8 animals in Malaysia you probably haven’t heard of

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Malaysia’s tropical rainforest is home to a diverse array of animals, some you’ve probably never even heard of. Check out the list below and see if can recognise any of the eight animals listed below:

1. Malayan Sun Bear

Photo credit: Valerie
Photo credit: Valerie

Who knew that there would be bears in a tropical rainforest? These adorable creatures are only about 120-150 cm in height, making them the smallest bears in their species. Because of their habitat, they don’t hibernate, but they do sleep quite often in the day. So, ironically, the Malayan Sun Bears are nocturnal.

They feed mostly on termites, beetle and bee larvae, and fruits such as figs. But the most important food in their diet is honey. These Sun Bears love to use their long tongues to lick and consume rich honey and honeycombs, thus, receiving another nickname, ‘honey bears’.

2. Dhole

Photo credit: Kabacchi
Photo credit: Kabacchi

These native dogs of Asia used to roam the continent but are now classified as endangered. This is mostly because of their vulnerability in catching diseases and parasites such as rabies, mange and roundworms. The increased loss of habitat is another factor for their endangered status.

These feral dogs have a reddish-brown fur while the undersides, neck and chest are white or pale yellow. Their tail is quite significant as it has a lush, flocculent feature to it.

3. Bornean Bearded Pig

Photo credit: Art G.
Photo credit: Art G.

Is that you grandpa? Oops, my bad, it’s just a bearded pig. These bearded pigs are quite famous for its, well, beards. They also have two-rowed tufts on their tail, but overall, they look like a normal pig or wild boar.

These pigs are also not your ordinary lazy pigs. They are quite active and can travel up to 22km in a month – that might not sound a lot but they seem like the fitter lot – and they’re not afraid of the water, so you might spot them swimming across rivers, coastal bays and even out at sea.

4. Sunda Pangolin

Photo credit: www.zooborns.com
Photo credit: www.zooborns.com

These scaly, rough-skinned anteaters have a set of thick, powerful claws to vigorously open up termite’s mound with ease or to dig up ants nest deep in the soil. They also have an elongated and sticky tongue to scoop up their food efficiently.

Unfortunately, these creatures are also endangered as they are heavily hunted for their scales and skin, mostly to be used for medicinal purposes. It is believed that their scales are made into rings which are used as charms to remedy rheumatic fever.

5. Siamang Gibbon

siamang gibbon


These black-furred gibbons – gibbons are tree-dwelling apes with long powerful arms – swing around the local forests of Malaysia, so you may have the chance to hear their long hooting calls or, if you’re lucky, you may even spot one amongst the evergreen trees.

These lavishly haired creatures have two significant features; first is that their first two toes on each foot are partially joined; and second, they have a ‘gular sac,’ which is basically just a throat pouch, that inflates to the same size as its head to produce that deep hooting call.

6. Oriental Bay Owl

oriental owl

Okay, everyone knows what an owl is; but the Oriental Bay Owl is quite special and unique. It is famous for its rare facial features; V-shaped forehead, or an extended heart-shaped face. The upper part of the ‘V’ reaches the crown which gives this frontal shield-like effect.

Its feathers are usually in the tones of chestnut brown with the underside being creamy and off-white with dapples of brown. These exceptional birds compose a series of euphonic whistles, usually lasting about 3-7 seconds per call.

7. Hoopoe


Named after its onomatopoeic calls, this vibrant chirper generates a deep “hoop-hoop” sound. It is quite a challenge to spot these birds but you can easily hear their cries amidst the forest, especially in winter time in Europe and north Asia, as they migrate to warmer climates.

In the past, the spreading of their wings and the up-tilt of their head was thought to be a defensive stance, but it turned out to be their sunbathing posture instead. They also adore sand and dust baths. It’s been said that Hoopoes are a rare migrant to Malaysia, but once it arrives here, it spends a long holiday around the peninsula.

8. Colugo


They are sometimes called ‘flying lemurs’ as well, however, they are not in any way closely related to lemurs. These arboreal creatures rest in the day, and at night, you can certainly spot them gliding smoothly from tree trunk to tree trunk. Remarkably, these furry gliders are not the best at climbing trees, which is ironic as they are tree-dwellers themselves. This may be because of the lack of thumbs, and they aren’t exceptionally strong either.


So, in order to reach the top, they do a sequence of gradual hops upwards while using their small, sharp claws. Also, the young latch on to the mother’s underside, so you may be able to catch a glimpse of an adorable fur ball clinging on to dear life while its mother drifts effortlessly through the air.

Are you familiar with any or all of the animals mentioned above?

This article was originally published in 2014 and was updated in May 2016.

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Cheah Swee Aun

You left out the pygmy hippo…the one roaming in Putrajaya

Sayri Fim

Mostly are endangered species. Bearded boar super rare.

Seven King

bbq, stew or salted.

Nicholas Chin

Rospig.. There is only one known specimen in Putrajaya.. Its a female and sports a huge wig for donation seasons.

Albans Melling Jan

Ed Couture,
Exactly what you said. In Iban we call it “babi sanggul”.

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