Monday, August 25, 2014

Medicinal plants around us

Getimang is a small tree about five metres tall. — Photos from Sarawak Biodiversity Centre
BORNEO abounds in medicinal plants.
From the earliest days through to today, village folk have used them to treat ailments.
They are also part of Chinese traditional medicine, surviving hundreds of years. The Dayak community also have their own catalogue of plants to treat illnesses.
Science has been interested in these plants but only recently has there been serious study.
The first applications were for the study of cancer, the possibility of a cure, or at least a breakthrough treatment.
Plants are a fickle bunch to study. They are different morning, noon and night. The time of year, either rainy season or not, and the soil conditions are factors examined in the studies.
One cannot simply dig up a plant and move it to England and expect it to have the same chemical composition as it has in Borneo.
The village herbalist or traditional healer is the person who has acquired the knowledge of plant life.
He/she knows when to harvest and when to let the plant lie fallow.
The herbalist is aware of the subtle changes in the weather, which allows medicinal properties to reach their peak.
However, the village herbalist or traditional healer will not give up this knowledge easily, having spent years acquiring the secrets, passing down the unpublished materials from one generation to the next. The herbalist holds on to this expertise.
Savithri Galappathie from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia and his colleagues, have made an attempt to summarise what little knowledge exists on the subject of traditional remedies.
They have studied some of the plants that are recorded under the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre’s Traditional Knowledge Documentation Programme.
The plants they studied were possible cures or treatments for bacteria or fungus-related diseases and their affects on the microbes were measured.
The following six plants were the subject of their study:
Lepso (Baccaurea lanceolata)
This tree, a member of the Euphorbiaceae family, grows to a height of 21 metres, has a thick skin and bears a sour white fruit.
In 1989, the plant was found to have alkaloids, a nitrogen-based chemical.
Alkaloids have been found to have an effect on the human body. Examples are nicotine, anti-malaria drug quinine and others.
In 2010, an electron microscope identified three unknown and four known compounds.
The Lepeso tree has a thick skin and bears a sour white fruit.
Fibraurea tinctoria
This has several common names, including Uwar Birar, Akar Badi, Akar Kinching Kerbau, Akar Kuning, Akar Kunyit, Akar Penawar, and Sekunyit.
It is a large, woody, dye producing plant. It can grow up to 40 metres in height and has a stem diameter of five centimetres. It was found to have anti-tumour properties.
Getimang (Goniothalamus tapisoides)
This is a small tree about five metres tall. It is a member of the Annonaceae family along with the next two plants Goniothalamus velutinus and Polyalthia hookeriana.
Kayu Hujan Panas (Goniothalamus velutinus)
This plant is about three metres in height and with a stem of about three centimetres in diameter.
Sinai (Polyalthia hookeriana)
This tree grows to between 15 and 25 metres tall with hanging branches and dark green leaves and has a yellowish red flower.
It is found mainly in lowland and submontane forests. There is little information available about this plant.
Kayuh Lilui (Pyrenaria sp)
This species generally grows worldwide and has no known chemical properties. It belongs to the Theaceae family. Members of this genus are generally small trees or shrubs.
The studied followed scientific procedures. The effectiveness of the extracts from the six species mentioned in inhibiting or stopping the spread of six types of bacteria and one fungi were measured and recorded.
All of the plants tested were shown to have an effect on the bacteria, but Baccaurea lanceolata showed an ability to be a strong killer of all six types of bacteria used in the study.
Polyalthia hookeriana also had an effect on four of the six bacteria tested. Pyrenaria sp was an effective fungicide.
The plants seem promising. There are some diseases which have mutated beyond common antibiotics and these plants seem to be excellent candidates for their treatment. However, more rigorous testing needs to be carried out – a long process indeed.
The above was adapted from: ‘Comparative antimicrobial activity of South East Asian plants used in Bornean folkloric medicine’ by Galappathie G, Palombo EA, Yeo TC, Lim DSL, Tu CL, Malherbe FM, and Mahon PJ (2014); J. Herb Med. 4: 96-105.
Kayu Hujan Panas grows to about three metres in height.
The Malaysian Nature Society

Read more:

Public Talk on Captivating and Rare Snakes of Borneo on 15 September 2014

Dear members and friends, 

You are invited on behalf of Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC) and Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) to a talk on Captivating and Rare Snakes of Borneo by Rob Stuebing.

Date :15 September 2014
Venue:UCSI University, Sarawak Campus
Time:7.30 pm

Snakes are undoubtedly one of the most misunderstood creatures of nature and are given a wide berth by humans and other animals alike. Yet, there are those who are amazed by the wonders of these slithery reptiles and akin them to beautiful jewels in the animal kingdom.
In Borneo, snakes are both feared and respected. Borneo is home to some of the most beautiful and venomous snakes around as Robert Stuebing who has spent more than 40 years of fieldwork in Borneo researching on snakes on the island.
In a publication entitled A Field Guide to the Snakes of Borneo, Stuebing, along with Robert F. Inger indicated that there are more than 160 species of snakes found throughout the coastal areas, mangroves, lowlands and mountains of Borneo. 

The talk, jointly organised by the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC) and Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) will see Stuebing presenting an overview of the diversity and natural history of Bornean snakes, as well as several species not seen alive in Borneo for decades, and in some cases, for over 100 years.

The public talk is also aimed at creating awareness for, and appreciation towards the biodiversity found in Sarawak and Borneo.

  • Those interested in attending the talk are to register their names and contact number with Constance Vanessa or Ha-mim Marzuki by calling them at 082- 610610 or emailing them at or, before 15 September 2014.

  • The talk is open to members of the public of all ages and is free of charge. 

See you there.
Love Life,Love Nature

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Society warns irresponsible tours can harm dolphins by Samuel Aubrey,

KUCHING: The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has warned that dolphin watching tours that are not managed responsibly could actually harm the cetaceans.
Photo Credit:
A statement issued yesterday said it is important to observe dolphin watching ethics and etiquette and always put the animals’ welfare first.
MNS Kuching Branch will hold a guided dolphin watching trip on Aug 24 at 2pm.
Local dolphin experts Cindy Peter and Wayne Tarman will share with participants findings from the Sarawak Dolphin Projects, the cetaceans’ habitat in Kuching Bay and dolphin watching ethics and etiquette.
Kuching Bay encompasses the area from Telaga air on the west and the Bako peninsula on the east, as well as the rivers that connect these areas — Sungai Sibu Laut, Sungai Salak and Sungai Santubong.
To join the dolphin watching trip, email particulars (full name, IC number and mobile phone number) to by Wednesday (Aug 20).
For MNS members, payment for the boat is RM50 per adult and RM25 per child under 12.
For the public the charge is RM80 per adult and RM40 per child under 12.
Children under five are discouraged from joining this trip.
Participants are to gather at Permai Rainforest Resort’s front desk at 1.45pm to fill in the activity’s indemnity form, make payment and attend the safety briefing.
Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia that has commercial dolphin watching as a tourism activity.
The MNS trip is in line with the objectives of the Santubong Nature Festival to be held on Nov 8-9, which is jointly co-organised with Permai Rainforest Resort and supported by the Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) and Sarawak Museum.
Among others, the Santubong Nature Festival aims to raise public awareness about the priceless natural and historical heritage value of the Santubong peninsula, and also to enhance environmental awareness and inculcate a sense of value for the area among the public, especially youth.
For more information, email or visit or

Read more:

In need of more birding guides

KUCHING: Sarawak is gaining popularity as one of the destinations in Malaysia for bird-watching among nature lovers from near and far.
As the demands for birding guides increase, there is a need to train licensed nature guides in the state on bird-watching.
To address this need, the Ministry of Tourism Sarawak in collaboration with the Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) will be organising a bird-watching workshop for beginners at Borneo Highlands Resort, from Aug 22 to 24.
A similar workshop was held two years ago at Kubah National Park.
About 20 participants including licensed guides, park guides, Sarawak Forestry Corporation staff and MNSKB members are expected to attend the workshop.

Borneo Highlands Resort, Mount Penrissen, Sarawak.

The hands-on workshop covers topics such as bird identification, how to use binoculars, telescopes and bird field guides, birding ethics and etiquette and bird conservation.
Malaysia has 55 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) out of which 22 are in Sarawak. IBAs are areas which have been identified as being important for birds based on a set of global criteria. These criteria have been developed through the Birdlife International partnership, covering 170 countries. As of 2009, some 11,000 IBAs have been identified globally.
Sarawak’s specialist birds include the Pygmy White-eye Oculocincta Squamifrons which can be easily seen in Ba Kelalan and Borneo Highlands than anywhere else.
Some birds which are rarely seen but can be spotted within the Kuching vicinity include Blue-banded Pitta in Kubah National Park and Borneo Highlands, Borneo Bristlehead in Matang Wildlife Centre and Kuching Wetlands National Park, and Bornean Barbet in Borneo Highlands.
Borneo Highlands Resort which is located on Mount Penrissen is an IBA. The western-most mountain range on Borneo, Mount Penrissen is isolated from the central highland spine of Borneo, and has a distinct ecology. It is a very important area for endemic birds and migratory birds.
The resort is the first property developer in Malaysia to adopt the IBA and commits to managing its property in a manner that protects the IBA, enhances and enriches the environment for birds and builds nature-based activities into its programmes focusing on birds and their habitats.