We observed a period of famine in the lowland tropical rain forest of Sabah, Malaysia from August 1999 to September 2000. All six Malayan sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) that were captured and radio-collared were in poor physical condition, and two were later found dead. The physical condition of bearded pigs (Sus barbatus) that were captured, observed or photographed by camera traps also revealed that the pigs were in various stages of emaciation and starvation. We surmise that the famine resulted from prolonged scarcity of fruit during an intermast interval in the study area. These phenomena of emaciated animals and fruit scarcity have also been reported from other areas of Borneo. Lowland tropical rain-forest trees of Borneo display supra-annual synchronized general fruiting. We believe that the starvation we observed and the generally low density of large animals in Borneo forests is a consequence of a history of prolonged food scarcity during non-general-fruiting years, but may be accentuated by anthropogenic factors such as forest fragmentation, selective logging, and reduced density of fig trees in logged forests.
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