Malaysia is one of the world’s megadiverse countries. It is also ranked 12th in the world, according to the National Biodiversity Index, which is based on estimates of country richness and endemism in four terrestrial vertebrate classes and vascular plants.

Malaysia has undergone rapid economic development since independence which is attributed to the utilization of the country’s rich natural resources and development of human capital. Based on 2012 statistics, approximately 60% of the country’s total land area is still forested, including permanent reserved forest (PRF), state land forests, national parks, and wildlife and bird sanctuaries. This is in line with Malaysia’s commitment to maintain at least 50% of forest and tree cover in perpetuity, as pledged at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. In addition, a total of 10.6% of Malaysia’s land area has been designated as terrestrial protected areas. The remaining land uses comprise agricultural crops, rubber plantations, oil palm plantations, urban and other uses. Malaysia has an estimated 15,000 species of vascular plants, 306 species of mammals, 742 species of birds, 242 species of amphibians, 567 species of reptiles, over 449 species of freshwater fish, over 500 species of marine fish and more than 150,000 species of invertebrates.

Marine protected areas represent a wide range of habitats, including coral reefs, sea grasses and mangrove forests. As of 2013, the Department of Marine Park Malaysia manages 248,613 hectares of marine protected areas, which include 42 islands in Peninsular Malaysia and federal territories that are gazetted as marine parks. Another 32 islands are located within the area covered by the marine park waters. Almost 20% of Peninsular Malaysia and federal territories is located within the area managed by the Department of Marine Park Malaysia. Marine protected areas cover 73,793 hectares in Sabah and are managed by Sabah Parks. In Sarawak, marine protected areas are managed by the Sarawak Forestry Department and cover 234,362.4 hectares.

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