What does World Heritage title means to Kinabalu?

I received another email from Cikgu Ismail yesterday. He was asking me about the “World Heritage” title that was given by UNESCO (United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to Kinabalu Park in 2000.

What is World Heritage?

World Heritage SiteHeritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America make up our world’s heritage.

What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.

How did Mount Kinabalu get the title?

In January 2000, Kinabalu Park was nominated as one of the Heritage Site by UNESCO as it is a clear candidate for inscription on the World Heritage list on the basis of the following two natural criteria:

Criterion (ii): Ecological processes

  • The high species diversity of Kinabalu results from a number of factors:
    • the great altitudinal and climatic gradient from tropical forest to alpine conditions;
    • precipitous topography causing effective geographical isolation over short distances;
    • the diverse geology with many localised edaphic conditions, particularly the ultramafic substrates;
    • the frequent climate oscillations influenced by El Niño events;
    • geological history of the Malay archipelago and proximity to the much older Crocker Range.

Criterion (iv): Biodiversity and threatened species

Research on the biota of Mount Kinabalu has been extensive and has established that the park is floristically species-rich and a globally important Centre of Plant Endemism. The Park contains an estimated 5,000-6,000 vascular plant species including representatives from more than half the families of all flowering plants.

The presence of 1,000 orchid species, 78 species of Ficus, and 60 species of ferns are indicative of the botanical richness of the park. The variety of Kinabalu’s habitats includes 6 vegetation zones from lowland rainforest through to alpine scrub at 4,095m. Faunal diversity is also high with the majority of Borneo’s mammals, birds, amphibians and invertebrates (many threatened and vulnerable) known to occur in the park. It is clear that Kinabalu Park contains “the most important and significant habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity”. IUCN considers that the nominated site meets this criterion.


Kinabalu has been identified by IUCN/WWF as a Centre of Plant Diversity. Despite its geological youth, it is exceptionally rich in species with elements from the Himalayas, China, Australia, Malesia and Pantropical floras. The park has between 5,000-6,000 vascular plant species, 1,000 of which are orchids.

It is particularly rich in Ficus (78 taxa), ferns (610sp) and Nepenthes (9 species of pitcher plants). Rafflesia, a rare parasitic plant is also found. The mountain flora has diverse “living fossils” such as the celery pine and the trig-oak, the evolutionary link between oaks and beeches.

So, in December 2000, World Heritage Committee Inscribes 61 New Sites on World Heritage List which includes Kinabalu Park and Mulu National Park.


  1. United Nations Environment Program – World Conservation Monitoring Center – Kinabalu Park
  2. Kinabalu Park – UNESCO World Heritage Center
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About drizad

A self employed General Practitioner who lives with his lovely family in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. He dedicates his spare time serving people with precious information on climbing the Majestic Mountain of the Borneo, Mt Kinabalu. Reachable at drizad(at)gmail.com

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