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Introduction and history

Kinabatangan is one of the most exceptional areas, but was long threatened by logging and land clearance.  Influenced by the Sulu Sea and the rainfall of the interior, the lower part of the river plain floods regularly, thus at least five distinct habitats have developed contributing towards one of the most diverse concentrations of wildlife in Borneo. Today, people are recognizing the value of the lower Kinabatangan, for its natural beauty and its role in supporting nature diverse life.


The Kinabatangan River is one of Borneo’s longest and most majestic rivers, originating in south west of Sabah, it flows for 560 kilometers (347 miles) through eastern Sabah to the Sulu Sea on the east coast.  The banks of the Kinabatangan River are predominantly covered with river vine forest.



Elephant grass grows in some areas and other areas that are covered by short grass were deforested by illegal logging operators.  Besides the Kinabatangan River, the Menaggul River banks support a mixture of riverrine forest and fresh water swamp forest. This river is narrow and frequently blocked to boat traffic by fallen trees. At times the branches from trees on each bank intermingle high above the river.  Finally, the Tenegang Besar River is approximately double the width of the Menanggul River. The lower portion of this river supports a mixture of riverine and freshwater swamp forest.




The equatorial climate is generally wet and humid and temperature range from 23C to 32C all year round. Rains are heaviest during the northeast monsoon between October and March. The river is generally 1 M above sea level but during heavy rain, it can rise as high as 12 M above sea level.




The forest covers alluvial flood with low sandstone and limestone hills. In addition, there are fresh water swamp forests and lakes as well as Ox-bow lakes.  This lake supports a mixture of mainly secondary riverine forest and freshwater swamp forest. A narrow channel connects the Kinabatangan River to the Kelenanap Ox-bow Lake. It is also a source of fish for the local people. There are large areas of open water as well as many raft hyacinths, Eichhornia crassipes (exotic colonizing weeds that are unnaturally accelerating succession leading to the demise of the lake) in the lake.




The region is also home to saltwater mangrove forest, river vine forest, and dipterocarp forest. This region of the Kinabatangan has been prized by the scientists as a natural heritage site of international importance.




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