Malaysia is one of the world’s oldest and most biodiverse countries
Malaysia boasts some of the most lush, evergreen tropical rainforests in the world. This beautiful southeast Asian country, which shares its borders with Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Brunei, is also home to wildlife species found nowhere else on the planet such as the Proboscis monkey and the Bornean pygmy elephant.
A pristine tropical paradise, Malaysia is home to a treasure trove of plants and animals, including an estimated 15,000 vascular plants, 306 species of mammals, 742 species of birds, 242 species of amphibians, 567 species of reptiles, more than 449 species of freshwater fish and 500 species of marine fish, and more than 150,000 species of invertebrates.
Here, you find the endangered Sunda Pangolin, a protected species that looks like an anteater with scales; the Sumatran rhinoceros, Bornean bantengs, Malaysian sun bears and the Sunda clouded leopard.
Conservation is a foremost priority for Malaysia, which has kept its pledge, made at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to maintain at least half of its total land area under forest cover. In fact, Malaysia is one of the world’s best performers in forest retention, with an estimated 67.7 percent of its total land area being forest.
Mountainous Borneo is a dream destination for scientists and conservationists
Within the vast forests of Borneo, Earth’s third largest island – which Malaysia shares with Indonesia and Brunei – are hundreds of mammal, bird and amphibian species, and thousands of exotic plant species. Approximately 60% of the island’s forests are protected.
This is one of diversity’s greatest hotspots. It is where you’ll find most of Malaysia’s nearly 13,000 orangutans (Asia’s only great ape), living freely in the states of Sabah and Sarawak. While not native to Malaysia, orangutans’ population in Malaysian Borneo has been stable for more than 15 years due to the country’s stringent conservation policies and actions. This is thanks in great part to the efforts of the country’s Wildlife Rescue Unit, which has been a cornerstone for the stabilization of Malaysia’s orangutan population.
In the Sukau Rainforest, located in Sabah on Borneo’s northern tip, brightly-colored lantern flies, horned flying lizards and Bornean pythons thrive in the lush vegetation. Throughout the region, gentle Bornean pygmy elephants, treasured by the Malay people, easily wander along special corridors between forests in search of food.
Visitors to Borneo’s Kinabalu Park, home to the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, can spot more than 90 mammal species and one of the rarest orchids in the world.
Malaysians are helping to lead rainforest conservation
Malaysia takes its stewardship of environmental habitats seriously. Just a few generations ago, Malay villagers were hunting some of the same animals they now help to protect thanks to intensive efforts to educate, enforce and rescue endangered wildlife. The Malaysian government has also instituted numerous safeguards to ensure the long-term survival and wellbeing of some of its most iconic species.
These initiatives are in addition to many other efforts. Sun bears, the world’s smallest species of bear, are only found in Southeast Asia. The bears are totally protected in Malaysia. The Sun Bear Conservation Center educates the public about the animals and cares for bears that were once illegally held captive.
In an example of industry working alongside conservationists, the Malaysian palm oil industry is the primary funder of the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary, where injured or orphaned elephants are rehabilitated then released into their natural environment. The Malaysian Palm Oil Council also supports Malaysia’s Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, established 50 years ago, which was the first center in the world to return orangutans to the wild.
The world is working with Malaysia to preserve its natural resources
The importance of Malaysia’s rainforests cannot be underestimated. As the country works to establish an even stronger balance between its human population and its rainforests – for example by restricting the development of new agricultural land and prohibiting burning – it is also benefiting from the help of organizations worldwide. These include the Oregon Zoo, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Orangutan Appeal UK.
Most agree that the best solution for protecting Malaysia’s wildlife and rainforests is to support stronger standards, and beef up enforcement of already existing laws and legislation. One way this can be done is by supporting the global use of certified sustainable palm oil, which is produced in compliance with stringent laws protecting wildlife, the environment and small family farmers. Palm oil is significantly more environmentally friendly than other oil seed crops.
Much of the palm oil used in the United States is sustainably produced in Malaysia, a recognized leader in responsible palm oil production. It simply isn’t the conflict palm oil that harms our wildlife, people or planet. Malaysia’s palm oil industry is governed by a national sustainability (MSPO) mandate.
Orangutans, pygmy elephants and thousands of other species will continue to thrive as more consumers demand that the palm oil used in their food and personal care products is certified as sustainably sourced.
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