Subdivisions, Geography And Biodiversity


Main articles: States and federal territories of MalaysiaDivisions of Malaysia, and Districts of Malaysia








Negeri Sembilan







Kuala Lumpur


West Malaysia

East Malaysia

(Blue) States

(Red) Federal Territories

South China Sea


Gulf of Thailand

Sulu Sea

Celebes Sea







Malaysia is a federation of 13 states and three federal territories.[110] These are divided between two regions, with 11 states and two federal territories onPeninsular Malaysia and the other two states and one federal territory in East Malaysia. Each state is divided into districts, which are then divided intomukim. In Sabah and Sarawak districts are grouped into divisions.[111]

Governance of the states is divided between the federal and the state governments, with different powers reserved for each, and the Federal government has direct administration of the federal territories.[112] Lower-level administration is carried out by local authorities, which include city councils, district councils, and municipal councils, although autonomous statutory bodies can be created by the federal and state governments to deal with certain tasks.[113] The federal constitution puts local authorities outside of the federal territories under the exclusive jurisdictions of the state government,[114]although in practice the federal government has intervened in the affairs of state local governments.[115] There are 144 local authorities, consisting of 11 city councils, 33 municipal councils, and 97 district councils.[116]

The 13 states are based on historical Malay kingdoms, and 9 of the 11 Peninsular states, known as the Malay states, retain their royal families. The King is elected by and from the nine rulers to serve a five-year term.[38] This King appoints governors serving a four-year term for the states without monarchies, after consultations with the chief minister of that state. Each state has a unicameral legislature known as the State Legislative Assembly, and its own written constitution.[117] Sabah and Sarawak have considerably more autonomy than the other states, most notably having separate immigration policies and controls, and a unique residency status.[118][119][120] Federal intervention in state affairs, lack of development, and disputes over oil royaltieshave occasionally led to statements about secession from leaders in several states such as JohorKelantan, Sabah and Sarawak, although these have not been followed up and no serious independence movements exist.[121][122][123]


Main article: Geography of Malaysia

Malaysia on a satellite map globe

Malaysia is within the equatorial region, where a tropical rainforest climate is apparent all year round.

Malaysia is the 66th largest country by total land area, with a land area of 329,613 km2 (127,264 sq mi). It has land borders with Thailand in West Malaysia, and Indonesia and Brunei in East Malaysia.[2] It is linked to Singaporeby a narrow causeway and a bridge. The country also has maritime boundarieswith Vietnam[124] and the Philippines.[125] The land borders are defined in large part by geological features such as the Perlis River, the Golok River and the Pagalayan Canal, whilst some of the maritime boundaries are the subject of ongoing contention.[2] Brunei forms what is almost an enclave in Malaysia,[126]with the state of Sarawak dividing it into two parts. Malaysia is the only country with territory on both the Asian mainland and the Malay archipelago.[127]Tanjung Piai, located in the southern state of Johor, is the southernmost tip of continental Asia.[128] The Strait of Malacca, lying between Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia, is one of the most important thoroughfares in global commerce, carrying 40 per cent of the world’s trade.[129]

The two parts of Malaysia, separated from each other by the South China Sea, share a largely similar landscape in that both Peninsular and East Malaysia feature coastal plains rising to hills and mountains.[2] Peninsular Malaysia, containing 40 per cent of Malaysia’s land area,[127] extends 740 km (460 mi) from north to south, and its maximum width is 322 km (200 mi).[130] It is divided between its east and west coasts by the Titiwangsa Mountains,[131] rising to a peak elevation of 2,183 metres (7,162 ft) at Mount Korbu,[132] part of a series of mountain ranges running down the centre of the peninsula.[127] These mountains are heavily forested,[133] and mainly composed of granite and other igneous rocks. Much of it has been eroded, creating a karst landscape.[127] The range is the origin of some of Peninsular Malaysia’s river systems.[133] The coastal plains surrounding the peninsula reach a maximum width of 50 kilometres (31 mi), and the peninsula’s coastline is nearly 1,931 km (1,200 mi) long, although harbours are only available on the western side.[130]

Limestone pinnacles jutting out of a mountainside forest on Mount Api

The limestone pinnacles at Mount Api, part of the Gunung Mulu National Park.

East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, has a coastline of 2,607 km (1,620 mi).[2] It is divided between coastal regions, hills and valleys, and a mountainous interior.[127] The Crocker Range extends northwards from Sarawak,[127] dividing the state of Sabah. It is the location of the 4,095 m (13,435 ft) high Mount Kinabalu,[134][135] the tallest mountain in Malaysia. Mount Kinabalu is located in the Kinabalu National Park, which is protected as one of the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malaysia.[136] The highest mountain ranges form the border between Malaysia and Indonesia. Sarawak contains the Mulu Caves, the largest cave system in the world, in the Gunung Mulu National Park which is also a World Heritage Site.[127]

Around these two halves of Malaysia are numerous islands, the largest of which is Banggi.[137] The local climate is equatorial and characterised by the annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February)monsoons.[130] The temperature is moderated by the presence of the surrounding oceans.[127] Humidity is usually high, and the average annual rainfall is 250 cm (98 in).[130] The climates of the Peninsula and the East differ, as the climate on the peninsula is directly affected by wind from the mainland, as opposed to the more maritime weather of the East. Local climates can be divided into three regions, highland, lowland, and coastal. Climate change is likely to affect sea levels and rainfall, increasing flood risks and leading to droughts.[127]


Main article: Wildlife of Malaysia

Wildlife of Malaysia

Native species in Malaysia, clockwise from top-right: oriental pied hornbills,hawksbill sea turtleproboscis monkeyMalayan tiger.

Malaysia signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 12 June 1993, and became a party to the convention on 24 June 1994.[138] It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention on 16 April 1998.[139] The country is megadiverse with a high number of species and high levels of endemism.[140] It is estimated to contain 20 per cent of the world’s animal species.[141] High levels of endemism are found on the diverse forests of Borneo’s mountains, as species are isolated from each other by lowland forest.[127] There are about 210 mammal species in the country.[134] Over 620 species of birds have been recorded in Peninsular Malaysia,[141] with many endemic to the mountains there. A high number of endemic bird species are also found in Malaysian Borneo.[127] 250 reptile species have been recorded in the country, with about 150 species of snakes[142] and 80 species of lizards.[134] There are about 150 species of frogs,[134] and thousands of insect species.[134] Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone is 1.5 times larger than its land area,[143] and some of its waters are in theCoral Triangle, a biodiversity hotspot.[144] The waters around Sipadan island are the most biodiverse in the world.[141] Bordering East Malaysia, the Sulu Sea is a biodiversity hotspot, with around 600 coral species and 1200 fish species.[145]The unique biodiversity of Malaysian Caves always attracts lovers ofecotourism from all over the world.[146]

Nearly 4,000 species of fungi, including lichen-forming species have been recorded from Malaysia. Of the two fungal groups with the largest number of species in Malaysia, the Ascomycota and their asexual states have been surveyed in some habitats (decaying wood, marine and freshwater ecosystems, as parasites of some plants, and as agents of biodegradation), but have not been or have been only poorly surveyed in other habitats (as endobionts, in soils, on dung, as human and animal pathogens); the Basidiomycota are only partly surveyed: bracket fungi, and mushrooms and toadstools have been studied, but Malaysian rust and smut fungi remain very poorly known. Without doubt, many more fungal species in Malaysia have not yet been recorded, and it is likely that many of those, when found, will be new to science.[147]

Red flower made of 5 petals surrounding a depressed centre, on the forest floor surrounded by dead leaves and small green plants

Some species of Rafflesia can grow up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in diameter, making them the largest flowers in the world.

About two thirds of Malaysia is covered in forest,[130] with some forests believed to be 130 million years old.[134] The forests are dominated bydipterocarps.[148] Lowland forest covers areas below 760 m (2,490 ft),[130] and formerly East Malaysia was covered in such rainforest,[148] which is supported by its hot wet climate.[127] There are around 14,500 species of flowering plants and trees.[134] Besides rainforests, there are over 1,425 km2 (550 sq mi) ofmangroves in Malaysia,[130] and a large amount of peat forest. At higher altitudes, oaks, chestnuts, and rhododendrons replace dipterocarps.[127] There are an estimated 8,500 species of vascular plants in Peninsular Malaysia, with another 15,000 in the East.[149] The forests of East Malaysia are estimated to be the habitat of around 2,000 tree species, and are one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, with 240 different species of trees every hectare.[127] These forests host many members of the Rafflesia genus, the largest flowers in the world,[148] with a maximum diameter of 1 m (3 ft 3 in).[150]