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Location Malaysia, Sabah
Central coordinates 116o 27.00' East  6o 26.00' North
IBA criteria A1
Area 40,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 3m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Malaysian Nature Society

Summary Situated in Kota Belud in the state of Sabah. The area is mainly freshwater wetland which has been divided  to major areas divided by major roads. Most of the land is owned by the state and private parties.

Site description (I) Physical CharacteristicsTempasuk Plain is located on the north-west coast of Sabah, stretching from Kota Belud town in the south to Rampayang Laut in the north. The plain is primarily a freshwater wetland bisected by a major road comprising of four main areas;On the eastern side of the road, an area of low wet swamp land with open pools, bordered by a narrow strip of swamp forest along the northern boundary of the Kota Belud Bird Sanctuary (hereafter Bird Sanctuary), and backed by low hills;On the western side, an open sandy foreshore backed by dunes leads into grazed grassland with wet areas and seasonal pools. A small area of mangrove occurs near Kuala Tempasuk;The southern third is taken up with cultivation, mainly wet rice and small settlements. Two large rivers run through the area forming the northern and southern boundaries of the existing Bird Sanctuary. The northern river is lined with fairly extensive riverine forest.The fourth area to the north of Sungai Kawang-Kawang is little known. From Kampung Rampayan Laut for about 5 km upriver mangrove forest predominates (ca. 1,518 ha in 1978), grading into nipa swamp backed by a small area of lowland dipterocarp forest.The Bird Sanctuary was established within the area in 1960, comprising of ca. 12,200 ha. Run-off from the low hills and the foothills of Gunung Kinabalu supplies many small streams and the two large rivers. Grassland floods temporarily, wet rice water levels artificially maintained, swamp probably inundated. The wetland conditions of Tempasuk Plain are determined primarily by local rainfall with the exception of the wet rice fields.(II) Climatic ConditionsAnnual average rainfall is 2,260 mm. Monthly rainfall is between 200-400 mm in June and 100-200 mm in December. The dry season occurs from November-March while the wet from May-September. Annual average temperature range 23-30oC (DWNP, 1987).

Key Biodiversity The wetland is an important site for wintering more than 50 waterbird species including several large globally threatened waterbirds (DWNP, 1987; Beadle and Whittaker, 1985; Payne and Parish, 1985). High numbers of wintering white egrets Egretta spp., up to 5,000 have been recorded (Lansdown, 1986, 1987, 1989a, 1989b). The Near Threatened Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster, Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus and Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii have also been sighted (Sheldon et al., 2001).

Non-bird biodiversity: (I) Globally threatened mammals (IUCN, 2002): ENDANGERED: Proboscis Monkey Nasalis larvatus; NEAR THREATENED: Oriental Small-clawed Otter Amblonyx cinereus(II) Globally threatened reptiles (IUCN, 2002): No information.(III) Globally threatened plants (IUCN, 2002): No information.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Storm's Stork Ciconia stormi resident  2004  present  A1  Endangered 
Christmas Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Kota Belud Bird Sanctuary 12,200 protected area contained by site 12,200  


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

Protection status The land tenure is divided up amongst several stakeholders. Grazing Reserve occupies 2,670 ha, Foreshore Reserve, 110 ha and titled land 7,510 ha (either under private ownership or occupied by schools and government agencies). Unallocated land is about 1,740 ha while another 170 ha does not have ownership. Most of the land is either state or titled land. The Kota Belud Bird Sanctuary however was gazetted in 1960, which prohibits hunting within the allotted boundary. The boundary includes the area of low hills to the east but excludes areas of swamp forest and swamp to the north of Sungai Kawang-Kawang. Nevertheless, the protection does not extend to the control of habitat changes.

References Beadle, D. and Whittaker, A. 1985. Sabah Survey Report. In Parish, D. and Wells, D.R. INTERWADER Annual Report 1984. Kuala Lumpur: INTERWADER.DWNP. 1987. Malaysian Wetland Directory. Peninsular Malaysia: Department of Wildlife and National Parks.IUCN. 2002. 2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (23 June 2003).Lansdown, R.V. 1986. Observations on the Wintering Herons in the Kota Belud Bird Sanctuary, Sabah. Project MYS 89/86. Kuala Lumpur: WWFM.Lansdown, R.V. 1987. The Feeding Ecology of the Larger Herons in the Kota Belud Bird Sanctuary, with reference to preparation of management proposal. Project MYS 94/86. Kuala Lumpur: WWFM.Lansdown, R.V. 1989a. The Kota Belud Bird Sanctuary. Pp. 166-168 in Parish, D. and C. Prentice (eds.). Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation in Asia. Proceedings of a Conference in Malacca, Malaysia, 23-28 February 1987. Asian Wetland Bureau Publication No. 52. Kuala Lumpur: Asian Wetland Bureau/IWRB.Lansdown, R.V. 1989b. A Preliminary Survey of the Status of the White Egrets occurring in Sabah, East Malaysia. Project MYS 94/89. Kuala Lumpur: WWFM.Parish, D., Prentice, C. and Taylor, C. (eds.) 1986. INTERWADER-East Asia/Pacific Shorebird Study Programme- Annual Report 1985. INTERWADER Publication No. 16. Kuala Lumpur: INTERWADER. Payne, J. and Parish, D. 1985. Kota Belud Bird Sanctuary - A site of international importance for bird conservation: Potential for tourist development. Kuala Lumpur: WWFM. Sheldon, F.H., Moyle, R.G. and Kennard, J. 2001. Ornithology of Sabah: History, Gazetteer, Annotated Checklist, and Bibliography. Ornithological Monographs 52: 1-285.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Tempasuk plains. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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