Sepilok Day 1 – Giant Flying Squirrels

Sepilok, Sabah, 8 May 2019.

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
Palm oil plantations surrounding Sepilok.

Most people probably think of Borneo as a wild land covered in rainforest and populated with exotic tribes and remarkable wildlife.  And so it was as recently as fifty years ago, when ninety percent of it was covered in rainforest, the vast majority of that lowland rainforest.

Since then, all of Borneo has been intensively logged and now only 6% is intact virgin lowland rainforest.  Sarawak Governor over several decades Taib Mahmud accreted many hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks from logging companies and the exploitation of the rainforest was even more intensive in Indonesian Kalimantan.  Much has been lost in Sabah  but a higher proportion remains there.  Certainly in Sarawak and Kalimantan, logging was accompanied by ruthless exploitation of native peoples who depended on the forest for their livelihood and whose land it really was.    And this continues today.

Removal of the prime timber trees carried a large ecological cost but much of the wildlife could still survive in secondary forest..  The next stage was the oil palm plantations, which in many places seem to stretch to the horizon.  Some species, such as hornbills, macaques and bearded pigs, can exploit these plantations whereas for others such as the near-extinct Bornean rhinos, they are as deserts.

It’s true that most countries in the West have devastated their ecology over a longer period and there are significant preserved areas in Sabah and Sarawak (not so much Kalimantan) but there are insufficient contiguous areas of protected rainforest to allow many species to flourish or even survive.  It is particularly sad how rapid the destruction has been and how ruthless it has often been.  Brunei has the most intact rainforest because their oil revenues mean they don’t bother with logging, but Brunei is small.  Many native populations have also been displaced from their traditional lands and lifestyles without effective compensation, often with little alternative lifestyle choices and commonly without their permission (I refer mainly to Sarawak and Kalimantan, Sabah may be similar but I don’t know).

While there is a place for palm oil plantations to generate income in poor countries, the systematic destruction of the rainforest has been and remains a crime.  Perhaps tourism will assist in funding rainforest preservation though that can be a double-edged sword as well.

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
Brown shrike.

We had arrived mid-afternoon and later headed off along a road near the lodge before dinner looking for birdlife,  I saw a tree in flower off a sideroad so I headed for that (image above).

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
Scarlet-backed flowerpecker (and next two images).

This bird was in a nearby tree.

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
Baya Weaver.

Further down the road we found these three Baya Weaver nests, with the odd bird flying in and out.

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
Giant red flying squirrel (and next three images).

After dinner, we headed for the Rainforest Discovery Centre and the Canopy Walkway in the gathering gloom.  We were hoping to see a giant flying squirrel in flight and were very luck to see multiple flights.

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Here’s one about to launch.

Taking the images with a very long lens in the near dark was a challenging task.  This is at 22,000 ISO for example.

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
Rufous-backed kingfisher.

Following on from the Canopy Walkway, we went for a walk in the rainforest after dark and these images are by torchlight.

 

Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
White-lipped frog.

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
Millipede.

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
Juvenile keeled pit viper.

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4 comments on “Sepilok Day 1 – Giant Flying Squirrels

  1. […] Sepilok Day 1 – Giant Flying Squirrels  […]

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  2. Robert Hayes says:

    Hi Murray!
    I read that with a deep sadness. Obviously we have no control, and a LOT of people don’t care. Maybe in their demise, or that of their childrens children, they may have learned something, And got back into the tribes that exist there for that reason. Wonderful images.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] from Sepilok Day 1 – Giant Flying Squirrels. […]

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