The land occupied by Belum Temenggor forest reserve consists of a larger ecoregion that is contiguous with the smaller Bang Lang National Park and Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary in South Thailand, making the whole area one of Asia’s largest biodiversity basin.
The ecoregion plays a significant role in acting as a sink for water from surrounding habitat, while the forests extend from 260 to 1533 m above the sea level.
Belum is a peat swamp forest. Peat swamp forests are tropical moist forests where waterlogged soil prevents dead leaves and wood from fully decomposing. Over time, this creates a thick layer of acidic peat (pH>4), which makes the soil infertile and nutrient deficient.
The edge of this forest is characterized by strangler figs, whose fruits provide an important source of food for many of the mammal, bird, and fish species.
The vegetation of Belum Temenggor is not dominated by a single dipterocarp (such as Shorea albida in Borneo), but include lowland dipterocarp and hill and upper dipterocarp as well. The land contains a range of forest types characterizing the Sundaland forests of Peninsular Malaysia, as well as many endemic plant species: the Rafflesia azlanii, 46 species of palms (15 endemic), over 30 species of gingers, rare limestone flora and many others. In total, the forest is home to over 3000 species of flowering plants.
Belum Temenggor also contains an extraordinary megafauna. It is home to over 101 mammal species, including the Panthera Tigris Jacksoni (the Malaysian tiger), the Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus), the Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), the Gaur (Bos gaurus), the Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus), the Asiatic Wild Dog (Cuon alpinus), the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) and the Malayan Water Shrew (Chimarrogale hantu); most of these animal species are threatened, with the rhinoceros being recognized as critically endangered and almost extinct.
Belum Temenggor is also an exceptional site for birds; 316 bird species are known so far, in particular it is possible to see, in certain periods of the year, all 10 of Malaysia’s magnificent hornbill species, for which it may be one of the World’s richest site in terms of species richness and large populations. It is the only existing forest in the World where sightings of more than 2000 individuals in a congregation have been recorded. Nowhere has more hornbill species, and only the forests of far northern West Malaysia, and possibly contiguous forest in Thailand, hold as many. The reptile, amphibian and freshwater fish fauna are equally impressive. These numbers are unprecedented in the world, making it an area of global conservation importance. Read more on the avian life and birdwatching activities of Belum.
It is estimated that there are at least 60 salt licks scattered around the Belum area. Salt licks are natural mineral deposit where animals in nutrient-poor ecosystems can obtain essential mineral nutrients. These areas are usually covered with all types of animal tracks. The Sambar Deer, the Kijangs, Tapirs, Elephants, wild boars, Seladang and the Malayan Gaur – come down to the licks, usually under the cover of the darkness.
Part of the forest reserve area is covered by the artificial lake of Temenggor, the second largest lake in Peninsula Malaysia. Home of 23 species of freshwater fish (with the “Toman” or the Giant snakehead being one of the most well known in the area) and 5 species of turtles, as well as aquatic and amphibian species. Read more on fish life and fishing activities in Belum.