ABOVE: Ripe Ficus stupenda figs photographed by LOW Yew Yi at Trus Madi Forest Reserve in Sabah. Ficus stupenda is a giant strangling fig in Ficus Section Conosycea (stranglers). The ripe figs grow up to 6 cm long by 3.5 cm wide just small enough to be swallowed whole by Borneo’s largest hornbill the Helmeted hornbill Buceros vigilans.

As pointed out by naturalist OOI Chin Hock  these giant fig fruit mimic large palm fruits such as the fruit of the Pinang Palm Areca catechu.

When sliced open it is obvious that these fruit  cannot be palm fruit because of multiple tiny fig seeds.
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Ripening Ficus stupenda figs at Trus Madi Forest Reserve in Sabah. The presence of ripe figs  uneaten on the tree indicates that large  hornbills have already been hunted out and are locally extinct in the forest surrounding the more accessible trails at Trus Madi. Photo by LOW Yew Yi.
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Slender squirrel Sundasciurus tenuis eating Pinang Palm Areca catechu fruit . Many animals in Borneo feed on both figs and palm fruit. The similarity in size and colour of Ficus stupenda figs and Pinang palm fruit indicate that both target  large hornbills as dispersers. Illustration by Karen Phillipps.


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Pinang Palm Areca catechu  cultivated  next to the entrance to Mulu National Park in Sarawak. Although Pinang Palms are widely cultivated  in home orchards  throughout Borneo to supply betel nut addicts, these domesticated  palm trees are descended from wild palms that produced fruit targeted at large hornbills for dispersal.
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Pinang Palm Areca catechu  cultivated  next to the entrance to Mulu National Park in Sarawak. Many palm trees produced fruit targeted at  hornbill dispersal in Borneo including Caryota no.
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Male Helmeted Hornbill Buceros vigil.   Helmeted Hornbills are extinct in most forested areas of  Borneo due to poaching for the China market in hornbill ivory. Hundreds of millions of Borneo’s forest trees produce similar looking fruit (fruit mimics)  which target hornbills for dispersal. Now the hornbills are gone  what will happen to the forest ?