Tag Archives: elephant

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

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Trip to Kinabatangan, best wildlife sanctuary of Sabah

Pygmy elephant

“Kinabatangan River is one of the places in Asia with best concentration of wildlife,” a happy photographer said, “I have came here nearly 10 times.” This was what I heard when I joined a Photo Safari trip in Kinabatangan last month. I met two European photographers who had a week-long photography trip in important Sabah wildlife reserves such as Danum Valley and Labuk Bay.

Map to Sukau
>> Click Here to see more photos of Kinabatangan

This is my second visit to Kinabatangan. My first Kinabatangan trip was with Uncle Tan Camp in Danau Girang back in year 2007. This time I stayed in Barefoot Sukau Lodge located in Sukau, which is 2-hour drive from Sandakan city and next to the longest river of Sabah, Kinabatangan.

Activity hall of Barefoot Sukau Lodge
Above: the activity hall and Cliff-Hanger Cafe of Barefoot Sukau Lodge. You can see Kinabatangan River while enjoying your tea. They have nice collection of photographs in display too.

Accommodation of Barefoot Sukau Lodge
Above: the lodge where I stayed. You can check out their web site for more info.

My room key
I am Number Four, heheh..

My room in Barefoot Sukau Lodge
Above: my twin-sharing room. It is clean and cozy, with an attached bathroom/toilet and wall fan. My roommate is a orangutan. Just kidding..

Jetty of Barefoot Sukau Lodge
Above: the jetty of Barefoot Sukau Lodge and the boats for our river cruise later. They say a crocodile named “Franky” would be around sometimes but no luck today.

>> Click Here to see more photos of Kinabatangan

Afternoon River Cruise
We started our afternoon river cruise at 4pm when the rain stopped. At first I worried that we would not see any wildlife in rainy day. I worried too much.

Crested serpent eagle
Crested serpent eagle takes snakes and lizards as food. I saw about 5 of them, quite a common eagle. I spotted White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Storm’s Stork, Oriental Darter, Great Egret and Wallace’s Hawk Eagle too.

Male proboscis monkey
The famous long-nosed monkey (a.k.a. proboscis monkey) of Borneo. They are quite used to presence of tourists.

red-leaf monkey
The very shy red-leaf monkey, which always has that funny sad expression on its face.
>> Click Here to see more photos of Kinabatangan

Family of pygmy elephants
Pygmy elephants! Even though they are the smallest elephant species in the world, they are the largest mammal of Borneo. Only 1,000 of them left in the wild of Sabah.

pygmy elephant
We are so lucky to see them. Sighting of elephants is not common. I know someone who had visited Kinabatangan 5 or 6 times but never saw an elephant. Pygmy elephants are always on the move, migrating from river side to inland.

tourists watching pygmy elephants
Within 15 minutes, more than 10 boats of tourist gathered around to watch the elephants. I believe all the tour operators keep in touch with one another for elephant sighting news.

pygmy elephants taking bath in river
The herd consists of 10 elephants. Elephants look big and heavy but they are good swimmer. They like to take shower in the river in the late afternoon. Then it rained heavily, so our group decided to stick around to watch elephants only until we were satisfied. The Australian silver hair couple in my group was so happy coz they saw blooming rafflesia a few days ago. Lucky them!

Photo Safari River Cruise
The next morning I waked up early to join the photo safari trip led by Cede at 6:30am. It was raining last night until morning. Fortunately, the rain subsided at 7am so we could start our morning river cruise.

Kinabatangan photo safari
Ok, look at the photo above. All the photographers are equipped with high-end “bazooka” long lens which can cost more than a car, so heavy that they need a tripod to support it. I look at my pathetic cheap 250mm plastic lens (cost less than RM1,000) and offer to sit at the last row, and nobody objected.

Kinabatangan River
Kinabatangan River
>> Click Here to see more photos of Kinabatangan
It was a beautiful morning. You still can see mist in forest.

Oil Palm at Kinabatangan
However, there are something ugly hiding behind the wall of forest. I have no problem with oil palm. I only hate the way they plan this crop by deforestation. Over 70% of Kinabatangan is covered by oil palm that fragments the rainforest. I am happy to hear that two palm oil mills here were shut down coz environmentalists complained that these mills released effluent into the river. Hey, we are not totally losing after all. There are still hope.

Fig tree
Fig fruit is important food source for primates such as orangutan, so environmentalists try to plant more fig trees in forest rehabilitation projects.
Monkey eating fig fruit
>> Click Here to see more photos of Kinabatangan

Rope for orangutan crossing
Bridge for orangutan crossing
The environmentalists also build some ropes and bridges to help orangutan and monkey to cross the river that has crocodiles. Yes, the primates do use them and the photo was on the news.

>> Click Here to see more photos of Kinabatangan
Bird wing butterfly
We shot anything that flies, include this bird-wing butterfly. The photo safari trip is different from normal river cruise. Whenever we find a target, the photographers will spend longer time to take photos. They also maneuver the boat to get the best angle. Cede always gave some photography tips. FYI, they don’t like subject with strong backlight. The sky is cloudy, so it is not too bad.

Hopping long-nosed monkey
Jumping red-leaf monkey
We even spent more than 15 minutes under the tree to wait for the monkey to hop to other tree, for the action shots. There was a female proboscis monkey did a 50-feet drop jump, such a suicidal stunt! Unlike those happy snap-snap tourists, these photographers are aiming for artistic and extraordinary shots, nothing less.

Hornbills in Kinabatangan
There are 7 species of hornbills in Kinabatangan. We found 4 species (Rhinoceros hornbill, Asian Black hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill and Wrinkled Hornbill) that day, not bad. We also saw monitor lizard, long-tailed macaques, etc.

That’s all. You may watch the 3-minute video below to see our river cruises and elephants:

Click Here to watch wider video

Photos taken in Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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