Habitat changes, diseases and the destruction of natural landscapes in exchange for more profitable purposes. These are some of the leading causes of animal endangerment.
Here in Malaysia, different species are currently suffering from endangerment. Fortunately, the country has taken the necessary steps and dedicated specific areas for their preservation.
Join us here as we take a closer look and learn more about these majestic animals. Also, we included the places where you can legally observe and admire these creatures around the country, so be sure to check them out!
If you don’t know, Malaysia is one of the only two countries that are known to be the home of orangutans (the other one being Indonesia). These creatures are amazing to observe, as you’ll immediately notice how intelligent they are, especially with how they use their surroundings.
One prime example of this is how they use the tools available at their disposal to create robust sleeping nests. This is much more impressive considering that the tools they use are mostly branches and other kinds of foliage.
Unfortunately, these smart creatures are considered endangered because of habitat loss. It also doesn’t help that they’re known to have super low reproductive rates, meaning you’d have to wait for a long time before they can create and raise newborns.
Sadly, experts estimate that there are only around 104,700 Bornean Orangutans left in the world at the time of writing. This is more alarming when you consider that there were over 230,000 of them a century ago.
Where to see them: Bukit Merah Orangutan Island
Bukit Merah Orangutan Island is dedicated to providing care to Bornean Orangutans for their preservation. Its foundation has successfully made this island an eco-tourism destination, which you can visit to admire these orangutans and experience first-hand awareness.
The Rhinoceros Hornbill is one of the most beautiful and unique-looking native birds in Malaysia. You can immediately distinguish this species from a mile away because of their golden-yellow horns, also known as a casque.
What makes them more majestic is their black feathers, which perfectly contrast their vibrant horns and beaks. Other noticeable unique features of the Rhinoceros Hornbill are its white tail feathers and the coloured rings around its eyes.
These rings aren’t just for aesthetic reasons though, as they can also help you determine their genders. In a nutshell, white rings signify females while red/orange rings signify males.
Unfortunately, this same beauty is the reason for them being considered “vulnerable”, meaning they’re facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. This is because their unique look attracts the attention of hunters, making them an easy target for sport and trophy-making.
Where to see them: Kuala Lumpur Bird Park
Visiting KL Bird Park is one of the most iconic things to do in Kuala Lumpur. It’s a huge tropical paradise where you can find different species of birds up close and learn more about them.
They have a dedicated Hornbill Park which houses the Rhinoceros Hornbill, one of their biggest hornbills and birds, in general, in the park
The Malayan Tiger is a subspecies of this famous feline animal that’s native to the Malay Peninsula. From how it carries itself, to its fear-inducing roar, everything about this animal is majestic and elegant.
Their biggest highlight of course is the black streaks across its orange body. However, what makes them different from regular tigers is their noticeably smaller appearance, as they’re the smallest subspecies in Southeast Asia.
Aside from their sheer beauty and majesty, Malayan Tigers play a bigger role in their ecosystem. As apex predators of their respective food chains, they can maintain the population of their prey and even reshape their traits–pretty cool right?
Today, this majestic creature is considered critically endangered because of shameful reasons such as illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking. These activities caused their number to drop to 200+, which is a far cry when you compare it to 1950s statistics when they were over 3,000.
Where to see them: The jungles of Peninsular Malaysia
Because of their sparsity, there’s no zoo/sanctuary where you can see them up close. Your best bet for catching a glimpse of these creatures is by going to the jungles of Peninsular Malaysia.
For instance in Royal Belum State Park, there an indigenous tribe called Jahai Orang Asli that combats illegal poaching in the area. This way, they can combat or at least lessen the cases of this activity, which targets these tigers.
Check out our guide to exploring the state park here.
The Malayan Tapir is a peaceful creature that isn’t hard to fall in love with because of its friendly appearance. They’re related to elephants and rhinoceros, and you’ll immediately their similarities with these species once you see them in person.
For instance, its most prominent feature is probably its trunk, which is much shorter than those found in elephants. Much like its giant relatives, Malayan Tapirs use their trunks to grab certain objects such as branches, leaves and fruits.
Also, they look like pandas because of their two-toned appearance. This, paired with their chubby body makes them extra adorable and a great animal to show your kids!
What you may not know is that aside from being adorable and peaceful creatures, they play a huge role in maintaining the ecosystem!
Ever wondered how seeds re-plant themselves across the jungle/rainforest? Well, one of the ways this happens is by being dispersed by animals like Malayan Tapirs, and yes the way they do this is by eating and pooping them out.
Sadly, there are now only 3,000+ Malayan Tapirs roaming the Southeast Asian lands, with some being continually hunted and poached illegally.
Where to see them: Sungai Dusun Wildlife Conservation Center
The Sungai Dusun Wildlife Conservation Center is a well-known sanctuary for endangered animals in Selangor. One of their main attractions is the Malay Tapir Conservation Centre (MTCC), which serves as the much-needed home for these herbivores.
However, keep in mind that you’ll have to acquire a permit from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks before you can visit.
Presumed to be extinct, the Black Shrew is known to live in Kota Kinabalu. This particular specimen has been so rarely sighted that there haven’t been any records of its size, though it’s approximately estimated to be around 8 to 10 centimetres long.
Black Shrews have black bodies and red-orange faces, which already gives them a unique look than your typical mouse.
You can also easily identify them by their long snouts, which give them a better sense of smell than other rodents. Aside from adding to their cuteness factor, they use these snouts to help them locate prey located in the undergrowth.
The Proboscis Monkey is one of the most unique-looking species from the old-world monkey category. Much-like orangutans, they also feature red-orange furs that make them stand out from the rest of the monkeys.
Their most notable feature, however, is their unusually large nose, which isn’t because of the purpose that you think. Contrary to the most obvious conclusion, their noses don’t enhance their sense of smell, but instead, they use it to attract mates!
Aside from that, another notable thing that you need to know about these Squidward-looking monkeys is their impressive swimming skills. This can be attributed to their webbed feet, which help them swim quickly and go from tree branches to rivers and vice versa.
Michael Phelps doesn’t have anything on these monkeys! To be fair though, they’re mostly swimming fast to run away from aquatic predators as opposed to getting a trophy, but you get the idea.
Where to see them: Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary
Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary is a wildlife preservation service in Sabah that focuses on conserving this endangered species. We respect this establishment because they’ve provided a mangrove forest just to let these monkeys live their best lives.
You can schedule your visit through their official website so that you can witness them first-hand. Moreover, the establishment will also educate you on the steps you can take for the preservation of these animals.
Sunda pangolins are instantly recognisable from a mile away because of the scales that wrap around their bodies. Don’t worry though as they aren’t threats–just look at its adorable eyes!
With scales running across its body, these cute little rodents can pass as your knight and shining armour! Unfortunately, they weren’t able to save themselves from being critically endangered due to illegal poaching.
They’re one of the most prized animals for poaching because their scales are believed to have medicinal benefits. If that seems a bit sketchy to you, that’s because there’s no actual evidence that supports this claim, which makes their endangerment even sadder.
We think that it’s such a shame that most people don’t realise this animal’s actual purpose, which indirectly benefits us, humans. In a nutshell, they help prevent the destruction of our forests by eating natural pests such as ants and termites.
Where to see them: Currently, there’s no park or zoo that you can go to in Malaysia where you can find these species. There were plans in 2019 that a sanctuary dedicated to these creatures will be built, but that was put on hold in 2022 to prioritise breeding and nutrition.
Borneo Pygmy Elephant
The remaining Borneo Pygmy elephants in Malaysia can be found in one of the Kinabatangan River in Sabah. We can’t help but look at these animals with adoration because they’re noticeably gentler and smaller than your typical giant elephants.
You’ll also notice that their trunks are a bit shorter, which gives them a more unique look. If you’d look at its tails and ears, however, they’re longer and larger.
The endangerment of these elephants boils down to two reasons: hunting and destruction of natural habitat. These precious creatures are illegally hunted because of their husks while their homes are continuously being destroyed because of the demand for palm oil.
If you’re looking for a fun activity to do in Malaysia, we recommend visiting these elephants because they’re amazing to admire! Plus, the kids will surely love them!
Where to see them: Kinabatangan River
There’s no better way to admire these gentle giants than by cruising through the Kinabatangan River. This is one of the best experiences Sabah has to offer, as you can admire these species living their best lives while you take a relaxing cruise.
Furthermore, you’ll also find other rare and endangered species during your visit here such as the Borneo orangutans and the Proboscis monkeys.
Say hello to the sun bear, the species of bear that can be found primarily in Southeast Asian tropical forests. They’re the smallest of their kind, which makes them extra adorable than your normal grizzly or black bear.
Their most notable characteristic is what also gave them their name, which is the golden patch of fur found just below their necks.
Another thing that you’ll immediately notice about these bears is their freakishly long tongues, often reaching a length of eight to 10 inches long. They use this advantage to eat hard-to-reach insects and to make sure that they get every single drop of honey from a hive.
Sun bears are real MVPs when it comes to maintaining the ecosystem as we know it. For starters, they unintentionally mix rich soil with poor soil, enhancing the forest’s nutrient cycle without them even knowing it!
They also do a great job of dispersing seeds throughout the forest. Plus, because of the way they do this task (don’t ask), the seeds are naturally fertilised when they get dispersed in the soil of the rainforests.
Where to see them: Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is where you’ll find the most sun bears in one place. They aim to preserve this species while shining light on the struggles they face as well as the steps they take to make sure that they’re kept safe in this sanctuary.
We wouldn’t blame you if you’d mistake banteng for an ordinary domesticated cow because the resemblance is indeed uncanny. From the pointy horns down to their black coats, these two animals are as different as night and well, later that night.
However, you’ll be surprised to know that these two species are complete opposites! For starters, bantengs aren’t domesticated but are instead considered wild, which is why their natural habitat is the rainforest.
They also play a significant role in the nutrient cycling of plants, making them an important part of the ecosystem. This is done through grazing wherein all they have to do is go on about their lives and consume wild vegetation.
However, they are sparse nowadays because most of them are hunted for sport while others believe that their meat and horns hold medicinal benefits. It’s such a shame how deep their population has declined because of this illegal activity and habitat loss.
Where to see them: Zoo Negara
The best place to admire these peaceful animals first-hand is Zoo Negara in Selangor because of how they’re taken care of. They’re nestled near the savannah walk where you and your loved ones can freely observe their behaviours and learn more about them.
Also known as the National Zoo of Malaysia, this place houses numerous other local animals such as hornbills, tigers and elephants.
Honorable Mention: Sumatran Rhino
It’s hard to remember a time when rhinoceros weren’t considered endangered or extinct. This is because they’re always at the end of the barrel by hunters who are looking to illegally harvest their horns for sport or money.
With Sumatran Rhinos, however, the reason for their endangerment is mainly fragmentation caused by the destruction of their natural habitat. It’s kind of a sad story when you think about it because this occurrence causes them to be far away from each other.
By not even knowing where to find their own species, Sumatran Rhinos have limited capacities to breed, leading to their population’s decline. What’s even worse is that without them doing their part in the African savannas, the ecosystem will be less habitable for other animals too.
Several people think that the Sumatran Rhino is still endangered in Malaysia, which is why we decided to mention it on this list. In 2020, however, the last Sumatran Rhino in the country passed away, making them officially extinct in Malaysia.
The last remaining Sumatran Rhino can be found in Indonesia and at the time of writing, there are only 80 of them left.