Monday, April 14, 2014

Be in the know about jellyfish By Patricia Hului @pattbpseeds

NOT YOUR EVERYDAY VIEW: Rahim Bugo, managing director of Permai Rainforest Resort is paddleboarding while watching out for jellyfish.
NOT YOUR EVERYDAY VIEW: Rahim Bugo, managing director of Permai Rainforest Resort paddleboarding while watching out for jellyfish.
 
IT HAD ALL STARTED with a phonecall from my editor, Margaret, who called to let me know that I had to be at Permai Rainforest Resort on April 6 by 8am.

She let me know that Zora Chan from Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) would be giving me a call, and sure enough, hours later, an unknown number popped up on my phone screen. Sounding friendly over the phone, Zora gave me detailed instructions on what to bring for the next day and how to get to Permai since – being from Bintulu – I’d never been there before.

Maybe I was too excited or maybe it was out of fear that I would get lost (my sense of direction is very poor), but it so happened that I woke up, got dressed and arrived almost an hour earlier than the appointed time at the resort.

Together along with a couple members of the press and few members from MNS, we were divided into two groups. There was a limited number of seats available on the boat, so we had to go a group at a time to catch a rare view for most people from the city: a jellyfish swarming. 

GET THE BOAT OUT TO SEA: Heading out to watch jellyfish swarming.
GET THE BOAT OUT TO SEA: Heading out to watch jellyfish swarming.

According to Rahim Bugo, the managing director of Permai Rainforest Resort, who had been paddle-boarding out to sea a day before, there were hundreds of them bobbing up and down close to the water’s surface.

As we cruised through the waves, I was fascinated. It’s not every day you have the opportunity to ride on a boat out to sea and catch a jellyfish swarm. I was pulled in by the beautiful scenery of the sea and sky, trees along the small cape to our right, thinking how Mother Nature plays with all the colours, and how this seemed so unlike Kuching.

Soon enough I reminded myself the reason I was there, so I pulled out a pen and said to myself: “Time to work, Pat.”

Dressed casually in shorts and a plaid shirt, Anthony Sebastian, chairman of MNS Kuching branch, sat near the bow of the boat and shared what he knew about jellyfish.

He started by telling us the basics of the jellyfish. Under the phylum Cnidaria – ‘family’ in layman’s terms – jellyfish share the same feature as coral which is cnidocytes: explosive cells used to capture its prey as well as a defence mechanism.

TOUCH IT; Anthony (left) is holding on the net while one member of the press try to feel the jellyfish’s surface. No jellyfish was harmed during this process.
TOUCH IT: Anthony (left) is holding onto the net while one member of the press tries to feel the jellyfish. No jellyfish were harmed during this process. :)

Dubbed the oldest multi-organ animal, these free-swimming creatures have been wandering the seas for at least 500 million years.

Anthony briefed us saying that the most recent data on jellyfish was from 1991 from the fisheries department and that its records only accounted for the years between 1980 to 1987.

“In those years, they were catching 820 tonnes every year. It was worth RM6 million a year; remember that was from the 1980 to 1987. Today it must be worth much more,” he pointed out. “It is a local and very lucrative industry”.

On which species were found at which locations, Anthony said, “From my understanding, most of the red ones are found in the Mukah and Bintulu area whereas the white ones are found in Kuching, Sematan area.”

CAUGHT It; the boatman caught a jellyfish on the net for us to observe for a while.
CAUGHT IT: The boatman caught a jellyfish for us to observe for a while.

These umbrella-shaped animals with trailing tentacles are food for most endangered marine turtles like the loggerhead, Ridley and leatherback turtles. Leatherback turtles rely primarily on jellyfish for their diets.

After some of my own research, I found a paper from 1991 by Richard Rumpet called ‘Some Aspects of the Biology and Fishery of Jellyfish Found along the Coast of Sarawak, Malaysia’.

Back then, Rumpet had not yet identified the species name of Sarawak jellyfish. But recent efforts by Fisheries Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) Sarawak identified that there were three dominant species foumd here; Lobonema smithii (the biggest white jellyfish in Malaysia), Rhopilema esculenta (red jellyfish) and Mastigias papua (spotted jellyfish).

According to Rumpet, the coastal waters off Sarawak are suitable for jellyfish breeding. This is shown by the occurrence of jellyfish all along the coast of Sarawak.

The Fisheries Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) Sarawak’s website listed three publications on this gelatinous animal – all done in the late 1990s – a study on jellyfish in Sarawak waters, breeding habitat and biology of jellyfish in Sarawak and the Encyclopaedia of Malaysia the Malaysian Seas: In Jellyfish.

Perhaps it was the weather – it was raining towards the end of our boat ride – or perhaps it was the slightly choppy waves but throughout the thirty-minute boat ride, we only managed to catch one jellyfish with a net for close observation.

WASHED UP: A jellyfish is washed up on shore. Photo courtesy of Malaysian Nature Society.
WASHED UP: A jellyfish is washed up on shore. Photo courtesy of Malaysian Nature Society.

Then I realised there was a lot of room for research and exploration on jellyfish here in Sarawak; an example clearly would be factors affecting the swarming of jellyfish.

How was it that the day before our trip out to sea, for instance, we were told by resort staff that there were hundreds of them swimming closely to the surface yet when we got there a day later only handfuls of them were sighted and few washed up onshore?

ABOUT MNS

Being the oldest environmental NGO in Malaysia, MNS is still doing what it does best since 1941; to promote the conservation of Malaysia’s natural heritage.

MNS Kuching Branch is continuing to do so in Kuching with one of their efforts to organise the second instalment of Santubong Nature Festival end of this year.

Open to MNS members and the public, the festival is aimed to raise public awareness of the value of Santubong Peninsula.

Leading up to the festival, MNS is organising activities such as trips and talks. Sign up as a member by contacting MNS Kuching Branch at their Facebook page or email them at mnskuching@gmail.com.

 For Santubong Nature Festival, just watch out for more updates on the event at www.facebook.com/SantubongNatureFestival.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Protecting hornbills from total wipeout by Rintos Mail, reporters@theborneopost.com. Posted on April 13, 2014,

The Rhinoceros hornbill enjoys an exalted status as the Sarawak state emblem. — Photos courtesy of SFC.
HORNBILLS (bucerotidae) have many ornithological admirers – with their long eyelashes (modified feathers), dark eyes and an almost comically large, curved bill.
They range from the size of a pigeon to a large bird with a 1.8m wingspan. You can easily pick out hornbills from other birds by a special body part atop their bill called casque.
Hornbills have long tails, broad wings and white and black, brown, or gray feathers. This contrasts with the brightly coloured necks, faces, bills, and casques in many species. Females and males often have different coloured faces and eyes.
I had seen a hornbill – possibly from the Oriental-pied species – flying above Logan Bunut Lake in Lawas while I was making a boat tour around the lake in 2010.
Actually, it’s not uncommon to find hornbills in the forests or see them winging across the land in search of food or back to roost in the hollowed out part of a tree trunk.
There are 10 hornbill species in Malaysia, eight of which are found in Sarawak, according to Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC).
The two species found in the peninsula are Plain Pouch and Great Hornbills while the eight indigenous to Sarawak are Oriental-pied Hornbill (anthracoceros albirostris), Black Hornbill (anthracoceros malayanus), Bushy-crested Hornbill (anorrhinus galeritus), White-crowned (crested) Hornbill (berenicornis comatus), Rhinoceros Hornbill (buceros rhinoceros), Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), Wrinkled Hornbill (aceros corrugatus) and wreathed Hornbill (aceros undulatus).
Sarawak is known as the Land of Hornbills because these birds can be found in most parts of the state. The Black Hornbill is the most common while the Rhinoceros Hornbill is the largest of the bucerotidae family in Sarawak.
An adult Rhinoceros Hornbill is about the size of a swan – 91-122 cm long and weighing two to three kilogrammes. It’s found in lowlands and montane, tropical and subtropical regions, and mountain rainforests up to an altitude of 1,400 metres in Borneo, Sumatra, Java, the Malay Peninsula, Singapore and southern Thailand. It can live in captivity up to 90 years.
State bird of Sarawak
The Rhinoceros Hornbill is the state bird of Sarawak. For some Dayaks, especially the Ibans, the hornbill represents the chief of worldly birds or the supreme worldly bird, and its statue is used to welcome Sengalang Burong, the god of the augural birds, to the feast and celebration of humankind.
The Rhinoceros Hornbill is noted for the loud ‘whooshing’ sound of its huge wings and the rasping harshness of its haunting call. Today, it still enjoys the exalted status as the Sarawak state emblem.
But is Sarawak still truly the Land of Hornbills?
Widespread logging and poaching are allegedly threatening to push some of the popular species to the brink of extinction in the forests of Borneo. Moreover, hornbills are reportedly also hunted for food.
The Jakarta Post (November 2012) reported that hornbill body parts had been smuggled out of Kalimantan, Indonesia. As many as 285 bills from enggang gading (Helmeted Hornbill) were confiscated in smuggling attempts foiled by the Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) of West Kalimantan.
Describing the seizure as “unusually large,” the Centre said this had, without doubt, resulted in a reduction of the male hornbill population in the area.
The casques, bound for China, are processed into objects of art  such as sword handles and other items. Middlemen buy them for between 1 million rupiah (US$105) and 3 million rupiah apiece while the price can escalate on the international market, the report said.
On borrowed time
It seems the hornbill is on borrowed time with hunting and habitat loss posing as major threats to a potential wipeout of this particular avian species, not only in Sarawak but also other parts of the world such as Thailand, Indonesia, India, Africa and the Philippines.
The Rhinoceros Hornbill population especially is under a cloud, being a much sought after hunting and poaching target.
According to native folklore, this species holds mythical powers. When offered for sacrifice, its yellow-orange beak slightly curved out shape is taken out, and when carved and worn as a necklace, possesses the power to “control other people.”
The feathers are used for traditional costumes or some kind of ornaments to be hung on a warrior’s weapon such as spear, blowpipe, wooden shield and machete. Such weapons, it is believed, have magical powers to invoke durability, tenacity and courage during a battle.
The traditional costumes and talismans are preserved from generation to generation and used only during the grandest occasions such as marriages and other auspicious festivities.
To conserve the species, the Wild Life Protection Ordinance, 1998, has classified the hornbill as totally protected. A totally protected species is defined as one in danger of extinction due to hunting and habitat destruction.
Section 29 of the Ordinance metes out the penalty of a maximum RM25,000 fine and two years’ imprisonment for keeping hornbills as pets, killing, hunting, capturing, selling, trading or disturbing them, or possessing any recognisable hornbill parts.
According to SFC, the most recent incident of hornbill-related offence was the well-publicised poaching of the Oriental-pied Hornbill named Faridah in Miri. A 20-year-old man was jailed three months and fined RM20,000 in connection with the case.
No specific data
SFC chief executive officer Datu Ali Yusop said in Sarawak, hornbills could be seen in most totally protected areas such as Similajau National Park, Santubong National Park, Tanjung Datu National Park, Gunung Gading National Park.
Other areas where they can commonly be spotted include Gunong Mulu National Park, Pulong Tau National Park and Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary.
However, Ali, said there is presently no specific data on hornbill population in Sarawak.
“We are still in the early stages of a population survey although  information on the distribution of the eight species is available and a database is being developed.
“Now, we can’t tell you exactly whether the population of any of the species is declining but none of the eight species is extinct and we are earnestly intensifying efforts to ensure their habitats are well protected,” he assured.
Ali said threats to hornbill existence may be due to loss of habitat and deforestation, lack of food source as well as nesting sites.
He stressed habitat loss posed a severe threat to hornbills since they only used large tree cavities for nesting – for example the dipterocarpus species, one of the most valuable timber types in Sarawak.
“Hornbills are also dependent on the forests for their food source.  Most are dependent on primary forests and only two species – the Black and Oriental-pied Hornbills – can be found in disturbed areas such as at the proposed Piasau Nature Reserve in Miri,” he added.
Ali said there were many ways to save hornbills, adding that with available data, conservation was not only about protecting the species, but also their habitats.
However, he pointed out that all these required funds and other resources.
He said hornbill habitats must be protected through land gazettement while population survey and monitoring should be conducted from time to time.
“Donations to buy artificial nesting boxs are also needed.”
On conservation, Ali said SFC had taken proactive action, including gazettement of Piasau Camp as a Nature reserve-urban park for a population of Oriental-pied Hornbills nesting there; setting up of Fig Garden at Kubah National Park (habitat enhancement) and conducting a population survey.
He disclosed a five-year programme had been drawn up, encompassing studies on hornbills in the totally protected areas of western Sarawak.
“We are yet to see the effectiveness of our initiatives as holistic population surveys have not to be conducted. But at least, these steps are useful for hornbill conservation – in particular, the species involved.
“As for Piasau Camp, the public must have heightened awareness of hornbills to portray their love for Nature which, in return, will benefit the long-term survival of the species,” he said.
Hornbills are primarily frugivorous, eating a variety of fruits, with figs being predominant in their diet. They also eat a variety of animal prey.


Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2014/04/13/protecting-hornbills-from-total-wipeout/#ixzz2ylCf13Eg

Walking with palms.by Mary Margaret. Posted on April 13, 2014

Kubah National Park is home to 86 species of palms.
PALMS, palms, palms …
The cool diffused light filtered through the tall trees onto the forest floor. It played games with the understory plants, flung shadows here and there.
The palm fronds in unexpected shapes, sizes and colours bathed in the muted light.
Dark green, lime, jade, emerald, olive, sea and bottle green leaves basked in the filtered light. Palm fronds of a multitude of shapes and sizes waved in the gentle breeze. The large circular palm fronds, sprouting directly from the ground, pulled me from the boat-shaped leaves.
The palm, Licuala orbicularis or parasol palm, truly looked like a round umbrella. Its name orbicularis means circular, perfectly describing this stunning palm. I wondered if during heavy tropical rainstorms this leaf would be sufficient to prevent a soaking. (Later I found out that it was used as an umbrella.)
This spectacular stemless palm, a member of the palm, Arecaceae, family, with large fan-shaped leaves is endemic to Sarawak and grows only in a few locations including Kubah National Park.
Biru bulat, biru ruai or berupat, as it is known locally, is adapted to rainy weather and is an understory species in Mixed Dipterocarp Forests requiring indirect light. It is found at altitudes from 30 to 330 metres in well-drained slightly acidic soils.
The leaves are used for wrapping, making umbrellas and as atap roofing. Pearce in her 1992 report ‘The Palms of Kubah National Park’ indicated that this palm is endangered due to habitat destruction as the forest is logged or the land use changed. Another threat is the collection of seeds for plant nurseries.
An online search for Licuala orbicularis leads to websites from around the world offering seeds for sale and / or giving advice on growing this exotically beautiful plant. It is a visually pleasing, unusual palm that would be a stunning addition to any garden. However, as mentioned, this industry is a threat to wild populations. If seeds are collected from these populations, the palms have reduced chances of successfully reproducing.
The writers of the websites also mention the difficulty encountered in growing these palms in controlled environments — so imagine the slim chance of a seed landing in a spot in the jungle which meets water and soil requirements, is not eaten by a hungry animal, germinates, as well as has exactly the right amount of light required. What are the odds of a seed landing in the right place at the right time? Very slim. This explains why the collection of seeds from wild populations endangers the survival of the plant in the wild.
Malaysia hosts 33 genera and 398 species — 86 species from this family are found the in 2,230ha Kubah National Park. A total of 18 palm species endemic to Sarawak are found in or near the park. Kubah National Park, 22km west of Kuching, was established in 1989 and opened to the public in 1995.
Kubah National Park and its surroundings have long been recognised as a species diverse area with a high number of endemics. Odoardo Beccari, during his travels in the 19th century, spent 1865 collecting palms and other plants in the area. When he returned to Italy, he described several new species. The diverse ecological niches, geological history and range of altitudes are believed to have enabled species to evolve.
The ecologically diverse and important Kubah National Park should be visited several times over time. The Main or Palmetum Trail introduces visitors to the wonders and the variety of the palm species that inhabit the forests of Kubah and Sarawak. We can touch and reconnect with the natural world and its wonders.
For more information on Sarawak’s national parks read ‘The National Parks of Sarawak’ by Hans Hazebroek and Abang Kashim Abang Morshidi, which was published by Natural History Publications in 2000 or the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) website at www.sarawakforestry.com. Dr K Pearce’s 1992 report ‘The Palms of Kubah National Park, Matang, Kuching Division’ can also be found online.
Kubah National Park is known for its palms and frogs. The Bornean Frog Race 2014 is being jointly organised with Universiti Sarawak Malaysia and SFC at the national park on April 26. It provides a perfect opportunity to visit the park and become acquainted with its frogs and palms.
To learn more about the Bornean Frog Race or to register visit theinternationalborneanfrograce.weebly.com.
Palm fronds are used for wrapping, making umbrellas and as atap roofing.
The Malaysian Nature Society
Established in 1940, the Malaysian Nature Society is the oldest scientific and non-governmental organisation in Malaysia. Our mission is to promote the study, appreciation conservation and protection of Malaysia’s nature heritage. Our 5,000-strong membership, spread across 12 branches nationwide, come from all walks of life, bound by a comment interest in nature. For further information on membership or our activities in Kuching contact us at mnskuchinggmail.com. For information on our activities in Miri contact Musa Musbah (sammua@yahoo.com). You can also visit www.mns.org.my, http://mnskuching@blogspot.com or www.facebook.com/mnskb.
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Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2014/04/13/walking-with-palms/#ixzz2ylBs5NG0

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Maximizing benefits of urban forest

Greening towns and cities with trees

by Rintos Mail, reporters@theborneopost.com. Posted on April 6, 2014, Sunday
Some of the imported tree species planted in the city area.
THE environment in Sarawak is still quite clean and healthy.
Basically, the state has laid a strong foundation for the overall task of preserving the forests as a healthy green place for future generations.
It has been able to perform better than any other producing countries in using forest resources as sources of revenue.
The private sector too has become more convinced that sustainable management has become a way of life in the timber industry — not just a form of management.
It is believed at least six big companies have adopted forests not as something to be exploited in the short-run but as a source of renewable resources which must be developed with long-term policies.
In the urban, the local councils have been tasked to not only organise tree-planting campaigns but also monitor and manage mature trees within their respective areas to promote public health.
For example, the Padawan Muncipal Council (MPP) will undertake to plant 46,050 trees between 2010 and end of this year.
But even before that, MPP had taken steps to ensure sufficient trees were planted in the open space under its jurisdiction.
MPP landscape division head Willie Ngelai said the council’s existing trees and new planting initiatives worked in tandem to make a better world.
He added that it was the state’s policy to make it compulsory for every housing estate to allocate at least 20 per cent of its area to planting trees.
He noted that under the national policy, any housing estate with 1,000 people must have at least two hectares of open space where trees can be planted within the area.
“Trees can be planted around the open space of the housing estate, including along jogging tracks and the roadside.
“Normally, the developers are required to plant trees in the open space provided for a housing estate. These trees are maintained by the developer for about a year before being handed over to the council,” he said.
Willie noted that so far, MPP was maintaining about 7,236 matured trees all over its area.
He said the types of trees planted were in accordance with MPP’s landscape masterplan, focusing on housing estates and roadsides.
He added that generally, large trees were planted along major roads where wide planting verges were provided, and in car parks, while smaller trees were planted along narrower roads such as in housing estates and along the driveways.
“We plant different types of trees in every land district to enable us to manage and maintain them properly.
“There are nine land districts in MPP and you can see different types of trees growing in every one of them at housing and commercial areas as well as open space.”
Willie said MPP did not simply cut down trees as this needed the State Secretary’s approval.
He pointed out that if MPP cut down one tree, it had to replace that tree with another tree.
“Normally, we plant more than we cut. There was even a time when we pulled a few trees from the site of a proposed development project and relocated them to a new nearby site at Mile 7.
“The council fully acknowledges the importance of trees to the environment and the people.”
He added that MPP believed policies and investments, aimed at protecting and managing trees in and around the urban, were needed to strengthen urban livelihood and improve urban environment as the state became increasingly urbanised.
He said as more people under MMP’s jurisdiction now lived in urban areas, the council had to pay more attention to managing and protecting urban and semi-urban forests and trees.
In view of climate change, it’s worrisome to see some local councils tending to destroy the last vestiges of farming and tree canopies.
Cities or towns, having lost their own green covers, are no longer models of future cities or towns as they need to catch up in the greening project.
And like other parts of the world, towns and cities in Sarawak will continue to experience rapid growth in  population and thus, these places must have a concrete plan to plant more trees for environmental preservation.
Trees are planted between the main roads within MPP area.
Maximizing benefits of urban forest
IT’S hard to imagine life without trees – whether we live in the city or countryside.
Trees provide shade on a hot day while the wood can be made into buildings, houses and objects —from chairs to broom sticks.
Trees are also homes for small animals like birds and squirrels. And many trees provide food for both people and animals as well.
Tree roots help lessen the chance of flooding in certain areas and can help clean the soil and the air by absorbing pollutants.
However, the most important reason why we need trees is that they help in the breathing process.
Human beings breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Trees do the opposite. They take in carbon dioxide and expel oxygen, the gas humans need to live.
According to data from the Northwest Territories Forest management website, 22 trees are required to produce the amount of oxygen consumed by one person. And an acre of trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people.
The data also indicate a 100-feet tall tree with an 18-inch diameter at its base can produce 6,000 pounds of oxygen. However, the amount of oxygen, produced by a tree, also depends on its species, age, health and surroundings.
So, trees are making something we need to survive.
Just take some time to have a walk in the park, bite a juicy citrus, climb a wooden staircase and take a breath. Remember, you cannot do any of these things without trees.
The trees around us are extremely important and have always been necessary for improving the human condition — both during its life and after harvest.
Without trees, probably, humans may not exist on this planet.
Research has found the removal of tree canopy as part of urban infill may worsen health problems associated with climate change.
People living in an urban environment are especially susceptible to heat-related stresses as in Urban Heat Islands (UHIs), caused by reduction in vegetation, and increases in man-made surfaces can be created in built-up areas.
According to the research, the loss of tree canopy is a significant contributor to the creation of UHIs whose effects can be reduced by green spaces and vegetation.
Trees have been shown to provide multiple benefits to people and the environment, and international and national support for the retention and planning of urban trees is getting stronger nowadays.
The most important fact about trees is that they produce oxygen for all of us.
The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk) in 2011 reported the world’s forests were much more important than previously thought in absorbing CO2.
It pointed out that the University of Leeds research found forests absorb nearly 40 per cent of the 38 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide created by mankind every year.
The first study to look at all the world’s forests together found that established forests, from boreal forests in the north to tropical rainforests in the south, absorb 8.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
Scientists have worked out how much carbon is being absorbed by measuring the density of wood, height and width of different tree species over time.
According to a Reuters report in November last year, global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels was expected to rise to a record 39.683 billion tons by end of 2013.
The emission was generated by deforestation, vehicles, factories and other sources of fossil fuels.
The report by the Global Carbon Project, which compiles data from research institutes worldwide each year, was published in the journal Earth Systems Data Discussions, according to Reuter.
Its 2013 estimate represented a 2.1 per cent gain versus 2012 and a 61 per cent increase since 1990, the baseline year for the UN’s Kyoto Protocol, the only global agreement that places binding limits on national CO2 emission levels.
Emissions are increasing because strong growth in coal consumption has outweighed any reductions from the rapid growth in renewable energy in recent years, according to Glen Peters, an author of the report based at CICERO, a climate research institute in Norway.
Some of the trees within Samarahan District Council jurisdiction have their canopies removed.


Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2014/04/06/greening-towns-and-cities-with-trees/#ixzz2y6F0raxG