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Location Malaysia, Sabah
Central coordinates 118o 33.00' East  5o 37.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3, A4i
Area 100,000 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Malaysian Nature Society

Summary Ranging from 2 districts in Sabah namely Kinabatangan and Sandakan, the area is a low lying area which is waterlogged and covered with freshwater swamp forest.

Site description (I) Physical CharacteristicsThe proposed Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is essentially an important floodplain in Sabah and also the largest. The area comprises tracts of land that link the mangrove areas near the coast with the existing protected areas further inland, creating a corridor of floodplain habitat to maintain the ranging patterns of native wildlife (Prudente and Balamurugan, 1999). Several natural habitat types are found here such as limestone outcrops, oxbow lakes, riverine forest vegetation, dry lowland dipterocarp forest, seasonal swamps and tidal mangroves (WWFM, 1998, n.d.).Sungai Kinabatangan, Sabah's largest and longest river (560 km), runs through the floodplains, which is subjected to seasonal flooding. The river has a catchment area of about 1,680,000 ha, covering almost 23% of the total land area in Sabah. The southern branch of the river originates in the Kuamut Highlands while the northern branch originates from Banjaran Trus Madi and Labuk Highlands. The river flows eastwards before discharging into the Sulu Sea. The main tributaries of the Kinabatangan are Kuamut, Milian, Sapasidom, Menanggul, Tenegang Besar, Koyah, Maliau, Pinangoh and Lokan (Prudente and Balamurugan, 1999). (II) Climatic ConditionsMean annual rainfall is approximately 2,600 mm, well distributed with slightly more in December and January. Lowest rainfall occurs in March-April. Mean diurnal temperature average between 32-22oC (DWNP, 1987).

Key Biodiversity The Kinabatangan wetlands is an important site for several globally threatened waterbirds especially Storm's Stork Ciconia stormi, where the last viable population in the country remains. One hundred and eighty-nine bird species have been recorded and some breeding (Sharma, 1992). The Near Threatened Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster is found to be common and breeding in the area (Sharma, 1992; Smythies, 1999; Sheldon et al., 2001). Others include the wetland raptors Grey-headed Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus and Lesser Fish-eagle I. humilis (Sharma, 1992). Locally, the Gomantong Caves is one of Sabah's two most important sites for birds' nest trade (WWFM, n.d.).

Non-bird biodiversity: About 50 species of mammals are recorded including a small population of the Asian Elephant Elephas maximus and possibly the Sumatran Rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis (WWF, 2002a; Payne and Francis, 1985). The Kinabatangan contains the largest Malaysian population of Proboscis Monkey Nasalis larvatus (Buckley, 2002; Bennett and Gombek, 1993; Prudente and Balamurugan, 1999). Twenty-seven species of reptiles and amphibians were recorded (Sharma, 1992; Whittaker, 1984). Freshwater fish diversity and productivity is very high. More than 100 species have been recorded so far. The Irrawaddy Dolphin Orcaella brevirostris have been reported 20 km up Sungai Kinabatangan (Dolar et al., 1997 in Smith and Jefferson, 2002). Recently, the Borneo River Shark Glyphis sp. known from a few immature specimens, not yet named and thought to be extinct, was rediscovered in the lower Sungai Kinabatangan. This species was listed as Critically Endangered in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals (Prudente and Balamurugan, 1999). Plants of special interest in this region include Koompassia excelsa, Terminalia copelandi, Ficus racemosa and Mitragyna speciosa (Boonratana, 2000; Reza Azmi, 1998; Sharma, 1992).(I)Globally threatened mammals (IUCN, 2002): CRITICAL: Sumatran Rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis; ENDANGERED: Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Proboscis Monkey Nasalis larvatus, Tembadau Bos javanicus, Orang-Utan Pongo pygmaeus; VULNERABLE: Pig-tailed Macaque Macaca nemestrina, Common Porcupine Hystrix brachyura, Smooth Otter Lutrogale perspicillata, Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa, Flat-headed Cat Prionailurus planiceps, Bare-backed Rousette Rousettus spinalatus; NEAR THREATENED: Long-tailed Macaque M. fascicularis, Bornean Gibbon Hylobates muelleri, Pangolin Manis javanica, Oriental Small-clawed Otter Amblonyx cinereus, Gilded Tube-nosed Bat Murina rozendaali, Philippine Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus philippinensis; DATA DEFICIENT: Hairy-nosed Otter Lutra sumatrana, Irrawaddy Dolphin Orcaella brevirostris, Hose's Langur Presbytis hosei, Malayan Sun Bear Helarctos malayanus(II) Globally threatened reptiles (IUCN, 2002): (III) Globally threatened plants (IUCN, 2002):

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Lophura erythrophthalma resident  2004  present  A1  Not Recognised 
Bulwer's Pheasant Lophura bulweri resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Storm's Stork Ciconia stormi resident  2004  present  A1, A4i  Endangered 
Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Wallace's Hawk-eagle Nisaetus nanus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii unknown  2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 
Large Green-pigeon Treron capellei resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Grey Imperial-pigeon Ducula pickeringii resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Short-toed Coucal Centropus rectunguis resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Alcedo euryzona resident  2004  present  A1  Not Recognised 
Blue-headed Pitta Pitta baudii resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Hook-billed Bulbul Setornis criniger resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Bornean Wren-babbler Ptilocichla leucogrammica resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Large-billed Blue-flycatcher Cyornis caerulatus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Bod Tai Virgin Jungle Reserve 252 protected area contained by site 252  
Gomantong Protection Forest Reserve 5,115 protected area contained by site 5,115  
Keruak Virgin Jungle Reserve 256 protected area contained by site 256  
Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary 27,000 protected area contained by site 27,000  
Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 78,803 protected area contained by site 78,803  
Panti Virgin Jungle Reserve 419 protected area contained by site 419  
Pin-Supu Virgin Jungle Reserve 4,403 protected area contained by site 4,403  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   -
Artificial - terrestrial   -
Wetlands (inland)   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
tourism/recreation -

Protection status Historically, much of the Kinabatangan region's forest has been logged in the past. After a comprehensive survey in 1991, WWFM proposed the establishment of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. The proposal was subsequently endorsed by the Sabah State Government.Currently, WWFM has embarked on the "Partners for Wetlands" project, a major conservation work along the Lower Sungai Kinabatangan, under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sabah Wildlife Department. The project aims at establishing partnerships that benefit major landowners and local communities as well as wildlife and the environment and developing a long-term sustainable land use in the Kinabatangan catchment that benefits all parties, including for agriculture and forestry, currently operating in the lower Kinabatangan (Jaswinder Kaur, 2002; Prudente and Balamurugan, 1999; Prudente et al., 2002).In November 1999, the Lower Kinabatangan was announced as Malaysia's Gift to The Earth by the Chief Minister of Sabah and as a commitment to fully gazette and protect the 27,000 ha of wetlands as a wildlife sanctuary (Partners for Wetlands, 2001) under the Land Ordinance 1960 (amended 1967), Sabah Cap 68 and Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 (Anon., 2002).

References Anon. 2002. Boost for Kinabatangan region: wildlife sanctuary to get double legal protection. The Star, 16 January.Bennett, E.L. and Gombek, F. 1993. Proboscis Monkeys of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu: Natural History Publications (Borneo) Sdn. Bhd. and Sabah: Koktas Sabah Berhad.Boonratana, R. 2000. A Study of the Vegetation of the Forests in the Lower Kinabatangan Region, Sabah, Malaysia. Malayan Nature Journal 54: 271-288.Buckley, M. 2002. Last of the high-flyers. BBC Wildlife 20(2): 34- 42.DWNP. 1987. Malaysian Wetland Directory. Peninsular Malaysia: Department of Wildlife and National Park.IUCN. 2002. 2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (23 June 2003).Jaswinder Kaur. 2002. Comment: Developing partnerships to conserve Sungai Kinabatangan. New Straits Times, 26 August.Jeyarajasingam, A., Noramly, G. and Ooi, C.H. (eds.). 1999c. Recent Sightings. Suara Enggang 2: 19-23.MOCAT. 1997. National Ecotourism Plan Malaysia. Prepared for the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism, Federal Government of Malaysia. Partners for Wetlands. 2000. Floods damage oil palm plantations in the Kinabatangan. Partners for Wetlands Aug/Sept 2000: 6-7.Partners for Wetlands. 2001. Tourism in the Kinabatangan - a potential tool for conservation. Partners for Wetlands Quarterly March 2001: 6-7.Partners for Wetlands. 2002. Ranging patterns of elephants vital to sustaining Kinabatangan biodiversity. Partners for Wetlands Quarterly March 2002: 8-9.Payne, J. and Francis, C.M. 1985. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu: The Sabah Society, and Petaling Jaya: WWF Malaysia.Prudente, C. and Balamurugan, G. 1999. Sungai Kinabatangan "Partners for Wetlands" Project: A Partnership for Sustainable Development and Conservation. Sabah Society Journal 16: 41-56.Prudente, C., Balamurugan, G. and Davison, G. 2002. Sg. Kinabatangan "Partners for Wetlands" Project: A Partnership for Sustainable Development and Conservation. In Chan, N.W. (ed.). Rivers - Towards Sustainable Development, pp. 460-469. Proceedings of the National Conference on Rivers '99, 14-17 October 1999, Penang. Pulau Pinang: Penerbit Universiti Sains Malaysia.Reza Azmi. 1998. Natural Vegetation of the Kinabatangan Floodplain (Part 1). An Introduction to its Natural Vegetation, Including a Preliminary Plant Checklist of the Region. WWFM Project No. MYS 359/96. Kuala Lumpur: WWF Malaysia, and Sabah: Forest Research Centre (Sabah Forestry Department). Sebastian, A.C. 1999. Solving human-wildlife conflicts through management and partnerships - Elephant and Orang Utan management in the proposed Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Malaysia. WWFM-Netherlands "Partners for Wetlands" project. Sarawak: Aonyx Environmental Services.Sheldon, F.H., Moyle, R.G. and Kennard, J. 2001. Ornithology of Sabah: History, Gazetteer, Annotated Checklist, and Bibliography. Ornithological Monographs 52: 1-285.Smith, B.D. and Jefferson, T.A. 2002. Status and Conservation of Facultative Freshwater Cetaceans in Asia. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 10: 173-187.Sharma, D. 1992. A Wildlife Survey of the Proposed Kinabatangan Park, Sabah. Project 3880 & MYS 196/91. Kuala Lumpur: WWF Malaysia.Smythies, B.E. 1981. The birds of Borneo. Third edition. Kota Kinabalu: The Sabah Society, and Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Nature Society.Smythies, B.E. 1999. The Birds of Borneo (4th Edition). Revised by Davison, G.W.H.. Kota Kinabalu: Natural History Publications (Borneo) Sdn. Bhd.Thompson, M.C. 1966. Birds from North Borneo. Univ. Kansas Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist. 17: 377-433.Verbelen, F. 1991. Birding in Sabah, 16/09-20/10/1991. (Unpublished).Whittaker, R. 1984. Preliminary survey of crocodiles in Sabah, East Malaysia. IUCN/WWF Project No. 3127. WWF Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.WWF. 2002a. Securing a Future for Asia's Wild Rhinos & Elephants. WWF's Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy. Switzerland: World Wildlife Fund, Inc.WWFM, 1998. The National Parks and Other Wild Places of Malaysia. London: New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd.WWFM. No date. Kinabatangan, A Corridor of Life. A Vision for the Kinabatangan 2020. Petaling Jaya: WWF Malaysia.Yeap, C.A. (compiler). 2002. The Asian Waterfowl Census 2002 Country Report (Malaysia). Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Nature Society-Bird Conservation Council. (Unpublished).Yong, D. 2003. Breeding Notes from Sabah (March 2003). Suara Enggang 3(May-June): 9.Zainal Abidin bin Ja'afar and Chong, M.H.N. 2001. A Preliminary Survey of Storm's Stork (Ciconia stormi) at the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain, Sabah, Malaysia (March 1999-January 2000). Report prepared for the Oriental Bird Club. (Unpublished).

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