Tag Archives: banteng

Dangerous Animals of Sabah


More than half of Sabah is in wilderness, so there are something which we should watch out for, or they will remind us that they deserve our respect. I sweat whenever I hear ignorant tourists say something like, “Oh dear, the orangutan / hippo / sun bear is so cute!!!” Wildlife is not our house pet. They never like human so don’t expect they love our caress.

1. Elephants

Bornean Pygmy elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) is the biggest mammal in Sabah, and there are less than 1,500 of them left. With 2.5 Metres in height and body weight in tons, you know you can’t afford to trust this giant babe.

Bornean Pygmy elephant
Above: the habitat of our elephants is destroyed by logging and oil palm plantation. Read more here…

Due to oil palm plantation, logging and land clearing for farmland, the loss of lowland forest has brought the elephants into more contact and conflict with people. Bornean Pygmy Elephant is timid but also a very protective parent. The overexcited tourists, who come too close to the herd that has calf around, would find themselves in danger.

Memorial stone for Jenna O'Grady Donley
Pic: Memorial stone for Jenna O’Grady Donley

In 2011, a Australian tourist, Jenna O’Grady Donley, was stabbed to death by a bull elephant in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. She was an animal lover and sadly she was too close to a bull elephant which was said to be mentally unstable. Rest in peace Jenna.

Bornean Pygmy elephant
Above: the elephants are in stress even at this distance. They round up to protect the calf. Photo of Kinabatangan.

In the video below, you can see that an elephant was agitated when we were too close to them:

Click Here to see wider video

2. Wild Boar

In contrast to their domesticated cousin (pig), wild boars are agile and the favourite target of hunting game because they are difficult to catch. Wild boars are elusive and prefer to flee from our sight in most cases, so it is hard to believe that they have the record of killing bears and tigers in battle. They can pose a threat to people if they want to protect their young. Jungle trekkers are best to move away quietly and leave them alone.

Wild Boar

Wild Boar
Above: adult wild boar has long teeth that can kill.

3. Cattle

Tembadau (Banteng) is supposed on the list. It is a wild cattle similar in size to domestic cattle and is totally protected under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. However, I find the domesticated cattle are far more dangerous, as they always roam in middle of the road. You will need to be extra careful when you drive in the countryside. Do not honk them, otherwise the group will disperse and running like mad cow in all directions on the road, causing danger to other motorists. Well, I will not pay a single cent of compensation for accidentally knocking down cattle, because it is illegal to let them wander around in the first place.

cattle on the road

4. Crocodiles

Saltwater or estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the largest crocodiles in the world and they are found in rivers and swampy areas of Sabah. Crocodile is the master of sneak attack, so it was a big threat to the villagers who washed their cloth and fished in the rivers.

man-eater crocodile
Above: this crocodile killed a few villagers. Photo of Tuaran Crocodile Farm

Basically there is no hope for survival when we are grabbed by the powerful jaws of this 4-Metres aggressive monster. Sometimes people see them having sun bathe in unlikely places such as Tuaran and Papar.

beware of crocodile
Above: warning sign at Kinabatangan River

crocodile show

5. Snakes

Vipers and cobra are the most famous among them, but you should fear the banded sea krait or yellow-lipped sea krait (Laticauda colubrine) the most, because one drop of its venom can kill three adult and there is no antidote!

beware of snakes

Sea snakes are trapped in the fishing net occasionally. When the unlucky fisherman is busy sorting out the fishes, he might be bitten by sea snake without knowing it, due to the anesthetic effect of the venom. The poison will dissolve the muscles of his body and his urine will turn into cola red color. At last, he dies in enormous suffering. Good news is – sea snakes are not aggressive unless threatened, though all sea snake species are highly venomous.

yellow-lipped sea krait
Above: sea snake is more poisonous than cobra but it’s not aggressive. Photo from Banggi Island

yellow-lipped sea krait
Above: yellow-lipped sea kraits in fish tank of the Green Connection

reticulated python
Above: reticulated python can eat a human if it is big enough

6. Jellyfish

This passive little semi-transparent marine life lurks in the sea, but can kill the unfortunate swimmers by its deadly touch. The two dangerous species found in our water are the Box Jellyfish or Chironex fleckeri, whose toxin could kill victims in less than five minutes, and Ubur-ubur merah.

Jellyfish warning
Above: jellyfish warning on Manukan Island

The application of vinegar, which contains acetic acid, can disable the jellyfish’s nematocysts that have not yet been discharged into the bloodstream. After the death of a few tourists, vinegar is always available for such first aid in islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. If you are stung, look for the lifeguard on the beach immediately, they know what to do.

7. Hornet

Let’s forget about the honey. You will not hesitate to get away from their nest as far as possible. If one stung is painful, 100 stung will be a painful death, so terrible that nobody would want to commit suicide by intentionally provoking the hornets. It is also advisable not to agitate a hornet near a nest, as the distress signal will trigger the entire colony to attack. If that happens, submerge into the water is probably the only way to save you. For your info, perfumes can be mistaken as the pheromone of hornets and set off the attack too.

Hornet nest
Hornet also likes to build nest under the roof and water tank of houses. The nest may be as small as a tennis ball in the beginning. But if you don’t eliminate it in early stage, it will grow to the size of sandbag and pose a serious threat to the residents. By that time, only Fire Department can help you to remove the huge nest safely.

Hornet nest
If you are too close to a bee hive, the patrolling bees will come and buzzing around you to investigate if you are a threat. It’s very important that you stay still and don’t agitate them (with sudden move or swatting them). After the guard bees leave, move slowly away from their territory. In contrast to honeybee, a hornet can sting multiple times. If a child has anaphylactic reaction to bee sting, attack by one hornet is deadly enough.

8. Mosquito

Finally the last one but not the least is mosquito. If one mosquito gets into your room, you know you will have problem sleeping whole night long. Anyway, causing bad sleep is not how mosquito kills hundred of people every year. Mosquito is deadliest disease vector which spreads infectious diseases such as Malaria, Dengue and Yellow Fever. Sabah is the red zone for Malaria. Therefore, please make sure your house is free of stagnant water that serves as a breeding ground for them.

model of Aedes aegypti mosquito
Pic: Among all mosquito species, Aedes aegypti (locally known as Nyamuk Aedes) is the most dangerous, as it can spread diseases such as dengue fever and yellow fever. It is easily recognized by white stripes on its legs and body.

There is no tiger in Borneo, in case you wonder why it isn’t on the list. As you may see by now, dangerous animal is not necessary a man eater or a big animal. Even if it can look friendly and adorable, wildlife is wild, never treat it like a pet. Most of the time, those wildlife look timid and afraid of human, and tourists can get away 99.99% of the time. But you need only one incident to lose your life.

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

Game Meats (Bushmeat) of Sabah

Wild boar meat

Sabah is blessed with abundance of wildlife and many enjoy that with their mouths. Consumption of game meat (meat of wildlife) is common here, especially in rural area. In fact, hunting of wildlife (game species) is permitted in unprotected forest, if you get the hunting license from Sabah Wildlife Department (of course you also need license for owning a hunting rifle in first place). Below are some popular game species of Sabah:

wild boar
The bearded pig is on top of the list. Muslims don’t take pork, so there are still quite a lot of them in the wild. However, the number is comparatively lesser than a few decades ago. In the past, hunters ambushed the wild boars at their migration path and they could see hundreds of wild boars at a time. Today you only can see such marvelous scene in National Geography channel. Due to shrinking and fragmented forest, wild boars venture to villages for food crop, making them more vulnerable to hunting.

wild boar meat
wild boar meat for sale
Above: wild boar meat for sale at a roadside stall.

wild boar meat
wild boar head
Above: wild boar meat for sale at tamu (native open market)

The trading of game meat is a million-dollars business, but not heavily commercialized. The meat is mainly for local consumption and not exported. I tried wild boar meat and it is not really taste better than domesticated pig. Most wild boars are hunted in oil palm plantation, so their meat has unpleasant smell because oil palm fruit is their main diet, some say.

sambar deer (payau)
The photos above is Sambar Deer, locally known as Payau, the largest deer species of Sabah.

deer horn
When I was a little kid, I was used to see them when I was playing in the wood nearby my grandmother house in Kepayan (near Kota Kinabalu International Airport Terminal 1 today).

deer soup
Above: “Payau” soup

deer meat
Above: payau (deer) meat sautéed in soy sauce and zesty sliced ginger.
Deer meat is the most well-received game meat, and most Sabahans had tried it at least once. It tastes like a mixture of lamb and pork.

barking deer (kijang)
Above is barking deer, locally known as “Kijang”. It is about the size of a dog but its meat is more tender than Sambar Deer.

barking deer
However, when I saw a poor Kijang being hunted in the wild like photo above, I don’t think I want to eat it again..

monitor lizard
monitor lizard meat
Monitor lizard is also part of our menu. It’s so easy to catch them and they are everywhere, in river, drain and even dumpster. People usually “fish” them with chicken intestine as bait. I was told that their meat is good for skin. Well, this reptile eats rotten meat and live in dirty swamp, I would not recommend you to eat such creature which is full of bacteria.

hunting rifle (bakakuk)
Above: photo of “bakakuk” (home made rifle)
As a matter of fact, even today, villagers living adjacent to a forest usually hunt, just like villagers next to river are usually fishermen. And they have been doing this for centuries and that has become part of their traditional lives. Many own a “home made” rifle. Under Malaysian law, owning an unlicensed rifle is a serious offense and you can be jailed not less than 7 years, or fined more than RM10,000, or both. However, most local authority keeps one eye closed. Occasionally we hear from the news that hunters shot at the moving shadow and killed their buddies by accident.

I once followed a trip in Sabah interior and have the chance to photograph how hunters cook the game. Even clever animals such as mouse deer can’t escape the bullet of hunters. Poor deer..
mouse deer
mouse deer
mouse deer
cooking mouse deer
They removed the fur and cut the meat into pieces, then they cooked the meat in a pot with onion.

game meat menu
When having lunch in a restaurant in remote area, I found a Chinese restaurant that serves variety of wild meat. Besides the usual wild boar and deer dishes, they also cook squirrel and… hmmm.. bat, which I guess might be flying fox (fruit bat).

Above: squirrel waits for its turn to be eaten..

tembadau (Banteng)
Personally I’m not really fond of eating wildlife, as there is no way I can tell if the meat on my plate is from licensed hunter or illegal poaching. Probably nobody remember that Banteng (a wild cattle called “Tembadau” locally) was once a very common animal in Malaysia. I read a old story of a Borneo hunter who says he can easily find the herd with 100 Banteng. Due to poaching, Banteng is extinct in Peninsular Malaysia since 1950s and Sarawak in 1980s. There are only a few hundreds left in Sabah so they are highly endangered. But there are still bastards who don’t care about this and say Banteng is delicious and is a must-try meat.

wild boar head

Some may say Sabah has thousands square Kilometers of forest and we still have many wildlife. But bigger mammals need about 10 square Kilometers to survive, so our forest is not big enough to host that many wildlife to fulfill the appetite of everyone. Do you know Tapir and Tiger once existed in Sabah thousands years ago? It is the earliest case of extinction caused by hunting.

porcupine meat
Above: porcupine meat. The seller said they were trapped by snare in the plantation, not that they hunt them.

snake meat
Above: snake meat for sale

Just look around us and you will see many overweight people, we are not short of protein supply, so there is no need to turn to wildlife for meat. I don’t want to encourage people to eat wildlife, so I’m sorry that I can’t disclose the locations where you can find those meals.

crocodile meat
The only sustainable game meat I can think of is the crocodile meat from crocodile farm. Sandakan Crocodile Farm opens a restaurant that sells Crocodile “Bak Kut Teh” (herb soup). For those of you who are curious how this man-eater tastes like, you can try it at Shen Loong in 1Borneo Hypermall, LOL.

crocodile meat
crocodile meat
Above: Crocodile meat. Note the fried crocodile egg.

crocodile claw
Above: did you see the crocodile claw in the photo?

The crocodile meat is a bit chewy but not bad. No, I don’t work for Shen Loong.. I brought home some crocodile eggs and my mom screamed, “ILL! Throw it away!!!” Haha..

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo