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Land area %

  • East Malaysia
  • West Malaysia

Total land area

East Malaysia: 198,447 km² 60%
West or
Peninsular Malaysia: 132,265 km² 40%

Population % (approx.)

East Malaysia: 6.2 million 20%

Peninsular Malaysia
or West Malaysia: 26.4 million 80%

Malaysia total: 32.6 million

Population (million)

  • East
  • West
  • Total

Forest cover %

  • East
  • West
  • Total

Forest Cover % (approx.)

East Malaysia: 12,469 000 hectares 63%

Peninsular Malaysia or
West Malaysia: 5.8 000 hectares 44%

Malaysia total: 32.912 000 hectares

Forest Cover explained

The ‘forest cover’ can be defined in different ways. You need to consider facts such as ‘primary’ forest i.e. virgin forest that has aged with high density and abundant wildlife. As opposed to ‘secondary’ forest which has been harvested for timber but has re-grown. The amount of primary forest in Malaysia is relatively small: less than 20% of its total forest area. The deforestation rate has been one of the highest in the world in the past decades. The loss of forest cover is mainly due to urbanization and forest conversion for timber and plantations.

Primary forests are the most significant for biodiversity and wildlife. The only primary forests left in West Malaysia are mainly in the national park Taman Negara. If East and West Malaysia compared, then most of the remaining virgin forests are in East Malaysia. To save these forests from destruction, there will need to be the political will to abandon the exploitation mindset. Rainforests have a crucial value as healthy ecosystems for people and wildlife, especially as carbon sinks to combat climate change.


According to Globalforestwatch, from 2001 to 2019, Malaysia lost 8.12Mha of tree cover, equivalent to a 28% decrease in tree cover since 2000, and 3.55Gt of CO₂ emissions. The highest loss to forest cover was in East Malaysia: 56% of total tree cover loss was in Sarawak and Sabah respectively.



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