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Reptiles and Amphibians:


Wagler's Pit Viper (Trimeresurus waglerii).


Rana Hosei, a rainforest amphibian.

The reptiles and amphibians of Malaysia comprise members of the crocodile, turtle, snake, lizard and frog families. They range in size from the minute frogs to crocodiles measuring several metres long. Very much unchanged since prehistoric times, the estuarine crocodile is carnivorous and sometimes attacks humans. On the other hand, the gharial which lives on fish is considered harmless.

The majority of the 140 or so species of land snakes found in Malaysia are harmless. Of the 17 poisonous snake species, the king cobra (ular tedung selar) is the largest and most venomous snake in the world. Its bite can quickly prove fatal. The world's second longest snake, the reticulated python (ular sawa) kills by constricting prey as large as a cow or goat before swallowing it whole.

There is a wide range of lizard species in Malaysia, from the small insect-eating geckos found on the walls and ceilings of houses to the largest of the four monitor lizards species, the water lizard which is killed for its skin.

There are 18 species of non-marine turtles, tortoises and terrapins in Malaysia, some of which are wholly terrestrial, some wholly aquatic, and yet others amphibious. Some species are kept at temples as a symbol of longevity, while others are eaten as a nourishing food. The great leatherback turtles of Terengganu emerge from the South China Sea at the dead of night to lay their eggs in the sand.

Of the 165 species of frogs and toads found in Malaysia, some live in deep jungle while others inhabit cultivated areas including paddy fields.

Insects and other Invertebrates:


Malaysia is home to more than 1,000 species of butterflies.


The equatorial climate is conducive for a myriad of insect species.

There is a myriad of insect life in Malaysia, most of them legionary. The most beautiful are the butterflies, of which there are about 1,000 species. Also numerous are the moths, the largest and the most famous being the Atlas Moth. The attractive dragonflies and damselflies are always found close to the water where they lay eggs.

Malaysia has three types of bees the stingless bee, giant honeybee and hive bee, all of which produce honey. Their relatives, the hymenopteran species of hornets and wasps are feared for their fierce stings. Some wasps species, however, act as biological control agents.

Ants and termites, which belong to groups of similar structure but different orders, are found in forests and homes. Many Malaysian ants are known for their painful bites, while termites can destroy whole fields of crops and bring down entire buildings.

In the tropical rainforest, there are fascinating stick insects with an uncanny resemblance to leaves or sticks that provides perfect camouflage from predators. Many species of bugs such as weevils destroy crops although there are some other beetles which are beneficial as they devour other insect pests. Among the most spectacular beetles are the rhinoceros beetle, the stag beetle and the long-horned beetle. One can always sense the noisy presence of grasshoppers, cicadas and crickets; and feel the irritating bite of the ubiquitous mosquitoes. Other invertebrates that are best avoided are the scorpion, the centipede and certain spiders, while the predatory leech dominates the damp jungle floor.

Fishes and other aquatic animals:

The waters in and off Malaysia abound with a great variety of marine life. The riversfrom the clear, swift-flowing upper reaches to the sluggish, slow meandering waters of the lower stretches and river mouths, teem with freshwater fish. There are over 100 species of carp, of which 70 are found in the Pahang river basin alone. Amongst the larger freshwater are the giant catfish, kelesa, toman and kului. The giant catfish (ikan tapah) can grow up to 1.8 metres long and weigh over 45 kilogrammes. It is the only dangerous freshwater fish found in Malaysia. The kelesa, toman and kului may reach up to 1 metre in length. There are also the remarkable archer fish which is known to shoot down its prey by spitting drops of water at it; and the spectacular fighting fish found in swamps and ponds.

When the tide falls back in the mangrove swamps, one can easily see the fiddler, soldier and hermit crabs, and their distinctive burrows. These are different from the river crabs of which more than 90 species have been identified. A gourmet delicacy, the large Macrobrachium freshwater prawns with their long pincers, are bred commercially on large scale aquaculture projects.

Some of the freshwater snails act as biological control agents while others such as the golden apple snails, found in paddy fields, are considered pests.


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