KINABALU in northern Borneo (Sabah province of Malaysia) is the highest mountain in S.E.Asia and quite possibly the most botanically diverse place on Earth – for its size. The national park covers 750 km2 from an elevation of 550 metres at Poring Hot Springs to the summit at 4,101 metres, and the various altitudinal zones contain a mind-boggling 4,000 plant species as well as numerous endemic or near-endemic birds, mammals, insects and other creatures. Among the plants, there are 608 species of ferns, 78 species of Ficus, 24 species of Rhododendron, 8 conifers, 29 pitcher-plants, 52 palms and over 1,000 species of orchid! Below are some photographs from my own explorations.
I have been to Kinabalu three times and have never made it to the summit, because the forested trails are so full of wonder that it takes hours to cover a few kilometres. A host of fascinating birds occur, but at very low densities, so finding them is mostly a matter of patience and luck. The British naturalist-explorer John Whitehead collected 18 bird species new to science (not to mention hundreds of moths, beetles and other insects) during the 1880’s and three of these now bear his name: Whitehead’s Broadbill, Whitehead’s Trogon and Whitehead’s Spiderhunter; this trio are depicted on the poster as well as the tiny Whitehead’s Pygmy-Squirrel.
This is undoubtedly the most complex of my poster-designs so far, and I’ve been chipping away at it over two months of ‘lockdown’. Typically, in these illustrations, my goal is to strip away detail from a landscape, and depict just one or two characteristic animal species, in such a way that the stylized illustration is a graphic rendition that nevertheless captures the ‘essence’ or ‘sense of place’. In the case of Mount Kinabalu, however, I felt a overwhelming need to somehow represent the enormous biodiversity of this incredible forested landscape.