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Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, sometimes incorrectly called Lok Kawi Zoo, in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah is about a 20 minute drive from the city centre and provides an opportunity to witness the wildlife of Sabah, up close and personal; albeit a little constricted.

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

In my humble opinion this wildlife park is more of a zoo, but you gotta give them credit for having aspirations. Previously my in-to-nature friends argued that it was in fact just a zoo, and I, not having visited the wildlife park, vehemently argued the contrary. Well, I can argue no more, but I still think the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park is worth a visit – if for nothing, to see the animals of Borneo that you might otherwise not get to see in real life.

The usual three, John, Julia and myself, set off one very sunny Sunday afternoon to visit one of Sabah’s latest animal attractions. I specifically plied myself with sunscreen, wore a hat and even took an umbrella, because the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park is situated in a particularly hot, windless and unshaded part of Kota Kinabalu – you’ve been warned.


The entrance fees, if memory serve correctly, are RM20 for foreigners and RM10 for locals. I have a work permit, an after flashing this to the clerk behind the desk, she graciously granted me a local rate.

We briefly consulted one of the handy sign boards and started our exploration. Many of the initial enclosures we saw, or cages if I’m honest, were quite small. It didn’t bode well, as I didn’t really want to see wild animals couped up in too-small cages. These were the bird cages though, so we persisted.

Next up was an expansive, dusty camp and all we could see were antilope we thought could be Kambara, a type of Malaysian antelope. The plaque and information near the view area though said there was a Sumatran Rhino present. We scoured the dusty camp and eventually, in a muddy corner, saw something that could have been a Sumatran Rhino. It didn’t move though, so it was difficult to confirm what we saw.

Not a Pigmy Elephant.  Normal, Asian elephants having fun in the water.We continued, and before long we saw a crowd gather around a particular enclosure and headed over to see what the commotion was about. It was the elephant enclosures, and although they were not Borneo Pygmy Elephants (I think), they were cute nevertheless. Actually, I think it might be illegal to coup up Borneo Pygmy Elephants, seeing as how they’re endangered and protected. These might have been the smaller Asian elephant variety.

Kung Fu Sun BearWe moved on to the Sun Bear enclosure. Our friend Ian is involved with designing Sun Bear enclosures for the facilities at Sepilok, so he had visited these ones before for inspiration. But standing on the raised edged looking in, I failed to see how he could have been inspired.

Inside a very dull, very open enclosure, there were 4 Sun Bears looking bored. Very little vegetation decorated the area and only a few places provided shelter from the scorching sun. One Sun Bear walked a clearly well trodden path in a seemingly mindless frenzy. Another one was asleep (or dead, difficult to tell) in the shade, whilst the other two were playing in the shallow water pool.

Big, boring, tiger campNot a Borneo tiger, but in deed a bored tiger.Their neighbours, three tigers, were couped up in an enclosure, which seemed even less fun than the Sun Bear enclosure. A single, simple platform perched, seemingly without purpose, provided the only shaded area. Upon our arrival all three tigers were passed out underneath this structure.

Eventually they started moving about, probably shaken by a nightmare of being somewhere else, perhaps in a jungle hunting small animals, or at the very least stalking something. The tigers and their home were downright depressing.

As we progressed down the path we came across a monkey station. This area featured all sorts of primates, most prominently orang utans, apparently on loan from the little sanctuary found at the Rasa Ria Resort. The orang utans were playful and fun and we stood watching them go about their business on their elaborate climbing frames. They had what turned out to be the biggest camp in the entire wildlife park.

Attached to their building were more primate enclosures. The Proboscis Monkeys has their own little villa with a flowing stream of water and enough branches to climb around on and be fairly entertained. One of the Proboscis Monkeys, at least, was very well entertained. A group of Proboscis Monkeys, usually consist of one alpha male and four or more females.

I guess, to protect the peace, this one Proboscis Monkey and his harem, had the villa to themselves. Proboscis Monkeys are distinctive, because of their huge noses. There is, apparently, no scientific reason for these bulbous noses. Theory suggests females are attracted to the biggest nose and thus, the alpha males usually has the biggest. Noses, that is.

Four to five women and only one man. How can they all possibly be satisfied?You don’t often see these on postcards, but that lethal weapon between his legs NEVER GOES DOWN. That’s how the ladies stay satisfied.The females are much smaller and also have small noses, making them borderline cute. But the girlfriend monkey of a male Proboscis Monkey is a happy monkey, and looks don’t matter much, because the male Proboscis Monkey has a permanent viagraless erection. Lucky monkey! Lucky harem! Enough for everybody!

Other interesting facts about the Proboscis Monkey includes having two stomachs (one to ferment the difficult to digest leaves they like), walking upright when they’re not in the forest, and swimming between islands. Interesting, albeit not the most beautiful, creatures.

Where the main path of the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park turns back on itself, there is what will probably be a botanical garden of sorts (needs some work). Julia wasn’t up for doing the circuit path, so John and I went to explore. Apart from the path being a lovely stroll through the jungle, there wasn’t much worth seeing as such.

I did come across an interesting, full sized, Borneo ant though. This particular ant was the singular, biggest ant I have ever seen, even bigger than these buggers. Luckily he was on his own (unlike this nest I encountered recently), so we could inspect him a little bit.

Damn huge ant!This ant was huge. In fact, if I had a leash I would have taken it back home, trained it to sit and beg and fetch the newspaper. As it was, he was pretty scary. I don’t have an ant phobia, although I saw a movie on TV when I was young, (I think it was The Naked Jungle) and ever since have appreciated the power of numbers, especially ants in numbers. Anyway, we documented this ant, ever so gently so as to not piss it off and have it run to call it’s buddies, and left.

Shooting the breeze with my fellow African.  Ostriches have a good sense of humour, you know?One of our last stops was the ostrich camp. Being of African origin, I have, as you would expect, a close connection with ostriches and it was good to see ostriches in Kota Kinabalu, from my part of the world. We chatted, we made a few jokes, I even showed John and Julia how to dance with an ostrich (the sun was really hot, really) and how to feed it pebbles with your bare, open hands (their stomach needs roughage to digest food and the pebbles are it). The male got a bit defensive, but the female seemed impressed (yes, sunstroke, obviously).

Did you know that an ostrich’s eye is bigger than it’s brain? Also, the male is the bright feathered one, whilst the female is dull and gray. She has to protect the nest and needs to be inconspicuous. And you can take a 500ml, glass coke bottle, stuff it down his throat and turn it horisontal – that’s how flexible the neck is. I wouldn’t recommend you try any of this on the ostriches at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, of course, but it’s interesting little tidbits nevertheless.

The most impressive exhibit at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park is the aviary. It’s a large, voluminous area of the camp where the jungle still grows dense. A large support structure is in the middle of a netted area, and the entire area is enclosed. It has a running stream of water through the middle, and a myriad of birds and small animals within it. We spent a good while here trying to spot birds and small animals.

We also paid a visit to the snake and spider section, all in glass enclosures, don’t worry. Some of the snakes were difficult to spot, even though they were really obvious (some right in front of us on the ledge of the windows). Another camp included an island surrounded by water in which two otters lived, and on the island itself a sloth was resident.

On the way out we passed a petting zoo, but before you have imagines of riding an elephant or petting a tiger cub, the petting zoo’s residents are mainly rabbits. Mind you, I think you can ride an elephant.

After a day well spent we exited the wildlife park. The mandatory souvenir shop awaited us, but cold drinks are all we took as souvenirs. Although some of the enclosures at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park were a bit depressing, it has a good collection of Borneo wildlife, and does seem to make an effort to provide decent facilities for these animals.

They are also involved in conservation and education, which is why I would fully recommend contributing to their work with a visit to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park.

4 Comments

  • jeannieca

    23 August 2008 at 08:00

    so… beautiful

  • dafiey

    15 September 2008 at 02:33

    i have to give credit to you for visiting the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park cum Zoo, mainly because the review given was a positive yet inspiring one. as for me, i myself live in lokkawi for almost 20 years, and you might say i recently moved to papar, a place quite near to the zoo itself, yet i have NEVER been to that place yet!. and embarrasingly enough, people would ask me about the park, yet i could not offer any valid explanation about it, since i have no idea what it is as a whole! reading your review, i will surely visit the park in the mere future, possibly ASAP:). thanks for the great review, its totally inspiring!

  • Ana

    20 July 2011 at 18:48

    What you said about the zoo…ehem…wildlife park is mostly spot on. I've visited the zoo…ehem..park twice. It's sad to see those bears, tigers and other animals in small enclosures. I thought being a "wildlife park", animals have a decent size of space to roam freely as in the wild or at least bigger than what there is now. I know the size of the park isn't enough for them to have a bigger enclosure but surely whoever decided to built this "wildlife park" should've done some research on what wildlife park is all about. There are more work need to be done and get enough funding to improve the facilities…especially in those animals enclosures. All and all…it's worht a visit.

  • Jojo

    20 September 2011 at 20:12

    I have been to the park many times. out of 112 times, 70% of that time spent at the Jborneo Lounge.

    All i wanted to say is, the section for tigers, bears, Tembadaus and all that need a serious make-over. I live near there and those tigers and bears a getting skin bald in the heat! Heck, even my mother's buffaloes are in luxurious accommodation than those poor animal. The Wildlife department are really doing HORRIBLE job at this, and I blame the Federal government for this and all those people involved. It's "money first to my pocket, spend a dime to these stupid animal cages" for "these people".

    Sarcastic? That's the fact!

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