Kinabalu Giant Red Leech

Mimobdella buettikoferi

Last updated: April 28, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit SIMON SHIM/Shutterstock.com

Comes out only during a rainstorm or just afterward

Kinabalu Giant Red Leech Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Annelida
Class
Clitellata
Order
Arhynchobdellida
Family
Salifidae
Genus
Mimobdella
Scientific Name
Mimobdella buettikoferi

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Kinabalu Giant Red Leech Conservation Status

Kinabalu Giant Red Leech Locations

Kinabalu Giant Red Leech Locations

Kinabalu Giant Red Leech Facts

Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Comes out only during a rainstorm or just afterward
Estimated Population Size
Unknown-Not listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
Bright reddish orange body
Other Name(s)
Giant leech
Habitat
Soil in the mountains
Predators
Birds
Diet
Carnivore
Type
Insect
Common Name
Kinabalu giant red leech
Location
Borneo

Kinabalu Giant Red Leech Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Red
  • Orange
Skin Type
Skin
Lifespan
4-6 years
Weight
Less than one ounce
Length
20 inches plus

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“Though the Kinabalu Giant Red Leech is called a leech, it doesn’t feed on blood”

The Kinabalu giant red leech definitely lives up to its name. This insect is bright reddish-orange in color and is twenty or more inches long. It’s found on a mountain in Borneo. Kinabalu giant red leeches are carnivores eating a worm that lives alongside it in Borneo.

Kinabalu Giant Red Leech Species, Types, and Scientific Name

Mimobdella buettikoferi is the scientific name of the Kinabalu giant red leech. While the word Mimobdella is the genus of the insect, the word buettikoferi is a reference to Johann Buttikofer. Johann Buttikofer was a naturalist who collected one of these insects for study.

Kinabalu giant red leeches belong to the Salifidae family. Leeches are identified by their slow, inchworm-like movements. The Mimobdella is a genus within the Salifidae family. The three leeches in this genus include:

  • Kinabalu giant red leech-Mimobdella buettikoferi
  • Mimobdella japonica
  • Mimobdella africana

Appearance: How to Identify a Kinabalu Giant Red Leech

The size of this insect is its most notable feature. It can grow to a length of 20 inches or longer. It has slimy bright reddish-orange skin. The narrow body of this insect allows it to fit into the crevices of rocks in its mountainous habitat. It slowly propels its segmented body across the wet soil in search of its prey. Four to six years is believed to be the lifespan of this leech.

When you think of the word leech, you may picture a slimy creature with a thicker, shorter body designed to latch onto its prey. The Hungarian leech is one example. It has a thick body with skin featuring a colorful pattern of green, red, and black. The Hungarian leech feeds on blood. The Kinabalu giant red leech looks more like a worm than a typical leech.

It’s tempting to compare the Kinabalu giant red leech to a nightcrawler you may see on the sidewalk. They are both slimy, segmented insects. But the biggest nightcrawler only grows to be a little over nine inches long. Plus, brown nightcrawlers can easily blend into their soil habitat.

Another difference between nightcrawlers and Kinabalu giant red leeches is nightcrawlers are not carnivores. Instead, they eat decomposing plants and vegetables. They may even be found in a backyard compost pile.

Kinabalu giant red leeches are vulnerable to predators because of their bright color. So, their only method of self-protection is to slide into rock crevices in order to stay hidden.

These leeches are solitary. They stay in rock crevices most of the time. In fact, they are only seen during heavy rainfall or just after a storm. This is when their Kinabalu giant earthworms are washed up out of their hiding places.

Kinabalu Giant Red Leech is bright reddish orange in color and is twenty or more inches long.
Kinabalu Giant Red Leech is bright reddish-orange in color and is twenty or more inches long.

SIMON SHIM/Shutterstock.com

Habitat: Where to Find Kinabalu Giant Red Leeches

These giant red leeches live in southeast Asia. Specifically, they are only found on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. These insects live at an altitude of 8,200 to 9,800 feet on the mountain. They hide in rock crevices and are found in damp soil beneath leaf debris.

Borneo is an island shared by three countries:

Diet: What Do Kinabalu Giant Red Leeches Eat?

Though the Kinabalu giant red leech has the word leech in its name, it doesn’t attach to and suck the blood of its prey. This leech is a carnivore, swallowing its prey whole.

What eats Kinabalu giant red leeches?

Large birds are predators of this giant leech.

What do Kinabalu giant red leeches eat?

This insect’s prey is the bluish-gray Kinabalu giant earthworm. Like the Kinabalu giant red leech, this earthworm is only found on Mount Kinabalu. At 27 inches long, this earthworm is larger in size than the Kinabalu giant red leech. Though it’s larger in size, it still pays a price as the only prey of this leech on Mount Kinabalu. The Kinabalu giant red leech is able to overpower the worm, swallowing it whole.

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Kinabalu Giant Red Leech FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is a Kinabalu giant red leech?

It is an insect found only on Mount Kinabalu on the island of Borneo. Though it’s called a leech, the Kinabalu giant red leech is closer in appearance to a worm. Its slimy skin is bright reddish-orange, and it can grow to a length of 20 inches or more.

This leech is a carnivore. Instead of sucking the blood of its prey like typical leeches, this leech swallows its prey whole.

The lifespan of this leech is estimated at four to six years. Little is known about this elusive leech, so it may live longer than estimated.

As a note, you may have heard that leeches are used in the medical field. This is true. The saliva of a leech contains a substance that can help prevent the development of blood clots after surgery on a person’s legs, arms, or other body parts. However, Kinabalu giant red leeches don’t suck blood, so they aren’t used in these procedures.

How many legs does the Kinabalu giant red leech have?

This insect doesn’t have legs. It has a segmented body that contracts and moves like a worm.

How do you identify a Kinabalu giant red leech?

Very easily! It is bright reddish-orange in color and can be 20 inches or longer in size.

Where are Kinabalu giant red leeches found?

Its range of territory is very limited. It’s only found on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo.
They hide in rock crevices and are found beneath leaf debris and creating burrows in wet soil.

Though various leeches are sold for a high price by insect stores online, the Kinabalu giant red leech is not the type available. Leeches for sale at a high price may be for medicinal purposes and some people even keep them as pets.

How big is the Kinabalu giant red leech?

It can grow to 20 inches long and sometimes longer.

What does a Kinabalu giant red leech eat?

Its only prey is the Kinabalu giant earthworm. This earthworm is also endemic to Mount Kinabalu. This means it’s only found on Mount Kinabalu just like the Kinabalu giant red leech. As you see, these two interesting insects have a lot in common!

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinabalu_giant_red_leech
  2. Our Breathing Planet, Available here: https://www.ourbreathingplanet.com/kinabalu-giant-red-leech/
  3. Endemic Guides, Available here: https://www.endemicguides.com/malaysia-nature-tour/nature-and-wildlife/forest-giant-red-leech/
  4. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimobdella
  5. Nature North, Available here: http://naturenorth.com/fall/ncrawler/Night_Crawlers_02.html
  6. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirudo_verbana
  7. Northern Woodlands, Available here: https://northernwoodlands.org/outside_story/article/leeches-dont-all-suck-blood

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