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Thursday, October 30, 2014

SNF 2014 lead up activity: Guided Walk on Ambal Ecology by Tony Sebastian,pictures Peter Lai and Addy Siong

On a Sunday morning, 26th October 2014, the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) lead a group of people headed out onto the sandflats of Bako-Buntal Bay, with Puan Missi and her two lovely daughters.
They spent two hours walking across the sandflats at low tide, learning first-hand about the Razor Clam. This amazing creature is known locally as Ambal. A simple name for a complex, 500 million old life-form. Most of us know it as a delicious seafood, but we all left Buntal that morning knowing so much more about the biology and natural behaviour of Ambal.

Ambal is a bivalve, from the family Bivalvia. Bivalves are shelled animals, including the clams, cockles, mussels and oysters. They are recognisable by having two symmetrical hard shells, connected by a hinge of cartilage. They are found mostly in the intertidal zone of the sea, but some are also found in freshwater.
Our tidal flats from Lundu, Salak, Buntal and Asajaya are the main areas where ambal is collected to supply our seafood restaurants. This fishery is an old practise along Sarawak’s coasts, and the fisherfolk of our coastal villages have a long tradition of collecting ambal.
Ambal collecting is seasonal, mainly between October and March each year, coinciding with our landas, or monsoon, season. Interestingly, this is also the ambal’s resting period. This bivalve breeds between April and September each year, then goes into a period of rest. Scientists call this period the “spent” period. We don’t know if this is coincidence, but it works out well – ambal is collected when the animals have stopped spawning, and are growing.

There are three known species of ambal along Sarawak’s coasts, but only one is found in Bako-Buntal bay. Its scientific name is Solen regularis. Ambal collecting is done primarily by womenfolk, and they have a curious technique to spot and catch ambal. They keep their traditional practise secret, and so shall we.
Each individual ambal grows where its juvenile form lands in the sand, and will live in that exact spot for the rest of its life. We were thrilled to see that ambal can move, and move really fast. Drop one on the sand, and it can disappear within seconds. They have a muscular foot that can take in water, expand, and expel water with force, thus propelling them across the surface, and right down into the sand.
Spending the morning under the gaze of the majestic Gunung Santubong was a most refreshing experience. It was a real joy walking across the Sg. Buntal at low tide, and watching the hundreds of migratory shorebirds and terns flying about. Learning how the razor clam lives, is caught and how it contributes to the livelihood of so many villagers, was a meaningful experience for all. Until that day, ambal was just a seafood dish!

In the words of one “the next time I order ambal in a restaurant, I will remember Puan Missi and her daughters, the people who go out and earn a difficult living, in a beautiful place. I also realise that nature nourishes us, and we need to appreciate this first, before we will care for such beautiful and important places like the Santubong peninsula”.
This trip was held under the Santubong Nature Festival 2014, an initiative of the Malaysian Nature Society to bring greater awareness amongst all of the values of Santubong, and the urgent need to use it wisely. Santubong is Sarawak’s heritage, and worth keeping as is.

The Santubong Nature Festival is held on 8th and 9th November, at Permai Rainforest Resort. Come join in the many nature activities organised by agencies and organisations from all over Sarawak

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


KUCHING: The mood is upbeat and there is festivity in the air! Santubong Nature Festival (SNF)  is back for the second year next weekend, Nov 8 and 9 at Permai Rainforest Resort. 
So let’s make a beeline to the festival that celebrates Santubong peninsula’s diverse natural & cultural heritage. 
Conceptualised and organized by the Malaysian Nature Society-Kuching Branch (MNSKB), the first SNF was held in November 2013.

The festival is hosted by Permai Rainforest Resort and held in collaboration with Kuching City North Hall (DBKU), and with the support from Sarawak Museum, Geoscience and Mineral Department, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Trienekens (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd, Sultan Iskandar Planetarium, IBEC of Universiti Sarawak Malaysia,  Ika Picture House, Sarawak Society of Prevention of Cruelty for Animal and Society of Wilderness (SOW).

The festival aims to:
1.    To raise public awareness about the priceless natural and historical(local and global) heritage value of the Santubong Peninsula.
2.    To advocate for a holistic and integrated approach to development and management of the area, safeguarding its unique landscape, biodiversity and historical assets.
3.    To showcase the tourism and recreational potential of the natural and cultural values of the Santubong Peninsula.
4.    To stimulate reflection on responsible and sustainable management of the peninsula and its surroundings.
5.    To enhance environmental awareness and inculcate a sense of value for the area among the public, especially our youth.
The different activities are organized and carried out by different organisations and agencies, as their contributions to the Festival. In this way, several organisations have a chance to organize nature-themed activities and events between July and November, focussing on Santubong. 

These organisations will pool their resources again this weekend and hold a variety of indoor and outdoor activities for the young and old. 
On Nov 8, cycling enthusiasts are encouraged to take part in a riding from DBKU to Permai Rainforest Resort at 7am. And along the way to Permai, cyclists will help to pick up rubbish as part of their commitment in leaving small footprint and bettering the environment. 
DBKU Datuk Bandar is expected to officiate at the opening of the festival at Sepang Room at 9.30am
During the opening ceremony, the organizers have arranged a special talk by an ecological restorator and educator from Australia Gerard Proust, who is also MNS member. Proust will speak on “Santubong - A Biological Oasis [A Precautionary Tale of Hope]”. The talk discusses ways of minimising the impacts on a remnant forest and encourage all surrounding stakeholders to take responsibility for minimising their ecological footprint, neutralising their impact on the forest and making their own piece of land (school, resort, home etc) biologically productive.

A series of talk will take place at the resort’s Belian and Sepang Rooms in the afternoon and these talks are followed by guided walks.
Marine and chief scientist of Tropical Research and Conservation Centre Prof Steve Oakley will speak on Life On The Sea Coast at 12.30pm. He works on coral reef and shark conservation.  He created the Green Connection Aquarium & Science Discovery centre in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to promote environmental awareness.
Talks on History Of Santubong by Sarawak Museum will take place at 2.30pm; Rainforest Discovery by MNS (2.30pm); and Santubong National Park by Sarawak Forestry Corporation (4pm). 

The festivity continues well into the night with a guided walk, Rainforest Walk, led by MNS and SOW (7pm); and astronomy talk and observation by Sultan Iskandar Planetarium and Sarawak Astronomy Society at 7.30pm.
The judging session for Eco-Fashion Contest for 25 participating teams will take place at Sepang Room at 4.30pm. Festival goers are invited to give the contestants encouragement and support.
On the next day, the exciting Survivor Race kicks start at 8.30am. The race is for the physically fit as it comprises cycling, hiking, kayaking, running, swimming and paddling.
Other activities are guided walk for children Little Explorers Rainforest Discovery (9 to 12 years old) at Sepang Room, 9am; observation walk in Mandarin focussing on the rainforest at Belian Room, 9am; talk and guided walk on geology of Santubong at Belian Room, 11am; talk and guided walk on life on the sea coast at Sepang Room, 11am; and guided walk on archaeology of Santubong at Belian Room, 1pm
Admission to Permai Rainforest Resort on both days is free. Participation to all activities is also free except for dolphin watching and Survivor Race. There will be two dolphin watching opportunities at 11am on Saturday and 9am on Sunday. Boat charges for adult is RM80, children below 12 years old is RM40. 

The Survivor Race fee is RM100 for team with kayak and RM50 for individual with kayak, RM80 for team with no kayak and RM40 for individual with no kayak. Registration for the race closes on Nov 5
There will be booths selling handicrafts, merchandise from MNS and its partners, 
Festival goers are also encouraged to visit booths set up by partners and learn more about their conservation work and astronomy. 

Early registration is necessary to take part in these activities. Intending participants are to provide their name, mobile phone number and identity card number for the indemnity form and email to santubongnaturefestival@gmail.com

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Archaeology of Santubong

Last year's archaeology walk at Sungai Jaong & Batu Bergambar was a big hit among festival goers.

Guided walk: ARCHAEOLOGY OF SANTUBONG by Sarawak Museum
Date: Nov 9, Sunday
Time & duration: 1pm (about 2 hours)
Meeting point: Belian Room, Permai Rainforest Resort
Notes: Wear shoes, bring insect repellent (certain sites many mosquitoes), sun block, sun hat, poncho or umbrella, drinking water. 
Participation is FREE, but early registration is advisable. Email to santubongnaturefestival@gmail.com
Last year's archaeology walk at Sungai Jaong & Batu Bergambar was a big hit among festival goers.

Last column for this year since we are taking a short break. See you back in 2015

Taking a short break

by Mary Margaret.

A beautiful scene from Borneo Highlands.
IN early 2000, the then MNS Kuching Branch chairperson Rebecca D’Cruz suggested we write a weekly column for The Borneo Post. The committee said, “Why not — great idea.”
So began the weekly MNS column. We expected the column to last for six months or perhaps a year, but not 14 years.
A 14-year run was beyond our wildest dreams, but this is how long this column has been around. Most of the articles can be found on either our Facebook page or blog.
The column has reflected the mission and the vision of MNS — to promote the understanding, conservation and love of nature.
The contributors and writers come from all walks of life and most of us are not professional writers, but we have in common a passion for nature. This drives us into the natural world, into the jungle, out onto the sea. It leads us to stare into the sky searching for birds and stars, up into the trees and down to the ground, examining rocks. And it is these passionate people who have kept this column alive.
Our readers have journeyed with us into Sarawak’s jungles through our writing about MNS trips.
MNS nightwalks caught many creatures in their natural habitat.
We have ventured into the hidden garden of Kampung Temurang, Padawan, which can only be reached through caves.
We have climbed Bung Tesen, the lookout point of the 360-metre sandstone hill, Bung Jagoi, and have gazed over the ancestral home of the Bidayuh people, which extends from Bau to Penrissen and Padawan to Siburan and Serian.
We have walked through the orchards, jungles, heath and fields that edge trails.
We have swum in waterfalls and clambered up hills in Sarawak’s national parks.
We have ventured out in the sea as we explored Kuching Wetlands National Park, searched for dolphins in Santubong Bay and journeyed to Tanjong Datu National Park.
MNS, through talks on almost anything about the natural world — animals, plants, history, climate change, migrations and current research — brought awareness about the wild into the urban setting. These talks became column topics.
MNS events, at the state and national levels, were reported. The inaugural 2013 Santubong Nature Festival was a fantastic success, and readers were able to experience it through the articles on the talks and hugely popular nightwalk.
The Borneo Bird Race and Raptor count at Tanjong Tuan, Port Dickson have also been featured.
The My Garden Bird Watch, an annual event organised by the Bird Conservation Group of the Malaysian Nature Society and Bird Life International, has been discussed (especially the frustration at not seeing the ‘cool’ birds normally flitting about in the garden).
And the column has had an international flavour as some writers connect the beauty that is Sarawak with the natural wonders around the world. Its strength has been its diversity.
You may be wondering why you are reading about past columns. We are reflecting on the form the column has taken because we are going to say “so long” for a short time.
We, MNS Kuching Branch, are looking at where we have been and where we are going and at the evolution of the column.
This is going to be happening in the next couple of months and so we are taking a short break until 2015. Until then Love Life, Love Nature.
A trail in Santubong beckons for a nature adventure.
The Malaysian Nature Society

Friday, October 24, 2014

Programme for Santubong Nature Festival on 8-9 Nov 2014

Natural world update by Tom McLaughlin.

Photos show the various stages of Schismatoglottis persistens. — Photos by Peter C Boyce
A new plant
A STRANGE plant has been found along Sungai Pedali – a stream which flows into Sungai Sumpa near Batang Ai.
The plant was located in the upper growing regions of a hill above the high water mark. A search only located a single specimen.
Tissue from the plant was brought back to the lab and it grew well for several years in shady conditions but did not flower.
When the plant was exposed to more light, a flower erupted looking like a long white shaft coming from a hood below it. The leaves holding the flower browned away and the plant was named Schismatoglottis persistens.
The plant comes from a rhizome, which is a stem just under the soil. From this structure, leaves are sent upwards and roots downwards.
From this angle, the plant was originally thought to be a Phymatarum, but the flower proved otherwise. The flower is remarkable because it has both a rhizome and a flower.
‘Studies on Schismatoglottideae (Araceae) of Borneo XXXIX: Schismatoglottis persistens, a new rhizomatous rheophytic species for the Schismatoglottis Multiflora Group’ by Wong Sin Yeng and Peter Boyce, Wildenowia 44-2014.
The saga of the Wedge Beetle
We begin with the collector Dr John Frederick Muir, who had been employed by the Sugarcane Association in 1907 to identify a beetle species to control the sugar cane borer in Hawaii.
His travels took him to China, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
While in Borneo, he sent a specimen of the Wedge Beetle to William D Pierce of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, USA.
Terse notes on the label show how the beetle was forgotten: “Pierce left in 1918”, “Got Swartz to find it”, and “called to the attention of Herbert S Barber but Muir refused to take it back”.
Photos show the Rhipidocyrtus muiri. — Photos by Michael S Engel
Readers might recall that it was Barber, who supposedly found Ali (of Alfred Wallace fame) on Ternate Island, now part of Indonesia, in 1907.
Barber dissected the beetle but the pinned animal and its various slide mounted parts became separated. They would remain separated for 50 years.
In 1996, a PhD student, Zachary H Falin, noticed the parts and discovered nothing in scientific literature. He discovered that a collection of Wedge Beetles had been loaned to John K Bouseman of the Illinois Natural History Survey around 1980.
Needing the material for his dissertation, it was transferred to the University of Kansas. He was struck by the Borneo specimen, but nothing happened for the next 14 years.
Coincidentally, Falin and Dr J Kathirithamby were sitting in the same room at the Smithsonian Institution, while working on different insects. She noted one specimen that she was working on was not Strepsipterans but Ripiphorids. Falin was working on Ripiphorids and instantly recognised them as the long lost parts to the Borneo Beetle. It was thus recognised and named Rhipidocyrtus muiri after the person who found it.
Three years later, the Wedge Beetle received its name after three institutions, five experts and 107 years later.
‘Serendipity at the Smithsonian: The 107-year journey of Rhipidocyrtus muiri Falin & Engel, new genus and species (Ripidiinae, Ripidiini), from jungle beast to valid taxon’ by ZH Falin and MS Engel (2014).
Fossils discovered in China
Twenty-eight fossil orangutan teeth from the Early Pleistocene (1.2 million years ago) have been found in the Chongzuo Ecological Park in Guangxi, southern China.
The teeth are coarser than those of existing orangutan in Sumatra, suggesting a more unrefined diet.
The name given to the organism is Pongo pygmaeus weidenreichi.
Further study needs to be done to determine its place in evolutionary history.
For more go to www.sciencedirect.com.
The fossil orangutan teeth were found in Chongzuo Ecological Park.
The Malaysian Nature Society

Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2014/10/19/natural-world-update/#ixzz3H4DcusjX

Community service schemes prove successful at wildlife sanctuary by Rintos Mail, reporters@theborneopost.com.

The Engkari River where the tagang system to restore fish stocks is implemented.
IN the past, there was so much misconception and protest over the gazettement of Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary (LEWS).
When the government gazetted the forests as national parks, the local people said the area would be given away for logging.
Now, they realise the gazettement is a government effort to conserve the environment and they are helping to stop unscrupulous people entering the area to catch their fish or hunt the protected animals.
The mindset of the people living near LEWS has changed. They no longer depend solely on the forests for their livelihood.
Fish rearing and fruit farming have not only helped solve their food supply problems but also brought additional income to families and longhouses surrounding the Sanctuary.
As headman of Rumah Anthony Bau confessed: “We’re very grateful to the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), for sponsoring the community development project (CDP) in our longhouse.
“We also thank the Sarawak Forest Department for implementing the project which has helped improve our livelihood.
“Besides, the initiatives undertaken by the two agencies have also raised awareness among us not to be too dependent on the natural resources found in LEWS for our livelihood.”
The CDP was implemented by the Forest Department’s Community Service Initiatives (CSI).
Anthony recalled at one time the relationship between the local communities, including those from his longhouse, and Sarawak Forestry was a bit strained.
This, he noted, was due to the community’s own fault, as they had blindly protested the setting up of LEWS.
“We protested because we weren’t aware of Sanctuary’s importance to us, especially when we relied solely on the forest and its resources for a living.
“Now, I thank the two agencies for their community projects which have made it easier for us to earn a living from other sources,” he said at the launch of the tagang system at his longhouse.
Antiaris toxicaria (ipoh tree) sap for blowpipe poison is found at the Sanctuary.
The headman said families at his longhouse were learning to become more enterprising and had been earning additional income from the indigenous fruits they planted and fish they reared in valley ponds.
He said aside from that, the relationship between the local community and Sarawak Forestry had become more cordial, adding that they always fully supported any development involving the local community in his longhouse.
The 19-door Rumah Anthony Bau is one of the longhouses located near LEWS. It’s  about 40km from Sibu and between three and four hours boatride from Nanga Entabai in Jalau.
LEWS, covering 193,039 hectares of relatively undisturbed primary forest, is located in southwestern Sarawak.
The area includes patches of rugged terrains and hills, and Bukit Lanjak forms the highest peak which stands 1,285 metres above sea level.
Formerly constituted as a protected forest, the area was reconstituted as a Wildlife Sanctuary in February 1983 due to large presence of orangutans and hornbills.
It is believed there are over 30 Iban longhouses in the area, located along Sungei Engkari, Katibas, Ngemah, Kanowit and Mujok.
When the Sanctuary was set up, the longhouses were granted rights to collect forest produce in three designated areas. The activities, however, impacted negatively on the Sanctuary.
Cooperation from the local communities was also lacking in the past as they did not understand the purpose of conservation and felt the government was depriving them of the use of the forest in LEWS that provided their many daily needs.
Illegal encroachments into these areas, particularly by local communities, were still occurring then.
However, strategies to reduce their dependencies on the forest were put in place. These included involving the local communities in managing the Sanctuary and boundary clearing as well as employing them to work at the Ranger stations.
Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Len Talif Salleh said the government had appointed community leaders in the area as honorary wildlife rangers and special wildlife committee members.
Following the appointment, the leaders will report illegal activities to the wildlife authorities or police.
They are also responsible for educating their own communities on the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 and other wildlife issues as requested by the Controller of Wildlife and other wildlife staff.
(From left) Julau MP Datuk Joseph Salang, Datuk Len Talif Salleh, Wan Shardini and Tuai Tumah Anthony Bau sharing a light moment during the launch of the tagang system at Rantau Tapang, Ulu Mujok in Julau.
Moreover, they are required to advise and help wildlife staff conducting field programmes in their areas, particularly on local wildlife issues and problems as well as provision of relevant background information.
The Rangers and the committee members are also involved in discussions, enforcement and decisions pertaining to the management of the Wildlife Sanctuary.
“Through this initiative, the government hopes the local community and their leaders will become its eyes and ears in its effort to preserve the protected forest and prevent illegal encroachment,” said Len, formerly the director of forest.
He added that with this kind of active participation by the local people, the management of the Sanctuary had been more efficient and acceptable to the communities in the surrounding areas.
With the collaboration of ITTO, the Forest Department has also successfully implemented a Community Development project in the buffer zone, actively involving local communities in various activities.
Sarawak Forest Department deputy director Wan Shardini Wan Salleh said since the implementation of the ITTO-supported project in 1992, the Department had encouraged and helped the local community within LEWS to rear indigenous fish and cultivate indigenous plants, and also trained them in some kind of basic technical knowledge in agro-forestry, fish culture as well as park and wildlife management.
He said throughout the implementation period, some 30 valley ponds had been built while over 50 plots of indigenous fruits had been developed within LEWS buffer zone through gotong-royong.
“Aside from that, the local community were also involved in other activities like research, monitoring and natural environment studies.
“About RM10 million had been spent to implement these activities over the last 22 years,” he said.
An important component of the project is the integration of the use of resources and conservation in the buffer zone outside the Sanctuary.
The local communities are encouraged to develop various projects on plant and animal species of economic potential to supplement their income, at the same time reducing their dependencies on the resources of the sanctuary.
Farmers were selected to participate in the cultivation of indigenous crops.
These crops were selected based on their potential for domestication and commercialisation and in consensus with the participants.
In addition, the farmers were provided with commercial fruit species, some of which are non-seasonal in an effort to have an integrated orchard to ensure fruit supply on a daily basis.
With active participation in these activities, the local people spent less time in the forests of the Sanctuary to look for wild fruits and other jungle produce.
They were also taught to monitor and record the growth performance of the plants and to submit it to representative of the Forests Department or ITTO.
The local communities view the project very positively as admitted openly by Anthony Bau.
He said the community now valued the Sanctuary, particularly its rich natural resources, clean water and fresh air.
The landscape of Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary. — Photos courtesy of Forest Department.
They appreciate the great potential benefits that can be derived through a joint effort with the government to sustainably manage the natural resources.
According to Len, the government always tries to implement the community’s economic activities towards a competitive direction based on current development.
“This is important because forest or traditional farming does not guarantee a steady income.
“Because of that, the government always strives to bring changes by encouraging the local community to get involved in commercial agriculture like planting fruit and gaharu trees or fish rearing as an additional source of income.”
The pilot project on fish rearing is said to have been implemented for three longhouses in Ulu Katibas and Ulu Mujok.
Two valley ponds and a concrete tank for fish rearing were constructed by the local communities on gotong-royong with the building materials supplied by the Forests Department or by ITTO office.
The participants were encouraged to rear the high-value indigenous fish such as empurau, tengadak and semah for own consumption and for sale.
Additonally, Sarawak Forestry had assisted in the implementation of the tagang system.
The first one was implemented in 2009 in Ulu Sungai Engkari while the second one was launched by Len recently in Sungai Sugai, Rantau Tapang, Ulu Mujok.
Wan Shardini said the tagang system in Ulu Engkari had been successful.
It is said the residents of three longhouses in the Ulu Engkari have learnt the techniques of restoring fish resources in the river through the tagang system introduced to them five years ago.
Following the success, residents from Rumah Anthony Bau too have adopted such system.
The system at Sungai Sugai was only implemented in December last year and the fish have returned.
At the official launching of the tagang system at his longhouse, Anthony said they had noticed an increase in the fish stocks in Sungai Sugai five months after implementation.
“Our tagang system was implemented late last year and it has started to show the depleted fish stock in our river is being restored.
“This is good for our future,” he said.

Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2014/10/12/community-service-schemes-prove-successful-at-wildlife-sanctuary/#ixzz3H4DMhikM