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Sunday, February 28, 2016

A palm hotspot February 28, 2016, Sunday Mary Margaret

THE celebrated botanist Odoardo Beccari in ‘Wandering in the Great Forests of Borneo’ created vivid images of his 1865 travels throughout Sarawak. His extended collecting trips to Matang, near present day Kubah National Park, took days of tramping over hills, wading through swamps and rivers, crawling through thick underbrush and cutting short-lived trails.
He also opted, as advised by residents, to travel by boat when bringing supplies for an extended stay at Vallombrosa, the Malay-style home he had built on Matang. However, even this journey was lengthy and tough.
This formerly remote region is now a mere 35km or 45 minutes from Kuching.
Although the area surrounding Kubah National Park has undergone dramatic changes from forest to shopping areas to agriculture, the park remains clad in dramatically sky-touching mixed dipterocarp forests.
Frogs and palms are, as in Beccari’s day, synonymous with forests in and around Kubah National Park.
Not so long ago, I had the opportunity to get in touch with Mother Nature during a visit to this pocket of wild and the palms.
Beccari described several palms and Dr Katherine Pearce in her 1992 study, ‘The Palms of Kubah National Park’, identified 86 species within the park alone, plus an additional nine species found outside its boundary.
Of these, 16 species are only found in Borneo. This park is without a doubt a palm hotspot as almost half of all species found in Sarawak are here.
The Palmetum, a few steps from the park headquarters, celebrates the park’s palm diversity. Signboards regaling visitors with scientific and local information about uses and beliefs add depth to the visit.
The striking parasol palm (Licuala orbicularis) looks like an umbrella. Not surprisingly the undivided frond can be and was used as one.
This spectacular stemless palm, a member of the palm Arecaceae family, with large fan-shaped leaves is endemic to Sarawak and grows only in a few locations including Kubah National Park.
Biru bulat, Biru ruai or berupat, as it is known in Iban, is adapted to rainy weather and is an understorey species in the mixed dipterocarp forests requiring indirect light.
It is found at altitudes from 30 to 330 metres on well-drained slightly acidic soils.
The leaves are used for wrapping, making umbrellas and for atap roofs. Pearce in her 1992 report indicated that this palm is endangered due to habitat destruction as the forest is logged or the land use is changed. Another threat is the collection of seeds for plant nurseries.
Eventually the many attractions of Kubah National Park drew us away from the Palmetum. Palms were always on our mind though, as they dotted the landscape as we hiked along the shady, undulating trail towards the waterfall.
The towering dipterocarp trees, which enveloped the lower slopes of Gunung Serapi are awe-inspiring.
The mixed dipterocarp forest, which covers much of Kubah National Park, used to cover a vast area of Sarawak.
However, changing land use patterns for urban and agriculture expansion as well harvesting the trees for their timber has led to a reduction in the area under this forest.
The name is from the dominant family, Dipterocarpaceae, meaning two-winged fruit, and it reaches 30 to 50 metres in height.
However, an emergent could stand at an astounding 60 metres. Gigantic trees dominate the upper canopy, but there are an estimated 2,000 species making up this forest type.
You don’t need to be a botanist to identify the diversity of this forest type.
The vast array of leaf shapes, bark and plant types tell all visitors, at almost a single glance, that there is no doubt this forest type is varied.
Gunung Serapi, a highly visible landform when approached from land and sea, stands at 911 metres.
However, only the lower slopes of this predominantly sandstone-mountain were, in 1995, incorporated into this approximate 22 square km park.
To reach the Rayu Waterfalls, we picked up the aptly named Waterfalls Trail.
This trail crosses a swampy area before a slow incline to the falls.
The refreshingly cool spray of the water droplets on our faces and merry stream tumbling down the mountain renewed us spiritually and physically.
The striking parasol palm looks like an umbrella.
The striking parasol palm looks like an umbrella

Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2016/02/28/a-palm-hotspot/#ixzz41RoufQeS

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Explore the world of caves with MNS (Talk)

Explore the world of caves with MNS
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to caught in a flood in total darkness? Or having to wedge yourself between natural geological formations just to get on with your journey?
Such are the trials of a seasoned cave explorer which will be shared by Rambli Ahmad who will in a public talk on caving, bring the experience of a speleologist.
An ecologist with the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Rambli, self professed to be claustrophobic and afraid of heights will nontheless jump at a chance to go exploring caves.
He has participated in many caving expeditions with the Anglo-Sarawak expedition team since 1996 and has developed himself to be the very few speleologists in the region.
The Anglo-Sarawak caving expedition team began their exploration of caves in Sarawak in 1977 and was the same team that found the Sarawak Chamber, known as the largest unsupported natural room in the world.

The talk, organised by the Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) will be held at on:
  • Date:  Wed 9 March 2016
  • Time:  7.30 PM Sharp
  • Venue: UCSI University, Kuching. Lot 2498, Block 16, Kuching Central Land District, Jalan Tun Jugah, 93350 Kuching, Sarawak. Map to USCI is included.
Admission to the talk is free. You are welcome to bring along some friends. 
Please register to: mnskuching@gmail.com :att Cynthia before 9 March
 See you there! 

MNS Committee
Love Life,Love Nature.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Half of Borneo’s mammals could lose a third of their habitat by 2080 22nd January 2015 / John C. Cannon Borneo consistently makes the list of the world’s “biodiversity hotspots” – areas full of a wide variety of forms of life found nowhere else, but which are also under threat. To better understand the hazards, a study published today in the journal Current Biology examines the effects of climate change and deforestation in the coming decades on mammals living on the island.

Borneo consistently makes the list of the world’s “biodiversity hotspots” – areas full of a wide variety of forms of life found nowhere else, but which are also under threat. To better understand the hazards, a study published today in the journal Current Biologyexamines the effects of climate change and deforestation in the coming decades on mammals living on the island. 
“Few forward-planning conservation assessments consider both the effects of climate change and land-cover change on tropical biodiversity,” said author Andreas Wilting of Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany in a news release, “because land-cover change is difficult to predict reliably.” 
Not only is it difficult to forecast how habitats will change, but also how plant and animal species will respond to those changes. Will they adapt to their shifting surroundings, or will they migrate to new areas (if they’re available)? Or, will they go extinct?
Borneo is home to many unique species, such as the endangered Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus). Photo taken in Sabah, Malaysia, by Rhett Butler.
The international team, led by Matt Struebig of the University of Kent in Great Britain, comprised researchers from universities, research institutions and conservation groups. They integrated predictions from models of how the land would change as a result of climate change and deforestation between 2010 and 2080. 
Then, they consulted with experts around the world to create maps of suitable habitat – sometimes eight per species – for 81 of the island’s 221 species of mammals. Their database included 13 species of primate, 23 species of carnivore, and 45 species of bat. Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and is divided between three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
By looking at both climate change and deforestation, the researchers were able to paint a more detailed picture of how suitable habitats might be for Borneo’s wildlife in the future. Running just the climate change model, they found that up to 36 percent of the island’s mammals could lose a third of their habitat. With deforestation added to the mix, the percentage of mammals likely to lose that much rose to almost half.
The team also looked at habitat loss in the past, going back to around 1950, to see how the projected trends compared. Based on their modeling, they concluded that now nearly twice as many mammal species are at risk of losing substantial proportions of their habitat.
As expected, climate change and deforestation will likely hammer lowland areas the hardest. The authors also point out that many habitats deemed “suitable” by the mammal experts are creeping out of these lowland areas and into higher elevations under pressure from climate change.
That’s a positive finding for biodiversity, say the researchers, because a lot of Borneo’s protected areas are found above the island’s lowest elevations. So, chances are good that at least some species will move to habitats that are refuges from human activity such as hunting and agriculture.
Around a quarter of the “best areas” for biodiversity habitat identified by the study are not protected conservation reserves, but they have been set aside as permanent forests. While logging does and will likely continue to occur in these spots, the authors write that these forests may provide the best return on investment for the conservation dollar – or rupiah, ringgit, or Brunei dollar, the island’s three forms of currency.
That’s because, unlike large-scale, single-crop agriculture such as oil palm, companies can selectively log areas while still maintaining enough forest habitat to protect a sizeable number of species. Global Forest Watch Commodities data show the concentration of timber sites in Indonesian Borneo, particularly in the highlands. 

The locations of logging concessions on the Indonesia portion of Borneo (roughly three-quarters of the world’s third largest island). Many are located in higher-elevation areas that are likely to see increased concentrations of biodiversity as a result of climate change. The study’s authors write that partnerships with logging interests could help preserve important diversity habitat located outside of protected areas. Map courtesy of Global Forest Watch and the National Geographic Society. Click to enlarge.

But walking the tight rope between allowing timber extraction and conserving biodiversity will require land managers to follow a number of best practices, write the authors – for example, eliminating the number of ancillary effects such as illegal logging and hunting that often accompany timber developments.
The researchers identified a number of “priority areas,” places where Borneo’s mammals can find suitable habitat when climate change and deforestation through 2080 are factored in. Nearly 90 percent of these spots aren’t further than five kilometers from logging roads. That makes it imperative to close these roads to illicit loggers and hunters for the sake of biodiversity, the authors contend.
If animals are able to make the transition upslope as quickly as climate change alters their habitat – as-yet a major unknown, caution the authors – it’s possible that smaller areas in the higher elevations could house even greater concentrations of biodiversity, the authors say. As species vacate more of the lowland areas, it could be tempting to swap out the protection of lowlands in favor of more biodiverse locations. But that’s a move that wouldn’t take into account the full value of the land, the team argues.
“Downgrading reserves that underachieve conservation objectives is one way to free up land elsewhere,” the authors write, “but we find this difficult to justify given additional conservation values inherent to lowland tropical forests,” such as Borneo’s deep, carbon-containing peatlands. Global Forest Watch Commodities maps show the widespread presence of these important carbon repositories. Also, the authors caution some species aren’t likely to make a successful transition to the highlands, including the large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus) and the endangered otter civet (Cynogale bennettii).
Instead of shrinking the island’s protected ranges, the authors conclude that finding ways to protect even just a little bit more space could pay off dividends for biodiversity protection.
“Only a modest amount of additional land on Borneo – about 28,000 square kilometers or four percent of the island – would be needed outside of existing protected areas and reserves to safeguard many mammal species against threats from deforestation and climate change,” Struebig said in the news release. The researchers plan to share their work with representatives of all three countries.

Global Forest Watch Commodity maps show Borneo’s peatlands on the Indonesian part of the island. The study’s authors caution that these carbon-rich repositories warrant protection, even though lowland biodiversity habitat appears likely to decline. Map courtesy of Global Forest Watch and the National Geographic Society. Click to enlarge.

  • Mittermeier, R.A., Gil, P.R., Hoffman, M., Pilgrim, J.D., Brooks, T., Mittermeier, C.G., Lamoreaux, J., and Da Fonseca, G.A.B. (2005). Hotspots Revisited: Earth’s Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions (University of Chicago Press).

  • “Logging.” World Resources Institute. Accessed through Global Forest Watch on 22 January 2015. www.globalforestwatch.org.

  • Struebig et al., Targeted Conservation to Safeguard a Biodiversity Hotspot from Climate and Land-Cover Change, Current Biology (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.11.067

  • Wetlands International (2004). Data prepared by the World Resources Institute and is available in Minnemeyer et al. (2009). Interactive Atlas of Indonesia’s Forests CD-ROM. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute.
Related articles
Facing legacy of deforestation and corruption, Sarawak may cease granting new logging concessions
(01/18/2015) Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem says his government may stop granting new logging concessions, reports Malaysian state media.
Half of Indonesia’s deforestation occurs outside concession areas
(01/06/2015) Roughly half of Indonesia’s natural forest loss occurs outside officially designated concession areas, concludes a new assessment that also finds higher deforestation rates in places with worse forest governance scores. The report, released last month by Forest Watch Indonesia, is based on analysis of satellite data spanning the archipelago. Unlike assessments by the Ministry of Forestry, the data includes areas outside the ‘forest estate’.
Indonesia’s silent wildlife killer: hunting
(12/26/2014) By and large, Indonesia is a peaceful country. In fact, on the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime’s list of homicide rates, Indonesia ranks number 10, making Indonesians one of the least murderous people on Earth. A ban on gun ownership probably helps, although obviously there are many other ways to snuff out another person. Maybe Indonesia’s general tendency to avoid conflict helps, too. Whatever the reason why Indonesians are relatively unlikely to kill each other, such favors are not extended to Indonesia’s non-human wildlife. The relative safety of Indonesia’s people does not guarantee similar security for its animals.
Hunting is a greater threat than logging for most wildlife in Borneo
(12/16/2014) Persistence is the key factor in the two most common human stressors on tropical wildlife. In Malaysian Borneo, hunting continually diminishes wildlife populations, whereas the negative impacts from selective logging are more transient, according to a recent study in Conservation Biology.
Palm oil facilitates large-scale illegal logging in Indonesia
(12/16/2014) Development of oil palm plantations is providing cover for large-scale illegal logging in Indonesian Borneo, driving destruction of some of the island’s most biodiverse forests and undermining efforts to reform the country’s forestry sector, alleges a new report published by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
Huge swath of forest in Indonesian Borneo slated for clearing by ‘sustainable’ company
(12/10/2014) A major wood fiber concession has moved ahead on developing a sizable chunk of forest in one of Indonesia’s most vulnerable provinces before a formal conservation assessment of the land could be completed, Greenomics Indonesia reports.
Tradeoff: Sabah banks on palm oil to boost forest protection
(12/05/2014) Last month Sabah set aside an additional 203,000 hectares of protected forest reserves, boosting the Malaysian state’s extent of protected areas to 21 percent of its land mass. But instead of accolades, Sabah forestry leaders were criticized for how they went about securing those reserves: allowing thousands of hectares of deforested land within an officially designated forestry area to be converted for oil palm plantations
Embattled palm oil giant announces sustainability policy, but fails to win over critics
(12/02/2014) Malaysian palm oil giant Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) has joined a growing list of companies committing to zero deforestation for commodity production.
Sarawak chief calls state’s logging industry ‘corrupt’
(11/24/2014) In a surprising statement, Sarawak’s new chief minister called the state’s logging sector ‘corrupt’.
Indonesian government slow to reclaim lands damaged by coal mining
(11/20/2014) Reclamation of over 830,000 hectares of abandoned mines has yet to begin in East Kalimantan, Indonesia–despite a provincial law passed over a year ago mandating the formation of commission to oversee the process.

Bako, Kuching’s backyard beauty BY SEEDS · FEBRUARY 14, 2016 By Patricia Hului @pattbpseeds patriciahului@theborneopost.com

An entrance sign at the the national park’s jetty.

Established in 1957, even before Sarawak became part of the Malaysian Federation, Bako National Park ranks as the oldest national park in Sarawak.
The place is widely known for its shorelines of steep cliffs, stretches of white sandy beaches and rocky forelands.
Being so close to Kuching town— about a 45-minute drive and a 20-minute boat ride away – it is easy to take the place for granted and choose a more ‘exotic’ place as your next vacation destination.
As the common phrase goes, travel starts from your own backyard, so I went to Bako National Park for a short Chinese New Year getaway.
Because of its popularity among tourists, getting to the natural park was easy.
Locals can just drive their cars or have somebody drop them off at the Bako National Park office at Kampung Bako.
There, pay your entrance fee and right next to the park counter is the Bako Boat Guides Association counter.
Affordability comes in numbers; it is cheaper if you have five to six persons in a group for the boat ride (RM15 per trip per person) or you can charter the boat all for yourself (RM100 per trip).
For an overnight stay, visitors must contact the national parks for accommodation arrangements prior to their visit.
Trails of Bako
Huge rocks lining up the path to Telok Paku.
The monsoon rain, however, was not that forgiving during my three-day trip so I only managed to trek up two of its 16 trails.
My first trail was Telok Paku, an hour’s trekking to a secluded beach.
It took me past a cliff forest, an easy route even for a newbie in trekking.
The trail ended upon reaching a shelter on the beach.
I was grateful to have reached Telok Paku when the tide was low as it allowed me to explore the coastline.
It is a relatively smaller bay compared to bigger bays such as Teluk Pandan Besar but the rocky cliffs which enveloped the area are equally magnificent.
Rocky cliffs at Telok Paku’s shoreline.
A day later, I took on the Teluk Pandan Kecil trail for my second trek as it is known as the most popular trail there.
The trail started with a hilly climb before I came on a sandy path lined with pitcher plants.
The highlight of the one and a half hour trail is reaching a cliff top overlooking the painstakingly beautiful view of the bay below.
Trail covered with trees’ roots to Telok Pandan Kecil.

The sandy path leading up to Telok Pandan Kecil.

Bewildering design on the rocky cliff.

Breathtaking view of Telok Pandan Kecil.

There are other trails such as Lintang, a loop trail which passes through all types of forests in Bako and Tajor trail, a trek leading to the Tajor Waterfall.
The information is not updated on Sarawak Forestry’s website but the longer trails such as Bukit Gondol, Telok Limau, Telok Kruin have been closed for maintenance since 2014.
Animals and plants of Bako
A sounder of Bornean bearded pigs near the park headquarters.
If Bako is a ghetto, the Bornean bearded pigs are the hoodlums.
These mammals roamed around the park as if they owned it; scavenging through everything on sight.
When the tide was low, I saw them having a stroll at the shoreline making me wonder why nobody came up with a postcard of a pig on a beach yet.
I nicknamed the long-tailed macaques, the ‘problematic child’ of Bako’s primates.
The park is not short of warnings when it comes to them; watch out for your belongings, and keep your windows and doors locked.
The macaques are known for making full use of their opposable thumbs by stealing food or bags.
I let my guard down when I was having my lunch and a foreign tourist suddenly swung a chair right in front of me.
Before I could accuse the stranger of committing aggravated assault, he was quick to explain that the ‘problematic child’ almost reached out for my bag.
A female proboscis monkey sighted at Telok Assam.
Bako is also home to the long-tailed macaque’s better behaved primates, the proboscis monkeys.
They can be easily seen at the mangroves of Teluk Assam near the park headquarters in the evening.
Endemic to Borneo, the proboscis monkeys are fascinating to watch. They jump almost gracefully from one branch to another.
Even when they feed, the monkeys were unfazed by their surroundings including my watchful eyes observing them.
I only identified three types of birds during my trip no thanks to my limited knowledge on them.
On my way to Bako, I jumped in excitement when a stork-billed kingfisher flew by the boat.
They are rare to see but at the same time hard to miss because of their green backs, blue wings and bright red bill and legs.
Egrets are no strangers to Sarawakians but watching them on a vast wetland instead of a traffic roundabout was a scene to remember.
Their white feathers made them stand out when they landed in the middle of the brownish wetland during low tide.
Apart from that, I saw an oriental magpie robin resting on a tree from the park headquarters.
I beat myself up for not bringing binoculars or at least a telephoto lens to capture these birds on camera.
A pitcher plant found along the trail to Telok Pandan Kecil.
The flora in Bako is a perfect package of Bornean vegetation since it contains almost all types of plant life on this island.
The forest ranges from heath forests to tropical swamp, cliff and beach vegetation.
Personally, I have a soft spot for mangroves hence being close to Avicennia and Rhizophora was definitely memorable for me.
Bridge going across the mangrove forests.

Our Backyard’s Beauty
High tide view of Bako National Park.
Browsing through travel guides and tips, most would advise not to visit Bako during the raining season (Dec to Mar).
Having that experience myself, I could almost agree because I personally did not get my clear blue sky or sun over the horizon views.
But in return I had fresh, earthy, after-rain smells, louder ambient sounds of waves hitting the beach and before the raindrops hit, the tropical shore colours had its own version of fifty shades of grey.
Well, just because the sky was painted in different colours does not mean it was less beautiful.
I missed the mainstream attraction of Bako, the sea stack, due to the stormy weather.
But no regrets there because I think Bako is calling me back when the weather is drier in a few months’ time.
It is about time for us Sarawakians (myself included) to appreciate our backyard’s beauty more.
Telok Paku of Bako National Park.