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. It is linked to Singapore by a narrow causeway and a bridge. The country also has maritime boundaries with Vietnam and the Philippines.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. Brunei forms what is almost an enclave in Malaysia, 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. Tanjung Piai, located in the southern state of Johor, is the southernmost tip of continental Asia. 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.
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. Peninsular Malaysia, containing 40 per cent of Malaysia's land area, extends 740 km (460 mi) from north to south, and its maximum width is 322 km (200 mi). It is divided between its east and west coasts by the Titiwangsa Mountains, rising to a peak elevation of 2,183 metres (7,162 ft) at Mount Korbu, part of a series of mountain ranges running down the centre of the peninsula. These mountains are heavily forested, and mainly composed of granite and other igneous rocks. Much of it has been eroded, creating a karst landscape. The range is the origin of some of Peninsular Malaysia's river systems. 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.
East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, has a coastline of 2,607 km (1,620 mi). It is divided between coastal regions, hills and valleys, and a mountainous interior. The Crocker Range extends northwards from Sarawak, dividing the state of Sabah. It is the location of the 4,095 m (13,435 ft) high Mount Kinabalu, 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. 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.
Around these two halves of Malaysia are numerous islands, the largest of which is Banggi. The local climate is equatorial and characterised by the annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons. The temperature is moderated by the presence of the surrounding oceans. Humidity is usually high, and the average annual rainfall is 250 cm (98 in).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.
Malaysia signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 12 June 1993, and became a party to the convention on 24 June 1994.It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention on 16 April 1998. The country is megadiverse with a high number of species and high levels of endemism. It is estimated to contain 20 per cent of the world's animal species. High levels of endemism are found on the diverse forests of Borneo's mountains, as species are isolated from each other by lowland forest. There are about 210 mammal species in the country. Over 620 species of birds have been recorded in Peninsular Malaysia, with many endemic to the mountains there. A high number of endemic bird species are also found in Malaysian Borneo. 250 reptile species have been recorded in the country, with about 150 species of snakes and 80 species of lizards. There are about 150 species of frogs, and thousands of insect species. Malaysia's exclusive economic zone is 1.5 times larger than its land area, and some of its waters are in the Coral Triangle, a biodiversity hotspot. The waters around Sipadan island are the most biodiverse in the world. Bordering East Malaysia, the Sulu Sea is a biodiversity hotspot, with around 600 coral species and 1200 fish species. The unique biodiversity of Malaysian Caves always attracts lovers of ecotourismfrom all over the world.
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.
About two thirds of Malaysia is covered in forest, with some forests believed to be 130 million years old. The forests are dominated by dipterocarps. Lowland forest covers areas below 760 m (2,490 ft), and formerly East Malaysia was covered in such rainforest, which is supported by its hot wet climate. There are around 14,500 species of flowering plants and trees. Besides rainforests, there are over 1,425 km2 (550 sq mi) of mangroves in Malaysia, and a large amount of peat forest. At higher altitudes, oaks, chestnuts, and rhododendrons replace dipterocarps. There are an estimated 8,500 species of vascular plants in Peninsular Malaysia, with another 15,000 in the East.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. These forests host many members of the Rafflesia genus, the largest flowers in the world, with a maximum diameter of 1 m (3 ft 3 in).
Logging, along with cultivation practices has devastated tree cover, causing severe environmental degradation in the country. Over 80 per cent of Sarawak's rainforest has been cleared. Floods in East Malaysia have been worsened by the loss of trees, and over 60 per cent of the Peninsular's forest have been cleared. With current rates of deforestation, the forests are predicted to be extinct by 2020. Deforestation is a major problem for animals, fungi and plants, as the forest is cut to make room for plantations. Most remaining forest is found inside national parks. Habitat destruction has proved a threat for marine life. Illegal fishing is another major threat, with fishing methods such as dynamite fishing and poisoning depleting marine ecosystems. Leatherback turtle numbers have dropped 98 per cent since the 1950s. Hunting has also been an issue for some animals, with overconsumption and the use of animal parts for profit endangering many animals, from marine life to tigers. Marine life is also detrimentally affected by uncontrolled tourism.
The Malaysian government aims to balance economic growth with environmental protection, but has been accused of favouring big business over the environment. Some state governments are now trying to counter the environmental impact and pollution created by deforestation; and the federal government is trying to cut logging by 10 per cent each year. 28 national parks have been established; 23 in East Malaysia and five in the Peninsular. Tourism has been limited in biodiverse areas such as Sipadan island. Animal trafficking is a large issue, and the Malaysian government is holding talks with the governments of Brunei and Indonesia to standardise anti-trafficking laws.
As of the 2010 census, the population of Malaysia was 28,334,135, making it the 42nd most populated country. 91.8 per cent of the population are Malaysian citizens. Malaysian citizens are divided along ethnic lines, with 67.4 per cent considered bumiputera The largest group of bumiputera are Malays, who are defined in the constitution as Muslims who practice Malay customs and culture. They play a dominant role politically. Bumiputera status is also accorded to certain non-Malay indigenous peoples, including ethnicThais, Khmers, Chams and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. Non-Malay bumiputera make up more than half of Sarawak's population and over two thirds of Sabah's population. There also exist aboriginal groups in much smaller numbers on the peninsula, where they are collectively known as the Orang Asli. Laws over who gets bumiputera status vary between states.
Other minorities lack bumiputera status. 24.6 per cent of the population are of Chinese descent, while those of Indian descent comprise 7.3 per cent of the population. The Chinese have historically been dominant in the business and commerce community, and form a plurality of the population of Penang. Immigrants from India, the majority of them Tamils, began arriving in Malaysia early in the 19th century. Malaysian citizenship is not automatically granted to those born in Malaysia, but is granted to a child born of two Malaysian parents outside Malaysia. Dual citizenship is not permitted. Citizenship in the states of Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo are distinct from citizenship in Peninsular Malaysia for immigration purposes. Every citizen is issued a biometric smart chipi dentity card known as MyKad at the age of 12, and must carry the card at all times.
The education system features a non-compulsory kindergarten education followed by six years of compulsory primary education, and five years of optional secondary education. Schools in the primary education system are divided into two categories: national primary schools, which teach in Malay, and vernacular schools, which teach in Chinese or Tamil. Secondary education is conducted for five years. In the final year of secondary education, students sit for the Malaysian Certificate of Education examination. Since the introduction of the matriculation programme in 1999, students who completed the 12-month programme in matriculation colleges can enroll in local universities. However, in the matriculation system, only 10 per cent of places are open to non-bumiputera students.
The infant mortality rate in 2009 was 6 deaths per 1000 births, and life expectancy at birth in 2009 was 75 years. With the aim of developing Malaysia into a medical tourism destination, 5 per cent of the government social sector development budget is spent on health care. The population in concentrated on Peninsular Malaysia where 20 million of approximately 28 million Malaysians live. 70 per cent of the population is urban. Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the largest city in Malaysia, as well as its main commercial and financial centre. Putrajaya, a purpose-built city constructed from 1999, is the seat of government, as many executive and judicial branches of the federal government were moved there to ease growing congestion within Kuala Lumpur. Due to the rise in labour-intensive industries, the country is estimated to have over 3 million migrant workers; about 10 per cent of the population. Sabah-based NGOs estimate that out of the 3 million that make up the population of Sabah, 2 million are illegal immigrants. Malaysia hosts a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 171,500. Of this population, approximately 79,000 are from Burma, 72,400 from the Philippines, and 17,700 from Indonesia. Malaysian officials are reported to have turned deportees directly over to human smugglers in 2007, and Malaysia employs RELA, a volunteer militia with a history of controversies, to enforce its immigration law.