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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2020



    ... idyllic islands where eagles soar  

Rocky headlands and sandy bays characterise much of Langkawi's coastline. 

Off the western coast of Peninsular Malaysia, near the border with Thailand, lies a group of over 100 stunning tropical islands the largest of which is Pulau Langkawi. These islands are part of the mainland Malaysian state of Kedah. Over the last 20 years, under the tutelage of the Malaysian Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, himself born in Kedah, a tourist industry has developed which has given Langkawi an international reputation as an unspoiled holiday destination. This reputation appears well deserved - Langkawi is clean, green and friendly. Tourist development, on the whole, appears to be as low impact as possible and the islands still possess uncrowded beaches, thickly forested hillsides and unpolluted mangroves where monkeys, otters, kingfishers and hornbills abound.


A Dusky Leaf Monkey or Spectacled Langur Presbytis obscurus feeds on young leaf shoots. 


Hey, hey we're the Monkeys

Two species of primate can be found in Langkawi. One is the ubiquitous Long-tailed or Crab-eating Macaque, Macaca fascicularis, common throughout Malaysia. The other is the Dusky Leaf Monkey or Spectacled Langur, Presbytis obscurus. Grey-black in colour, this species is easily recognised by the white rings around the eyes, which give the animal a constantly startled expression. During the day, the large social groups split up into smaller groups of less than 10 individuals which the visitor can easily see foraging in the lower branches of the forest canopy. In the late afternoon they may also come to ground level in forest clearings to feed on the young, tender leaf shoots which make up their diet. As with other species of Langur, the young have bright orange-brown fur.



The Colugo or Flying Lemur Galeopterus variegatus. This is probably a grey-coloured female.

Flying Lemurs don't fly, and they're not Lemurs

At dusk in forested areas the Colugo or Flying Lemur Cynocephalus variegatus may be seen. This species suffers from being mis-named; it is unrelated to the true Lemurs of Madagascar, and it glides rather than flies ! There are just two species of Flying Lemur worldwide, the other being the Philippine Flying Lemur; as a result of their ancient lineage and comb-like teeth both are grouped in the mammalian order of Dermoptera. These animals are arboreal and nocturnal. The gliding membrane extends to each body extremity including the tail, giving it a kite-like shape when gliding. They feed on fruits, flowers and other vegetation.


Grey-bellied Squirrel
Callosciurus caniceps


Other mammals

Other land mammals of note which occur on Langkawi include the shy Sunda Slow Loris Nycticebus coucang, the arboreal and nocturnal Marbled Cat Felis marmorata,  the rare Greater Mousedeer Tragulus napu, the Tenggalong or Malay Civet Viverra tangalunga and various species of squirrel and tree shrew.  Footprints believed to belong to the Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa have also been seen, though the presence of the species has yet to be confirmed. In mangrove areas the Hairy-nosed Otter Lutra sumatrana may be seen.


Fly Like an Eagle


Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus (left) and White-bellied Fish Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster

The skies above Langkawi are dominated by magnificent Birds of Prey, the most conspicuous of which are the White-bellied Fish Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster and the Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus. Both these species are adept at swooping down and plucking unwary fish from the shallow, sandy bays.   The common, but stunningly attractive Brahminy Kite with its contrasting white head and breast and brown wings lends Langkawi part of its name; in Malay "helang" means "eagle". In the main town of Kuah is a huge statue of this bird about to take flight.


Brown Throated Sunbird (Male) Anthreptes malacensis 


Langkawi boasts a wide variety of birdlife, situated as it is near the narrowest part of the Kra Isthmus at the boundary of Thailand and Malaysia. Migratory birds from North Asia, which migrate south along the East Asian flyway to spend winter in Indonesia and Australia, will naturally be funneled through this area. Resident birds include a variety of Kingfishers which make the northern mangrove areas their home. Most notable is the rare Brown-winged Kingfisher Halcyon amauroptera, identifiable by its large size, orange head and breast and its dark brown wings. Most tourists, however, are more likely to see the brightly coloured sunbirds which frequent the flowering trees and shrubs in the grounds of their luxury hotel !


References : Zimmerer J., 2000. Nature Guide Langkawi. Onel Corporation Sdn. Bhd.