View of Bod Gaya  (Bajau=large island) from the summit of of Bohey Dulang  (Bajau=fresh water pools),  two of the 8 Semporna Islands included in the Tun Sakaran Marine Park in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.  The third small island on the left of the photo is Tetagan (Bajau=linked island).

The coral reefs of the Tun Sakaran Marine Park are the traditional foraging grounds of a community of Bajau (Sea Gypsies)  who traditionally live a semi-nomadic life on their small house boats harvesting the produce of coral reefs. The majority of Bajau in Sabah now live on land  and form of a significant proportion of  the Sabah population.

All three  islands are the weathered remnants of  the ancient rim of a volcanic crater.

At the bottom of the photo is the boat jetty for tourists wishing to climb the steep path to the telecom mast on the summit of Bohey Dulang (353 m asl).

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Ficus concinna collected on Bod Gaya island on 15 March 1934 by Pastor Orolfo.  Photos by Quentin Phillipps courtesy of Kew Herbarium.

03 Ficus concinna IMG_0112.JPG

In Berg & Corner’s (2005) list of figs found in Borneo only one collection of Ficus concinna for Borneo  is listed – the collection illustrated in this article.

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The plant collections in the Sandakan  Herbariun were almost totally destroyed in a fire in 1961 . Fortunately duplicates of the collections had previously been widely shared particularly with the Singapore, Leiden and Kew Herbariums.  Thanks to this wise policy these duplicates are still available today including the  the Ficus concinna collection held at Kew and illustrated in this article.

TunSakaranPark Reefs Map .jpgMap Tun Sakaran Marine Park signboard.jpg

The rocky dry islands off the coast of East Sabah host a specialized unique vegetation adapted to very dry conditions. and in many cases more closely related to the Philippines flora rather than Borneo.  The fig flora has never been fully surveyed.

Map-of-the-Semporna Philippine border.png

Best Google Map - Copy.pngSabah’s east coast islands are on the western edge of  major botanical, zoological and political divides. Politically the islands to the right of the line (east)  Sibutu and Sitangki  belong to the Philippines whilst the islands to the left (west) belong to the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. The 16 km gap between Sibutu (Philippines) and the Semporna Islands (Borneo) is the shortest sea gap across Wallaces Line  for the whole of Borneo. It is extraordinary that such a narrow gap has acted as an effective dispersal barrier for so many different plants, birds and mammals.

The excellent botanical survey linked below mentions only one fig (Ficus deltoidea) and makes no mention of Wallace’s Line, so there is plenty of room for further investigation !

Wong et al (1999) Semporna Islands vegetation survey