Monday, October 6, 2014

What do Sarawakians really think about endangered wildlife poaching? By Patricia Hului @pattbpseeds

ARAWAK’S BEAUTIFUL WILDLIFE is protected under the Wild Life Protection Ordinance, 1998 (Chapter 26).
The ordinance separates the endangered species into two lists, Totally Protected Species which covers animals such as clouded leopard, orang utan, and proboscis monkey.
Then there is the Protected Species list. Some of the animals under this list can usually be seen making their way onto dinner tables of restaurants and longhouses.
The list includes all bats, pangolin, porcupines, sun bear, all soft-shelled turtles; all monitor lizards and all pythons.
For Protected Species, one requires a licence from the Forest Department to keep them as pets, hunt, kill, capture, sell, import or export them; which most of us are not aware of.
Bakunparadise is a public Facebook page dedicating to promote Bakun area as a tourist paradise. The usual posts consist of picturesque views of the dam and areas surrounding it.
But recently on Sept 28, Bakunparadise posted an eyebrow raising photo of a dead clouded leopard and a juvenile wild boar with caption, “After attacking two dogs and almost attacked a hunter, this leopard is dead. #wwfmalaysia where is your awareness programme?”
A posting on Bakunparadise of a clouded leopard that got killed after allegedly attacking the hunter. The Borneo Post SEEDS screenshot. screenshot
A posting on Bakunparadise of a clouded leopard that got killed after allegedly attacking the hunter and two dogs. The Borneo Post SEEDS screenshot.
The admins of Bakunparadise also commented, “Logging and massive deforestation for agriculture purposes have left these animals nowhere to stay. It is inevitable when the animals came across with hunters who search for food.”
Yet, the most interesting part is not the photo of the dead leopard but how the public responded the situation.
Sometimes we can find lies and false sentiments on social network sites (SNS), but these sites are also a place where some express their honest opinions.
Although it was allegedly an accidental kill of a Total Protected Species, the response to this particular Bakunparadise post, offers some insight on what a small portion of Sarawakians truly think about killing any wildlife or trading them.
Under the name Monica Sedai, a netizen commented “We can kill animals but don’t abandon human babies.”
She continued, “In the bible have said, we humans have given the power over all living things, as long as we don’t kill humans. So don’t worry.”
Fabian Law disagreed with her, “It is true God have given us the power over living things but humans also responsible to defend and protect all animals from extinction right?”
He added, “Such a pity a beautiful and rare animal have to die like this. There should be more awareness to avoid killing like this”
Another Facebook user, Michaelmick Mick said “Cook that leopard for medicine. Delicious”.
Hunt Simo Haya suggested the leopard should have been kept as a pet and another user Otto Otto wanted its teeth.
Not all applauded the hunter for killing the leopard, Normin NY stated the hunter should have just chased the leopard away, not killing it.
“Too cute to die,” said Orlanda Grace Guree.
Roscha Mapang Leo gave another comment, “To avoid such thing, the government has to be responsible by giving better living to those who live in the rural areas especially those who hunt for living.”
What do you think?
We asked The Borneo Post SEEDS’ readers on what they thought of endangered wildlife poaching and trading, here are their two cents.
Sebastian Conrad
Sebastian Conrad
Although he never personally encountered any endangered wildlife animals being traded or hunted so far, Sebastian Conrad was well aware of the situation here in Sarawak.
Based in Bintulu, the 28-year-old engineering clerk stated, “I think to stop endangered wildlife hunting or trading is quite impossible since we know that in Sarawak there are lots of habitats for wildlife.
“But what we can do to help to prevent these activities is to tighten the laws, for example, license for firearms and we can also organize the exhibition on wildlife to create the mindset of the younger generation about the wildlife in Sarawak,” Sebastian suggested.
Olivia Chin
Olivia Chin
As for Olivia Chin Ei Ching, to stop both endangered wildlife trading and illegal poaching here in Sarawak is tricky.
She stated that wildlife trading depends on demand, saying “When there is demand there will be supply”.
When there is no demand that is when the supply too stops.
Living in Kuching, Chin said she was not fully aware of wildlife was trading or illegal poaching that happening here in Sarawak as she never came across people selling exotic meats or hunters bringing home hunting souvenirs.
Chin commented “No ordinary people can do poaching. It usually is someone familiar with the jungle. Poachers are paid handsomely I guess. The market price for exotic meat is high and maybe’ exported out the country”.
She also pointed, “Deforestation could be the main culprit. Imagine no more homes for them. Then this forces them to go further out away from jungle for food so they eventually become easy target”.
“If the forest is still deep and thick, I’m sure any humans venture into it may not come out alive”
Sim Kuan Yew
Sim Kuan Yew
“I know it is happening but I’m not sure of the magnitude”, said Sim Kuan Yew.
Based on his experience, Sim shared “I’ve come across hunters who hunt wildlife for their own consumption such as wild boars, deer, and the sort. I’ve even heard about some of these hunters eating our hornbills, commenting about how tough the hornbill meats are”.
Sim stated, “I think the problem for a lot of illegal things including but not limited to the possession of wildlife animals is that we never really try to arrest people who own them”.
He added, “If we start to catch people who own exotic wildlife we’ll slash the demand, therefore we’ll slash the incentive of supplying to such demand in terms of affirmative action I think this is the only way”.
The 26 year old master student of educational administration stressed that we have to punish not only the suppliers but also the customers.
Unlike Sebastian, Sim thought that education and awareness is useful in the long run but it’s too slow for now.
Commenting on medicinal values in exotic wildlife, he said we can’t do much except keep showing people there are no scientific proofs to them.
Will illegal poaching ever be stopped here in Sarawak? Sim answered, “I’m afraid I’m not very optimistic about this idea. Due to the fact that Sarawak is a big area and it’s hard to control the whole area to prevent this from happening,”
He continued, “But I am sure that it can be reduced with newer generation coming in. There will be less people wanting to be a part of endangered poaching or trading as more and more people are getting educated.”
So, what now?
The truth is, public awareness on endangered wildlife hunting trading varies here in Sarawak.
For instance, someone who has lived and breathed city air since birth might think killing any kind of rare animals is repulsive and wrong.
Those who live in the rural areas and have seen their grandfathers, fathers bringing home animals from hunting would think it is normal that animals are hunted for food or sold for extra cash. One may argue that animal conservation is a luxury that cannot be afforded by those who depend on the jungle to eke out their living.
Regardless where we stand in this matter, we are all human, the highest place on the food chain.
The late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin once said, “If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. BECAUSE HUMANS WANT TO SAVE THINGS THAT THEY LOVE.”
Perhaps if all Sarawakians shared the same love for endangered wildlife, these animals could escape extinction.
Total Protected Species in Sarawak
Totally Protected Species of Wildlife in Sarawak

Protected Wildlife of Sarawak
Protected wilfdlife in Sarawak

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A rare sight/site by Alan Rogers

The Rafflesia in full bloom. — Photo by Mary Margaret
SABAHANS and Sarawakians can boast about having the largest flower in the world growing in Borneo.
However, how many of us have actually seen this flower in bloom?
I first saw and photographed a painted concrete sculptured version of Rafflesia arnoldii at Mount Kinabalu National Park Headquarters in 1994.
Subsequently I have visited Mount Kinabalu on seven occasions –  memorably in the Millennium year to climb to the summit of Low’s Peak with 26 of my senior biology and geography students.
On each occasion I had hoped to see a Rafflesia in bloom. No luck. It was not until last May, upon returning from Poring towards Kundasang, that I spotted a small sign on the road stating “Rafflesia in bloom”.
This time luck was on my side in following an off-the-road track to a Kadazan Dusun farmstead to witness my dream for an entry cost of RM20. This was the best investment ever in my life!
Rafflesia is a rare plant and although 29 species have been identified worldwide, it is the Rafflesia arnoldii that is the most sought in Sabah and Sarawak. Why was it assigned this Latin name?
We can thank the Swedish botanist Linnaeus for the Latin nomenclature of plant types and Sir Stanford Raffles, then governor of Sumatra, and his botanist companion Joseph Arnold who, in 1818, collected a specimen of the plant.
They were not the first ones to discover the Rafflesia for in 1797, French botanist Louis Deschamps had collected another species, Rafflesia patma, on his expedition to Java.
We should remember that the plant was also well known by the people living in the collection areas and throughout its range.
Rafflesia arnoldii, found at an altitude of 500 to 700 metres in lowland forests in Borneo, Sumatra and Java, is the largest Rafflesia species. It grows to around a metre in diameter and weighs up to 11kg.
It is a parasitic plant living off a type of grape vine – the Tetrastigma. Thread-like strands, similar to those of fungi, are embedded in the vine to receive nutrients and aqueous solutions from the vine’s host cells.
A blackish slimy heap is seen as the plant decays.
Amazingly this plant, unlike most, is without chlorophyll and thus cannot undertake the process of photosynthesis. It is unique amongst all plant species for it does not have leaves or roots per se, but only flowers.
Taking energy from the host vine a carbuncle grows out of the vine in a cabbage-like shaped bud. It takes about nine months to develop.
As the bud opens, the true beauty of this flower is revealed with its five petals of red with white spots and yellowish centre with brownish stamens on the male plant and thousands of eggs in the female plant.
The centre of the flower emits smells of rotting flesh to attract large flies and beetles.
These insects pollinate the flower as they flit from one plant to another of these unisexual plants.
For pollination to occur, a male and female plant must be in relatively close proximity. Alas, flowering of the Rafflesia only lasts for around a week.
A pollinated plant will produce a 15-centimetre fruit containing thousands of seeds. Tree shrews and squirrels avidly digest these seeds, which are deposited, through the animal’s excrement, elsewhere on the forest – frequently far from a Tetrastigma vine.
Although a unisexual plant, female and male species are seldom close together and botanists have calculated that the probability of male and female plants flowering at the same time as less than 80 to 90 per cent beyond the bud stage.
Hence the rarity of this plant. Beyond the flowering stage of five to seven days, the Rafflesia arnoldii deteriorates into a blackish slimy heap of decaying petals. Rafflesia, of any species, is no doubt one of the most difficult plants on earth to research.
Most eco-tourists to Sabah in the Mount Kinabalu National Park and Matang in Sarawak hope to sight a Rafflesia in bloom. Much local income is generated from those who have the luck to own the land where this ‘miracle’ occurs, but sadly on some sites the buds are harvested and consumed for their unproven medicinal qualities.
Worldwide Rafflesia is considered threatened and it is difficult to grow ‘in captivity’ in experimental stations.
With greater management and protection of these plants in various sites in Borneo further botanical investigations of these plants could proceed and still provide that extra income to the farmers and the holders of the lands on which these plants are found.
My RM20 was well spent to see this remarkable plant in its various stages of growth, in bud, in opening its petals, in flower, and in decay all on one small site.
Twenty years of my life have been spent in seeking Rafflesia arnoldii in bloom. At last, this year, my prayers were answered.
Who knows whether this indigenous plant will still be there for others to admire 20 years from now in 2034?
For further information read ‘Plant Life in Kinabalu National Park’ by Willem Meijer in ‘The Malayan Nature Journal’ Vol. 24 (1970-71) pages 184-189 or ‘Plant Life’ by EJH Corner in the Sabah Society Monograph: Kinabalu Summit of Borneo Chapter 6 pages 113-178. This publication has wonderful colour photographs.
The Rafflesia begins as a cabbage-like shaped bud.
The Malaysian Nature Society

Read more:

NATURAL FACELIFT FOR PANTAI PUTERI THIS SATURDAY, OCT 11, 2014 - Come & join us!! Register with

NATURAL FACELIFT FOR PANTAI PUTERI THIS SATURDAY, OCT 11, 2014 - Come & join us!! Register with

MNSKB & DBKU are organizing Community Tree Planting - gotong royong style to promote good relations with community members, create environmental awareness & clean up overgrown beach reserve area in order to enhance the area as a recreation spot
Date: 11th Oct 2014 (Saturday)
Venue: Pantai Puteri, Santubong
Time: 8am to noon.
· During the occasion we will plant 30 tree seedlings of rhu laut, jambu laut and bintangor laut donated by Sarawak Forest Tree Seed Bank, Sarawak Forestry Corporation.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Is mankind turning turtle? by Alan Rogers.

Hawksbill Turtle
STIMULATING articles in The Borneo Post by James Alin (April 17, 2014) and Rintos Mail (May 18, 2014) prompted me to write this.
In 2001, I landed ashore in Mayotte, in the Comoros group of islands, half way between Madagascar and Mozambique in the South-West Indian Ocean. Visiting the island’s volcanic crater-lake was a dream come true and then to be taken to a sandy beach for a swim in the warm sea was a delight.
My guide pointed to female turtle tracks through the sand and he reckoned that the turtles were nesting on the beach.
Quite suddenly and totally unexpectedly a mound of dry sand erupted as tens of little turtle hatchlings broke the surface and started to flip their way to the sea some 100 metres away.
Local children gently scooped them up in handfuls and ran to the sea to release these newcomers to their marine domain. An angry French tourist on the beach rushed over and asked whether I spoke English to converse with the children and tell them to leave nature to take its course!
Sadly she had not done her homework as these islanders spoke a form of French and had been helping the hatchlings in this manner for decades. The sheer delight on these children’s faces will remain with me forever.
It was frightening, however, to see from up to 20 metres offshore how many of these hatchlings were devoured by seabirds and further out to sea the shark fins were moving in a frenzy of feeding.
Against all natural hazards, sea turtles as a species have survived for more than a million years despite their chances from hatchling to maturity being less than one to 1,000. Even before they have a chance to hatch, monitor lizards often devour the eggs in the nests.
Loggerhead turtle hatchlings
I was told by a local conservationist that a turtle uses her front flippers to excavate dry sand, usually at night, to nest. Initially digging her body size pit, she then excavates deeper to create an egg chamber where she calmly lays her eggs.
Then facing the sea, she uses her rear flippers to fill in the egg chamber followed by front flippers scooping back the sand to hide her nest.
The incubation period of the eggs is up to two months. Researchers have found that warmer sand produces more female hatchlings and cooler sand more males. Very sadly, our very nature reduces the turtle population on our planet.
Turtles ingest, with disastrous consequences, plastic junk thrown overboard from ships and washed into the sea by our rivers.
Even if they manage to reach maturity, they can be accidentally caught in trawl or gill nets and by long-line fishing. As some turtle species enjoy crustaceans, they are trapped in crab and lobster pots.
Turtles are hunted for their highly prized meat and for ‘tortoise shell’ jewellery as well as for their perceived, but never proven, medicinal properties. Fresh turtle eggs are harvested and traded and this consumption is a threat to populations.
I have witnessed traders from across the border eagerly selling fresh turtle eggs from beneath their stalls to equally eager Malaysian purchasers at the Serikin Sunday morning market.
Sea turtles are divided into two families. The majority are the Cheloniidae, with shells covered by horny plates (scutes).
Only one species of the sea turtle family – the Dermochelyidae – has a leather-like skin, hence the Leatherback Turtle.
In Malaysia we can view, in various places, five of the seven types of sea turtle including the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), whose hatchlings I witnessed in the Comoros Islands.
The Green Turtle is totally herbivorous, feeding on seagrass beds and is the largest of the hard shelled turtles taking decades to reach sexual maturity. Female turtles of all species return annually to the same beach on which they were born to lay their eggs.
Olive Ridley Turtle
Each female Green Turtle lays clutches of around 125 eggs each time at two-week intervals during the laying season.
By comparison, the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), exploited for its ‘tortoise shell’, lays three to five clutches of eggs with each cluster averaging 130 eggs. With its beak, it is initially a pelagic (shallow sea) fisher but as it develops, it dives deeper to feed off coral reef animals such as corals and sponges.
Confined mostly to subtropical and tropical areas, the Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the largest species nesting up to nine times each breeding season, laying a clutch of 100 eggs each time.
Wide ranging, it can withstand the relative coldness of temperate waters for it has a peculiar physiological capability, which allows it to maintain its body temperature up to 17 degrees Celsius above sea water temperature.
Last July, fishermen off the shores of South West Cornwall in the United Kingdow spotted these turtles. Leatherback turtles eat soft jellyfish almost exclusively.
Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta) have large heads and powerful jaws used for crushing mollusc shells, crabs and lobsters, fish and shrimp. Whilst mostly found in coastal waters they are essentially benthic (sea bottom) feeders and are quite unlike the other species of turtle whose habitats vary from shallower to deeper waters in their lifetimes.
The most abundant and yet the most solitary of sea turtles, feeding on algae, crabs, lobsters, molluscs, fish and shrimps, is the Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea).
It is most susceptible to long-line and gill nets as it is found in coastal bays and river estuaries. With the youngest maturity age of all sea turtles at 15 years, it nests twice each year laying a clutch of 100 eggs each time.
What of the future of our sea turtles? The World Wildlife Fund has declared the very threats to the existence of sea turtles:
  • Hunting of turtles for meat, shells and eggs for religious ceremonies, costume jewellery, so-called medicine, and food.
  • The killing of turtles – despite being protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) agreement.
  • Habitat loss through coastal development, damage of coral reefs and seagrass, through coastal land clearance and the dredging of river estuaries plus chemical run off from the land into river systems from agricultural practices.
  • Climatic change resulting in even warmer sea temperatures, more severe storms and a gradual rise in sea level all combining to destroy turtle nesting beaches.
The Indian Ocean-South East Asian Marine Turtle ( MoU came into effect in 2003 with its management plan.
Last June its website frankly stated that: “Owing to other development issues in the region, some countries lack the resources for the successful implementation of the MoU.”
I believe that the Sabah Wildlife Department and Sarawak Forestry Corporation have worked towards protecting this remarkable species through their rangers’ guardianship of turtles, their nests and eggs.
Whilst our knowledge of the migratory paths of sea turtles is still in its infancy despite turtle tagging, recent research by students at Swansea University, UK, have tracked using global positioning system (GPS) the longest voyage of a Green Turtle of 2,485 miles in the Indian Ocean.
All of us must pull together to ensure that these extraordinary sea creatures survive. We must ensure that we are not their predators.
Leatherback Turtle
The Malaysian Nature Society

Read more: