Danum Valley: One of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world

22nd May 2018

The biodiversity present on Earth today is a result of billions of years of evolution, shaped by natural processes and, increasingly, by the influence of humans. We, as humans, depend on the web of life biodiversity creates.

Danum Valley taken by volunteer Lucy

Danum Valley is largest remaining area of virgin, undisturbed lowland rainforest in Malaysia. It covers 438 square kilometres – an area roughly the size of Singapore! It has never been home to a human settlement, meaning there has been no hunting, logging or man-made interference in the area. The flora and fauna inhabiting the remote area have therefore been able to live, grow and thrive undisturbed over time. This has resulted in unparalleled biodiversity and one of the most complex ecosystems in the world!

The area is home to an immense level of biodiversity including 15,000 species of plant, as well as over 300 species of bird, and a number of iconic endangered species including the Sumatran Rhino, Bornean Pygmy Elephant, Orangutan, Malaysian Sun Bear, Sunda Clouded Leopard and so much more.

Photograph of mother and baby orangutans taken by Expedition volunteer Nav

Land in Sabah is under increased threat and conservation areas such as Danum Valley need as much protection as possible to maintain their ecosystems. Over the past 30 years in Sabah, rapid economic growth and reliance on natural resources has resulted in a 50% loss to the total coverage of forest area. Palm oil plantations alone now cover about 19% of Sabah’s total land area.

The current decline in biodiversity across the globe is largely the result of human activity and represents a serious threat to human development. It threatens our food supplies, opportunities for recreation and tourism, and sources of wood, medicines and energy. It also interferes with essential ecological functions. Over the past 20 years, increase efforts have been made to reduce the loss of the world’s biological diversity however habitat destruction, over-harvesting, pollution and the inappropriate introduction of foreign plants and animals, has continued.

Danum Valley conservation area was declared a class one forest reserve in 1995 by the Sabah government. It also received cultural heritage (conservation) area status in 1998. These designations help protect the 130-million-year-old rainforest from human activities such as logging and poaching.

Despite this, Danum Valley faces continuing threats from human activity, such as deforestation and hunting, as well as natural disasters. Raleigh Borneo has been working alongside the Danum Valley Conservation Area since 2011 to support their efforts to protect and conserve the land, and flora and fauna within it. Raleigh Borneo projects contribute to the areas efforts to apply for UNESCO World Heritage Site Status. This would provide the area with increased protection from human activities in the future.

Volunteers working on a natural resource management project

All of Raleigh Borneo’s Natural Resource Management projects, such as the continuing project in Danum Valley, contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action), 14 (life on land), and 15 (halting biodiversity loss and promoting the sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems). Through our projects we hope to inspire a generation of champions of the natural environment.

Happy International Day of Biodiversity from Borneo!

Words by Communications Officer Rebecca Raab.


Find out more about what our project in Danum Valley achieved in the spring 2018 Expedition here.

Climate and Conservation Malaysian Borneo