You would not believe it if you could not see it with your own eyes. Squirrels and snakes that fly, flowers as big as coffee tables, butterflies as big as birds and owls as small as butterflies, plants that eat insects (and small mammals), pigs with beards that swim rivers and climb trees to eat cocoa and full grown deer as small as cats.
The Rafflesia flower grows up to a meter across and is among the strangest plants around. Today it grows extremely rare in the world. Despite having such a huge flower the plant has no roots since it is parasitic. It steals its nutrients from plants to which it attaches itself. The flower also has a unique scent – of rotting meat. This attracts insects that pollinate this strange bloom. There is no way of telling when a Rafflesia will pop up.
Equally bizarre are the carnivorous Pitcher Plants that trap insects and sometimes-small mammals in jug-like protuberances. The insects are attracted by the plant’s nectar.
Once inside the unlucky victims cannot climb out of the slippery pitcher and are slowly digested by enzymes and provide valuable nutrients to the plant.
There are several species of pitcher plants growing on the forest floor, hanging from trees, on high mountain slopes or on nutrient-poor sandstone, white sand or peaty soil.
Is it a bird? Is it a butterfly? It’s an owl, the world’s Smallest Owl standing just six inches tall. There are butterflies in Sarawak with wingspans bigger than the owl’s. But then the State abounds with examples of the biggest or the smallest.
One bird the spiders cannot tackle is the Hornbill or kenyalang as it is known locally. Black, and the size of a swan, the hornbill is distinguished by the casque, or second beak growing on top of its huge red and yellow beak. The huge beak is used to crack nuts and fruit seeds in the forest but nobody have worked out what the casque is for.
Cute, cuddly, gentle and endangered, that’s pongo pygmaeus better known to the world as orang utan. Orang utan means “man of the forest” in Malay and these fascinating and very human ginger apes gave rise to the legend of the Wild Man of Borneo.
Shy and solitary by nature they are hard to see in the wild. They travel across vast ranges of forest browsing for fruit and making a new tree nest each night. Although second in size only to the gorilla among the great apes, the orang utan lives almost completely in the trees. Swinging from branch to branch takes enormous strength.
It is hairy, has a potbelly and a big nose so, in Borneo, it is known as orang belanda that is Malay for Dutchman. It’s the Proboscis Monkey, nasalis larvatus, found only in Borneo’s mangrove swamps.
Far from fearing humans, Macaques regard people and their dwellings as food sources. You are also likely to be “robbed” by one. They often rifle unguarded bags looking for food. Any inedible contents are flung contemptuously away. The best way to avoid this is to watch your belongings and not leave food lying around.