Kalimantan (Borneo)


Borneo_Island

Borneo

Borneo (Indonesian: Kalimantan) is the third-largest island in the world and the largest island of Asia. At the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia, this island is surrounded by the South China Sea to the north and northwest, the Sulu Sea to the northeast, the Celebes Sea and the Makassar Strait to the east, and the Java Sea and Karimata Strait to the south. To the west of Borneo are the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. To the south and east are islands of Indonesia: Java and Sulawesi, respectively. To the northeast are the Philippines.

The island is divided among three countries: Brunei and Malaysia on the north, and Indonesia to the south (divided into 5 Indonesian province : West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Middle Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and North Kalimantan). Approximately 73% of this island belong to Indonesian territory. In the north, the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, along with the federal territory of Labuan, make up about 26% of the island. The sovereign state of Brunei, located on the north coast, comprises about 1% of Borneo’s land area.

Most of the population lives in coastal cities, although the hinterland has small towns and villages along the rivers. The population consists mainly of Malay, Banjar, Chinese and Dayak ethnic groups. The religion of the majority of the population in Kalimantan is Moslem, and some indigenous groups continue to practice animism. But, approximately 91% of the Dayak are Christian, a religion introduced by missionaries in the 19th century. In Central Kalimantan is a small Hindu minority. In the interior of Borneo are the Penan, some of who still live as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Some coastal areas have marginal settlements of the Bajau, who historically lived in a sea-oriented, boat-dwelling, nomadic culture. In the northwest of Borneo, the Dayak ethnic group is represented by the Iban.

The largest river system is the Kapuas in West Kalimantan, with a length of 1,143 km (710 mi). Other major rivers include the Mahakam in East Kalimantan (980 km long (610 mi)), the Barito in South Kalimantan (880 km long (550 mi)), and Rajang in Sarawak (562.5 km (349.5 mi)).

Borneo has significant cave systems. Clearwater Cave, for example, has one of the world’s longest underground rivers. Deer Cave is home to over three million bats, with guano accumulated to over 100 metres (330 ft) deep.

Before sea levels rose at the end of the last Ice Age, Borneo was part of the mainland of Asia, forming, with Java and Sumatra, the upland regions of a peninsula that extended east from present day Indochina. The South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand now submerge the former low-lying areas of the peninsula. Deeper waters separating Borneo from neighboring Sulawesi prevented a land connection to that island, creating the divide between Asian and Australia-New Guinea biological regions, known as Wallace’s Line.

The Borneo rainforest is 140 million years old, making it one of the oldest rainforests in the world. There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants with 3,000 species of trees (267 species are dipterocarps), 221 species of terrestrial mammals and 420 species of resident birds in Borneo. There are about 440 freshwater fish species in Borneo (about the same as Sumatra and Java combined). It is the centre of the evolution and distribution of many endemic species of plants and animals. The Borneo rainforest is one of the few remaining natural habitats for the endangered Bornean orangutan. It is an important refuge for many endemic forest species, including the Asian elephant, the Sumatran rhinoceros, the Bornean clouded leopard, the Hose’s civet and the dayak fruit bat.

In 2010 the World Wide Fund for Nature stated that 123 species have been discovered in Borneo since the “Heart of Borneo” agreement was signed in 2007.

The WWFN has classified the island into seven distinct ecoregions. Most are lowland regions:

  • Borneo lowland rain forests cover most of the island, with an area of 427,500 square kilometres (165,100 sq mi);
  • Borneo peat swamp forests;
  • Kerangas or Sundaland heath forests;
  • Southwest Borneo freshwater swamp forests; and
  • Sunda Shelf mangroves.
  • The Borneo montane rain forests lie in the central highlands of the island, above the 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) elevation. The highest elevations of Mount Kinabalu are home to the Kinabalu mountain alpine meadow, an alpine shrubland notable for its numerous endemic species, including many orchids.