Peninsular Malaysian Lowland and Montane Forests

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Landscape, Sungai Setiu, Terengganu, Peninsula, Malaysia.
© WWF-Canon / Gerald S. CUBITT

About the Area

This global ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: Peninsular Malaysian montane rain forests; and Peninsular Malaysian rain forests.

Peninsular Malaysia has a rich flora and fauna, with about 8,000 species of plants, over 200 species of mammals, including 81 bats, 110 species of snakes, thousands of insect species, and a rich diversity of birds. Peninsular Malaysia is also home to the world's smallest rhinoceros, the two-horned Sumatran rhinoceros (Didermocerus sumatrensis).

One of the largest protected areas in Southeast Asia covers a sizeable section of the ecoregion. This large park, the Taman Negara National Park, features montane rainforests, unique limestone forests, and the largest area of pristine lowland dipterocarp forest left in Malaysia. The highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia - Mount Tahan - is located within the park.

Size:
142,500 sq. km (55,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
The southern portion of the Malaysian Peninsula: Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

Local Species
This is one of the last sites in all of Asia where tiger (Panthera tigris), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), and rhino still coexist. You would also find here the Malayan tapir, brush-tailed porcupine (Atherurus macrourus), horseshoe bat (Hipposideros ridleyi), plus the endangered Sunda otter-civet (Cynogale bennettii), a cat-sized mammal that preys on fish and frogs.

This ecoregion also includes some karst limestone areas that are floristically rich. The limestone hills harbor more than 1,200 species of vascular plants, of which at least 129 are endemic to this habitat

In the Peninsular Malaysia rain forests, you may encounter up to 6,000 different species of trees - the tallest of which is the tualang reaching up to 75m (250 ft).  Also found here are nearly 450 species of birds - including crestless fireback pheasants, Malay peacock pheasants, great argus pheasants, hornbills, barbets, woodpeckers, pigeons, and babblers are found here.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Gerald S. CUBITT
Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), Malay Peninsula, Malaysia.
© WWF-Canon / Gerald S. CUBITT

Featured Species

Malayan tapirs (Tapirus indicus) grow up to 2m (6-8 ft) and typically weigh between 250 and 320kg (550-700 llb). They are the largest of the 4 tapir species, and the only one found in Asia. The Malayan Tapir is black apart from a light colored saddle over its back and rump. As a primarily nocturnal creature, this distinctive coloration provides very effective camouflage.

Exclusively vegetarian, this animal forages for the tender shoots and leaves of more than 115 species of plants. They usually prefer to live near water and often bathe and swim, and they are also able to climb steep slopes. Malayan Tapirs are listed as vulnerable by IUCN.

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Threats
Logging both in the highlands and lowlands, conversion of lowland forest for agriculture, tourism development, and road construction causing fragmentation and loss of forests are the predominant threats in this ecoregion. Other threats include hydro projects for power and irrigation, mining and associated road building, and quarrying around limestone areas.

Expansion of urban areas also threatens some of the last remnants of coastal dipterocarp forest. Unfortunately, the majority of mammals and birds live in primary or older secondary forests, making it essential that these dwindling areas are protected.

 / ©: WWF-Canon / A. Christy WILLIAMS
Heavy logging activities in Sabah, North Borneo, Malaysia.
© WWF-Canon / A. Christy WILLIAMS
WWF’s work
WWF has many ongoing conservation projects in Malaysia. Just 2 examples are listed below.
  • WWF Malaysia began working in Perlis in 1984 to prepare the Perlis and Kedah state park conservation strategies. WWF Malaysia is providing technical assistance in the management, planning, capacity building and community work of the park. The project seeks to enhance awareness of the park’s significance to Malaysia’s biodiversity. This includes initiating discussions with Thai authorities to explore cross-border cooperation, capacity building for the authorities concerned, and working with local communities for the development of appropriate eco-tourism activities.
  • WWF Malaysia’s 'Forests for Water, Water for Life' (FWWL) programme aims to change the way Malaysians think about, use and manage water. The first step in protecting water supply is adequate protection of the forests. FWWL is embarking on a step-by-step approach to heighten awareness, promote action and sustain long-term efforts in proper water management.
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