Tribes of Borneo | Dayak Tribe Facts
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Borneo is the third largest island in the world after Greenland and New Guinea. Straddling the equator, it covers 750,000 square kilometers (290,000 square miles), more than twice the area of the British Isles or more than Texas and Louisiana combined, and measures about (1290 kilometers (800 miles) from north to south and 800 kilometers (500 miles) from east to west. The northern 25 percent is occupied the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, and the Islamic sultanate of Brunei; and the southern 75 percent is occupied by the Indonesian state of Kalimantan.
Borneo is part of an archipelago called the Greater Sunda Islands. It is thinly populated and covered by mountains and rain forests. Most of the cities and towns are along the coast. The soil is poor. Large areas of the coast are made up of marshes and mangrove swamps. Most of the interior consists of rugged mountains interspersed with deep gorges. This area is laced with clear and whiskey-colored streams. The highest point 13,455-foot-high Mount Kinabulu in Sabah. In Kalimantan few areas rise above 3,000 feet. The highest point, in the central range there is 9,582 feet.
The rain forest on Borneo covers an area about the size of France but is shrinking all the time as logging, palm oil and mining interests penetrate deep into its interior. Valuable ironwood, teak, ebony, sandalwood and plywood-producing rain forest trees have largely been harvested. Crops grown on Borneo include rubber, palm oil, rattan, hemp, sago, pepper, sugar cane and rice. Oil has been found in the east and north. Gold is panned from the rivers and iron ore, antimony, lead, zinc, arsenic, copper, mercury, chromite and silver are all found here but are generally too expensive to mine profitably.
Borneo was once connected to the Southeast Asian mainland and the plant and animal life in both places are similar. There are orangutans, gibbons, monkeys, honey bears, giant butterflies, and black hornbills (sacred to the Dayaks), clouded leopards, wild pigs and ,a few elephants and rhinos. They are no tigers. Freshwater dolphins live in Mahakam River in east Kalimantan. Crab-eating monkeys and crocodiles live in the marshes. Typically in Borneo you find 100 or different tree species in one hectare and 200 or 300 plant species in an area the size of a living room. Even though there over 3,000 tree species on Borneo dipterocarps make up half of all the giant canopy trees. Hundreds of orchid species are found in Borneo.
Borneo doesn’t have as pronounced rainy and wet season as other places in Southeast Asia have. Rain falls steadily throughout the year. rainfall amounts are often high. The people of Borneo traditionally raised dry rice, sago, tapioca, ad sweet potatoes and hunted, fished and gathered wild plants from the forest. Because the terrain is so rough and waterlogged there are few good roads. Rivers have traditionally provided the main transportation routes.
About 19 million people live in Borneo with roughly 75 percent of them in Indonesia and 25 percent in Malaysia and Brunei. The original inhabitants are Dayaks, a tribe that only recently gave up head hunting and were once referred to as the "wild men of Borneo." The coastal areas are dominated by Muslim Malays. Some of them are Dayaks who began converting to Islam after the 15th century. Other group such as the Javanese, Sundanese, Madurese, Chinese and Bugis from Sulawesi arrived mostly in the 20th century, particularly in the last three decades as part of Indonesia's transmigration program. The Dayaks are now greatly outnumbered by Malays and Indonesians from other islands.
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