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. Antipodal to an area of Amazon rainforest, Borneo is itself 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 Chinese records began to use the term Po-ni to refer to Borneo. In 1225 it was also mentioned by the Chinese official Chau Ju-Kua (趙汝适). 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.
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).
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 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.
Dayaks, the natives of Borneo in their traditional war dress. Headhunting was an important part of Dayak culture.
According to ancient Chinese (977),:129 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 6th century until about 1300.
By the 14th century, Borneo was under the control of the Majapahit kingdom based in present-day Indonesia. Muslims entered the island and converted many of the indigenous peoples to Islam.
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[who?] 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.
Map of the island divided between the Dutch and the British.
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.
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.
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.
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) 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.
^Derek Heng Thiam Soon (June 2001). "The Trade in Lakawood Products Between South China and the Malay World from the Twelfth to Fifteenth Centuries AD". Journal of Southeast Asian Studies32 (2): 133–149. doi:10.1017/S0022463401000066.
Ghazally Ismail et al. (eds.) Scientific Journey Through Borneo Series. Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Kota Samarahan. 1996–2001. * Gudgeon, L. W. W. British North Borneo. Adam and Charles Black, London, 1913.(An early, well-illustrated book on "British North Borneo", now known as Sabah)
Mathai, J., Hon, J., Juat, N., Peter, A., & Gumal, M. 2010. "Small carnivores in a logging concession in the Upper Baram, Sarawak, Borneo," Small Carnivore Conservation 42: 1–9.
Eric Hansen. Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo.
John Wassner. Espresso with the Headhunters: A Journey Through the Jungles of Borneo.
Redmond O'Hanlon. Into the Heart of Borneo: An Account of a Journey Made in 1983 to the Mountains of Batu Tiban with James Fenton.
Charles M. Francis. A Photographic Guide to Mammals of South-east Asia.
Abdullah, MT. "Biogeography and variation of Cynopterus brachyotis in Southeast Asia." PhD thesis. The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia. 2003.
Corbet, GB, Hill JE. The mammals of the Indomalayan region: a systematic review. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 1992.
G.W.H. Davison, Chew Yen Fook. A Photographic Guide to Birds of Borneo.
Hall LS, Gordon G. Grigg, Craig Moritz, Besar Ketol, Isa Sait, Wahab Marni and MT Abdullah. "Biogeography of fruit bats in Southeast Asia." Sarawak Museum Journal LX(81):191–284. 2004.
Karim, C., A.A. Tuen and M.T. Abdullah. "Mammals." Sarawak Museum Journal Special Issue No. 6. 80: 221–234. 2004.
Garbutt, Nick, and J. Cede Prudente. Wild Borneo: The Wildlife and Scenery of Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, and Kalimantan. 2007.
Mohd. Azlan J., Ibnu Maryanto, Agus P. Kartono, and MT Abdullah. "Diversity, Relative Abundance and Conservation of Chiropterans in Kayan Mentarang National Park, East Kalimantan, Indonesia." Sarawak Museum Journal 79: 251–265. 2003.
Hall LS, Richards GC, Abdullah MT. "The bats of Niah National Park, Sarawak." Sarawak Museum Journal. 78: 255–282. 2002.