Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Nature of Fraser's Hill; Mammals

Written and photographed by Nick Baker

The forests surrounding Fraser’s Hill are rich and diverse in mammal life.  In contrast to the birdlife, which is dominated by montane species, the majority of mammals around the hill resort also occur in the lowlands of Peninsular Malaysia.  What makes Fraser’s Hill a bit special, however, is the proximity of unspoiled forest (with probably limited poaching) to easily accessible roads and vantage points. Thus there is a greater chance of observing mammal species which are more difficult to locate in the lowlands.

Quite a few species of primate are active around the hill station. Two species of macaque can be seen, including the ubiquitous Long-tailed Macaque (common all over Peninsular Malaysia), and the larger and stockier Southern Pig-tailed Macaque. Leaf Monkeys or Langurs are represented by two species which are the Spectacled Leaf Monkey (or Dusky Langur) and the White Thighed Leaf Monkey (or White-thighed Surili). The latter was once very common at Fraser’s Hill but during a recent visit in early 2013 I failed to spot a single specimen : perhaps it was not the right season for them to emerge from the forest ?

Southern Pig-tailed Macaque

White-thighed Leaf Monkey

Rarer primates include the the Siamang, which is the largest species of gibbon.  The latter is considered a ‘star’ species of Fraser’s Hill : it can be heard most mornings whooping and yelling from the forest canopy. The call can travel some kilometres, so the species is hard to locate. Some luck is needed to spot family groups in the canopy, but if good vantage points are routinely checked during your stay you may be lucky to catch a glimpse of them early in the morning or late afternoon.

Sunda Slow Loris

Siamang adult with young

The other group of diurnal mammals easy to locate are squirrels. A diverse range of squirrels occurs in the area ranging in size from the tiny, manic Himalayan or Western Striped Squirrel, which has a head-body length of just 11 cm, to the Black Giant Squirrel, which is amongst the largest in the world and which approaches the size of a domestic cat. Between these two extremes is the common Grey-bellied Squirrel and the uncommon Mountain Red-bellied Squirrel, both of ‘normal’ squirrel size.  Not to be confused with a squirrel is the Common Treeshrew, a ground-dwelling mammal with a pointed snout and large gape.

Himalayan Striped Squirrel

Black Giant Squirrel

Grey-bellied Squirrel

Mountain Red-bellied Squirrel

Common Tree Shrew

A good deal of luck is needed to spot another ‘star’ species, namely the Yellow-throated Marten. I have visited Fraser’s Hill perhaps eight times, and have glimpsed the species just once : late one morning I was standing quietly at the edge of the ‘old road’ a few hundred metres down from the security gate, when a marten briefly emerged from the forest, sniffed the air and turned his head to gaze directly at me.  Fortunately I had my longest lens mounted on my tripod at the time, and I managed to capture a single, decent image of this elusive animal before it bounded off into the forest.  A friend told me of having observed this species chase and kill a Black Giant Squirrel in the forest canopy, which gives some idea of the ability of martens to make a kill.

Yellow-throated Marten

As night falls the nocturnal mammals emerge, and to see these you will need to carry a decent flashlight. The most frequently encountered species is the Common Palm Civet, but with some luck you may be able to spot the uncommon civets such as the Small-toothed Palm Civet and Masked Palm Civet.  Another fairly common species is the Slow Loris, a type of primate with large eyes and a generally ‘cuddly’ appearance. Bats too emerge at night : insectivorous species may be spotted flying around street lamps feeding on small insects, while frugivorous species will head to fruiting trees, including figs. The strangest denizen of the night is the Colugo, a primitive gliding mammal which might be spotted at dusk as it glides from tree to tree : you might be forgiven in thinking you had just witnessed a ‘hantu’ (ghost) going silently about its business !

Common Palm Civet

Dusky Fruit Bat


Nick Baker's website contains a wealth of information on local mammals and other species and can be found here


  1. Superb work !! You are capture best photos , I really like these photos . Great work man..

  2. I love this article, the discussion was very useful
    thanks for the share and greetings blogwalking ..

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  3. I really love that first pic of the Southern Pig-tailed macaque. Really dramatic capture with the mountain of jungle in a semi-blur in the background.

  4. Outstanding photo of the bird and wasp!