac markets.
MALAYAN TIGER (PANTHERS TIGRIS CORBETTI)
This magnificent animal needs little description. Largest of the forest predators, males can grow up to almost 2.5 metres (8 feet) in length and weigh 150 kilograms (330 pounds). The Tiger is a fully protected species, and there are thought to be no more than 300 left in Malaysia. Like the Panther and the Golden Cat, the Tiger is only found on Peninsular Malaysia and not Borneo. Sadly the Tiger is still illegally hunted, with various parts of the anatomy being used in traditional medicines and as an aphrodisiac. Being rare, elusive and beautifully camouflaged, tigers are scarcely ever seen by visitors, but fresh tracks in patches of mud and beside streams may reveal their presence.
BLACK PANTHER OR LEOPARD (PONTHERA PARDUS)
Air The Black Panther is the dark and more common colour phase of the familiar spotted Leopard. It is the second largest cat in Malaysia, and is probably seen even less frequently than the Tiger. Primarily solitary. Black Panthers take a wide range of prey from deer and wild pigs to birds and even insects- Male Black Panthers weigh up to 33 kilograms (73 pounds) and are about 2 metres (6 feet) in length.
CLOUDED LEOPARD (NEOFE-IS NEBULOSA)
Found exclusively in the rainforest, and these days rarely seen because of its rarity 78! and shyness, the Clouded Leopard has endangered status. It feeds on birds, monkeys and squirrels. While it grows to about 1.5 metres (5 feet) in length it only weighs about 15 kilograms (33 pounds). It is mainly nocturnal and lives in trees from which it often leaps on prey below. An exceptionally long tail helps it balance when moving through the branches.
GOLDEN CAT (CAPTOPUMA (FELLS) TEMMINCKI)
The Golden Cat grows to about 1.2 metres (4 feet) and weighs some 10 kilograms 122 pounds). Little is known about the ecology of this cat which lives mostly on the ground but also climbs trees if necessary. It feeds on smaller animals such as birds, Mousedeer and lizards.
LEOPARD CAT (PRIONAILURUS (FELLS) BENGOLENSISI
The Leopard Cat is similar in size to a domestic cat and is widespread throughout a variety of forest habitats in South-East Asia.
SMOOTH OTTER (LUTRA PERSPICILLATA)
Smooth Otters can often be seen surfacing and diving along the rivers. Adults are about 75 centimetres (30 inches) long. Their close coat of waterproof hair and their webbed feet ideally suit them to their riverine habitat Otters do not live exclusively in the water and may be seen on riverbanks and in adjoining forests.
SMALL-CLAWED OTTER (AMBLONYX CINERA)
This species is smaller than the Smooth Otter and has a distinguishing white throat. It is seen more in the smaller tributaries of the Tembeling, especially Sungai Tahan, rather than the main river.
COMMON PALM CIVET (PARADOXURUS HERMAPHRODITUS)
Civets are cat-like animals growing to about a metre (a yard) in length and commonly found in Malaysian forests. They have a long tail, a pointed muzzle and alternating dark and light grey stripes. Of several species in the park, this is the most frequently encountered. It feeds on a variety of plant and animal matter.
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