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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pink-necked green pigeons come a calling

Mary Margaret
A soft bubbling whistle filtered from the garden through the open window. I smiled. The cat twitched its tail. A pair of pink-necked green pigeons (Trevon vernans) had arrived.
The pair, safely perched and hidden among the high branches of a fig tree, were beyond the reaches of even the most cat-like stealth approach.
Ever wary, the pigeons would rise quickly to take flight if startled or in danger.
Pink-necked green pigeons are members of Columbideae (Pigeon family) and of the approximate 300 members, 26 inhabit the forests and gardens of Malaysia; all of which are protected under the Wildlife Ordinance.
More specifically, pink- necked green pigeons are members of the subfamily Treroninae and the only one of 12 green pigeons found outside of primary forest.
Punai Kerichai or Gading, as they are known in Malay, take up residence in forest edges, scrub and secondary
forests, mangroves and are seen in gardens that have food and shelter.
These birds roost in flocks of up to 30 in tall trees in swamps and mangroves, but I have only had the privilege of observing pairs feeding on the figs and the red fruits of Jambu Kera (Glochidion littorale) and Simpoh Air (Dillena suffruticosa), the purple berries of the Straits Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) and the red fruits of the Fish Tail Palm (Caryota sp).
The relatively tall but very bushy mango tree is also a favourite of pigeons for perching and grooming. This greenish yellow plump pigeon is almost invisible when perched among the leaves and its grey tail with a black band distinguishes it from other green pigeons.
However, it is easiest to identify the pink-necked green pigeon by the colourful pink throat of the male.
The male collects twigs
and the female places them to build a rickety platform- like nest which has, at times, holes, leaving the one or two white eggs visible from below.
The fledglings are fed pigeon milk, a fluid produced by in specialised gland in both genders, making it unnecessary to collect fruit to feed the young. This tactic is probably one of the reasons for the success of pigeons.
The pink-necked green pigeon is a beautiful reminder of the wild. What brings birds, including pink-necked green pigeons, into our gardens and cities is
shelter and food. Thus, we need to plant
trees and shrubs that meet these requirements and preferably native species, since the birds will be adapted to consuming the fruit.
The presence of garden birds adds music and beauty to our lives and entices nature into man-made environments. The greenness of the trees and plants creates peace and fresh air.
What are you waiting for? Go ahead and plant a tree!
For more information on the pink-necked green pigeon go to www.naturia.per.sg.

Learning more about Raptors

I tiptoed across the room and slid into the first empty seat found. Dr Toru Yamazaki was in the midst of describing the physical characteristics of raptors, birds that have developed weapons to kill — outstanding eyesight, hooked bills, powerful legs and feet, as well as sharp curved talons.
The Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network (ARRCN) had organised the workshop in Kuching.
Registration for the event was from 8.30am till 9am. It was barely 9am, but enthusiasm had already driven the workshop well underway.
As my eyes got accustomed to the dim lighting, I saw that the Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch Bird Group was well represented. Some members had even occupied front row seats that were meant for the organisers!
In recent months, it had been impossible to get all these people together for a monthly lunch hour meeting due to our hectic schedules. Obviously, the full-day raptor workshop was held in the highest esteem among bird-watchers.
The idea for a symposium on Asian Raptors was hatched in Berlin in 1992. Six years later, in December 1998, raptor researchers and conservationists from across Asia gathered in Japan for the first Symposium on Asian Raptors.
It was at that inaugural symposium that the Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network was established to promote and coordinate raptor research and conservation efforts. Quoting an old cliché - the rest is history.
Dr Lin Wen-Horn from Taiwan gave insights into the mechanism of raptor evolution. He said habitats play an important role in their evolution.
Prey species available within habitats determine the type of hunting skills
required of the raptors, which in turn will necessitate the evolution of body form and structure to relate to their prey.
Hence, the osprey has evolved talons to pick fish out of water; the hawk eagle has powerful legs to swoop down on scurrying rabbits; while the vulture does not need to develop swift flight nor a weapon to kill its prey since the carcasses it feeds on are not likely to run away.
Lin also spoke briefly on classification using modern biochemical methods involving DNA technology. The subject was way over my head and reminded me strangely of the biblical book of Numbers.
Classification is about grouping similarities and what belongs where; however, what is believed to be similar in the present may be totally quirky later on and so causes absolute confusion for all involved, so that a symposium has to be arranged to resolve the chaos. The ARRCN may beg to differ.
One of the objectives of the ARRCN is to share information concerning raptors such as research methodology, techniques for habitat restoration and protection, migratory routes, care for injured raptors, and methods of releasing rehabilitated ones.
Information exchange is
facilitated through symposiums, workshops, publications, the ARRCN mailing list and website. There is a database about the status of Asian raptors, including their distribution, population, habitat, ecology, breeding and other aspects pertinent to their conservation.
The ARRCN also provides resources such as experts and institutions as well as training programmes for participating countries to augment their research.
Dr Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua from Thailand shared his knowledge on raptor rehabilitation. Vagrant birds and raptors incapacitated by shot wounds, electrocution, object hits, or a predated wound, undergo rehabilitation.

Flight tests are then conducted to determine whether rehabilitated birds are ready to be released back into the wild. Care for injured raptors does not end with the release of the bird.
The ‘Fly the Vulture Home’ programme illustrated the laborious wing-tagging and satellite tracking techniques employed to ensure rehabilitated raptors are indeed truly independent. Kasorndorkbua’s colleague, Tatsuyoshi Murate, elaborated on radio tracking and bird handling. Chatuphon Sawasdee presented some informative data on migratory routes in Thailand. At the peak of migration, tens of thousands of a single species of raptor was recorded per day. The
numbers are impressive and have inspired birders to look harder at their local flyways.
ARRCN counterparts from Malaysia were equally enlightening in their presentations. Dr Jalila Abu, who heads a raptor rehabilitation programme, demonstrated techniques for handling and treatment of injured raptors. Lim Kim Chye, an MNS member from Taiping, gave excellent accounts of the migratory flyways in Malaysia.
For years, Indonesian raptor researchers have worked closely with MNS to monitor migratory raptors at Pulau Rupat in the Straits of Melaka and Tanjung Tuan, Port Dickson.
During a recent survey in West Kalimantan, Dr Zaini Rakhman reported Oriental Honey Buzzards flying towards Sarawak and is excited about possible collaboration on field surveys in Borneo.
The raptor workshop was a real treat. The small group offered ample opportunities for discussion while the tea breaks allowed participants and researchers to get to know one another on a more personal level.
The workshop wound up with an announcement of the 6th ARRCN Symposium in Mongolia to be held at the end of June 2010, the breeding period of Saker falcons, Steppe eagles, Amur falcons, and the like.
Despite the long day, we left with hope and renewed strength, soaring on wings like eagles; with a little travel bug tugging at our hearts.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Comments from participants of the Firefly workshop:

I was happy that I could attend the firefly workshop in Kuching last week. Thank you to MNS Kuching, especially Rebecca & also Sonny for inviting me. Thanks also to Wan Faridah for sharing the monitoring technique. Now I have a standard rapid assessment technique that can be used here in Sabah. Currently I am co-supervising a final year student doing her project on firefly monitoring in Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre. I’m also applying a research grant from the Nagao Foundation Japan to study the congregating firefly in Sabah more intensively. If I got the research grant, I would take one MSc student and a few more undergraduates to do a detailed study on ecology and conservation of Pteroptyx all over Sabah, and of course I’ll share with you guys the information that I got from here. I wish I could attend the firefly taxonomy course held in FRIM next year because I have some inland solitary fireflies that I collected from forests in Sabah that need to be identified. Hope to see you again.

Mahadimenakbar Mohamed Dawood
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Dear fellow committee members,
I was one of the participants at the just concluded Firefly Monitoring Workshop held at Unimas and Kampung Buntal over the weekend.
Generally, it was divided into theory and practical sessions. Sunny Wong, a senior conservation officer from MNS Hq Wan Faridah Akmal Wan Jusoh, a researcher from UPM facilitated these sessions.
I learned a lot about fireflies from the biology of the insect (it’s a beetle) to their importance to the ecosystem and people. Our facilitators also shared their experiences on how to carry out a firefly monitoring before heading out to the field at Kampung Buntal in the evening (Saturday, Dec 5).
Both theory and practical sessions were very informative and interactive, with many of us asking lots of questions like when do they breed; do they die after mating; how long is their life cycle; how many species in Malaysia; what do they eat; flashing behaviour and pattern; etc.
On the second day (Sunday), many gave suggestions on where should we go after the workshop and how to improve it.
Here, I would like to add a few suggestions. In the next workshop for the villagers, I feel that some part of the workshop content had to be changed – make it simpler for the local community to understand; presentations and materials in BM; dos and don’ts during firefly monitoring; and also include what’s in for the people if they help to protect and conserve fireflies habitat like potential tourism products from Buntal other than firefly watching. Examples: kek lapis kelip-kelip buntal, mee goreng kelip-kelip buntal (not actual fireflies in the food but just a name to say that it’s a special recipe), buntal firefly t-shirt, buntal firefly key chain, etc. produced by the locals and for the local community.
Get elected representatives to take part as participant throughout the workshop, not to officiate the workshop and then leave (since MNSKB through the Japanese partner is funding the project, I feel we are not obligated to have politicians to officiate the project) They are the policy makers and therefore, should know what’s happening on the ground.
Extend invitations to guides and tour operators who operate in the area so that they can too learn about more about fireflies and the dos and don’ts.
Get some media people (those interested in nature and don’t mind to rough it out a little) to sit in as participants as well. (But if the committee feel that publicity should be minimal at the initial stage of the project, it’s understandable).
That’s all and thanks for your attention  ; )
Zora Chan, Secretary
MNS-Kuching Branch
Kuching, Sarawak

It was good to get together last week end. I learnt a lot of things. I will start monitoring the fireflies at my own cost in miri soon. It been raining and I need to plan. MNS miri will share the cost with me. I have some resources but i need to wait until the childeren goes schooling, when my inlaw is back in Miri, he is the boatman. I will be good to go the dark side of the moon like in Dec will be  15-18 Dec would be the best day to look for firefly. This saturday night we have a night walk in lambir hill. I would think that firefly is not presence there cos it in a hill area. The MNS miri have a lot of project and I have not come up with my proposal yet. However I will start with my own soon. Will let all of you know when I do it.

Musa Musbah
MNS-Miri Branch
Miri, Sarawak

On behalf of UPM, we would like to thank all of you for organising, hosting and attending the firefly workshop which can be said the first of its kind. We learnt a lot from you and inputs for us to further update the manual for future workshop with other MNS Branches and who ever interested to help in the conservation of congregating firefly habitats.

A special thanks from myself to Wan Faridah and Dr Rasidah from UPM, for their support and effort in putting up together  a firefly survey manual and Wan Faridah for facilitating in the workshop.

Sonny Wong, Senior Conservation Officer, Conservation Division
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch: FIREFLY SURVEY AND MONITORING WORKSHOP(info for registered participants only see list below)

Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch: FIREFLY SURVEY AND MONITORING WORKSHOP(info for registered participants only see list below)



FIREFLY SURVEY AND MONITORING WORKSHOP(info for registered participants only see list below)

5-6 DECEMBER 2009



5 December (Saturday)
2:30 p.m. Indoor workshop: Introduction to firefly survey and monitoring
4:30 p.m. Departure for field survey (weather permitting)
8:00 p.m. End

6 December (Sunday)
2:30 p.m. Indoor session: Review of the findings of the field survey, and drafting of the monitoring form
4:30 p.m. Outdoor session: (provisional, if field survey was not possible before)
8:00 p.m. End

Note: The field survey is subject to weather and sea conditions and can only be confirmed on the day of the field trip. In the event that we are unable to conduct the field survey on the 5th evening, we will try again for the evening of the 6th.

2. WORKSHOP VENUE: UNIMAS, Faculty of Resource Science and Technology (FRST), Ground floor (next to lobby)

The map attached shows you how to get from Kuching town to the UNIMAS campus at Kota Samarahan.

After you enter the main gate at UNIMAS, you will see the golf course on your left. Follow the road to the 1st roundabout and take the left turn until you reach another roundabout. There, take the left turn until you reach the 3rd roundabout, then take the right turn towards the huge grey building (=FRST).

Park your vehicle and enter via the back way. Note: the golf course is always on the left all the way to the 3rd roundabout. There will be some people waiting at the back entrance of the building to guide you to the lecture room (TR4).

4. TRANSPORT: Participants will be responsible to arrange their own transport to and from the workshop venue, and to and from Kampung Buntal for the field surveys. Car-pooling is recommended. Below is the list of participants, for your information.

5. MATERIALS FOR THE WORKSHOP: You will be provided with materials at the time of registration.

1.              Due to uncertain weather conditions, we will only be able to confirm the field trip on the day of the workshop. Please bring all the stuff you need for the field trip when you come for the workshop because we will leave directly from UNIMAS.
2.              We will leave from UNIMAS at 4:30 p.m. to arrive at Kampung Buntal at the latest by 5:30 p.m. Meet at the car park in front of the Lim Hock An Seafood Restaurant (the last restaurant on the left as you drive in, you will see a car park on the right).
3.              We will split the group of 20 into two – 10 in each boat; one boat will be led by Mr Sonny Wong of the MNS-Secretariat and the other by Ms Faridah of Universiti Pertanian Malaysia. Please follow their instructions strictly.
4.              The boat ride will begin at about 6:00 p.m and end at 8:00 p.m.
5.              Safety vests will be provided for all by the boat operators.
6.              We can reasonably expect rain and even though the boat has a covering, you can expect to get wet so please bring along a raincoat.
7.              Mosquitoes and sandflies are a common feature in mangrove areas; we recommend you wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and bring along some insect repellent.
8.              Since the trip will only end at 8:00 p.m. and we are not providing any refreshments on-site, we suggest you bring along some water and snacks.
9.              You may want to bring along a small notebook to take notes and record sightings.

See you all at UNIMAS on Saturday! We will begin at 2:30 p.m. SHARP.

Thank you.

Rebecca D’Cruz
Chairman 2009/2010
MNS Kuching Branch


1.              MNS-Secretariat – Mr Sonny Wong (facilitator)
2.              UPM – Ms Faridah (facilitator)
3.              MNS-Miri Branch – Mr Musa Musbah
MNS-Kuching Branch
4.              Jannine Tan
5.              Collin Cheong
6.              Zora Chan
7.              Rebecca D'Cruz
8.              Hans Hazebroek
9.              Cynthia Lobato
10.           Cheong Ah Kwan
11.           Ann Armstrong
12.           Sunita Sara Gill Shamsul
13.           Au Nyat Jun
14.           Ann Lesley White
15.           Boon Siaw Shi   
16.           Sing Tyan Pang
17.           Universiti Sabah Malaysia – Mr Mahadimenakbar Mohamed Dawood  
UNIMAS (3 to join boat survey; names to be confirmed):
18.           Wahap Marni
19.           Isa Sait
20.           Shalini Seluam
21.           Komathi a/p Balasupramaniam
22.           Mohd Hasri Al-Hafiz
23.           Rahah Mohd Yakup
24.           Muhamad Ikhwan Bin Idris
25.           Mohd Ridwan Rahman
26.           Siti Zuriani
27.           Madinah Bt Adrus
28.           Nurul Ashikeen Bt Abdul Razak

Site Monitoring and the Ramsar Convention
Kuala Lumpur, 2-4 November 2009
Attended by Rose Au, funded by MNS HQ

Thirty-six participants from Indonesia, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Mynmar, Vietnam, Philippines, China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Nepal, Malaysia ( 8 persons from Selangor, Kedah, Melaka, Pahang, Kuching, Bird Conservation Council, 2 from Secretariat) attended the Convention.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam presented about birding projects in their individual countries.

Most Important IBAs in Malaysia:-

Bako-Buntal Bay (3,590ha)
2009-2012 government approval to work.  Surrounding Bako National Park, Mt Santubong. CEPA:  Communications, Education Participation and Awareness.  Involved with LimKwokWing and Swinburne.  Now 6 Ramsar sites in Malaysia.  The biggest one is in Kinabatangan.

Bako-Buntal Bay is to be designated as Ramsar site in 2 years time in 2011.  Malaysia and Thailand continue with projects for 2 more years under the Ministry of Environment, Japan.

National and Regional Planning.

Participation in Asian Waterbirds Census (AWC):  Coordinator, Participant, Does not participate.

Roles and Responsibilities
Tools, materials, assemble and source donors for participating countries.  There should be officers at Birdlife to answer queries.

Source for funds
Training on IBA Monitoring/
Recruit volunteers (government agencies, fishermen Associations, Fisheries, Agriculture.
Form an IBA Team (no more than 4 pax.)

Target Date
Person Responsible
Who else supports within Organisation?
Resource Needed (support from Secretariat & Partners).

Main topic of the Conventions was on IBA Monitoring by Mike Crosby, UK

What are birds doing?
What are the threats?
How to solve these threats?
Presently, monitor by data base automatically.  Assessing and scoring threats (pressure).

Asian Waterbird Census
Data must be valid and simple to convince grant agencies to accept.

Main topics:
IBA Monitoring
Asian Waterbird Census
Audience comment
Should demonstrate case studies rather than provide long pages of procedures.

SWOT  Exercise:  Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

Identify strengths/weaknesses of IBA Monitoring and how to harmonize IBA Monitoring with Asian Waterbird Census.

Decide site code No.  There must be a references for 1)  IBA;  and 2) Asian Waterbird Census.

World census in wetlands.  While the statistics look good for the Ramsar sites, does that necessarily correspond to the protection of wetlands dependent birds?

For the Action Plan, all participating countries’ comments will be incorporated and given to participants. (Rose Au did not submit comments because I missed the target date of 15th November 09).


The Workshop’s main aim was to get participating countries’ input on how best to obtain data effectively at birding sites and then revise the existing IBA Monitoring Form for everyone’s use in future, so as to make monitoring more accurate.  Secondary to that was touching on the Ramsite Convention’s policies and legal framework.

Rose Au 30.ll.09

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mount Matang Revisited

Text by A Hom 
Mouse deer photo by William Beavitt

 Last Saturday my friend remarked, “I dread going up on the cart trail at Matang to the Hindu temple again, it sounds as if it’s changing horribly.”

We  have enjoyed going up there a few times each year since the 1980’s- you can walk up and look into the canopy of trees in the valley below  and catch sight of flying lemurs and hear barbets and pigeons – You see big dipterocarps, you can take side trails to splash through waterfalls and walk along the mountain ridge across the  catchment area to the reservoir which supplies about a tenth of the water supply to the households of Kuching city. This area needs to be conserved as pristine forest so that the water supply continues to flow sustainably, and we in Kuching can enjoy the flow fresh clear water through our taps.  The forested slopes of Matang need to be maintained to retain the vital biodiversity of its ecology.

MNS mounted an expedition a few years back to investigate the extent of the   historic sites; the stone terraces connected with the foundations of buildings associated with the coffee plantation established at the end of the nineteenth century by Rajah Charles Brooke . . . A lot of the discussion focused on which was the site of the Rajah‘s bungalow, plantation manager’s house and Odardo Beccari’s Vallombrosa house.  There was a lot of questioning as to the origins and consumption of the remains of hundreds of Dutch jenever bottles, which were found in a cache close to the site.  

A couple of months ago we heard from some friends that people were driving four wheel drive vehicles along the old cart track that nature lovers, hikers and mountain bikers have been using to get up to the top  to the site of the old Hindu temple, the place of worship for the original plantation workers brought over from India. From here you can see Kuching and in the distance, Santubong and the whole of the Sarawak River estuary including the mangroves.

So we were now hearing that the ancient cart track was becoming a site for four wheel vehicle driving, that major construction was taking place at the Hindu temple and worse still,  there were reports of illegal logging in the Borneo Post on 25 October.  We had to go and see what was happening for ourselves.

We weren’t sure what to expect … would our feet and legs be knee deep in mud, like on a logging road?  Would we see devastation and lots of trees already cut down?

When we parked our cars, we talked to a friend who lives close by.  He told us that since the newspaper report had come out, there had been official trips made by forestry authorities to check out the logging – He was relieved not to hear the drilling  chainsaws in the distance any more...  and hoped this would not resume .

We got to the base of the path instead of a zinc shed there was an unfinished intricate shrine ornamented of unpainted concrete with statues and gods and goddesses and sacred animals-the most prominent was a rider on horseback facing the mountain.

We started on the cart track and to our relief we saw a barrier across the path preventing any vehicles from moving up.   The path is much the same except wider with more spots vulnerable to erosion.

We heard the racket tailed drongo beckoning ahead of us – there was the same sacred place under a rock with joss sticks and packets of milk as offerings –but we trekked up more easily as bridges had become consolidated with the road. The track was strewn with early seeds from the hill oaks and dipterocarps, the promise of more trees.   From the track we enjoyed the canopy of the mixed diptrocarp forests and along the path we enjoyed the shade of the tree ferns and kapur and white selunsor trees.

 At the top was a second shrine made of cast concrete and wood and intricate statues of animals and gods and goddesses .This is at the intersection between the path to the Hindu temple and the way on up to what we call Beccari’s house. It was much clearer than before –people had been using it.  We were surprised by a mouse deer darting across the path. The site of the terraces of the house foundation was littered with tiny rambutan sized durians that had come down with the rain.

We then went back to the main path and went across to the Hindu temple. The road was wider and some trees had been sacrificed to give access to vehicles to the building site of the new temple. On our way up we met two groups of people from Kuching who like ourselves had come up to enjoy the forest and the view.

The building site of the temple is still in rather a transitional state. The grand ceremonial arch is still under construction as is the hall, but the main  temple is complete and is very impressive, made of natural wood with wooden roof tiles and wooden carvings of sacred animals and  gods and goddesses . The main holy shrine is still in a temporary zinc shelter awaiting ceremonial installation when the whole site is ready.

On the way down we went off to investigate the illegal logging off the track, to take photos and report to the relevant authorities. Major timber species had been felled in three places.

Let us  hope that this  logging off the track is halted speedily and efficiently and so that the forest around this  historic site  can be regenerated and the  water catchment of the mountain can be conserved in its pristine state not only for sustainable water supply but for the enjoyment of nature lovers.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Coastal Dolphins of Sarawak: Research and Conservation Issues

Dear MNS Kuching Branch members and friends,

You are cordially invited to attend the following talk:

Topic: Coastal Dolphins of Sarawak: Research and Conservation Issues
Date: 11th December 2009 (Friday)
Speaker: Dr Alma Gianna Minton, IBEC Research Fellow
Time: 2.30pm to 4.00pm
Venue: Niah Room at Dewan Tun Abdul Razak, Sarawak Museum.

The talk will cover some basic aspects of dolphin biology and ecology, as well as more detailed information on the coastal dolphins of Sarawak. The Sarawak Dolphin Project, founded by UNIMAS, Shell and the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, was launched in May 2008. The project now continues under the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation (IBEC) at UNIMAS with diversified funding from various sources. After a year of coastal boat surveys, in three main survey areas (Miri, Bintulu and Kuching), the researchers have gained some insight into the habitat preferences and conservation needs of the four species of dolphins observed during the study: Irrawaddy dolphins, finless porpoises, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. The talk will include photographs, video footage, and diagrams of observations and preliminary survey results, and will hopefully be of interest to the general public, nature enthusiasts and anyone involved in the management, protection or development of coastal habitats.

Speaker’s Biodata:
After graduating from Stanford University in California, Gianna Minton started her professional life as a teacher and curriculum developer, working and living in Spain and Holland, as well as the US. She was reinvented as a cetacean researcher during her 8 and 1/2 years in Oman. Between 1999 and 2005 she raised funds, engaged in PR activities, and conducted boat and beach surveys for whales and dolphins all along the coast of Oman. Her PhD thesis, which was completed in 2004, focused on the amazing non-migratory humpback whales of the Arabian Sea. Since July 2005 she has been living with her husband and two young daughters in Sarawak, Malaysia. In May 2008 she was appointed as a Research Fellow at UNIMAS to fulfill the role of Principal researcher on the Sarawak Dolphin Project, and continues to work with Cindy Peter, MSc. candidate to study coastal dolphins in the Kuching, Bintulu and Miri regions. When not bouncing around on a boat looking for dolphins or looking after her daughters, aged 3 and 5, Gianna is swimming, running, or enjoying Borneo's terrestrial wildlife.

Attendance in open to all and free of charge. Please plan to arrive early to ensure that you get a seat!

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Dear MNS-Kuching Branch members,


MNS, with funding from the MBZ Species Conservation Fund, is currently compiling a directory on congregating firefly zones (CFZs) along the mangrove-lined rivers of Malaysia. A preliminary CFZ directory will be compiled in January using data already available, and this will be updated periodically as new data becomes available from field surveys.

The MNS Secretariat has requested the assistance of the East Malaysian branches to gather and update, as necessary, information on CFZs in Sabah and Sarawak. Both Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) and Universiti Sabah Malaysia (UMS) have indicated their interest to assist with the compilation of the CFZ for Sarawak and Sabah, respectively.

Once completed, the directory will be made available to decision-makers in both these states, to aid in the conservation and management of CFZs in both states.

To this end, the MNS Secretariat and MNS Kuching Branch, in collaboration with UNIMAS, will organize a 2-day workshop (indoor, with some outdoor field work) which aims to introduce participants to the methodology and techniques used to undertake firefly surveys (including the design of monitoring forms), and define ways to involve local communities in firefly survey and monitoring.

The details of the workshop are as follows:

Dates: 5 & 6 December 2009
Venue: Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Kota Samarahan

5 December (Saturday)
2:30 p.m. Indoor workshop: Introduction to firefly survey and monitoring
5:00 p.m. Departure for field survey (weather permitting)
8:00 p.m. End

6 December (Sunday)
2:30 p.m. Indoor session: Review of the findings of the field survey, and drafting of the monitoring form
5:00 p.m. Outdoor session: (provisional, if field survey was not possible before)
8:00 p.m. End

Note: The field survey is subject to weather and sea conditions and can only be confirmed on the day of the field trip. In the event that we are unable to conduct the field survey on the 5th evening, we will try again for the evening of the 6th.

The workshop will involve participants from MNS Secretariat, MNS Kuching Branch, MNS Miri Branch, Universiti Pertanian Malaysia, Universiti Sabah Malaysia and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.

Participation in the workshop and field survey is free-of-charge. However, spaces in the boats for the field surveys are limited so these will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Participants will need to arrange their own transport to and from the workshop venue and to Kampung Buntal for the field surveys. Car-pooling is encouraged. Final details about the venue and instructions for the field trip will be provided to all registered participants.

The workshop and field surveys are open to all interested MNS-Kuching Branch members. Please register by sending an email to the mnskuching@gmail.com address with the following details:

I.C. Number:
Mobile contact number:
Daytime telephone number:
Email address:

Registration closes on Tuesday, 2nd December 2009.

Please call or text Rebecca at 019 857 9110 for further information.

Thank you.

Rebecca D’Cruz
MNS-Kuching Branch 2009/2010


Dear members,

I just read in the newspaper that there will be a three-day conference on natural resources and environment in Kuching. It is called "International Conference On Natural Resources and Environment Management Safety and Healthy Exhibition 2009."

Date: Nov 24 to 26

Venue: Four Points by Sheraton Kuching

The exhibition at the conference is open to the public from 9.30am to 4.30pm on Nov 24, 9.30am to 12 noon on Nov 25 and Nov 26. So, drop by at Four Points if you're interested to look at the exhibition.

Love Life, Love Nature


Zora Chan


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch: "Totally Protected Areas in Sarawak"

Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch: "Totally Protected Areas in Sarawak"

Memorable Pulau Selingan (Turtle island) in Sabah

By Cynthia Hazebroek

My family, including 2 kids Iris 11 and Oscar 13, came last year in July to pay me a visit and one of their wishes was to see turtles since they had missed them on an earlier holiday in Surinam (South America).

We were very lucky to get rooms on Pulau Selingan (Turtle Island) since it was high season and they only accommodate 38 persons per night in order to protect the turtles.

It is the second largest of this small group of three islands and most developed. The island is 8 hectares and the Sea Turtle Conservation Program protects not only these islands but also the shallow waters surrounding them as they are part of Turtle Islands Park. On August 1st 1966 the first hatchery in Malaysia was set up on this island and funded entirely by the State Government. This program is administrated by Sabah Parks.

July to October is the peak season for Green Turtles ( Chelonia mydas) but also Hawksbills ( Eretmochelys imbricata) lay their eggs here.

The island lays in the Sulu Sea 40 km north of Sandakan and when we arrived at the park rangers gave us a short briefing about Park regulations and divided us into smaller groups. This prevents turtles which are laying eggs from being stressed by too many people crowding around.

One of Park regulations is that visitors are not allowed to go to the beach from sunset to sunrise since the turtles are already near the shore and waiting until the right time to get to the shore. The park also allows visitors to see only one landing and they call the group as soon as a turtle is ready and in a trance to lay their eggs.

During daytime the place is ideal for snorkeling and swimming and after 6pm got an explanation tour at their excellent visitors centre while waiting for their call. They put us in the first group since we had two kids with us and luckily at 7.30 a turtle came laying her eggs. Since we were not allowed to use a torchlight we had to walk really carefully so as not to fall into the old nests and the place was really wobbly. The kids were very excited when they saw the turtle laying her eggs and the park guards counted 90 eggs from this nest. Only people that had paid a small fee to take photographs were allowed to go a bit closer to take a picture without flash.
After the huge turtle laid her eggs the guards dug them out and took them to the hatchery. This is to ensure that wild predators, such as the monitor lizards, do not eat the eggs. Each pit is 30 inches deep, fenced around with wire mesh and identified by a bamboo marker bearing the serial number of the nest, collection date and number of eggs.

After an incubation period of between 50 and 60 days, the hatchlings dig their way up to the surface of the pit, usually at night, when the sand is cooler. The kids were also happy that baby turtles from previous nights came out and were released that night. Sadly the guards didn’t allow the kids to release even one since that would have made this night even more memorable. The kids were really disappointed. In Surinam the guard was much friendlier and had given the baby turtle to my other niece Tessa and she was thrilled.
Early the next morning when my brother, my husband and the kids went out for a morning walk they found a full-grown turtle stuck between the rocks and she was absolutely exhausted. There was no way to get her back to the sea without more manpower and after 10 strong man helped her she made her way back into the sea and we hope she comes back maybe many years later to lay her eggs.

After breakfast before we went to our boats we saw on the notice board that 46 turtles came to shore that very night, 3911 eggs were laid and 911 baby turtles were released. Let’s hope that all the babies will survive their first trip which may span thousands of kilometers of open ocean waters with many predators, and will come back when they are mature to lay their eggs for the next generation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Totally Protected Areas in Sarawak"

STA will be organizing a STA Tea Talk. Details as follow :

Topic : Totally Protected Areas in Sarawak
Speaker : Mr Ngui Siew Kong, Senior Assistant Director,
Nature Conservation and Constitution Division
Date : Saturday, 28 November 2009

Venue : Wisma STA, Level 12, Kuching
Time : 9.30 ~ 10.00 am (Registration), 10.00 ~
11.30am (STA Tea Talk plus light Refreshment)

Totally Protected Area (TPA) is a term reserved for national park, nature
reserve and wildlife sanctuary. The talk will explain the definitions of
different categories of Totally Protected Areas and the criteria for
establishing them. The talk will also touch on the current status of the
constitution of TPAs, management objectives, threats as well as the present
and future actions to be undertaken by the authorities. You are invited to
come and attend this Talk to know more about protected areas.

Entrance is free. However, due to logistics, entrance will be restricted to
only those who have registered. To register, kindly call STA at 082-332 222
latest by Wednesday, 25 November 2009.

Thank you.
Have a nice day !
STA Secretariat Kuching
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TO : STA Tea Talk Secretariat
FAX : 082-487 888 or 487 999
Please register me for your STA Tea Talk
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Organisation : ____________________________________________________

Fax : _______________________

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Email : _______________________

Heritage walk invitation

Dear Members,

Please be informed that the Sarawak Heritage Society (SHS) has extended an invitation to us to its coming Heritage Walk. SHS is organising a historical building visit to the St. Joseph Old Cemetary at 1:00p.m on 22nd November 2009 (Sunday), and the guide for the visit is SHS treasurer, Ms. Peggy Wong.

If you are interested, please contact SHS secretary, Mr. Bong Siak Khiun directly at 019-8862249, and participants are advised meet at the carpark to the cemetary (next to St. Joseph Cathedral) this Sunday. Thank you.

Zora : )

Sunday, November 15, 2009


If you have the chance, why not plant a tree? Trees can make a real difference to the place they are planted. They bring all sorts of benefits. Planting them doesn’t take much time or money. All you need is a site, a seedling and a little knowledge. Your tree will have effects that last and knock-on for years.

One of the best ways to plant trees is through the community – join a programme where the issues of where to plant your tree, what species to choose, where to get the seedlings and how to maintain the tree have all been taken care of. And as a community, we have the chance to plant trees together to create a new environment or rehabilitate a degraded one. Our trees will be synergistic (1+1=more than 2). We can watch them grow over the years and see what wildlife takes up residence while doing our bit to offset our carbon footprint.

We in Malaysia are blessed with a year-round growing season and land which, except for the very tops of mountains, can support trees. Why, we can even plant mangroves in the sea! Come, let us plant some trees! Here are some of the excellent reasons why we should...

The rays of the midday sun can be pretty powerful. But shade trees not only intercept that energy but use it (for photosynthesis) while letting us keep our cool.

Animals and birds need food and a place to live. Our wild fig trees provide plentiful fruits in a range of sizes. Leafy tree crowns provide cover. Hornbills nest in holes in tree trunks. Plants, too, grow on trees. Epiphytes (plants growing on another plant) in our highly humid environment include fern species, moss, Pigeon orchids and Entaban. You may find lichens too. Insects will be there. Some ants use epiphytic ferns as their habitat. So all in all, without trees there would be a bit less biodiversity in our environment.

Your carbon footprint is the direct effect your actions and lifestyle have on the environment in terms of carbon dioxide emissions (the fuel you burn in your car; the electricity you use at home etc.) Green plants are factories that convert carbon dioxide (CO2) and water, through photosynthesis, into glucose, releasing oxygen (O2) in the process, Plants synthesise cellulose and other components of wood, locking up the carbon dioxide as long as the wood is not burned or broken down by microbes. Thus trees take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas implicated in Global Warming so planting trees can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and thus impact Global Warming.

Trees along busy roads can help absorb traffic noise and catch dust and other pollutants on their leaves, improving our human habitat.

We can create a pleasant landscape from a bare area by planting trees. We can also enjoy the intrinsic beauty of the trees - their shape, size, form, variety, bark, foliage, flowers and fruits.

When forest is cleared the land may remain bare, with exposed soil, grasses and herbs and perhaps some pioneer tree species. We do not normally expect the original type of plant community (same species, same proportions, same age mix) to regenerate in the short term. Planting selected tree species can help rehabilitate badly degraded and cleared areas and influence how plant succession proceeds.

Our predecessors lived among and by the trees. Coastal peoples knew exactly which trees to use for boats, jetties, firewood, fruits, lustrous timber for carvings, medicine and preservatives for fishing nets. Likewise the peoples of the interior had a deep and extensive knowledge of hundreds of different tree species in their area, and their uses. Nowadays the forests continue to diminish and knowledge of the trees becomes ever rarer. One way to make this information available to the next generations is to plant trees. Let us plant tree specimens so that young people recognise our most famous timber trees and see the products our predecessors obtained from the trees around them. This is our heritage.

Timber for the timber man, fruits for the consumer, forest products for the forest dweller and entrepreneur.

One of the best reasons for planting trees is the amazing ‘return on investment’ and the chance to make a mark on the landscape, to come back after years and see it still there, improving the environment; supporting other organisms.

Green lungs

Green Oasis
by Mary Margaret
Photo credit Cynthia L

Breathe in the oxygen rich air. Let your eyes feast upon the green leaves. Open your ears to the call of birds or the absence of traffic. Feel life below your feet. Listen with all your senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste and feel – listen with your soul. You are in a green oasis – the small patches of green which dot the concrete deserts of cities. You feel life awakening in every nerve. Breathe in and . . .
Kuching has been called a garden city because there are many green places (green oasis) dotting the city landscape - from the grass covered Central Padang which is shaded by many fantastically old trees; to the Museum Gardens and Reservoir Park (now known as Taman Budaya); to the manicured lawns of Friendship Park; to the home gardens and patches of grass in subdivisions; to Sama Jaya Nature Reserve in Tabuan Jaya. We in Kuching are truly fortunate to have so many green places.

These parks are an important part of the urban landscape for many reasons. The first reason that pops into mind is recreation. The parking lots at Sama Jaya Forest Reserve and Reservoir Park are full in the late afternoon as many people living in Kuching go walking or jogging or running. Exercise, as does nature, reduces stress. Families and friends are out taking in a breath of fresh.
A quick visit to an urban park can let us reconnect to nature. We attempt to control the environment in which we live by, for example building houses and air conditioning them (in the tropics) or heating them (in temperate areas) – and even here our actions are affected and controlled by the weather and climate – elements of the natural world. So the visit to Sama Jaya Forest Reserve is a reminder that we are part of the natural world. We can feel a sense of spiritual renewal when we make this reconnection.

A Refuge
Parks and gardens provide a refuge for nature. All sorts of birds, insects, mammals and other animals can be seen in the park – if you stop to listen and look. A quiet stretch at one of the small gazeboes (‘pondok’) in Sama Jaya Forest Park will let you into the secret lives of birds as small forest birds flit from tree to tree. Squirrels and Long-Tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) flit from tree top to tree top as they look down at the runners who are staring up at them. Frogs and lizards make this minute patch of forest and small streams home too. It is here that nature can exist side by side with cities. Thus urban parks can be a living classroom for visitors to experience the joys of nature first hand.

Keeping Cool
A tree lined street is just so much cooler than one edged with concrete walls. The temperature is noticeably cooler under the ballooning branches of a tree. We actively seek the shade during hot days. Trees not only cool the air, but are carbon sinks – they store a lot of carbon in their woody trunks, roots and branches. Carbon Dioxide one of the main pollutants contributing to the warming of the Earth is also a key ingredient in the process of photosynthesis. This is the process in which green plants use the energy from to build complex substances from Carbon Dioxide and water. And another end product is Oxygen which is released into the air. The Carbon which is used to build these complex substances remains tied up until plant dies and decomposes or used as a source of energy, for example the burning wood.

Sama Jaya Nature Reserve
The 38-hectare Sama Jaya Nature Reserve is an important green patch in Tabuan Jaya and for other areas of Kuching. This small patch of mainly secondary forest is the focus for the volunteer driven community events for the Trees For Life Project, a jointly organized activity by the Malaysian Nature Society – Kuching Branch and the Sarawak Forest Cooperation. This project started in July 2007 and aimed to stress the vital roles of trees in safeguarding the environment and reducing the impact of global warming. Volunteers have planted and maintained trees. There have also been many learning and thought provoking activities. The volunteers have given to an urban park which has probably made their lives more pleasant.

In short urban parks, green lungs, green oasis are key parts of the city landscape because they:
• places to relax and exercise
• refuge for wildlife
• create pleasantly green landscapes
• provide shade
• reduce pollution
• provide educational opportunities
• provide opportunities for connecting with nature.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Invitation to biosafety workshop

Dear all,
MNSKB received an invitation from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Ministry (NRE) to attend a workshop.

The workshop is called "Sarawak Stakeholders Workshop On Biosafety". It will be held on Nov 19 and 20 (Thu & Fri) at Four Points Sheraton Hotel.

Both days start at 9am and ends around 5pm. On the first day, we have to be there earlier for registration that starts at 8.30am. We're also invited to attend a dinner on Nov 19 at 8pm.

Speakers will be from government agencies like NRE and they will talk on National Biotechnology Policy, Malaysian Biosafety Act 2007, Introduction to Capacity building Activities for the Implementation of the Cartegena Protocol and the Malaysian Biosafety Act, Genetically Modified Food, etc.

Please let me know by Nov 10 or this tuesday if u would like to take part in the workshop, coz if none of the committee can go, i will open the invitation to members. Pls sms me (019-8279881) to let me know if you're going. faster that way. Seats are limited, first come, first serve basis is applied. Thanks

Love Life, Love Nature

:) zora

Monday, November 2, 2009

Borneo Highlands Welcomes Birds and Birders

By Mary Margaret /Photo copyright by Robert Yeoh

The second annual Mini-Bird race organized by the Kuching Branch of the Malaysian Nature Society and the Borneo Highlands Resort took off on October 4, 2009 with 24 teams composed of two people. Students from University Sarawak Malaysia came out in full force comprising 80 percent of the teams and taking home the three top prizes. Congratulations!
First place went to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', otherwise known as Isa Sait and Isham Azhar who sighted 44 species of birds in the half-day event.
Bird races are fun and exciting, but there is a serious side. The data collected provides wildlife researchers with background information on bird populations and an understanding of their dynamics, for example fluctuations in populations and species composition. 11 species were sighted in the area for the first time this year including a Rhinoceros Hornbill. This rare and exciting sighting was made in the early morning by a MNS member at the Kalimantan / Sarawak border.
The Borneo Highlands Resort, about an hours drive south of Kuching, is in the Penrissen Range which is recognized internationally as an Important Bird Area by Bird Life International, a global partnership of conservation groups. Recognized IBAs have large numbers of threatened or endemic birds and are key biodiversity areas.
The habitats are varied and as we travel upwards towards the ridge that marks the border between Sarawak and Kalimantan, we can observe the transition of secondary forest with a few large dipterocarp trees to misty montane forest which occurs at about 900 metres. The forest skirts the edge of the golf course and on the lower slopes paddy fields all of which add to the array of habitats.
From a birding point of view it was a fantastic day, but activities did not stop with the bird race. Non-birders had the opportunity to learn about birds and photographing them; and ecology through talks and walks.
As city dwellers we create artificial (we believe) fully controlled environments. We cool our homes, create gardens that suit our tastes and travel about in cars. We often forget the power of Mother Nature (remember the terrifying storms that have recently rocked the region) and our dependency on the forest. Our survival and wellbeing are intricately interwoven within the circles of life that radiate from all the world's ecosystems.
Jungle fruits such as durian are much sought after by humans and other forest dwellers such as orang-utans. We chanced upon two such trees that stood like sentinels guarding a bridge. They overlooked a stream rolling across a pebble bed - a perfect spot for a cooling dip in clean mountain waters and lunch. We think that trees were 'planted' when the seeds were tossed aside after the consumption the creamy durian flesh.
The trees do not exist independent of other life. Numerous insects and other invertebrates live amongst the foliage as do birds and other animals such as squirrels. Cave fruit bats ('Eonycteris spelea') are responsible most pollination of durian flowers. Without the bats there is no fruit. This single, relatively simple example demonstrates that no living creature is an island.
We were able to see many fig trees along the trail and about 92 of the more than 1000 species are found in Sarawak. A few, like the strangling figs grow rapidly into large conspicuous trees, but most are small trees found along streams, imbedded in rocky cliffs or on landslips. The unusual vase-shaped fruits are vital sources of food for birds, including hornbills, monkeys, squirrels, civets and large herbivores such as wild boar.
Each species of fig has a complex and fascinating relationship with a corresponding fig wasp. The pollination of the flowers that leads to the development of fruit only occurs in the presence of the correct species of fig wasp.
The female wasp wriggles its way through the scales of the fruit which protect the flowers growing inside this protective covering. Here it lays its eggs and dies. The eggs hatch, the female wasps leave, after mating with the males and receiving a dusting of pollen, to lay her eggs inside of another fig to continue the cycle of life not only of the plant, but all the life that twirls around it and the forest.