Asian Geographic Magazine- Birds of Borneo

Asian Geographic Magazine- Birds of Borneo

The article on  “ Birds Of Borneo” has just been published in the latest issue of Asian Geographic Magazine- Issue 3/2014 featuring the Great Forest & Mountains of Asia.

The 8-page article highlights the conservation efforts that the state of Sabah had put in to protect the birds and to promote bird tourism through Bird Fair and other birding activities. It also highlight good bird watching areas in Borneo such as the Kinabalu Park, Danum Valley and Sepilok area. We hope this article will create the awareness for birds and bird conservation .

Birds of Borneo, Asian Geographic Magazine 2014
Birds of Borneo, Asian Geographic Magazine 2014

The Asian Geographic is available now at major bookshop all around Asia. Love to hear your comments and feedback on the Birds of Borneo.


The Birds in the forest are worth more than birds in cages

“If you use the catapult to catch a bird, you could only sell the bird for 5 Malaysian Ringgit (US$1.65). If you protected the environment, the bird watching industry could bring millions of dollars, earning you US$100 per day as a good bird guide.“ That was the opening speech by Yb Datuk Masidi Manjun, Minister of Tourism, Culture & Environment of Sabah during the fourth Borneo Bird Festival in Mount Kinabalu, Sabah.

The state of Sabah is situated at the northern tip of the world’s third largest island, Borneo. Blessed with endless tropical sandy beaches, the tallest mountain in Southeast Asia (Mount Kinabalu, 4061m), and virgin tropical rainforest. It is renowned for its remarkable flora and fauna but also rich bird life. Some of the most sought-after birds are Bornean Bristlehead and Golden-naped Barbet. The island of Borneo has 669 species of birds of which 52 are endemics according to Quentin Phillipps the author of the Birds of Borneo. Bird watching is one of the fastest growing tourism worldwide with people traveling to bird-related destinations and hotspots to be with nature and watch local specialty or endangered birds in the wild and undisturbed locations.

Golden-naped Barbet. Kinabalu Park, Sabah
Endemic to Borneo.
Bornean Treepie. Kinabalu Park Sabah.
Endemic to Borneo.
Hooded Pitta. Danum Valley Sabah

Birding and Tourism

Sabah is by no means spared from any form of deforestation while nature tourism is the key revenue for many years. Visitors go to Sabah to enjoy the beaches, forests, orang-utans, turtles, and bird life. Bird festivals are normally organized to take advantage of a specific location’s bird-friendly features or unique habitats to promote the uniqueness of birding in those areas. Festival dates are normally coordinated to coincide with exceptional timing such as during peak breeding or migration period when bird species are more visible. How could an annual Borneo Bird Festival draw any synergy in building awareness for birds, bird watching, educating the younger generation on the value of bird heritage, and converging the interest for bird conservation in Borneo and the region? How can it ultimately bring about the protection for the habitats and the birds in general?  

First Borneo Bird Festival, 2009

We took part in the 1st Borneo Bird Festival in October 2009 at RDC (Rainforest Discovery Centre) in Sepilok. RDC was newly opened then, near the famous Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre which was well known worldwide. The area is one of the few remaining lowland dipterocarp forests with an extensive canopy walkway to allow easy viewing of birds and other animals on the canopy level. The event was spearheaded by the Bornean Bird Club, Sabah Society, and Sabah Tourism. It was the melting pot for many bird watchers, bird photographers, and ornithologists alike. 

Today, the Bornean Bird Festival involved not only bird enthusiasts but the community including children. Various entertainment activities relating to birds were brought in to create fun and to generate awareness for the birds and their environments. There were bird races, guided bird watching walks and field trips conducted by volunteers, a coloring competition for children, and seminars given by distinguished speakers from all over the world. The events were also used to launch groundbreaking achievements for new books on the birds of Borneo. In 2009, Quentin and Karen Phillipps launched the 1st edition of the Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, and Kalimantan along with Susan Bryan with “ A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo”. Over the years, more books were published and released during the bird festival. “A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Sepilok Forest” compiled by Cede Prudente, Robert Ong, and Borneo Bird Club was released in 2010 and published by Sabah Forestry Department.

In 2009, Quentin and Karen Phillipps launched the 1st edition of the Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, and Kalimantan along with Susan Bryan with “ A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo”

In 2012, a keen local photographer, Wong Tsu Shi, who is an accountant by profession, published “A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Borneo”. He spent 6 years with a collection of 380 species of birds, photographed in Borneo. His idea was propelled by his enthusiasm and the birding community. Over the years, all the books become excellent references for the public and the enthusiast alike.

Besides books and publications, the festivals also recognize the people who made their contributions to Borneo birding. In conjunction with the bird count, the Borneo Bird Club awarded prizes to the Borneo 400 Club. Mr. John Bakar was one of the eleven people who had seen 400 species of birds in Borneo. The top achiever was Mr. Andrew Siani (a freelance bird guide) who had seen more than 500 species of birds in Borneo. School children and families were also involved in the activities to raise awareness for the environment and birds.

Birding Habitats in Sabah

Sabah has many bird habitats to explore from the lowland dipterocarp forest of Sepilok and Danum Valley to mountain ranges like Kinabalu Park and Crocker Range National Park. There are freshwater swamps and floodplains of the Kinabatangan River in the east, along the caves, plains & ricefields. All the major birding destinations are easily accessible by road or a short flight from Kota Kinabalu. Thanks to a good transportation network and comfortable accommodation in lodges, chalets, and homestay.

In Danum Valley for example it is one of the most important conservation areas of 438 square km. The area is retained for research and the protection of flora and fauna. Britain’s Prince William and his wife Catherine Middleton, visited Danum Valley in September 2012 to meet up with researchers from Oxford University undergraduate at the Field Centre Laboratory the week before we visited Danum Valley.

The Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley offers the pristine rainforest right at your doorstep. The few visits that we made to Danum had always amazed us with the first-hand experience of the million-year-old rainforest day and night. We saw Rhinoceros Hornbill above our lodge at daybreak, encountered wild orang utan in broad daylight at the nearby trail, photographed elusive Hooded Pitta by the main road, and spotted owls & frogs at night. Danum Valley is teaming up with many opportunities to encounter wildlife in the comfort of the lodge.

Danum Valley, Sabah

The next Borneo Bird Festival

The next Borneo Bird Festival will be held in early June 2013. Nature conservation strategy takes time and effort to succeed. Today, there are still people asking “Where are the birds, where are the cages?”. The point is that it is not the birds in the cages that bring about conservation and attract people from all over the world but it is the birds in the forest and the continued effort to educate on the protection of the environment that are more critical. It is the cumulative effort of the people, the enthusiasts, the volunteers, the government, and the entire birding community to make it work. 

About contributors

John and Anna are nature photographers and writers based in Singapore. They travel to many parts of Asia to document wildlife and nature. 

4 thoughts on “Asian Geographic Magazine- Birds of Borneo

Add yours

    1. Tsu Shi, thanks for your comment. The article also mentioned your book, Borneo Bird Club and other people who contributed to the effort of bird conservation. It has been great for us (Anna and I ) to know many keen birders and photographers over the years in Borneo. Hope to meet all of you again this year…

      You can get a copy of Asian Geographic in Tawau this week hopefully. It is in the news stand in Singapore now. Happy reading and stay in touch.

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