Topography of Borneo
|Location||South East Asia|
|Archipelago||Greater Sunda Islands|
|Area||743,330 km2 (287,000 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||4,095 m (13,435 ft)|
Brunei and Muara
|States and FT||Sabah
|Population||19,804,064 (as of 2010)|
|Density||21.52 /km2 (55.74 /sq mi)|
|Ethnic groups||Malays, Chinese, Banjar, Bugis, Javanese, Dayak, Kadazan-Dusun|
Borneo (//) is the third-largest island in the world and the largest island of Asia. At the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia, in relation to major Indonesian islands, it is located north of Java, west of Sulawesi, and east of Sumatra.
The island is divided among three countries: Malaysia and Brunei in the north, and Indonesia to the south. Approximately 73% of the island is Indonesian territory. In the north, the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak make up about 26% of the island. Additionally, the Malaysian federal territory of Labuan is situated on a small island just off the coast of Borneo. The sovereign state of Brunei, located on the north coast, comprises about 1% of Borneo's land area. Borneo is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world.
The island is known by many names; internationally it is known as Borneo, after Brunei, derived from European historical contact with the kingdom in the 16th century during the Age of Exploration. The name Brunei possibly was initially derived from the Sanskrit word "varuṇ" (वरुण), meaning either "ocean" or the mythological Varuna, the "god of the ocean". Indonesian natives called it Kalimantan, which was derived from the Sanskrit word Kalamanthana, meaning "burning weather island" (to describe its hot and humid tropical weather).
Prior to that the island was also known by other names. In 977 CE Chinese records began to use the term Po-ni to refer to Borneo. In 1225 it was also mentioned by the Chinese official Chua Ju-Kua. The Javanese manuscript Nagarakretagama, written by Majapahit court poet Mpu Prapanca in 1365, mentioned the island as Nusa Tanjungnagara, which means the island of the Tanjungpura Kingdom.
Borneo is surrounded by the South China Sea to the north and northwest, the Sulu Sea to the northeast, the Celebes Sea and the Makassar Strait to the east, and the Java Sea and Karimata Strait to the south. To the west of Borneo are the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. To the south and east are islands of Indonesia: Java and Sulawesi, respectively. To the northeast are the Philippines.
With an area of 743,330 square kilometres (287,000 sq mi), it is the third-largest island in the world, and is the largest island of Asia (the largest continent). Its highest point is Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, with an elevation of 4,095 m (13,435 ft).
The largest river system is the Kapuas in West Kalimantan, with a length of 1,143 km (710 mi). Other major rivers include the Mahakam in East Kalimantan (980 km long (610 mi)), the Barito in South Kalimantan (880 km long (550 mi)), and Rajang in Sarawak (562.5 km (349.5 mi)).
Borneo has significant cave systems. Clearwater Cave, for example, has one of the world's longest underground rivers. Deer Cave is home to over three million bats, with guano accumulated to over 100 metres (330 ft) deep.
Before sea levels rose at the end of the last Ice Age, Borneo was part of the mainland of Asia, forming, with Java and Sumatra, the upland regions of a peninsula that extended east from present day Indochina. The South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand now submerge the former low-lying areas of the peninsula. Deeper waters separating Borneo from neighbouring Sulawesi prevented a land connection to that island, creating the divide between Asian and Australia-New Guinea biological regions, known as Wallace's Line.
The Borneo rainforest is 140 million years old, making it one of the oldest rainforests in the world. There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants with 3,000 species of trees (267 species are dipterocarps), 221 species of terrestrial mammals and 420 species of resident birds in Borneo. There are about 440 freshwater fish species in Borneo (about the same as Sumatra and Java combined). It is the centre of the evolution and distribution of many endemic species of plants and animals. The Borneo rainforest is one of the few remaining natural habitats for the endangered Bornean orangutan. It is an important refuge for many endemic forest species, including the Asian elephant, the Sumatran rhinoceros, the Bornean clouded leopard, the Hose's civet and the dayak fruit bat.
- Borneo lowland rain forests cover most of the island, with an area of 427,500 square kilometres (165,100 sq mi);
- Borneo peat swamp forests;
- Kerangas or Sundaland heath forests;
- Southwest Borneo freshwater swamp forests; and
- Sunda Shelf mangroves.
- The Borneo montane rain forests lie in the central highlands of the island, above the 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) elevation. The highest elevations of Mount Kinabalu are home to the Kinabalu mountain alpine meadow, an alpine shrubland notable for its numerous endemic species, including many orchids.
The island historically had extensive rainforest cover, but the area was reduced due to heavy logging for the Malaysian and Indonesian plywood industry. Half of the annual global tropical timber acquisition comes from Borneo. Palm oil plantations have been widely developed and are rapidly encroaching on the last remnants of primary rainforest. Forest fires of 1997 to 1998, started by the locals to clear the forests for plantations were exacerbated by an exceptionally dry El Niño season, worsening the annual shrinkage of the rainforest. During these fires, hotspots were visible on satellite images and the resulting haze affected four countries: Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.
According to ancient Chinese, Indian and Javanese manuscripts, western coastal cities of Borneo had become trading ports by the first millennium. In Chinese manuscripts, gold, camphor, tortoise shells, hornbill ivory, rhinoceros horn, crane crest, beeswax, lakawood (a scented heartwood and root wood of a thick liana, Dalbergia parviflora), dragon's blood, rattan, edible bird's nests and various spices were described as among the most valuable items from Borneo. The Indians named Borneo Suvarnabhumi (the land of gold) and also Karpuradvipa (Camphor Island). The Javanese named Borneo Puradvipa, or Diamond Island. Archaeological findings in the Sarawak river delta reveal that the area was a thriving trading centre between India and China from the 500s until about 1300 AD.
One of the earliest evidence of Hindu influence in Southeast Asia were stone pillars which bear inscriptions in the Pallava script, found in Kutai along the Mahakam River in East Kalimantan, dating to around the second half of the 300s AD.
During the 1450s, Shari'ful Hashem Syed Abu Bakr, an Arab born in Johor, arrived in Sulu from Malacca. In 1457, he founded the Sultanate of Sulu; he titled himself as "Paduka Maulana Mahasari Sharif Sultan Hashem Abu Bakr". The Sultanate of Brunei, during its golden age from the 15th century to the 17th century, ruled a large part of northern Borneo. In 1703 (other sources say 1658), the Sultanate of Sulu received the eastern part of North Borneo from the Sultan of Brunei, after Sulu sent aid against a rebellion in Brunei.
Dutch and British control
The Sultanate of Brunei granted large parts of land in Sarawak in 1842 to the English adventurer James Brooke, as reward for his having helped quell a local rebellion. Brooke established the Kingdom of Sarawak and was recognised as its rajah after paying a fee to the Sultanate. He established a monarchy, and the Brooke dynasty (through his nephew and great-nephew) ruled Sarawak for 100 years; the leaders were known as the White Rajahs.
In the early 19th century, British and Dutch governments signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 to exchange trading ports under their controls and assert spheres of influence. This resulted in indirectly establishing British- and Dutch-controlled areas in Borneo, in the north and south, respectively. The Malay and Sea Dayak pirates preyed on maritime shipping in the waters between Singapore and Hong Kong from their haven in Borneo.
World War II
During World War II, Japanese forces gained control and occupied Borneo (1941–45). They decimated many local populations and killed Malay intellectuals, executing all the Malay Sultans of Kalimantan in the Pontianak incidents. Sultan Muhammad Ibrahim Shafi ud-din II of Sambas in Kalimantan was executed in 1944. The Sultanate was thereafter suspended and replaced by a Japanese council. During the Japanese occupation, the Dayak played a role in guerrilla warfare against the occupying forces, particularly in the Kapit Division. They temporarily revived headhunting of Japanese toward the end of the war. Allied Z Special Unit provided assistance to them. After the Fall of Singapore, the Japanese sent several thousand British and Australian prisoners of war to camps in Borneo. At one of the worst sites, around Sandakan in Borneo, only six of some 2,500 prisoners survived. In 1945, the Japanese were defeated by the Allies.
Borneo was the main site of the confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia between 1962 and about 1969. The British Army was deployed against the Indonesians and communist revolts to gain control of the whole area. Before the formation of Malaysian Federation, the Philippines claimed that the eastern part of the Malaysian state of Sabah was within their territory. They based this on the history of the Sultanate of Sulu's leasing agreement with the British North Borneo Company.
The demonym for Borneo is Bornean or Bornese.
Borneo has 19.8 million inhabitants (in mid-2010), a population density of 26 inhabitants per square km. Most of the population lives in coastal cities, although the hinterland has small towns and villages along the rivers. The population consists mainly of Dayak ethnic groups, Malay, Banjar, Orang Ulu, Chinese and Kadazan-Dusun. The Chinese, who make up 29% of the population of Sarawak and 17% of total population in West Kalimantan, Indonesia are descendants of immigrants primarily from southeastern China.
The religion of the majority of the population in Kalimantan is Muslim, and some indigenous groups continue to practice animism. But, approximately 91% of the Dayak are Christian, a religion introduced by missionaries in the 18th century. In Central Kalimantan is a small Hindu minority. In the interior of Borneo are the Penan, some of who still live as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Some coastal areas have marginal settlements of the Bajau, who historically lived in a sea-oriented, boat-dwelling, nomadic culture. In the northwest of Borneo, the Dayak ethnic group is represented by the Iban, with about 930,000 members.
In Kalimantan since the 1990s, the Indonesian government has undertaken an intense transmigration program; it financed the relocation to that area of poor, landless families from Java, Madura, and Bali. By 2001, transmigrants made up 21% of the population in Central Kalimantan. Since the 1990s, the indigenous Dayak and Malays have resisted encroachment by these migrants: violent conflict has occurred between some transmigrant and indigenous populations. In the 1999 Sambas riots, Dayaks and Malays joined together to massacre thousands of the Madurese migrants. In Kalimantan, thousands were killed in 2001 fighting between Madurese transmigrants and the Dayak people in the Sampit conflict.
The following is a list of 20 largest cities in Borneo by population, based on 2010 census for Indonesia and 2010 census for Malaysia. Population data signifies number within official districts and does not include adjoining or nearby conurbation outside defined districts—such as, but not limited to, Kota Kinabalu and Banjarbaru. In other instances, the district area is much larger than the actual city it represents thereby "inflating" the population by including the rural population living further outside the actual city—such as, but not limited to, Tawau and Palangkaraya.
|1||Samarinda, East Kalimantan||727,500||929||Indonesia|
|2||Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan||625,481||8,687||Indonesia|
|4||Balikpapan, East Kalimantan||557,579||1,058||Indonesia|
|5||Pontianak, West Kalimantan||554,764||5,146||Indonesia|
|6||Kota Kinabalu, Sabah||462,963||1,319||Malaysia|
|10||Bandar Seri Begawan||300,000||490||Brunei|
|12||Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan||220,962||92||Indonesia|
|13||Lahad Datu, Sabah||206,861||28||Malaysia|
|14||Banjarbaru, South Kalimantan||199,627||538||Indonesia|
|15||Tarakan, North Kalimantan||193,370||771||Indonesia|
|17||Singkawang, West Kalimantan||186,462||370||Indonesia|
|19||Bontang, East Kalimantan||143,683||353||Indonesia|
The island of Borneo is divided administratively by three countries.
- The Indonesian provinces of East, South, West, North and Central Kalimantan
- The Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak (The Federal Territory of Labuan is located on nearshore islands of Borneo, but not on the island of Borneo itself.)
- The independent country of Brunei (main part and eastern exclave of Temburong)
|Capital||Part of country||Area
censuses of 2000 1)
censuses of 2010 3)
|Brunei||Bandar Seri Begawan||Independent Sultanate||5,770||0.77||320,000||406,200
|North Kalimantan||Tanjung Selor||Indonesia||71,177||9.46||(no data)||525,000||2.65|
1) Brunei: Census of Population 2001
2) islands administered as Borneo, geologically part of Borneo, on nearshore islands (2.5 km off the main island of Borneo)
3) Citypopulation.de reports on Official Decennial Censuses in 2010 for both Indonesia and Malaysia, independent estimate for Brunei.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Borneo.|
- Environmental Profile of Borneo – Background on Borneo, including natural and social history, deforestation statistics, and conservation news.