Nature Escapes

Tropical Rainforest Animals in Malaysia are Abundant, Diverse and Amazing Creatures

Tropical rainforest animals flourish in the lush habitats of the tropic zone.

These diverse lowland and hill forests, mangrove swamps, mountaintops, rivers and wetlands, peatlands, limestone outcrops and other ecosystems swarm with wildlife in every nook and cranny.

And this habitat variety leads to animal abundance as species feed on different plants and prey and occupy different layers of the rainforest - from forest floor to forest canopy.

While large birds and mega-fauna - tigers, elephants, rhinoceros - get most of the tourist attention, remember that each forest is full of fascinating wild creatures like flying lizards, stick insects, lemurs and lorises, pythons and gibbons too.

Enjoy finding the leaf-mimic Malayan horned frog as much as sighting a flock of hornbills in flight.

So what kind of wildlife can you expect to see or hear on your next jungle adventure?

Most tropical rainforest animals evolve to be hidden, not seen. The jungle is full of surprises because wild animals use natural color and camouflage to avoid detection among thick leaves, long trees and rock crevices.

Wildlife observation takes a bit of practice, so be patient, alert and savor all big and small wild sightings in the jungle.

For a better rainforest experience hire a nature guide or join an environmental group or society and share the outdoor adventure education.


The checklist below is a starter set to find more information and learn about common jungle animals and endangered species. Nature Escapes will continue to complete the checklist and suggest possible locations to visit for sighting wildlife.

Tropical Rainforest Animals: The Mammals

Mammal biodiveristy sparkles as one of Malaysia's greatest natural attributes. With over 215 species in each of East and West Malaysia, there are plenty of wild animals to find on the forest trail.

Rainforest mammals are usually separated by being active in the day versus the night, so choose a suitable location and time when searching for a particular species.
Beautiful Clouded Leopard

Tropical Rainforest Animals: The Primates

As tree-dwellers, primates spend most of their lives in the middle and upper rainforest canopy. Even thought a mixed group of animals, they all have grasping hands and feet and forward looking eyes.

And of course primates do not fall too far away from us on the evolutionary tree. monkey
Silvered leaf monkey

It is possible to observe or hear the calls of the seventeen species of primates that include monkeys, apes and the nocturnal tarsier and slow loris.

      • Primates of Malaysia
      • Orangutans
      • Proboscis Monkeys
      • Long-tailed Macaque
      • White-handed Gibbon
      • Agile Gibbon
      • Siamang
      • Slow Loris
      • Western Tarsier

Tropical Rainforest Animals: The Bats

Malaysia's bat fauna rates among the most prolific in the world as a center of bat diversity. With over 100 species, these flying mammals dwell in rainforests, roost in caves, and roll-up inside bamboo and banana plants.

Prefering to live in colonies, fruit bats follow fruiting seasons and insectivorous bat species
A hi-tech flying machine
bats feast on the abundance of moths and flies.

Bats range in all sizes from the giant fruit bat with a wingspan of 1.5 meters to palm-sized forest flyers.

      • Insectivorous Bats
      • Fruit Bats
      • Flying Fox

Tropical Rainforest Animals: The Birds

From the regal raptors and sluggish hornbills to flittering flycatchers and flowerpeckers, the choices for watching birds are plentiful. With over 700 bird species inhabiting forests, wetlands and coastal habitats, ample birdwatching opportunities exist for amateurs and experts.

Most of these birds reside in the country, while some are migratory birds. woodpecker
Flameback Woodpecker

From the swamp forests to the montane highlands, the birdlife of Malaysia flourishes in a feathered spectacle of grace and beauty.

      • Birds of Malaysia
      • Hornbills
      • Birds of Prey
      • Kingfishers
      • Woodpeckers
      • Swiftlets
      • Owls
      • Wetland Birds
      • Migratory Birds
      • Songbirds

Tropical Rainforest Animals: Turtles, Terrapins and Tortoises

Not counting the marine turtles, there are eighteen species of land and aquatic turtle fauna that are found in habitats from mangroves to hill forests. Malaysia's three tortoise species inhabit rainforests. The pond turtles have webbed feet to swim but also spend time cruising the forest floor.

Both the river and painted terrapins are aquatic, and the latter lays eggs on sandy beaches. The flattened softshell turtles feed on fish and live only in forest streams and estuaries. tortoise
Rare Impressed Tortoise

Some of these terrestrial turtles are in danger. Thousands of wild animals are captured and sold to supply local and foreign restaurants with turtle meat.

      • Turtles of Malaysia
      • Aquatic Turtles
      • Land Turtles
      • Painted Terrapin
      • River Terrapins

Tropical Rainforest Animals: The Lizards

From dragonesque monitor lizards to ornamental anglehead lizards, Malaysia's lizard fauna displays nature's raw power and cryptic camouflage. With over 100 species in Peninsular Malaysia and at least 80 in East Malaysia, the group includes geckos, skinks and agamids, as well as the large monitors. lizard
Chameleon Anglehead Lizard

Found all over the forest from tree trunks to rocky streambeds, these jungle animals are great evaders with reptile adaptations that allow them to glide to safety.

With a little practice and knowledge of their habitats, you can soon be watching flying lizards too.

      • Lizards of Malaysia
      • Flying Lizards
      • Monitor Lizards
      • Geckos
      • Tokay Gecko
      • Flying Gecko
      • Skinks

Tropical Rainforest Animals: The Snakes

Of the more than 160 snake species in Malaysia, most rainforest snakes are non-poisonous. Only seventeen terrestrial species, including cobras, coral snakes, kraits and pit vipers, are dangerous.

To be safe just keep an eye out for the warning signs when jungle trekking: bright color patterns, triangular head, neck hoods.

Some of the more obvious non-poisonous snakes to seek out are the yellow-banded mangrove snake, the large reticulated python or the colorful arboreal paradise tree snake. viper snake
Triangular head of pit viper

      • Snakes of Malaysia
      • Poisonous Snakes
      • Viper Snakes
      • Cobra Snakes
      • Krait Snakes
      • Nonpoisonous Snakes
      • Pipe Snakes
      • Water Snakes
      • Blind Snakes
      • Flying Snakes
      • Python Snakes

Tropical Rainforest Animals: The Frogs

With over 165 species, its hard not to see frogs or toads. Tree frogs perch on arched branches, others like the giant Malayan Toad prefer streams and rivers and rock frogs escape by skipping across fast-flowing water. flying frog
Wallace's flying frog

Croaking with delight when it rains, venture out into the wetlands and streams to find a spectacular diversity of shapes and colors within the frog fauna.

From the bumpy-skinned toads to the leaf-mimic frogs, there are plenty of species to search for in the rainforest litter and understory trees.

      • Frogs of Malaysia
      • Tree Frogs
      • Forest Litter Frogs
      • Flying Frog
      • Toads

Tropical Rainforest Animals: The Insects

Tropical insects are so abundant that we have no clue how many species thrive in the Malaysian jungles. It could be thousands or millions.

The chatter of cicadas marks out their territory and gives the forest air a distinctive sound. While on the ground the horned scarab beetles feed on flowering plants and multi-legged millipedes scurry about the leaf litter.

And sharp eyes are needed to find the leaf and stick insects with their amazing and artful displays of mimicry. Not to missed is the attractive Rajah Brooke's Birdwing, a fanciful name befitting one of the world's most beautiful insects.

From the oddly elongated head of lantern flies to the long-tailed elegance of moon moths, insects truly do rule the natural world. lanternbug insect
Unmistakable lantern fly

      • Insects of Malaysia
      • Leaf Insects
      • Stick Insects
      • Rhinoceros Beetle
      • Scarab Beetle
      • Dung Beetle
      • Asian Longhorned Beetle
      • Stag Beetle
      • Centipedes and Millipedes
      • Butterflies and Moths
      • Rajah Brooke's Birdwing
      • Atlas Moth
      • Moon Moth
      • Fireflies
      • Lantern Flies

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