In mid 2023 we undertook a trip to the rainforests of Borneo, where we were focussed on trying to photograph some of the island’s endemic animals and birds, particularly those that are threatened. Borneo is a giant, rugged island in Southeast Asia’s Malay Archipelago; ownership is shared by the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, Indonesian Kalimantan and the tiny nation of Brunei. It’s one of Asia’s last biodiverse rainforests, home to spectacular wildlife including Hornbills, Orangutans, Orchids, Sun-Bears and Clouded Leopards. This is the land of plantations, rainforest, war time atrocities, longhouses and head-hunters – the last episode of inter-tribal headhunting was 2001! We spent our time around Mount Kinabalu (4,000 metres), the Kinabatagan River (the ‘Amazon’ of Borneo), Sepilok and Sandakan. The loss of rainforest to commercial Palm Oil plantations is well known – the rubber plantations of the 19th and 20th centuries have all been replaced by Palm Oil – and then massively extended. It was a huge shock to see how little pristine rainforest remains and the impact on Biodiversity. For example 83% of Sabah's endemic Orchids are threatened, the Orangutan is critically endangered and unless conservation exercises are successful the Sun-Bear is certain to become extinct. The theory that the progressive loss of habitat has concentrated the wildlife into the remaining forests is plainly wrong – competition for food and territorial requirements have decimated the endemic populations. Heroic efforts are being made by various wildlife groups to create sanctuaries and re-plant corridors to connect the remaining pockets of forest. We felt incredibly privileged and saddened at the same time to photograph the threatened wildlife of Borneo.
© Gigi & Robin Williams Photography