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Rules & Regulations

As the saying goes, "take only photos and leave only footprints." When you go trekking, there are some dos and don'ts. Some of these are just ethical rules, others are backed up by the long arm of the law. Check them out below to make sure you are doing the right thing, and don't get yourself into any trouble!

Rules & Regulations
> Trekking Ethics
> Sarawak Laws - Important!
> International Laws
Trek Locations
> Bako NP
> Gunung Gading NP
> Kubah NP & Matang
> Lambir Hills NP
> Mulu NP
> Niah NP
> Santubong
> Tanjung Datu NP
Trekking Ethics

These are just some basic rules for trekking anywhere. But when you're in national parks or other conservation areas, some of these are backed up by the law, with severe penalties (see Sarawak Laws below).

  • TAKE YOUR RUBBISH WITH YOU! If you carried it in, you can carry it out. Rubbish not only spoils the trek for others following you, it can also kill animals which try to eat it. Further, rubbish attracts disease and pests. If you really want to make a difference, pick up other people's rubbish as well, if you see any lying around.
  • Always stick to marked trails and avoid shortcutting - walking off trail can cause erosion.
  • Camp only in designated or established camping areas and be considerate of other campers.
  • Avoid lighting fires - use fuel cookers. If you must light a fire, don't break branches off living trees. Not only will this injure the tree and expose it to potential insect and disease attack, but it probably won't burn anyway.
  • Use provided toilet facilities. If there are none, ensure your toilet areas are well away (at least 50m) from the campsite and water sources. Dig a small hole and bury your waste (but not sanitary napkins etc - these should be carried out with other rubbish, as they will not biodegrade).
  • Don't use shampoo or soap in streams or rivers. These can pollute the stream, promoting toxic algae and killing fish and frogs. Frogs do much of their breathing through their skin, and also absorb anything in the water through it. They are therefore very sensitive to anything you put in the water.
  • Don't bring your pets (especially cats or dogs). Domestic pets can introduce diseases, with devastating consequences for native animals. They also damage and kill native plants and animals - even just on a day trip. If they escape and go feral, this damage is multiplied a thousandfold. The risks of bringing your pets go both ways - pets can pick up diseases and ticks which they then bring home with them!
  • Don't kill or take out plants or animals, and don't buy wild animal products. This includes wild game meats, skins, medicines, or souvenirs incorporating bone, claws, feathers, shells, coral, etc. There can be serious penalties for this - both in Malaysia and in your home country (see below).
  • Minimise garbage creation - recycle containers and boil water in preference to buying yet another plastic bottle.
  • Buy local - support local businesses around national parks. Local people are more likely to support and respect the national park if they see a benefit from it.
  • Support environmentally and socially sustainable tour operators, local businesses and initiatives.
  • Respect local cultures and values - Dress appropriately where necessary; don't act inappropriately in (or damage or interfere with) sacred places (whether in the jungle or in town); learn about cultural rules; and be polite to locals.
  • Consider other trekkers. Keep the noise down when around other trekkers, and don't mess-up campsites or the trail.


Sarawak Laws - Important!

Sarawak has passed a number of laws regulating the use its natural areas (including national parks), and protecting various species of plant and animal. The most important of these are the National Parks and Nature Reserves Ordinance 1998, and the Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998. You should be aware of the key aspects of both of these laws.

And remember, there are very good reasons for these laws. If they are properly respected, the national parks and the various endangered animals and plants will hopefully still be around for your grandchildren to see.

National Parks Ordinance

The National Parks and Nature Reserves Ordinance 1998 ("the National Parks Ordinance") deals, not surprisingly, with National Parks and Nature Reserves.


Part V of the National Parks Ordinance prohibits a broad range of activities in national parks or nature reserves, including the following:

  • entering without a permit;
  • carrying a weapon for killing animals;
  • cutting or burning any plant;
  • killing or destroying any animal, plant, egg or nest;
  • removing any animal or plant, whether alive or dead;
  • damaging or removing any object of prehistoric, cultural, historical, geological or scientific interest;
  • destroying or defacing any object (this presumably includes graffiti);
  • introducing any animal or plant (including bringing in pets);
  • clearing or breaking land; and
  • dumping rubbish of any kind.


If you do any of the above, you could be arrested and charged with an offence. The maximum penalty for any one offence is RM 5,000 and/or one year in jail. That's for each offence, so if you have committed two of these offences, double the penalties, and so-on. And if you happen to injure or kill a protected animal, you will probably also be open to prosecution under the Wild Life Protection Ordinance as well (see below). So think very carefully before you go and do anything stupid!

Wild Life Protection Ordinance

The Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998 contains two lists of animals (which include mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and invertebrates) - "totally protected" animals and "protected" animals. It also contains two equivalent lists for plants.

It is not possible to include these full lists here, but the various National Park headquarters have posters showing the most important of the animals included in the lists. (We have included the protection status for all animals and plants listed in our Flora and Fauna pages.)


  • It is prohibited to hunt, kill, capture, sell, import, export or even just possess any protected or totally protected animal, or any part of one (section 29).
  • It is also prohibited to collect, cut, injure, burn, sell, import, export or possess any protected or totally protected plant, or any part of one (section 30).
  • It is a separate offence to buy, sell or possess any other wild animal, or any part or product of one, unless it is properly licensed (sections 33, 34, 37).

Just because you see something is in a shop does not mean that it is legal. If you are in any doubt about whether something is made from or incorporates part of a protected species (or was properly licensed), then don't buy it!


The penalties for killing, buying, holding or exporting protected and totally protected species are very high, so be warned! The following maximum penalties apply to the offences outlined above:

  • If the animal is a rhinoceros - 5 years in jail and RM 50,000(!);
  • If the animal is an orang-utan or a proboscis monkey - two years in jail and a fine of RM 30,000;
  • All other totally protected animals and plants - two years in jail and a fine of RM 25,000
  • Protected animals and plants - one year in jail and RM 10,000;
  • Unlicenced wild animal or animal parts - selling: RM 5,000; buying: RM 2,000. (Possession is only an offence if holding more than 5kg for personal consumption - the penalty for exceeding this is one year jail and RM 2,000 per animal or part, and you are likely to get slapped with intent to sell as well.)


International Laws

In addition to the Sarawak laws listed above, the International Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ("CITES") requires all countries which are party to it to implement laws prohibiting trade in endangered species. This means that if you try to bring home anything containing or made from any of the endangered species listed in CITES, you could be breaking the law at home as well!

You should be aware that CITES might include species which are not listed as protected or totally protected under the Sarawak Wild Life Protection Ordinance - so even if it's not prohibited to take it out of Sarawak, it could be breaking the law to bring it home.

For more detail on CITES, see www.cites.org.

Many countries also have strict quarantine laws which prohibit the import of plant and animal matter.

In short - unless you're serious about it and ready for all the paperwork - don't buy anything which is made from or may contain wild animal parts or products - it's not worth it!


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