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Legal classification    Location & access    Infrastructure    History & management    Settlements & adjacent land-use    Physical environment    Vegetation    Fauna    Research    Threats & constraints    Special attributes    Recommendations

Last updated: 26 Apr 2005

Survey carried out in October 2000.

Legal classification

Class I Protection Forest Reserve (FR)

AreaApprox. 22,697 ha.

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Location & access

The Tawai FR is in the Telupid District, just south of Telupid town and approximately 138 km west from Sandakan town. Its northern boundary is close to the Sandakan-Telupid Highway, thus access to the FR from Telupid is good. It is also accessible from nearby Kg Entelebon and Kg Minusoh in the west, and from the Tongod District in the southwest. Except for the highway, all roads are unsealed, all-weather main roads.


The network of road in the adjacent oil palm plantations (mainly Mayvin Estate, Agoco Estate and Perdana Estate) also lead to the boundary of the FR. Tung Hup Sdn. Bhd. is still maintaining logging roads in the Sg. Pinangah FR (a Class II FR) in the south and in the Tangkulap FR in the southeast. Both FRs are under Yayasan Sabah concession areas.



A Forestry Station (Mukim Entelebon) is located along the Entelebon-Telupid road in the west, about 15 km form Telupid. A Forest Fire Observation Tower (about 7 m high) was built at Tongkungon Hill (see Pic TW9) in the eastern portion of the FR. There are also communication towers here built by Telekom Malaysia and Celcom. There are some recreational facilities built by the Forestry Department at the Tawai Waterfall but they are not properly maintained (see Pic TW10).


The Mayvin Estate oil palm company built and maintains a recreation shelter (see Pic TW12) close to the eastern boundary for its staff.


History & management

Creation—Tawai FR was first gazetted in 6/1/1972. It was later regazetted as Class I FR in 14/3/1984.


Management responsibility—Mukim Entelebon, Telupid District Forestry Office.


Boundary mattersThe FR was demarcated in 2002.


Management plan—None.


Current use—There are two sawmills, Golden Apex and Kilang Papan Telupid, operating within the FR. Both sawmills has permission from the Department to operate. However, there was not much activity observed during the survey.

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Settlements & adjacent land-use

Surrounding the FR are several oil palm estates, settlements, private-owned farms and the Tangkulap Commercial Forest Reserve (under Yayasan Sabah FMU 17). There are two sawmills within the FR.  The Golden Apex Sawmills (location 5’35’55”N; 117’08’06”) and the Kilang Papan Telupid (location 5°38’30”N; 117°11’07”E) are located close to the boundary (and within the FR) near the town of Telupid. To the southwest are several oil palms estates like Perdana Estate, Mayvin Estate and Agroco Estate.


In the north of the FR lies the town of Telupid. Settlers plant hill paddy close to the boundary. Villages in the west include Kg. Entelebon, Kg. Karamuak and Kg. Wasai with approximately 500 households. Others are Kg. Boto and Kg. Gambaron. 


There is a cow ranch run by the Veterinary Department in the southwest (see pic). 


Physical environment

Topography— Much of Tawai FR is mountainous, with slopes more than 25°. The flatter areas are close to the northern and eastern boundaries (Ruku Ruku Valley). Mt. Tawai (1,273 m), the highest peak in the Tawai Range, is situated in the southwest of the FR.


Hydrology—Generally, the FR is well-drained. The Meliau River and its tributaries drains most of the southwest and flows into the Karamuak River. The Mailo River drains the northern parts and flows north into the Labuk River. The Ruku Ruku River drains the north-eastern parts and flows south into the Lokan River. The Kun Kun River drains the south-eastern parts and drains into the Tangkulap Besar River. Both the Karamuak and the Tangkulap Besar Rivers flows into the Kinabatangan River in the south.


Soils—Most of the FR is under the Bidu Bidu soil association. The Binalik association covers some portions of the north in the Ruku Ruku river valley. The Lokan association covers the southeast corner. There are a few other soil associations (Tapang, Karamuak, Brantian, Dalit, Tawai & Mentapok) covering patches along the FR boundary.

For soil map, click here.

Meteorological data—The nearest met stations are at Merungin, Trusan-Sapi and Tongod.

Map of met. stations    Rainfall map


See current vegetation map here

See natural vegetation map here

See satellite image here

The 4 main forest types in Tawai FR are the lowland and upland ultramafic forests, upland mixed dipterocarp forest and kerangas forest. Ultramafic forests cover most of the FR and is very much intact in terms of structure and composition except for areas adjacent to the FR boundary. The kerangas forest type is found along the Ruku Ruku River valley in the northeast. A total of 38 dipterocarp species were recorded from plots totalling 4.4. ha in area.


  1. Lowland ultramafic forest

The dipterocarps dominates these forests. In the lowland ultramafic forest, the most common dipterocarp species are Shorea laevis, Shorea platyclados, Shorea hypoleuca, Shorea mecistopterix, Dipterocarpus acutangulus, Dipterocarpus confertus and Dryobalanops lanceolata. Koompassia malaccensis is also a  common emergent. Endemic orchids such as Paraphalaenopsis labukensis, Cymbidium spp. and Bulbophyllum spp. are also found.

Click here to see forest profile of this forest type.

  1. Upland ultramafic forest

In the upland ultramafic forest, Casuarinaceae is the most dominant family. The most common dipterocarps are Dipterocarpus lowii, Dipterocarpus geniculatus, Shorea andulensis, Shorea kunstleri, Shorea laxa, Shorea micans and Shorea venulosa. Borneodendron aenigmaticum is common at 900 m

  1. Upland mixed dipterocarp forest

The most common dipterocarps species are Dipterocarpus acutangulus, Dipterocarpus lowii, Dipterocarpus geniculatus, Shorea andulensis, Shorea laevis, Shorea laxa, Shorea smithiana and Hopea nervosa.

  1. Kerangas forest


  • Click here for a list of dipterocarps encountered during the field survey:

    • Anisoptera costata

    • Anisoptera laevis

    • Dipterocarpus acutangulus

    • Dipterocarpus confertus

    • Dipterocarpus caudiferus

    • Dipterocarpus geniculatus

    • Dipterocarpus lowii

    • Dipterocarpus stellatus

    • Dryobalanops lanceolata

    • Hopea beccariana

    • Hopea ferruginea

    • Hopea nervosa

    • Parashorea malaanonan

    • Shorea acuminatissima

    • Shorea andulensis

    • Shorea argentifolia

    • Shorea johorensis

    • Shorea kunstleri

    • Shorea laevis

    • Shorea laxa

    • Shorea leptoderma

    • Shorea mecistopteryx

    • Shorea micans

    • Shorea monticola

    • Shorea multiflora

    • Shorea ovata

    • Shorea parvifolia

    • Shorea pauciflora

    • Shorea platyclados

    • Shorea smithiana

    • Shorea superba

    • Shorea

    • Shorea venulosa

    • Vatica micrantha


There are secondary forests all along the boundaries of the FR. The most disturbed area within the FR area is in the Ruku Ruku valley. Most of the vegetation here is secondary forest. The most dominant secondary forest tree genus in badly disturbed areas is Macaranga.


There are several non-timber plants endemic to ultramafic substrate eg. Borneodendron anaegmaticum, Phyllanthus lamprophyllus, Ceuthostoma terminalis, and Racemobambos sp. And the dipterocarps that are restricted to ultramafic substrate are Dipterocarpus lowii (see pic TW2) and Shorea laxa.



There were signs of wild boars, wild fowls, barking deer (payau), mouse deer and monkeys. Several butterflies were observed; Erites argentina, Lexias pardalis, Lexias canescens and Idea stolli confined only to shaded and forested areas. Red leaf monkeys, clouded leopards and gibbons were also present.


A survey on the birds of Tawai FR was conducted in mid-August 2004 by the Sabah Museum and Dr. Frederick H. Sheldon (Louisiana State University). It was conducted at Ulu Ruku Ruku, 130 m elevation. The main purpose of the study was to locate 3 species of birds that are largely restricted to poor soil forest: Hook-billed Bulbul, Gray-breasted Babbler and the Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker. Only the latter two were found. A total of 47 species were netted, seen or heard.

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In 1994, the Forest Research Centre organised the Tawai Botanical Expedition funded by the 'Tree Flora of Sabah and Sarawak Project'. The participants were botanists and plant taxonomists from various herbaria in Malaysia, as well as foreign taxonomists. Many new species of plants were described from this area. FRC continues to use this FR as a source of seeds and wild seedlings of selected tree species, and also for occasional plant or insect collecting trips.


Threats & constraints

Fire—The FR was badly affected by fires in 1983 and 1998. The most affected areas were the forests adjacent to settlements and oil palms estates. These areas are now covered with various Macaranga species. In 1998, an area adjacent to FR boundary was cleared using fire for agricultural purposes.  The fire destroyed a large area of forests after it spread into the FR.


EncroachmentA satellite image (taken in Sept 2000) showed that the low-lying areas along the eastern boundary were logged. The image also showed that the Ruku Ruku valley within the FR in the north was exposed to recent land-clearing. Much of this valley is now secondary forest. 


There were signs of small-scale illegal felling in Tawai FR, probably carried out in September 2001. About than 10 logs were felled and presumably hauled to the Meliau River were debarking was done (a debarked round log was seen during the survey). According to one foreign worker, the logs belonged to villager living nearby.


There were also traces of larger scale illegal logging operations, carried out probably between October and December 2000, in many parts of the primary ultramafic forest rich with dipterocarps (see pics TW4 & TW5).

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Special attributes & significance

The is potential for Tawai FR to be developed as a major nature tourism destination between Mt Kinabalu and Sandakan. The two factors that may make this a reality are Mt Tawai and the Tawai Waterfall (see pic TW8). The hike to the peak of Mt Tawai takes about 5 hours from the base of Sg. Meliau (5°30’39”N; 117°03’28”E). The changes in vegetation as one hikes to the cooler environment near the summit is very interesting. The view from the summit is also a spectacular one. The Meliau River drains the Tawai Plateau in the north and descends by the spectacular Tawai Waterfall over the sheer northern edge. 


This FR is a very important area for the conservation of ultramafic flora, apart from Bidu Bidu FR.



The Project Team will propose to reclassify the Tawai Plateau, currently within the Sungai Pinangah FR (Class II, Commercial Forest Reserve) to be included in the Tawai FR (Class I).


The Tawai Plateau (see Pic TW7) is a botanically interesting area. It is within the Sungai Pinangah FR (Class II, Commercial Forest Reserve), close to the southern boundary of the Tawai FR. At about 420 m on the Tawai Range, the plateau is level to gently sloping and much is swampy. Its surface is formed of ironstone and alluvium derived from ultrabasic rocks, with soils from the Tawai Association. Minor streams which drain the swamps of the plateau have carved trench-like valleys with narrow terraces.


The boulder-covered flats support a low mossy forest with abundant orchids and pitcher plants. Gymnostoma sumatrana is dominant with Tristaniopsis (c.f.) grandifolia . Hopea pentanervia and Shorea venulosa are amongst the dipterocarps present. In addition, the swamps support several species of conifer, including Podocarpus. There are severe limitations of soil depth, stoniness and drainage in the Tawai Association so that the land is of no agricultural value.

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