(I) Physical CharacteristicsKinabalu Park, which lies north-east of Kota Kinabalu, was the first park to be established in the Sabah State (Liew, 1996; MOCAT, 1996; Phillipps and Liew, 2000). The terrain of the park is rugged with steep-sided ridges clothed in dense tropical hill forest. The ridges form deep 'V'-shaped valley with streams and rivers at their bottoms, which have carved deep gorges out of the earth (Jenkins, 1971b). Two peaks lie within the Park; Gunung Kinabalu and Gunung Tamboyukon. Gunung Kinabalu, at 4,101 m asl, is the highest peak in Southeast Asia. Geologically, Kinabalu is the youngest non-volcanic mountain in the world. The 1,800 m deep Low's Gully to the north splits Gunung Kinabalu into two halves - the Eastern Plateau and western Summit Plateau. Several rivers drain the park namely; Sungai Kedamaian, Sungai Labuk, Sungai Sugut, Sungai Wariu, Sungai Kementis and Sungai Lumutuk Besar (Lee et al., 1995).The Kinabalu granite massif was emplaced into folded and faulted Tertiary sedimentary rocks and ultramafic (ultrabasic) rocks (about 40,000 million years ago). The oldest rocks in the Kinabalu area are the metamorphic rocks of schist and gneiss, which are found in pockets in the upper reaches of the Sungai Bambangan and Penataran. The ultramafic rocks occur along the southern and western parts of the Kinabalu massif. Both of the rocks are surrounded by a thick sequence of sedimentary rocks. The Pinosuk gravels occupy the southern foothills of the mountain, mainly on the Pinosuk Plateau, which is made up of boulders and blocks of predominantly granitoids and some sandstones, partly consolidated in a clayey matrix (Collenette, 1985; Lee, 1996; Mohd Shafeea Leman, 1995). (II) Climatic ConditionsHigh and torrential rainfall is experienced annually and increases with altitude; average of 2,500 m asl at Poring Hot Springs (550 m asl), 2,700 mm at Park headquarters (1,563 m asl) and at Panar Laban (3,270 m asl). Affected by the south-west monsoon (May-July) and north-east monsoon (November-January), which are the wettest months. Driest time is usually in March-April. Inter-monsoon period between August-September is usually fairly dry but climatic variations can occur in any year. Severe droughts during El Nino events affected the mountains in 1973, 1983, 1992 and 1998, killing large number of trees (Phillipps and Liew, 2000).
Three hundred and twenty-six bird species have been recorded in Kinabalu Park. Of these, 262 species are residents and 23 are endemic to Borneo. The park is the most important IBA site for montane birds in East Malaysia as well as for endemics such as the Mountain Serpent-eagle (Davison, 1992; Smythies, 1959, 1964, 1996; Jenkins and de Silva, 1996; MacKinnon and Phillipps, 1993; Mustafa Abdul Rahman et al., 1995). The Near Threatened Japanese Paradise-flycatcher Tersiphone atrocaudata, Bornean Frogmouth Batrachostomus poliolophus and Waterfall Swift Hydrochrous gigas can also be found here (Smythies, 1999; Phillipps and Liew, 2000).
Non-bird biodiversity: Endemicity for both flora and fauna found within the park is high. In terms of plant diversity, Gunung Kinabalu is reputed to be one of the richest areas in the world. 190 species of flowering plants (Beaman and Beaman, 1995; Latiff et al., 1995b);15 taxa of family Magnoliaceae, including seven taxa endemic to Borneo (Adam and Abdul Manap, 2002).323 species of mosses with seventeen new to Kinabalu (Haji Mohamed, 1995);14 genera of montane stream algae (Mashhor Mansor and Ganesan Muthaiya, 1995);608 species of ferns discovered (Holttum, 1996; Razali Jaman and Latiff, 1995);24 species of rhododendrons (Argent, 1996);Two species of Rafflesia; R. pricei and R. keithii (Kamarudin Mat Salleh, 1996);1,000 species in 121 genera of orchids (Lamb, 1996);Over 30 species of gingers (Halijah Ibrahim, 1995; Smith, 1996);Six species of bamboos with an additional four just outside the park area (Wong and Dransfield, 1996);52 species of palms from ten genera (Dransfield, 1996);15 taxa of the family Magnoliaceae, with 7 endemic to Borneo (Adam and Abdul Manap, 2002);Over 290 species of butterflies from various vegetation zones and 135 species of moths (Holloway, 1996; Zaidi and Kayau, 1995; Zaidi and Chong, 1995);16 species of cicadas belonging to a genera (Zaidi and Ruslan, 1995);58 species of ants representing 5 subfamilies (Maryati Mohamed, 1995);Over 40 species of freshwater fishes (Chin, 1996; Lee Nyanti, 1995);68 species of amphibians were recorded (Inger et al., 1996);90 species of lowland and 22 species of montane mammals (Burhanuddin Hj. Mohd. Nor, 1995; Jenkins, 1971a; Payne, 1996; Phillipps, 1990; Payne and Francis, 1985).(I) Globally threatened mammals (IUCN, 2002): CRITICAL: Black Shrew Suncus ater; ENDANGERED: Orang-Utan Pongo pygmaeus, Summit Rat Rattus baluensis, Mountain Spiny Rat Maxomys alticola, Small Spiny Rat M. baeodon, Tembadau Bos javanicus, [Bay Cat Catopuma badia]; VULNERABLE: Lesser Ranee Mouse Haeromys pusillus, Common Porcupine Hystrix brachyura, Smooth-tailed Treeshrew Dendrogale melanura, Hose's Civet Diplogale hosei, Four-striped Ground Squirrel Lariscus hosei, Pig-tailed Macaque Macaca nemestrina, Jentink's Squirrel Sundasciurus jentinki, Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa, Ranee Mouse Haeromys margarettae; NEAR THREATENED: Grey-bellied Pencil-tailed Tree-Mouse Chiropodomys muroides, Bornean Gibbon Hylobates muelleri, Pangolin Manis javanica, Smoky Flying Squirrel Pteromyscus pulverulentus, Brooke's Squirrel Sundasciurus brookei, Long-tailed Macaque M. fascicularis, Gilded Tube-nosed Bat Murina rozendaali, Grey Fruit Bat Aethalops alecto; DATA DEFICIENT: Malayan Sun Bear Helarctos malayanus, Hose's Langur Presbytis hosei (II) Globally threatened reptiles (IUCN, 2002): No information.(III) Globally threatened plants (IUCN, 2002): CRITICAL: Shorea johorensis; ENDANGERED: Nepenthes burbidgeae, N. rajah, Dryobalanops lanceolata, Shorea leprosula; VULNERABLE: Agathis kinabaluensis, A. lenticula; Dacrydium gracile, Elaeocarpus inopinatus, Engelhardia kinabaluensis, Scaevola chanii, S. verticillata, Podocarpus gibbsii, Prunus laxinervis, P. mirabilis, Nepenthes edwardsiana, N. lowii, N. villosa, Microtropis borneensis, Microtropis sabahensis, Illicium kinabaluensis, Horsfieldia amplomontana; LOWER RISK/conservation dependent: Dacrycarpus kinabaluensis, Dacrydium gibbsiae, Euonymus glandulosus, Prunus kinabaluensis, Radermachera ramiflora, Knema kinabaluensis, K. piriformis; NEAR THREATENED: Horsfieldia montanaNote: [ ] = unconfirmed record.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Throughout its history as a Park, Kinabalu had encountered several forms of serious and minor threats (Seema Viswanathan, 2001; Roy Goh, 2001; Ghazally Ismail and Lamri Ali, 1996). Certain parts of the part was degazetted, the first in 1971 for copper mining (about 2,500 ha) and 1984 (Pinosuk Plateau). Encroachment into the park area for shifting agriculture and illegal logging around its perimeter is also cause for concern. The encroachments may give rise to further poaching of rare plant or animals. Forest fires occurred at Bukit Hampuan in 1990.
Kinabalu Park was gazetted under the National Parks Ordinance 1962 on 16 January 1964. The Ordinance was then repealed and replaced by the National Parks Enactment 1977 in September 1977. In March 1984, however, the Sabah State Legislative Assembly passed the new Parks Enactment 1984 to repeal and replace the Enactment. Currently, the park is protected under this new Enactment (Liew, 1996).The park initially covered an area of about 71,100 ha. However, about 2,500 ha was degazetted in 1971 for commercial purposes. To compensate for the loss, the State Government incorporated the Gunung Templar Forest Reserve (9,300 ha) as an extension to the Park along the northern boundary in 1974, which brings the area to 77,900 ha. Under the new Enactment of 1984, the boundaries of the park were redefined was the area was reduced to approximately 75,370 ha (Liew, 1996). Internationally, the park is classified under IUCN Category II and a World Heritage Site (Anon, 2000).
Habitat and land use
There are several vegetation zone unique to the Park which includes lowland dipterocarp forest, lower montane oak-chestnut forest (1,200 m asl and above), upper montane forest (2,200 m asl and above) and sub-alpine zone (3,300 m asl and above) (Corner, 1996; Meijer, 1971, 1995; Latiff et al., 1995b). Most of the lowland dipterocarp forest contained areas of secondary growth. Species of interest include Pterygota horsfieldii, Hibiscus macrophylla, Cinnamomum parthenoxylon, C. burmanii, Octomeles sumatrana, Duabanga moluccana, Elmerillia mollis, Shorea platyclados, S. monticola and others.Species found in the lower montane oak-chestnut forest are dominated by the genera Quercus, Castanopsis, Lithocarpus and Trigonobalanus.Rhododendrons, conifers, ferns and bryophytes dominate the upper montane forest. Nepenthes and Embelia climbers are also common on this zone. The sub-alpine zone is largely dominated by Ericaceae, conifers and some Photinia spp. Phyllocladus spp. and other herbaceous plants from the genera Drapetes, Coprosma and Trachymene are recorded as well.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mount Kinabalu. Downloaded from
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