Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Sabah On a Shoestring 2: Pitta Lurer And Cave Dwellers

Bart, our guide was tip-toeing on the forest floor, whistling gently while tracking down on this elusive feathered winged creature. We followed along and with our cameras ready. Not long after I remembered that I had left my torchlight at our sleeping den. And so, I had to dash back to our campsite to grab my torchlight. 

On my way back to the position of Bart and Aida, a Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela) was up above me spreading its wings to dry. Wow!

That eagle was not what Bart was going after. Suddenly, I saw Bart's eyes went big and was signalling us to come quickly. He caught it!

We couldn't believe that Bart got this Black-Headed Pitta (Pitta ussheri)  to stay on as it was curious with Bart's whistling. We had almost 10 minutes to "drool on" this pretty Pitta until it realised that we were not the same feathered kind. Aida's and my lifer!! In that 10 minutes, we had totally ignored the mosquitoes around us and the high humidity of the forest.
 Some bug that looks like an UFO, hmm... a spaceship bug then??

As we continued on the trail, we found ourselves walking up a short steep slope and then scrambling up on rocky terrain. 

Hundreds of bats greeted us at the entrance of the cave.  The wind welcomed us and gave us a cooling effect on our bodies. The strong smell of guano tickled our nose as we walked on soft carpet of guanos. I was intrigued with the dung beetles (Scarabaeidae) that crawled out each time we lifted up our legs off the guanos. Unfortunately, I couldn't get to photograph them because when those beetles crawled out, they quickly dug themselves into the fresh guanos again.
This cave is Gua Batu Supu, according to Bart. Gua Batu Supu is one of sites in Sabah where the dead people were placed in log coffins and left in caves. Based on a writeup by Yunus Sauman on Cave Burials in Sabah, there are at least 13 sites with ancient log coffins in Sabah. The tradition is still being carried on today by some local tribes, including the Dusun Sungai community at Tongod and Ulu Kinabatangan and the Dusun Segama groups at Kampung Tawayari, Ulu Segama. 
 Bart showing the log coffin
 Log coffin but where are the remains??
Some log coffins are known to have craved designs like a buffalo, snake, crocodile, tongue, fish's tail or even a plant. These designs in places such as the Kinabatangan Basin reflect the close links of local folk with their natural surroundings.

Some strange lights?
Sunray puntured through the darkness

Amazing cave! I was reluctant to leave the cave but it was time to move on. We decamped and on board the boat down river back to the jetty in the pouring rain.
Rain clouds ahead of us before it started to pour

From Kampung Mengaris, Kinabatangan, where we waited by the road for our bus  ...



 The pictures above and below is a totem pole completed by venturers of Raleigh International


A species of stick insect picture was managed to be taken just in time before the bus arrived

to the place where the Man of the Forest gathers...

Many thanks to Bart for showing us around. He can be contacted at: badboybartx@yahoo.com, for request of a nature guide in Kinabatangan River.


References:
1. Cave Burials in Sabah by Yunus Sauman

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Awana's 2 Solomon Dolphins RIP

It will be a year since some Solomon dolphins were kept in captivity in Langkawi, off shore of Awana Porto Malai. These dolphins are being kept here in Langkawi waters while awaiting for the completion of Resort's World Marine Park in Singapore.

Sadly, today's news from Singapore revealed that two dolphins had died from an acute bacterial infection of Melioidosis in October. Let's just say that I am not surprised that these poor dolphins would suffer from such diseases  due to effluences released by nearby resorts and restaurants. Speed boats, tourists boats cruising pass the dolphins pen daily.  There is also a boat jetty not far away from the pen. Oh... there's one more, the king of all vessels, Starcruise ship that docks at Awana Porto Malai. So, how can our not so clean Langkawi waters be conducive for these non-native dolphins? 


Here is a report from Ria's wildsingaporenews blog:


SINGAPORE - Two of the seven bottlenose dolphins, which were destined for Resorts World Sentosa's (RWS) Marine Life Park, have died in a holding area at Langkawi.

The dolphins were caught from the wild in the Solomon Islands in January. Two females - one aged between four and five years and the other, around 10 - died from an acute bacterial infection of Melioidosis in October, said RWS spokesman Robin Goh on Friday. They were in "perfect health" previously, he noted. The remaining five have no signs of infection.

The virus, Burkholderia pseudomallei, can be transmitted through contact with contaminated soil and surface waters, with infections occurring primarily during the rainy season.

The deaths are set to reignite opposition to RWS' plans to house the animals as entertainers.

Marine conservationist Paul Watson told MediaCorp the "incarceration of dolphins lowers life expectancy of the animals".

"It's a trade based on blood and misery and has no place in the 21st century," said the founder and president of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals executive director Deirdre Moss agreed: "This is a tragedy. The animals were obviously under tremendous stress ... If RWS could change its stand on whale sharks, why couldn't they on dolphins?"

Last year, RWS scrapped its original plan to exhibit whale sharks. Animal Concerns Research and Education Society founder Louis Ng hopes RWS will also "re-think" its decision to keep dolphins in captivity.

Marine Life Park is still under construction. Said RWS' Mr Goh: "We currently do not have a definite date for its opening, and likewise, details like animal configuration are also being finalised."

As for the 18 dolphins being trained at Ocean Adventure Park in the Philippines for the Marine Life Park, RWS said they were in "good health".

"We're continuing with the development and establishment of the medical, behavioural, husbandry and training programmes that include the preventive medicine programme to ensure the well-being and health of the dolphins," said Mr Goh, who added that the Marine Life Park was "part of the bid" when RWS was awarded the integrated resort licence.

"We're committed to delivering the bid and the Marine Life Park that will not only boost tourism but research, conservation and education in marine mammals in this part of the region."

However, Ms Moss reiterated: "It's cruel to capture these animals from the wild with a view to entertain the public. We should promote tourism but not at the expense of these animals."

Bottlenose dolphins are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which entail strict regulations in the trade of these mammals.

RWS has said previously it would comply with CITES.
 

Melioidosis is a disease caused by a bacterium known as Burkholderia pseudomallei and can be found in contaminated water and soil spreadable to humans and animals through direct contact with the contaminated source. This disease is reported to occur mostly in South East Asia and Northern Australia.

Many thanks to Ria for alerting me on this news.

Links:

References:
1. Melioidosis in Medicinenet.com


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Thursday, December 9, 2010

PM's Impetus Development to Langkawi

How new development can help Langkawi to preserve her natural habitat?   

Our dear PM Najib visited Langkawi recently and I was hoping that he would seriously bring solution into the conservation issues of the island and her fragile rainforest. Instead he brought in another news. RM 1billion for the island and for what purpose?



Source from Bernama :

LANGKAWI (Dec 8, 2010): Langkawi needs to have new impetus as part of the plan to be a premier tourist destination in the world, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said today.
He said that since a year ago he had discussed with several parties, especially Khazanah Nasional Berhad, about Langkawi's redevelopment process in order to fulfil former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's wish to develop Langkawi as top tourist destination. 
"We want new development. Therefore, we need new impetus. The development concept must preserve the current situation and natural habitats around the island," he said in his keynote address at the official launch of Teluk Datai Resort's Development Plan at Teluk Datai, here.
Also present were Mahathir and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop and Khazanah Nasional Bhd managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar.
Najib said the redevelopment process also should create value to the country, such as joint venture with local companies, as tourism was a major sector that the government wanted to push.
"The development is not only for Teluk Datai but for Langkawi as a whole. Many people said Langkawi is a loss after Tun Dr Mahathir's era as prime minister," he said.
He said today's event was to announce a four-in-one project, with the development of 14 units of villa as the main project.  
"The second is to build a new 300-room hotel, the third an upmarket five-star to six-star hotel and the last the redevelopment of the Datai Golf Course to international standard," he said.
Najib said the development plan was a partnership between government-linked companies and private companies to create value to the project and the country.
The development projects would involve about RM1 billion to be invested in Teluk Datai via its investee, Teluk Datai Resorts Sdn Bhd, a joint venture between Khazanah Nasional and also the original founders, through Archipelago Hotels (East) Sdn Bhd. 
As part of corporate social responsibility, Teluk Datai Resorts has adopted Sekolah Kebangsaan Ewa under the Pintar programme. It is one of the schools in Langkawi where the most number of employees of Teluk Datai Resort send their children. — Bernama


My heart sank with dismay after reading this news.

Dear PM,
Your generosity in giving Langkawi RM1Billion would definitely bring wealth to the islanders. However, what the island is deeply in need is fund to preserve her natural heritage in a realistic way. The RM1Billion could do very well for these:

1) Conservation projects and studies that involve the local people here and thus creating awareness. The funds can be very useful for the children here to be educated on nature education, environment and English language.

2) The Book Village (Kampung Buku) in Lubuk Semilang was the brainchild of our Tun Dr M which was created to encourage the local islanders to read. Now, it is in a very shameful state. The building is about to be torn down by frenzy termites. Why not convert the entire place into a Natural History Museum where scientists from around the world could study and research on Langkawi's unique biodiversity?

3) Kilim Geoforest Park is one most visited geopark in Langkawi. The boardwalk next to the jetty is in a horrible state. Wooden planks have given away. If that could be fixed with those fund, school children could benefit from it by learning the mangroves ecology in a much affordable way. The incomplete bridge or tower project initiated by LADA is a real eye sore. 

4) The concrete building, Kubang Badak Jetty was built to promote eco-tourism to help the local villagers by uplifting their livelihood. But look at that jetty now. It was completed for almost two years now and yet there is no water supply to the toilets and washing area. It is an embarrassment for tourists to walk in there.

5) Langkawi island is now fragmented and has already lost 50% of her rainforests. Should she continues to lose her habitat, all flora and wildlife will go along with it. Why not bring in consultants and experts to create wildlife corridors on the whole island so that the population of biodiversity can be sustained?

6) Enforcement agencies such as the Marine, Wildlife, Forestry and the Environmental department could not do their job well because of the lack of staff in each department. 

7) The bridge on the sea by the airport could be fixed and the public can enjoy it with recreational activities like walking and fishing. It is also very embarrassing for the locals to explain to our foreigners the purpose of this bridge and why it is now left as a white elephant.

8) The Langkawi Falls, the man made waterfall at Temurun Waterfall was once the pride of our Tun Dr M. It was an attraction and had received lots of visitors but the entire place is  now haunted.

9) Improvise the sewage system and waste management along Pantai Cenang. In that way, this will reduce the increasing population of jellyfishes.

10) Refurbish and redevelop all abandon and incomplete buildings that are left standing in Kuah town.

11) Convert Langkawi into a State Park!

We have to remind ourselves that tourists from all around the world choose Langkawi as their destination because of her natural heritage and not because of the resorts. Langkawi can contain more than 220 species of birds, 450 species of butterflies, undiscovered species of insects and plants. Isn't this would be a waste to replace all of these with that RM1billion resorts development? RM1billion is a lot of our money, sir, please use it wisely. Hope you can help!

Links:

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Sabah On a Shoestring: Wild Beings of Riverside

Kinabatangan River - 560 kilometers, Malaysia's second longest river and Sabah's longest.

Most nature lovers would know that this river provides an important source of livelihood for its native people known as Orang Sungei (literally means people of the river) and as well as to its vast diversity of wildlife. At the lower Kinabatangan River, which is known as Sukau where tourists would flock to see wild Probosis Monkeys (Nasalis larvatus), Orang Utans (Pongo pygmaeus), Bornean Pygmy Elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis), estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) and many more. 

The award winner of Asia's leading Green Hotel, Sukau Eco Lodge would be a perfect choice for most nature lovers to spend their holiday at Sukau. The temptation was there but their exorbitant package rates drew us away. And so, Aida and I decided to experience Kinabatangan River on a shoestring.



The bus ride from Inanam to the Kinabatangan bridge took us more than six hours of travelling before arriving Kampung Mengaris, Batu Puteh at 3am. Bart, our guide, greeted us on the pitch dark road of the village decorated by millions of stars up in the black sky. Some people did say that Langkawi is the best place for stars gazing but this place has beaten Langkawi.


Bart, a localised green badge guide, is also a friend of Aida's via projects that both of them worked together. So, I was fortunate. As it was still the wee hours of the morning, we had to salvage as much sleep as possible before setting out on our exploration. And so we slept on the jetty under the Kinabatangan bridge.


The glimpse of sun light at 5:45am woke me up and this was what I saw.


The planning stage only began after our breakfast at a local shop and the overall itinerary was dependent on our budget. After all the "brain-storming", we decided to take the river cruise after lunch. Meanwhile, Bart took us to Perpaduan Village, about 15 minutes drive away to an observation tower surrounded by oil palm plantation.


As I was looking from the top of the tower, I was pondering on the battle between our lowland rainforest and the palm oil plantation. Who would win? Will both of them live in harmony without creating extinction to the wildlife?


Bart spotted Red Leaf-Monkeys (Presbytis rubicunda) on the salt-lick trail. These primates were so shy and they jumped away quickly before I could reached out for my camera. My primate lifer!


Other flora and fauna along the trail:
Some sort of fungi. Anyone can help to id please?


A damselfly! Which I thought it was one earlier. Many thanks to Mandy for correcting me. It is an Antlion (Myrmeleontidae family)


River cruise at 2:30pm when Bart took us down river for 10 minutes. Could it be his instinct or he may had made appointments with these beings? We spotted them within that 10 minutes!
Another primate lifer! This one showed her teeth at us. I was surprised that Probosis monkeys would do that 
A wild estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). Alas, not those in the crocodile farm


We headed upriver after that which was our initial plan. The plan was to camp in the forest and it was a 45-minute ride upriver by boat. Why that campsite? Because of the stories about a cave nearby that made us drooled.


The 45-minute ride became almost a two-hour journey. We saw two groups of Probosis monkeys, Black Hornbills (Anthracoceros malayanus), Darter (Anhinga melanogaster) , Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea)  and lots of Blue-Throated beeaters (Merops viridis)
Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea)


Aida with her brand new Canon G12 camera
Wonder why they call the village Kampung Mengaris. Mengaris is referring to those Tualang trees (Koompassia excelsa) that are found abundance along the river.


Lots of fig trees were fruiting along the river that had attracted the pigeons, hornbills, long-tailed macaques and many more


We arrived the campsite at 5pm and we were set to embrace the mosquitoes. There was sufficient time for us to set up our "sleeping den" before the sun starts to set after 6pm.
The kitchen area of the campsite. This nice wooden hut is not for us.
View of the river peeping from our "sleeping den"


Our enthusiastic guide, Bart arranged for a night walk behind our campsite. This was our wishlist to spot: Slow Loris, Flying Lemur and Giant Squirrel... but well, at least we did try to wish. With our pace, we took two hours instead of the intended walk of one hour.
 These sort of fungi illuminates in the dark after shining your torchlight on them
Bart spotted these scorpions mating. According to Bart, this species of scorpion will spray a mist of liquid that smells like vinegar in self-defense or escaping from a predator
 An appreciation to JK of SiputKuning for his help to identify this snail which is endemic to the Borneo lowland forest. Thanks JK!


It was a long day and I was looking forward to crawl into our "sleeping den".
Hey, Aida... I did control that night. You were saved from being "gassed" 


I have always love hammocks. Being my first time climbing onto the top of a double-storey hammock, thanks to Aida's idea, it was a bit tricky. Not long after we snuggled into the warm comfortable fabric of our hammocks, the mosquitoes came and joined us. On the next morning, I noticed a few droppings on the flysheet and we realised that Long-tailed macaques were also sleeping above us on the trees.


What's our itinerary on the next day? Next post ba...

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Green "Bungkus"

Found! Hawker stalls that are still practicing the old fashioned way of "tapau"-ing or "bungkus" (take away) the food.

We were taken by Yvoone, another raptor counter, to the old hawker food center next to the taxi stand or the morning market area in Taiping town, Perak. It was  tough for me to decide what to eat and which stall to choose from. Upon seeing this "uncle" (stall owner) scooping the fried noodles into a green leaf with newspaper to wrap the whole thing, I was excited.

And so I ordered his fried kuey teow (flat noodles).

I must admit that I was hungry as well and so I didn't manage to take any pictures of the fried noodles. Sorry.

So, what was so special about the old-fashioned "bungkus"?


From the picture above, there are only 2 pieces of items: one is the green leaf inside and the outside is the newspaper. The green leaf is not banana leaf as most of us perceived. Banana leaves are commonly used to wrap food especially our nasi lemak. For this case, this leaf is from Simpoh Air tree (Dillenia suffruticosa). Please see the bottom of this post for the tree information.

As the tradition method of takeaways is slowly losing out due to the convenient of polystyrene boxes and plastic bags, I was glad to see that these stalls are still around.

With a filled and happy tummy, I was up and about taking these pictures and the local grannys were curious if I was a Myanmar because I didn't speak Mandarin nor Hokkien. I told them that I am a Japanese and they laughed.


After taking the picture of this "uncle" (below picture), I realised that not only his stall is practicing this method. Most stalls in this center was doing the same (only for fried or dried stuffs). Finally, it was good to eat from these stalls that serve you food with real plates, bowls and cutleries. Thanks, Yvoone for taking us there. We will be back there!

Links:

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Morning Poem At Kuala Gula

Many thanks, Bing for this:
Who was the one doing the plonk, plonk? 


It was a still quiet morning when I broke the stillness with my heavy running on the wooden jetty... plonk, plonk... 
We sat down watching the boats passing us and heading to the open sea.
It was entertaining watching fishermen with their boats going out to work.
It was like watching people in their cars going to work and into the city traffic.
Except that the sea is huge and traffic is very much lesser.
We thought, "What a complacent and simple life of the fishermen".

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Two New Babes

What is this book all about? Well, the title description says it all.  To those who are interested in our natural history and what the future holds for us in related to our 100-million year old ecosystem, this may be the one for you! 


The publication was in year 2007 and I may be outdated in getting this book now. Well, I didn't know about this book until I went shopping in BookXcess bookstore in Amcorp Mall, PJ. So, what made me bought it? A chapter on Elephants, Dung Beetles and Ecosystems! And the next best part is the cost of this book is only RM17.90 at BookXcess bookstore. The stock is very limited. You can check out the contents of this book here.

I wish to take the opportunity to inform my readers here that BookXcess will be having a warehouse sale from November 12th-17th 2010 at South City Plaza (I have no idea where this place is) or go check out this website: www.bigbadwolfbooks.com 

Here's another babe...
by James V. LaFrankie, JR.

The book above contains technical stuffs on Asia's rainforest trees and this book was launched in August 2010. Therefore it is not available at all at BookXcess. Cost? Don't ask. But it is worthwhile to have it in my shelf as a reference book. Many thanks to Chew MY for getting this book for me at launching and had the author to sign on the book.


Yippee!! Two new babes added on to my collection today.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Another Portion Of Green Lung Vanished

While passing by Lebuhraya Langkawi sometime ago, I stopped to look at what this old signboard was saying. I read in horror and prayed that this will not happen at all. 

Sometimes prayers do work and sometimes they don't...   



Sadly, I am witnessing another 2% or more of Langkawi's green lung is being stripped away for another township. Where is this location?
Click on the images to see a larger view


Those bloody "San Tai Wong"!

Tractors cutting into the edge of the forest

This could be the company responsible for the development. From the outlook of the signboard, it looked the project was put on hold for awhile. And since the economic situation has recovered, the development continues.

What will they be building over there?
15 units of Two-storey offices and shoplots
48  units of single terrace house
81 units of double-storey house
10 units of two-storey twin house
16 units of double-storey house

Power lines on the site
Reality sets in as population began to increase on the island, there goes Langkawi's natural heritage and her biodiversity. 

On the other side of the story, ever since the implementation of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program by the government, more lands on the hills and forest edge were sold to be cleared for building bungalows and villas. 


An excerpt from The Star report:

Wednesday August 4, 2010

Association: Probe sale of Malay reserve land to foreigners

By IAN MCINTYRE
ianm@thestar.com.my



GEORGE TOWN: The Kedah Government must inves tigate allegations that foreigners are buying Malay reserve land in Langkawi using the backdoor approach, said the Malaysian Asso ciation of Travel and Tour Agents Kedah chapter.
Its chairman Pishol Ishak claimed such deals – where foreigners allegedly used local residents to purchase the land on their behalf for a commission – were common knowledge.
The foreigners built bungalows and even set up tourism-related en-terprises on the island resort, taking a slice of the tourism revenue from lo-cal travel trade members, he added.
He was commenting on allegations by Ayer Hangat assemblyman Mohd Rawi Abdul Hamid at the Kedah state assembly sitting on Monday that 50 foreign families owned such land in Langkawi.
Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak had said if foreigners used “Ali Baba” tactics to buy land to build houses, it would be difficult to trace them.
Pishol said the state government should ensure Malay reserve land was only leased to foreigners keen to develop Langkawi’s tourism industry with locals.
When contacted, Rawi claimed that most of the foreigners owned land in Ulu Melaka, and some had built bungalows for homestay packages or converted them to eateries. Others offered tourism activities.
“It has been happening for the last five years,” he said, adding he would raise the matter with the Federal Government.
Newly-appointed Langkawi Dis trict Officer Abdul Aziz Ghani said the state government had yet to notify the island’s land office about the allegations.
“We will check our records. There are various legal considerations, such as if the land is leased, bought or acquired,” he added.
“We would also need to monitor recent transactions to see if there has been a rise in land purchases. If it is reserve land, there is usually no new ownership.”
Kedah Tourism, Indian and Malay sian-Thai Communities Welfare committee chairman S. Manikumar said enforcement must be intensified to ensure such dealings did not occur.
He also blamed local landowners who sold such land despite their status as Malay reserve.
Once again, the state government and our Forestry Department have failed in moving towards their mission in creating a state park here.
Links:


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