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Borneo (Kalimantan)
Borneo Political Map
Borneo Political Map
Waters Pacific Ocean
Archipelago Malay Archipelago
Great Sunda Islands
Geographical location 0 °  S , 114 °  E Coordinates: 0 °  S , 114 °  E
Location of Borneo (Kalimantan)
length 1 366  km
width 1 026  km
surface 751,936 km²
Highest elevation Kinabalu
4095  m
Residents 18,590,000 (2009)
25 inhabitants / km²
Borneo topographically
Borneo topographically

Borneo is an island in the Malay Archipelago in Southeast Asia . With an area of ​​751,936 km², it is the third largest island in the world after Greenland and New Guinea and the largest island in Asia . Borneo is divided between the three states Indonesia , Malaysia and Brunei .

In Indonesia the whole island is called Kalimantan . Sometimes the name Kalimantan in the narrower sense is related to the Indonesian part of the island, partly because of the naming of the five Indonesian provinces on Borneo: West , South , East , North and Central Kalimantan result in total Kalimantan in the sense of "Indonesian provinces on Borneo ”.


Location in the Malay Archipelago

Borneo lies in the center of the entire Malay Archipelago . All around are the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra in the west, Java and the Lesser Sunda Islands in the south, Sulawesi in the east and the Philippines in the northeast.

Surrounding waters are the South China Sea in the north and west , the Java Sea in the south (the connection is the Karimata Strait ), in the east the Strait of Makassar and the Celebes Sea and in the northeast the Sulu Sea .

The largest Malaysian island of Banggi is located north of Borneo . Northeast upstream are the Turtle Islands , to the National Park Turtle Islands Park of Sabah was established 1976th


With over 750,000 km², Borneo is more than twice the size of Germany and also larger than any other European country except Russia . The coast of the island is a total of 4971 km long and is relatively inaccessible, although mostly flat, in lowland or alluvial land.

Borneo lies on the equator that cuts the island a little south of its center. Depending on the climate, the natural vegetation , wherever the soil conditions (water) allow it, is capable of succession up to the forest , which consequently develops as a tropical rainforest ( potential natural vegetation ), from a certain height as a mountain rainforest and cloud forest and up lowest altitude (on the coasts) partly directly or with the peat bog forests as an intermediate zone in mangrove swamps . Borneo thus carried, under natural conditions, the third largest contiguous area of ​​tropical lowland rainforest in the world, after the Amazon region and Central Africa ( Congo Basin ) , far into the hill country and lower mountains, with the exception of a few areas that are too swampy or too high . From this circumstance (and not, for example, difficult accessibility, which can be explained in any way) also results in the (traditional; relatively) poor settlement, since Borneo, unlike some other Sunda islands, does not benefit in the same way from volcanism and therefore largely the typical lessiviated or otherwise has little fertile tropical soil on which most of the tropical rainforests stand.

However, these dense forests, which appear as wilderness , are not generally to be regarded as primeval forest , since the traditional inhabitants of the island were usually not pure hunters and gatherers , but rather practiced adapted slash- and- burn agriculture. This can be tolerated by the ecosystem when the population density is low , as long as the vegetation has enough time to regenerate and sufficiently large retreat areas remain for sensitive species. With careful management it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between primary and secondary forests (see also the naturalness of forests ). Since the first developments in the colonial era and with the modern expansion of unsustainable use and the migrations since the end of this period, however, these conditions have changed completely and the natural landscapes of Borneo are exposed to ever greater destruction.

The surface of the island is poorly structured.


There is a long chain of mountains, stretching from the northeast of the island, the Cape Sampanmangio (Simpang Mengayau) '' , to its southwestern tip, the Cape Datu , covers. This is divided into the Iran mountains (Pegunongan Iran) in Sabah, upper Kapuas Range (Pegunongan Kapuas Hulu) on the border between Sarawak and Kalimantan Barat, the Schwanergebirge in Kalimantan Barat (named after the Mannheimer geologists Carl Schwaner ) and Müller Mountain in the southeast of the island (named after the Mainz major Georg Müller ).

The highest point is in the north-east of the island, Mount Kinabalu , with 4095 m at the same time the highest mountain (geographical) in Southeast Asia. It towers over all other mountains on the island - as well as all the volcanoes of the Sunda Arc and the Malay Archipelago. Only in Oceania , in the western part of New Guinea , which was conquered by Indonesia, and in the Himalayas of Myanmar is its height surpassed in the territory of Southeast Asian states. Granite and slate mountains are found particularly in western Borneo.

On June 5, 2015, an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.9 to 6.0 struck the Malaysian part of the island, triggering landslides and rock slides and falling rocks at Kinabalu, killing at least 19 people.


The largest river system in Borneo is the Kapuas in West Kalimantan with a length of 1143 km. Other major rivers are the Mahakam in East Kalimantan with 980 km, the Barito in South Kalimantan with 880 km, the Rajang in Sarawak with 562.5 km and the Sungai Kinabatangan with 560 km.

Offshore islands

Tanjung Simpang Mengayau , the northern tip of Borneo on the Sulu Sea . At this cape in the Kudat district, Pulau Kalampunian , one of the offshore islands, is within sight.

In the north of the coast are the islands of Pulau Balambangan , Pulau Banggi , Pulau Malawali and Pulau Matunggong , which belong to the district of Kudat , to the east of which the islands of Pulau Jambongan and Pulau Tigabu , which belong to the district of Beluran, and to the south, the islands of Pulau Bohayan , Pulau, which belong to the district of Semporna Tabawan , Pulau Timbun Mata , Pulau Mata Pahi , Pulau Bohey Dulang and Pulau Omadal .

Further to the south is the island of Sebatik , which belongs partly to Malaysia , the Tawau district and partly to Indonesia , the Kalimantan Timur province . To the east, the Sulu Archipelago joins here , which, however, already belongs to the Philippines.

In the south is the island of Laut , which belongs to the Indonesian province of Kalimantan Selatan .


The largest cities in Borneo are named as follows:

space city population Country
1 Kuching 632.505 Malaysia ( Sarawak )
2 Banjarmasin 598,518 Indonesia
3 Kota Kinabalu 543.765 Malaysia ( Sabah )
4th Pontianak 466.090 Indonesia
5 Sandakan 453.759 Malaysia (Sabah)
6th Balikpapan 453,575 Indonesia
7th Samarinda 356.034 Indonesia
8th Tawau 354.243 Malaysia (Sabah)
9 Miri 257,305 Malaysia (Sarawak)
10 Loa Janan 229,946 Indonesia


Borneo is located in the middle of the tropics and has a corresponding, extremely tropical climate with high humidity (over 80%). Average temperatures vary between 27.7 ° C in May and 26.7 ° C in December. There is no pronounced rainy season on the larger southern part of Borneo . The mean annual amount of precipitation is 3000 to 4000 millimeters. The north has two rainy seasons, with the heaviest rainfall between October and March.

Flora and fauna


Borneo pygmy elephant
Sumatran rhinoceros in the habitat (on Sumatra)

The fauna of Borneo, although located to the west of the Wallace Line and therefore still clearly belonging to the Asian world, has certain peculiarities, due to the relatively strong isolation, with some missing species and some own species or subspecies . So far, 221 species of mammals are known on Borneo. These include primates orangutans (which otherwise only exist in northern Sumatra) and gibbons, as well as the proboscis monkey, which only occurs in Borneo .

The Indonesian Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) and BOS organizations in various countries such as, for example , endeavor to protect orangutans . B. BOS Germany e. V. or BOS Switzerland as well as the Borneo Orangutan Aid and the Orangutan Foundation ( Tanjung Puting National Park ). According to the journal Current Biology , around 100,000 orangutans disappeared on Borneo between 1999 and 2015.

In addition to the monkeys as representatives of the rodents, different types of the beautiful squirrels inhabit the branches of the forest. The Sunda clouded leopard is the largest cat on the island, island tigers (subspecies of Sumatra . Java and Bali - the latter ) do not occur. However, a presence of the species from the Pleistocene and subfossil finds from the Holocene is proven. The leopard, with its range that extends over large parts of Africa and tropical and subtropical Asia (and is also present on islands without tigers, e.g. Sri Lanka ,) is also absent on Borneo (and Sumatra). Smaller types of cats are the flat-headed cat , the Borneo golden cat, and the bengal cat . The marble cat looks like a downsized clouded leopard, but is even better adapted to life in the trees. Its range is roughly the same as that of the two species of the larger cat . The Binturong , a special crawling cat species, is also widespread in this space and habitat . The small sun bears are also typical inhabitants of the rainforest outside of Borneo . The very shy Sumatran rhinoceros , which is threatened with extinction with around 30 animals, is extremely rare, and although it used to be spread over large parts of Southeast Asia, it only survives in the last retreats in mainland Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo - presumably only there still in two protected areas in Sabah, the northeastern part of Malaysia on Borneo.

The rhinoceros bird is only one of 622 known bird species occurring here, among them there are bird species such as the running cuckoo , which occur exclusively on this island. There are also 400 species of reptiles and amphibians, including the Kapuas water snake, the only known snake on earth that can change its color like a chameleon, and the Borneo deaf monitor .

According to the World Wide Fund For Nature ( WWF ), researchers discovered a new subspecies of the Asian elephant on Borneo , the Borneo pygmy elephant . According to estimates, there are only 1000 to 1500 copies of this. According to an analysis of the cells of the animals and a comparison with other Asian elephants, it could be refuted that they were brought to Borneo by humans from the mainland. They are most likely from Java . Before the ancestors of the Borneo dwarf elephants on Java ( Java elephants ) became extinct in the 16th century, some of them apparently came to what is now the Philippine province of Sulu . In the 17th century the Sultan of Sulu took some elephants with him as a gift to Borneo, where they multiplied and apparently survived to this day. Many facts support this, such as the fact that there is no archaeological evidence of the Borneo elephant in Borneo. On Sulu itself, the elephants were exterminated in the 18th century. At the same time, they are also relatively tame and gentle in their behavior . Due to the classification as a separate subspecies, the WWF gave the pygmy elephant the highest priority with regard to its protection.

The WWF recently identified other previously unknown animal species - in the period from July 2005 to September 2006 there were 32 new species. Fish: 30 species, including a representative from the order of the carp-like with the name Paedocypris micromegethes, which occurs in the extremely acidic peat bog waters of the island . With a length of just under a centimeter, it is considered the second smallest vertebrate in the world after the mini fish Paedocypris progenetica, which is native to the neighboring island of Sumatra . A species of catfish with protruding teeth and a sticky belly that allows it to cling to rocks in rapids has also been identified, as well as six fighting fish , one of which has an iridescent blue-green mark. Amphibians: 2 tree frog species .

A reserve that is particularly important for the preservation of Borneo's large mammals is the Tabin Game Reserve in northern Sabah , which is one of the last retreats for the island's largest mammal species (Sumatran rhinoceros, Borneo elephant, Borneo- Banteng ). Another important area for large mammals is the Danum Valley Conservation Area . A larger population of the orangutan lives here in particular.


Rafflesia kerrii
Large-scale slash and burn in Kalimantan 2002

About 15,000 species of vascular plants (Tracheobionta) are native to Borneo. A significant proportion of this is endemic , i.e. only found on Borneo. Nowhere else in the world are there more orchid species than Borneo. Over 750 species grow on the slopes of Kinabalu alone . Trees that are important for the construction are also known, such as Bangkirai (indon .: kayu besi) and the strictly protected black orchid (indon .: anggrek hitam).

In 2005/2006 alone, 20 new vascular plant species were discovered on Borneo, which were previously unknown worldwide: 16 ginger plants of the Etlingera genus , 3 tree species and one other plant species from the arrowroot family .

The forests of Borneo are considered to be the oldest and therefore the most biodiverse tropical rainforests and ecosystems on the planet. Paradoxically, a large part of the tree species that make up them come from a single botanical family , the wing fruit family ( Dipterocarpaceae ), which is why we also speak of dipterocarp forests , which alone have produced a wealth of tree species, as is characteristic of tropical rainforests.

The entire flora and fauna of Borneo, some of which are unique in the world, is threatened by the decline of the tropical rainforest due to increasing human use through slash and burn.


The population of the Indonesian part of Borneo consists of Malay (about 40%), a variety of indigenous Dayak - people (about 40%), including Bidayuh , Iban , Kayan , Kelabit , Kenyah , Lun Bawang , Ngaju , Penan , Poonan and Sihan , as well as Chinese (around 12%).

The majority of the islanders follow a syncretic religion consisting of Islamic and animistic elements. However, many, especially the Dayak people, follow their old indigenous religion Kaharingan , an animistic religion with ancestral cult and influences from “folk Hinduism”. The Chinese mostly follow the Chinese folk religion , which is also practiced by other (indigenous) ethnic groups due to the similarities to their own folk religions. In general, there are tendencies for the indigenous animistic religions on Borneo to gain strength.

Since the 1960s, the Indonesian government settled numerous landless Muslim residents on the island of Madura, off the north coast of Java, on Borneo in order to change the ethnic composition of Borneo. (The Dutch colonial rulers had already carried out similar programs.) In March 1999, bloody conflicts broke out between Dayak and immigrant Madurese in the province of West Kalimantan. Several hundred Maduresen were killed in the process.

The Malaysian part of the island is populated by Bidayuh, Iban, Penan, Orang Ulu, Melanau, Malay and Chinese. Among the Malaysians in Borneo, Christianity predominates with 56% (as of Nov. 2015).

The population of Brunei in the north of the island is predominantly Muslim.

Political structure

Borneo is politically divided into the Sultanate of Brunei , the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah as well as the federal territory of Labuan (strictly speaking not on Borneo, but on offshore islands) and the Indonesian provinces of West , South , East , North and Central Kalimantan . Borneo is the only island that belongs to three states (see list of divided islands ). (Until 1919 New Guinea was also a tripartite island, namely under the colonial powers Germany , Great Britain and the Netherlands .) Most of the island belongs to Indonesian territory.

or Province
Capital Part of state Area
Population 1) Population
Brunei Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei 5,765 0.77 338,788 1.9
Sarawak Kuching Malaysia 124,450 16.6 2,070,000 11.5
Sabah Kota Kinabalu Malaysia 73,619 9.8 3,387,880 18.8
Federal Territory of Labuan 2) Bandar Labuan Malaysia 92 0.01 85,000 0.5
Northern Kalimantan (Kalimantan Utara) Tanjung Selor Indonesia 72,567 9.7 738.163 4.1
East Kalimantan (Kalimantan Timur) Samarinda Indonesia 127.267 17.0 3,550,586 19.7
South Kalimantan (Kalimantan Selatan) Banjarmasin Indonesia 37,660 5.0 3,281,993 18.2
West Kalimantan (Kalimantan Barat) Pontianak Indonesia 146.760 19.5 4,052,345 22.5
Central Kalimantan (Kalimantan Tengah) Palangkaraya Indonesia 152,600 20.3 1,914,900 10.6
Borneo 750.812 100.0 18,022,916 100.0

1) Figures for Brunei and Indonesia: Fischer Weltalmanach 2009
2) Strictly speaking, not on Borneo, but on offshore islands (25 km from the main island of Borneo)

To the west are the Anambas Islands and the Malay Peninsula. Java is located south of Borneo, and Sulawesi is southeast . To the northeast and east of Sabah are the islands of the Philippines, including Palawan , Basilan , Sulu and Mindanao .


Destruction of the rainforest

Pictures of hand outlines in Lubang Jeriji Saléh were estimated to be 37,200 years old.

From the 15th to the 17th century, parts of Borneo were ruled by the Malay Sultanate of Brunei. Then the northern part of the island was controlled by the Malay Sultanate of Sulu (1473-1899), later the North Borneo Chartered Company gained power. The areas that belonged to the Sultanate of Brunei came under the rule of the British Brooke dynasty as Sarawak .

In the early 19th century, British and Dutch colonists made an agreement according to which they exchanged trading ports for one another. The eastern part of Borneo became a Dutch colony , the western part came under British rule. China then established trade with Borneo, sometimes deep inland.

During the Second World War ( Pacific War ), Japanese troops conquered Borneo (1941 to 1945). The Malay Sultanate of Sambas in Kalimantan was dissolved.

When the Malaya Federation was granted independence on August 31, 1957, there were plans to expand the Federation to include the areas of Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei and Sabah, which were still under British rule. These were rejected by Brunei on December 7, 1962. The Philippines, for their part, made legal claims against Sabah on August 5, 1963, and filed a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice . On September 16, 1963, Indonesia also opposed the incorporation of Sarawak and Sabah into the federation and sent militants to the affected areas. The guerrilla war between the guerrillas and British or Commonwealth troops, denoted by the Indonesian word Konfrontasi , was settled after the Indonesian President Sukarno was ousted by his successor Suharto . During this time, the Malaya Federation was expanded to include Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore (withdrawn again in 1965), and the resulting state became Malaysia. Brunei remained a British protectorate and became independent on January 1, 1984.


Coal and oil are extracted from natural resources . Mainly copra , sago and rubber are produced in agriculture . Pepper is also grown in the southeast . The timber industry ( tropical timber ) is of great importance . These are exploited in "selective" logging , which, however, is not primarily operated to protect the forest in the sense of sustainable forestry , but rather because of the relative scattering of usable trees of economic interest. Deforestation , which is ultimately little controlled by the state, has led to governments being criticized at both international and national level. After finally complete clearing of the jungle huge arise monocultures of oil palm - plantations .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. See Duden online: Kalimantan
  2. At least 19 dead in earthquakes in Malaysia,, June 6, 2015.
  3. Orangutans. The victims of the palm oil boom. April 22, 2018, Süddeutsche Zeitung .
  4. WWF press report discontinued model dwarf elephant
  5. ^ Aubrey Belford: Borneo Tribe Practices Its Own Kind of Hinduism . In: The New York Times . September 25, 2011, ISSN  0362-4331 ( [accessed November 25, 2019]).
  6. Baier, Martin (2007). "The Development of the Hindu Kaharingan Religion: A New Dayak Religion in Central Kalimantan". Anthropos . 102 (2): 566-570. ISSN 0257-9774. JSTOR 40389742.
  7. ^ Indonesian transmigration policy provokes unrest . Society for Threatened Peoples , May 10, 2005.
  8. Christopher D. Standish, Marcos García-Diez, Sue O'Connor, Nuno Vasco Oliveira: Hand stencil discoveries at Lene Hara Cave hint at Pleistocene age for the earliest painted art in Timor-Leste , Archaeological Research in Asia, March 18, 2020 .

Web links

Commons : Borneo  - collection of images, videos and audio files