1012 Kinabalu Park – 2000

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, in the State of Sabah on the northern end of the island of Borneo, is dominated by Mount Kinabalu (4,095 m), the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. It has a very wide range of habitats, from rich tropical lowland and hill rainforest to tropical mountain forest, sub-alpine forest and scrub on the higher elevations. It has been designated as a Centre of Plant Diversity for Southeast and is exceptionally rich in species with examples of flora from the Himalayas, China, Australia, Malaysia, as well as pan-tropical flora.

Brief synthesis

Located in the State of Sabah, Malaysia, on the northern end of the island of Borneo, World Heritage property covers 75,370 ha. Dominated by Mount Kinabalu (4,095m), the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea, it holds a distinctive position for the biota of Southeast .  Geologically, is a granite intrusion formed 15 million years ago and thrust upward one million years ago by tectonic movements and shaped by forces that continue to define its landscape. Despite its geological youth it is exceptionally high in species with living relics of natural vegetation remaining, over 93% of the Park area.

The altitudinal range of the property, 152m – 4,095m, presents a wide array of habitats from rich tropical lowland and hill rainforest (35% of the park) to tropical montane forest (37%), and sub-alpine forest and scrub at the highest elevations. Ultramafic (serpentine) rocks cover about 16% of the park and have vegetation specific to this substrate. The property has been identified as a Centre of Plant Diversity for Southeast Asia; it contains representatives from at least half of all Borneo's plant species and is exceptionally rich in species with elements from the Himalayas, China, Australia, Malaysia, and pan tropical floras. With records of half of all Borneo's birds, mammals and amphibian species and two-thirds of all Bornean reptiles the property is both species-rich and an important centre for endemism.

Criterion (ix)

: has an exceptional array of naturally functioning ecosystems. A number of processes actively provide ideal conditions for the diverse biota, high endemism and rapid evolutionary rates. Several factors combine to influence these processes; (1) the great altitudinal and climatic gradient from tropical forest to alpine conditions; (2) steeply dissected topography causing effective geographical isolation over short distances; (3) the diverse geology with many localised edaphic conditions, particularly the ultramafic substrates; (4) the frequent climate oscillations influenced by El Niño events; and (5) geological history of the Malay archipelago and proximity to the much older Crocker Range.

Criterion (x)

: Floristically species-rich and identified as a globally important Centre of Plant Endemism, contains an estimated 5,000-6,000 vascular plant species including representatives from more than half the families of all flowering plants. The presence of 1,000 orchid species, 78 species of Ficus, and 60 species of ferns is indicative of the botanical richness of the property. The variety of Kinabalu's habitats includes six vegetation zones, ranging from lowland rainforest to alpine scrub at 4,095m. Faunal diversity is also high and the property is an important centre for endemism. The majority of Borneo's mammals, birds, amphibians and invertebrates (many threatened and vulnerable) are known to occur in the park including; 90 species of lowland mammal, 22 mammal species in the montane zone and 326 bird species.


The boundaries of encompass the main bulk of Mount Kinabalu, including all remaining naturally forested slopes. The property thus incorporates the natural diversity and habitats that constitute Kinabalu's outstanding natural heritage values. The boundaries are clearly delineated, surveyed and demarcated on the ground and regular patrols are conducted to monitor pressures and avoid any impacts on the values of the property. Implementation of strong protection and enforcement measures ensures that the integrity of the property and its natural values are maintained.

Settlement, agricultural development, and logging occur right up to the boundary in many places. Pressure for modification to the boundaries has resulted in losses of integrity in some areas and continued regulation of development in key strategic locations outside the park is required to prevent further impacts. Current levels of patrolling and clearly defined and marked boundaries continue to ensure that threats from encroachment remain minimal.

Protection and management requirements

Legislation and institutional structures of are established under the Parks Enactment 1984 and Amendment of 2007, which specify functions, procedures, protection and control of the property. The Board of Trustees of the Sabah Parks, under the jurisdiction of the State Ministry of Tourism Development, Environment, Science and Technology has ownership of the property and is responsible for its management. Both the state and federal government have powers to pass legislation, provided consultation is undertaken. However, Malaysia's national park act does not apply to Sabah and as such the state level of government has the prime responsibility for management of the property and enforcement of legislation.

The management plan of the property was prepared in 1993 providing guidance to address these management issues and is backed and supported by adequate legislation and policies of the State. Updating of the management plan is required to ensure current effective management practices and policies continue to ensure future protection.

The property sets a high standard of protected area management in Southeast Asia and staffing and budget levels are adequate for current needs. Although much of the lowland forest of the region has been transformed to other uses and the park is becoming an “island in a sea” of agriculture and other developments, it remains in an excellent state of conservation. The State Government closed mining activity bordering the Park, and logging encroachment has been successfully controlled. The improved park enforcement and prosecution capability is effective in controlling all significant threats.

Key management issues are growing pressure from commercial tourism, adjacent land uses, encroachment, and the need for increased capacity building, and greater public awareness. Tourism pressures are high and growing but impacts are currently under control, and intensive visitor facility development is kept to the margins of the park. Extensive planning and management will be required to ensure impacts from tourism levels within the park are limited as the number of visitors' increases.

In the long term, the property would benefit from designation of buffer zones, assignment of highly appropriate and competent officers and supporting staff, strengthening the community support through a participation programme, and revising, enhancing, and strengthening the existing management plan using holistic planning process and approaches. All these are currently under active consideration. The property has been subject to extensive research and has an excellent collection of specimens along with sufficient research facilities. Integration of the results obtained from research and with the management actions and decisions will assist in ensuring the long-term conservation of the property and its unique and important natural values.

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