A baby orange utan chills out at Sepilok, East Malaysia’s world-famous centre for rescured orange utans. Smart, strong and found only in Southeast Asia, the orange utan was an easy choice to launch our lists of the 40 things we love most about this region.
1. ORANGE UTAN
Smart, charming and much stronger than they look, orange utans are Asia’s largest apes. Scientists have discovered that orange utans even have their own cultures, with different groups developing their own style of tools. Some orange utans have even taught to use sign language. There are fewer than 55,000 left in the wild, on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.
2. CORAL REEFS
Life gets pretty complicated in Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, Phillippines. With 396 coral, 479 fish, six shark and two sea turtle species, it has greater biodiversity than any other reef of its size in the world. This World Heritage Site was once threatened by pollution but the Filipinos are fighting to save it for the next generation to swim in. Tubbataha is part of Southeast Asia’s “coral triangle”, which also covers Malaysia and Indonesia.
Southeast Asia has marched to war and riches on the back of the elephant. These intelligent giants have carried kids and kings, and are still used for heavy work in Myanmar and other countries. They’re also worshipped in Laos and Thailand – especially if they’re white or albino. Laos used to be called Pathetlao Lanexang, or “Land of a Million Elephants”, but the region now has fewer than 30,000 in the wild.
What do Queen Elizabeth, Kofi Annan and Laura Bush have in common? They’re all orchid hybrids that can be found in Singapore’s famous National Orchids can be found in many parts of the world, Southeast Asia has one of the widest collections. Singapore and Indonesia have orchids as their national flowers. These flowers don’t just attract bees – they can also be used in food and medicine.
Kites have a long...