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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Figs and hornbills December 4, 2016, Sunday Mary Margaret

The state’s first Fig Garden was established as part of the Western Sarawak Hornbill Project.
The state’s first Fig Garden was established as part of the Western Sarawak Hornbill Project.
Figs are a ‘keystone species’ that produce fruit year round and can support entire ecosystems.
Figs are a ‘keystone species’ that produce fruit year round and can support entire ecosystems.
WHAT would bring back hornbills and other birds? Why have they disappeared? Why are figs important?
Food. Hornbills in general are fruit eaters and these iconic and culturally significant birds have a passion for figs. Figs (Ficus) are members of the mulberry (Moraceae) family. Of the over 160 species found in Borneo, 25 have been documented as key food sources not only for birds, but also monkeys (gibbons), bats, squirrels, sun bears and bearded pigs.
These ‘keystone species’ (species on which whole ecosystems depend) produce fruit year round and can support entire ecosystems. This fruit production strategy is the opposite of that of many other tropical species, including Dipterocarps, which fruit simultaneously (mast fruiting). This ensures that some seeds survive predation by birds, mammals and insects.
Figs, ancient plants with about 800 species worldwide, are mainly found in the tropics. All are fast growing softwood trees or shrubs. In Sarawak, figs fall into three broad groups.
The most dramatic are the strangling figs. The seeds of these upper-storey species are dropped into the canopy of a host tree. If they land in spot that can support growth and has moisture, the seed will sprout. The strangling fig sends down a support branch, then long rope-like roots extend to the ground, and these eventually completely enclose the host tree. Over time, as both grow and exert pressure, the stronger fig roots dominate and kill the host.
Figs can also be free standing trees, and these are often found along rivers. They produce fruit on bare twigs or stems.
The third group is the earth figs that fruit are on runners partly buried in the soil. Most figs are either found in the high canopy or on low bushes.
In recognition of the importance of figs in the natural ecosystems the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) has established the first 7.2ha Fig Garden in a degraded patch of forest in Matang Wildlife Centre, which is part of Kubah National Park. This park is approximately one hour from Kuching.
During the opening of Sarawak’s first Fig Garden last May, Ministry of Resource Planning and Environment permanent secretary Datu Sudarsono Osman said it was established as part of the Western Sarawak Hornbill Project, which aims to conserve the range and habitat of these birds. This project encompasses 306,000 ha and has incorporated national parks, including Kubah, nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries located in western Sarawak.
Sudarsono noted that the Western Sarawak Hornbill Project is one of several initiatives of the state government to protect and conserve the environment, including habitat enrichment.
SFC deputy general manager Oswald Braken Tisen said that although hornbills are the targeted species, all birds would reap the benefits associated with the enhancement and rehabilitation of this forest plot.
Figs, as mentioned, are important sources of food, but birds need shelter and nesting sites. Three hundred saplings, including six species of figs, and eight other indigenous forest tree species Jambu Laut (Eugenia sp), Ubah (Eugenia sp), Kubal (Willughbeia sp), Dabai (Canarium odontophyllum), two species of Bintangor (Calophyllum), Selangan Batu (Shorea sp,) and Engkabang Melapi (Shorea macrobalanos), were planted during the opening of the garden.
This 2,230ha national park is home to over 150 species of birds, including the White-crowned Hornbill (Berenicornis comatus), a rare bird that prefers dense shrubby vegetation next to rivers.
Sarawak, although frequently referred to as the ‘Land of the Hornbills’, has only eight of Malaysia’s nine species (there are 45 worldwide). These include the Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris), which has come to prominence as it can adapt to city environments and a pair has raised chicks in the urban Piasau Nature Reserve in Miri. Oriental Pied Hornbills are common in coastal and secondary forests. The Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros), Sarawak’s state bird, is also widely recognised.
The other species of hornbills are the Bushy-crested Hornbill (Anorrhinus galeritus), Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus), Wrinkled Hornbill (Aceros corrugatus), Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) and Asian Black Hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus). The presence of these iconic birds, which everyone wants to see, indicates that the general ecological health of a forest is good and that it provides food, shelter and nesting sites.
As mentioned, figs provide food for many species of birds, including the iconic hornbill as well as mammals. In turn the animals spread the tiny seeds, which either pass through their digestive tracts unharmed or better able to germinate, far and wide. Figs and animals benefit in this complicated web that becomes even more intricate when seed and fruit production are considered.
Seed dispersal is but part of the story and the webs that encircle figs. Fig species and the tiny fig wasps from the Agraonidae family have coevolved since the time of the dinosaurs, approximately 65 million years ago, with mutually dependent life cycles of approximately the same length. The fig wasps pollinate the figs, which in return provide a safe environment for the wasps to reproduce.
A green bottled-shaped fig looks like a regular fruit but is a pseudo or false fruit, called a syconium. Each encloses hundreds or thousands of flowers, that, if pollinated produce seeds. The flowers of the different fig species are structurally quite variable and this has led to one or two species of fig wasps adapting to pollinate a single species of fig.
The cycle starts when a tiny two-millimetre long female wasp enters a mature syconium through an equally small opening at the apex called an ostiole. The wasp has been attracted by the scent of the flowers.
Once a female wasp enters a syconium it cannot leave as its wings have been scraped off while squeezing in. Several female wasps can enter a single syconium and a clump of wings can be seen at the entrance. The female wasp lives for one or two more days after laying her eggs and pollinating the flowers.
At this point you might ask do we eat wasps when we eat figs. No, the crunchiness in figs is seeds from the hundreds or thousands of flowers, not wasps. The fig excretes an enzyme that enables the fig to absorb the wasp.
The sightless and wingless males, which spend their entire lives within the syconium, have two functions. The first is to mate with the females and the second is to bite a hole through the syconium to enable the female wasps to escape and find another fig syconium to enter, pollinate and deposit eggs.
About 34 million years ago, some figs evolved to produce a syconium with either male or female flowers and to be dioecious (to have male flowers and female flowers on separate plants). This was a point of evolutionary conflict since the fig was less cooperative with the wasp. The female flowers emit a scent that is similar to the male flowers, to entice the female wasp. This is a dead end for the wasp, because the flowers have evolved so that wasps cannot lay eggs. However, the fig gets pollen and then can produce seeds. If the female wasp enters a male flower, it can lay its eggs and form gall flowers, resulting in the continuation of the fig’s lifecycle.
The fig fruiting cycle and the fig wasp life cycle are approximately two months, leading to year round availability of fruit. This is why figs are called keystone species. All fig species are protected under Sarawak’s Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 because of their importance as a food source.
The interdependency of figs, frugivores (animals that eat fruit) and fig wasps demonstrates how complicated natural ecosystems are. However, this becomes even more so when the intricately interwoven webs of life of other creatures are also considered. Take for example nematodes or parasites that prey on wasps; consider the epiphytes that are attached to the boles of trees, including figs, and the micro ecosystems contained within one; or the predators (including hunters) that prey upon the birds and animals that consume the fruit.
In my view this illustrates a natural tapestry. If one component is removed, then other threads begin to unravel. What are the consequences if the seed dispersers, for example hornbills, disappear or become fewer? What are the consequences if the figs become less common?


Monday, November 14, 2016

SharingMyPassion Pick for a Cleaner Shoreline by Alcila

Alcila is a singer, pianist, saxophonist, an adventurer, stargazer but most of all, a passionate beach trash picker. She grew up watching the Disney animated film "Pocahontas", which planted the seed of a deep love for nature in her.
In this series of SharingMyPassion, she will share about what has driven her to collect seaside rubbish in the past 3 years and how it has grown recently to be a session of 30 volunteers collecting over 100kg worth of rubbish, and her hopes for the youths today and the local community for the environment.
Day / Date: Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Time: 5.30 - 7.00PM
Venue: The Museum Cafe & Shop at The Main Bazaar Admission: Free 


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Visit to the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre

Dear members,

The core programmes of the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC), at kilometre 20 of Jalan Borneo Heights include biological discoveries, traditional knowledge, bioinformatics along with programmes aimed at education such as awareness visits.  MNSKB has arranged for a visit to SBC in order to enhance understanding of the varied roles of this organisation.  The guided walks will also enable us to develop our understanding of beneficial plants. 

The details of the visit are below:
Venue: Sarawak, Biodiversity Centre, Kilometre 20, Jalan Borneo Heights, Semengoh
Day / Date:  Wednesday, 30 November 2016
Time: 9:00 AM (sharp)to 12:15 PM

The following is the programme for the visit:
9:00 AM:    Arrival of MNS Members
                     Briefing on SBC's Roles and Functions 
10: 00 AM:  Walkabout tour of the Laila Taib Ethnobotanical Garden
11: 00 AM:  SBC Jungle Trail - Guided walk on useful/interesting plants
12.15 noon:   Lunch
                      Depart SBC

  • Members are required to register for this activity on or before 27 November.Please include full name, IC or passport number, and email and handphone number.
  • Participants are advised to wear comfortable walking shoes and clothes appropriate for the jungle, as well as to bring sufficient drinking water. 
  • Please bring insect repellent and sun block. 
  • This trip is also suitable for kids and since its school holiday just brings them along but register them too.

  • Please leave town on time and I suggest at 8am.

 Love Life Love Nature
Cynthia Lobato
MNSKB Committee

Talk on Medicinal Plants of Sarawak by Dr Paul Chai P.K.

Dear members,

You are invited to a talk on Medicinal Plants  of  Sarawak by Dr Paul Chai P.K. a consultant for the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) since 1993.

Lower Baruk, Islamic Information Centre
Jalan Ong Tiang Swee (behind Swimburne University Sarawak)

Date:    Saturday 3rd December 2016

Time:    10.00am 


This Talk is about medicinal plants and their potentials, an introduction to herbals, uses and efficacy, global trends, issues and challenges, and future actions on the development of medicinal plants for Sarawak.

Dr Paul Chai P.K. is a botanist.  He has been involved in many ecology-related research work, such as the mangrove forest, where he earned his doctorate. He has travelled and worked extensively throughout Sarawak, in the forests, national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries.  Dr Paul Chai has a good knowledge  of forest botany, ecology, conservation and managment of forests.  His interest in medicinal plants developed during his earlier botanical expeditions into the interiors of Sarawak. 

Love Life,Love Nature,
Cynthia Lobato
MNS KB Committee

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Jangkar Waterfalls trip

Dear members,

We are pleased to announce an upcoming excursion for you! Are you up for a bit of exercise and outdoor fun? Then join Nicki on a trip to Jangkar Waterfalls!

The Jangkar Waterfalls are powerful and remote waterfalls, located on the slopes of the Berumput range in Lundu. The Berumput range marks the boundary between Sarawak and Indonesia. 
The trail to Jangkar Waterfalls starts at Kampong Jantan. The first part of the walk goes through farms and orchards of the local villagers until it reaches Jangkar River. Then the scene changes into jungle, dotted with big boulders, as the trail leads further upriver. The trail crosses at the widest part of the river, where the water level is shallow. It continues further up until it finally reaches a spectacular waterfall with a huge deep pool. With a height of over 30 metres Jangkar Waterfall #1 is the highest in Western Sarawak! 
The amazing scenery makes it a nice place to relax and enjoy a cooling bath. For those with more energy and an adventurous spirit there is another waterfall further upstream, which requires a challenging climb. Here one is welcomed here by a lovely natural infinity pool with stunning views over the plains and Gunung Gading. 
In total there are 23 waterfalls along Jangkar River.

Here are the details:
Day / Date:
Sunday, 20. November 2016
Jangkar Waterfall, Lundu
Meeting point / time:
Kampong Jantan, 09.30 hrs am
Own transport; car pooling recommended
·  Drive to Lundu and use Lundu Bypass Road
·  Turn towards Sematan
·  Shortly after that turn left to Jalan Biawak which will lead you to Kpg Jantan
·  Expected driving time: approx. 2 hours (please leave Kuching by 7.30 hrs)

·  RM 10 for MNS members
·  RM 20 for non-members
·  Parking fee of RM 5 per car 

The itinerary for the excursion is as follows:
·       09.30 hrs: Meet, greet and register at Kampong Jantan
·       Trek to waterfall #1
·       Relax & enjoy nature (swimming optional)
·       Trek to waterfall #2 (optional)
·       Return to waterfall #1 for lunch break (lunch not included)
·       Return to Kampong Jantan & end of activity (approx. 14.00 hrs)

What to bring/wear:
·       Footwear with good grip which may get wet (e.g. Kampong Adidas or trekking sandals)
·       Light clothes/outdoor wear
·       Rain coat/poncho
·       Sun cream & hat
·       Drinking water & food (Please bring your own lunch! Fireplace for BBQ available!)
·       Optional: swimwear & towel

Please note that this activity requires a good fitness level as it involves about 1 hours’ trek uphill to reach Jangkar Waterfall #1, including a river crossing without bridge. The optional trek to Jangkar Waterfall #2 requires an additional 20 minutes climb from Jangkar Waterfall #1. We will return the same way back to Kpg Jantan.
There are no age limitations as long as you are reasonably fit and healthy. The trip is also suitable for children. However, children have to be accompanied and supervised by a parent or custodian. 

Want to join? Then please send us an e-mail (mnskuching@gmail.com) or send a Whatsapp directly to Nicki (+60198550375)! For registration and indemnity purposes we need your full name and IC/passport number. For communication purposes we furthermore need your e-mail address and mobile number.
  •  Registration closes on 14. November 2016.

Love Life, Love Nature,
MNSKB Committee
Nicki Neuner

November 2016 newsletter

Dear Members,

Please be informed that the November 2016 newsletter is out.  You can download a copy from http://www.mns.my/file_dir/11291879095816a0733c76f.pdf

  • Letter to the Editor – Halt Logging in the Terenggun Virgin Forest Reserve
  • MNS Selangor Branch Flora Group’s Maiden Gardening Activity with Volunteers
  • MNS Perak Branch - Herbal Walk and Birding at KNP 
  • Eco Kids – Screen-Free School Holiday To-Do List
  • Calendar of Activities
Leong Wee Chin
Membership Officer
Malaysian Nature Society
Tel: 03-22879422
Fax: 03-22878773

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

WILD BIRD CLUB OF MALAYSIA team featured Sarawak International Bird Race 2016

“The Sarawak International Bird Race 2016 includes three equally important but diverse areas. Sarawak has over 500 species of birds. Out of the 60 endemic species found in Borneo, 54 can be found in Sarawak. The end of September marks the beginning of the migration season as migrants fly from the northern summer breeding ground to the southern wintering grounds……”
SARAWAK!! Malaysia’s largest state but also the least known birding destination.
When WBCM received the invitation to join this race and the invitation was re-sent out to all the members, 3 members were mesmerized by the opening statement from the above brochure and the unexplored mystery of Borneo, or more precise birding in Sarawak, to represent Wild Bird Club Malaysia in this event.
It was an international bird race and WBCM was truly represented by an international team – Graham Tompsett (United Kingdom), Mahesh Balasaheb Kulkarni (India) and Chan Chi Lee (Malaysia).


Fully equipped with cameras, tripods, scopes, a copy of Borneo Birding Guide and not forgetting the most important “weapon” - the binoculars, we departed in a hot sweltering afternoon on 23 September 2016 from Kuala Lumpur Airport and arrived in Kuching approximately 2 hours later to a warm welcome from the organising committee. A van was waiting for us and we departed to the Harbour View Hotel in downtown Kuching to another warm welcome. In the evening, there was a briefing for all the participants on the details of the race. As the night was still young after the briefing had finished, we took the opportunity to meet other fellow participants from Hong Kong, Brunei, Sabah, Penang, Johor and also the local teams.

The next day – 24 September 2016 – the Race officially begins! The first stop – Buntal Bay, a 45 minute drive north from Kuching. Buntal is part of the Bako-Buntal Bay Important Bird Area (IBA) site. The nutrient rich mudflats, sandflats and mangrove forests are a major stop-over and refuelling point for migrating birds. We were given 2 hours here to complete the first leg of the race. The organising committee explained the various routes we can walk and we decided to start with the walkway along the coast, a route which most of the participants also started from. With the help of Graham’s magnificent scope, we saw a Chinese Egret, a variety of waders including Terek & Common Sandpiper, Grey –Tailed Tattler, Whimbrel, Curlew, Red & Green-Shanks, Sand Plovers; and many Terns  (Greater Crested, Little, Gull-billed).  We then adventured into the fishing village where we saw a Pied Fantail, Glossy Starling and a few other common birds. As we turned back to return towards the finishing point, we were attracted to the movements in the leaves of some trees. A Malkoha shows its sexy tail before exposing its chestnut-bellied and orange facial skin. And there ends our first leg of the Race at 10.00AM.

All the participants punctually boarded the bus and we headed towards Kubah National Park, a 40 minutes’ drive from Kuching, for the second leg of the race. Kubah National Park, 2,230 hectare of   low land and low hill rainforest national park; a total contrast from the first leg where we had to identify mostly waders and shorebirds! What a challenge! As we had arrived early, lunch was not ready yet. But the participants were not deterred and all of us agreed to continue the race and eat later. What a great birding enthusiasm! The organisers explained to us the various routes we can take. 

We started with the walk along the main road to Mt Serapi. It was a hot afternoon, but fortunately the canopy of trees provides shelter and relief from the blazing hot sun. But it also provides a camouflage to the birds and we had some challenge to sight the birds. In this competition bird sounds do not count as a sighting, so while we can enjoy the melodious song of some birds, we also need to see the beautiful view of its plumage. Along the walk up the summit, we saw a Black-headed & Hairy-backed Bulbuls and Ruby-cheeked Sunbird. Lunch came an hour later, delivered to us along the main road.  Since there were few birds along the main road, we decided to detour and walked along the Waterfall Trail. We took our packed lunch in the quietness of the forest. As we were only given 5 hours in Kubah National Park (the walk to the end of Waterfall Trail will take 3 hours for a return journey), we decided to turn back and return to the main road using the Rayu Trail. It was a wise decision as we caught the sight of a female Diard’s Trogon perching quietly and showing off its beautiful reddish pink belly.  This gave a boost to our morale as there had been a “drought” in sightings in the hot afternoon.  After another 20 minutes walk, we were awarded with the sight of a Rufous-tailed Shama, a scare resident of lowland forest and much less common then the other Shama species. This was followed by the sighting of the endemic Bornean Banded Kingfisher (male). Images of these beautiful birds were captured in the cameras of our photography expert, Mahesh Kulkarni.  Resting after our day-long walk under the hot sun and exhausted, we found a fruiting tree and were resting in the shade when a Grey-bellied Bulbul, a Black-and-Yellow Broadbill and later a Blue-Winged Leafbird flew in and perched in front of us. These birds must have been telling us to continue birding in Kubah, but it was already 4 pm and we had to depart for the Borneo Highlands.


Borneo Highlands Resort sits at approximately 1,000 metres in the Penrissen Highlands which is part of the range of low mountains and it forms the border with Kalimantan. It was recognised as an IBA site since 2010. It is 1.5 hours drive southwards from Kuching. And it is here where we spent the night and the beginning of the last leg of the race.

25 September 2016 – all the participants reported on time and we started the final leg at 7 am. The resort shuttle took us to the Kalimantan Look- out point where we were momentarily distracted by the beautiful sight of the mountains floating on clouds on a beautiful Sunday morning. Suddenly, the sounds of a pair of woodpeckers flying amongst the trees attracted everyone’s attention. It was the Buff-Rumped Woodpeckers. After spending 30 minutes at the Look-Out Point, we had added Little Spiderhunter, Crimson Sunbird, Red-Billed Malkoha, Orange-Bellied Flowerpecker,  Verditer Flycatcher &  an Epornis to our list. We then walked down the Road and sighted a Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler & Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher before hopping back on the shuttle for a ride to the Resort entrance where we continued our race. We birded along the edge of the Plateau and then headed towards the Pump House. Along the way, we got great views of Blyth’s Hawk Eagles close overhead, and saw a Grey-Rumped Treeswift, Yellow-Bellied Prinia, Cream-Vented Bulbul and Yellow-Bellied Warbler. We passed by some private bungalows where we saw a flock of the endemic Dusky Munias and our last bird logged, a Grey Wagtail.  At exactly 11.30AM we handed in our log book and clocked-out of the Sarawak International Bird Race 2016.

We had sighted more than 60 species of birds in this race. This was above our expectations as a team. The field guide to the Birds of Borneo brought along by Chan was also a help in identifying the birds. Each of us receive a certificate of participation and one of our members, GrahamTompsett also shared his experience of birding in the United Kingdom with the audience at the closing ceremony.

Text by Chan Chi Lee and Pictures by Mahesh Balasaheb Kulkarni.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sarawak Birdrace 2016

And here's a kick-start to the Sarawak International Bird Race 2016! Good luck to all the participants!
#mnskb #sarawakbirdrace #Sarawak #bird#birdrace 

Community help needed to record endemic bird species — Jerip September 26, 2016, Monday

Pipit 101, Sandakan team 98 and Ladybird 67 Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to all who have participated! We hope that you all enjoyed the race and hope to see you next time!