Wild Borneo:
The wildlife and scenery of Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan

Nick Garbutt + J. Cede Prudente

The MIT Press 2006
A book review by Danny Yee © 2007 http://dannyreviews.com/
Wild Borneo is most notable for its excellent photographs, many of them stunning full page spreads, but it also has an informative and engaging text. It covers the obviously photogenic "charismatic megafauna" such as orangutans, elephants, and turtles, but also pitcher plants and Rafflesia and orchids and other plants, as well as lizards, snakes, frogs, and insects. And it gives a feel for landscapes and the broader environment.

The tour begins with Borneo's five major floral communities: mangrove and nipa coastal forest, freshwater swamp forest, dipterocarp forest, heath forest, and montane forest. It then goes through different groups of animals: marine life, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. There's a section on "indigenous culture and trade", which presumably qualify as "wild" unlike the broader human presence. And finally there are sections on conservation and the "Heart of Borneo" project, the summit of Mount Kinabalu, and ecotourism.

Taking up perhaps a third of the space, the text is of limited scientific use, with no references, but it offers some intriguing details and broader background. Borneo's rainforests have many more gliding animals than American or African rainforests, because there are fewer vines or lianas and the canopy is less even in height. The latest genetic analysis suggests that Borneo's elephants have been separated from other Asian elephants for at least 18,000 years and possibly 300,000. White-nest Swiftlet nests can fetch upwards of US$4,000 per kilogram.

Wild Borneo ends with a survey of the best places in Borneo to see wildlife and has other tips scattered throughout, but it is not a field guide — it is just too bulky, for one thing. It does, however, offer excellent motivation and background for anyone considering a trip to Borneo. It may also appeal to those who have been there: since so many of the animals are hard to find and so many of the sights are in dim light under the canopy, the casual traveller is unlikely to return with satisfying wildlife photographs of their own.

May 2007

External links:
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Related reviews:
- books about Southeast Asia + Southeast Asian history
- books about travel
- more animals + zoology
- books published by The MIT Press
%T Wild Borneo
%S The wildlife and scenery of Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan
%A Garbutt, Nick
%A Prudente, J. Cede
%I The MIT Press
%D 2006
%O hardcover, colour photographs, index
%G ISBN 0262072742
%P 176pp