Monday, August 30, 2010

Banana In Paradise

That day was my first time appreciating the beautiful inflorescences revealed out of a banana heart. This wonderful herb that many of us eat almost daily is indeed pretty from the beginning.
I also realised I was not the only one attracted to these pretty flowers.

Who else then?

The wasps and ants of course! The pollinators.
Banana in paradise
Wasps. Can you spot a red ant near the tiny yellow flowers?

More visitors!
The more I admire it, I started to reflect on us, the homosapiens. From babies, we are always cute and pretty attracting lots of admirers. Then as we grew older, we became like a bunch of bananas.

There is a proverb that I came across: 
"Man is like a banana: when he leaves the bunch, he gets skinned." - Proverb

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jelly Photo Released

Finally, the picture of the mysterious notorious looking jellyfish caught on the night operation is now publish on my blog. What you are seeing here is the blob scooped up with its long tentacles. The speed of our boat seemed slow to us but a little too fast for jellyfish catching. Due to the momentum and our lack of experience, most of its tentacles broke off. 

Here is the picture of the entire blob...

A look at this picture, one can guess which family of this blob belongs to.

Unfortunately, this jelly did not survive more than eight hours because it was in captivity in a tight enclosure and stressed out. We learnt later than we should have proper facilities in which we didn't have to keep the jellyfish alive longer. 

LADA arranged another meeting with some of the players in the industry together with the marine experts. The marine experts will not confirm the exact species of this jellyfish until a DNA test is done. Is it possible to retrieve any tissues from a frozen jellyfish when it is composed of more than 90% water?

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Aussie's Note On Jellies

I received a very long note from Liz Pawsey which was sent to my email inbox about box jellyfishes in Cairns, Australia. The google blogger couldn't store her writings in the comments box because they were too large to be processed. 

What were her thoughts?

My husband and I have just moved to the island from Cairns in Far North Queensland, Australia. People there have lived (and some have died in agony) with jellyfish for thousands of years; in fact most are identified by names given by the indigenous Aborigines. The Box jelly is in fact classed as the lowest threat on the Dangerous List as steps can be taken to minimise contact.I am not trying to trivialise the problem here, but to let you know that there are further experts to discuss the problem with and, more importantly in the short term, strategies to keep people safe.

Now, I am NOT an expert but regarding the Box Jelly I can help with some advice. Firstly, the information above regarding the vinegar is absolutely 100% correct.

Firstly, as a warning and as a means of instant first aid, beaches in Queensland where the jellies are a problem have poles with signs regarding the danger and a solution to a sting. Bottles of vinegar are kept at these stations which are generally situated at the entrance to the beach itself.

Secondly, fishermen who are frequently in and out of the water will wear pantyhose. The slight barrier of the nylon is sufficient to stop the tentacle barbs connecting with the skin. Unfortunately, pantyhose do get holes in them so this is a poor long term solution. The primary solution is the wearing of 'Stinger Suits'. Males/females Adults/children in areas with dangerous jellies have zippered full body suits made from Lycra.I believe I have seen them here on Langkawi worn by Muslim women. I have absolutely no idea and am totally ignorant whether this would be a cultural problem for Muslim fishermen. BUT, they work and hubby and I have brought both of ours with us.

All the tour boats have suits available for their guests which have the added benefit of reducing sunburn to fair European skins. Means tourists can continue to spend their money at attractions instead of staying in their rooms recovering! You will also see fishermen with the top part of their suits hanging around their waists when only the lower part of their body is in the water. Keeps them safe and cooler.

Thirdly, much research has been already been conducted by academic staff attached to James Cook University (Cairns Campus,) on breeding and distribution of jellies. They have discovered that they breed within the mangroves that grow in tropical climates. But, removing mangroves is not the solutions as they are also the nursery essential for many marine animals. Remove mangroves and you lose your fish stock.

However, the insight of knowing where they breed also allowed us to learn why they were more prevalent at certain times of the year. Queensland only has large numbers of the dangerous jellies after the monsoonal rains have flushed the river systems and they have been washed into the ocean.

Although the jellies have a little control over their movements, they are subject to currents and on-shore winds. ie they will only be close to the beaches under certain conditions. One means of ensuring safety for tourists, is that many resorts/motels and local government bodies install 'Stinger Nets' at the popular beaches. Not to catch the jellies but for people to swim in safely. There is of course going to be some cost in installing these barricades but when the economy depends upon tourism, it is a small price to pay. The advantage Langkawi has, is that these already exist and can easily be copied, to be made locally at a much less cost than those in already in Australia.

Finally, I strongly recommend that contact be made with researchers who have already much knowledge to assist in combating this problem.

I hope this is of some assistance.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

9th and Final

28th June 2010. Long overdue post, I know. This day was my 9th time mangroves planting on Kuala Melaka with me, myself and I. It was a cloudy evening and the storm seemed to be approaching. At the site, I was amazed with condition of the mudflat. 

It was SANDY!!

How the mudflat looked like last year?

Nice clean mirror-like beach... Don't be deceived or you may...
Be stuck at knee deep!

Another amazing event. The mudflat was clean! Let's make a comparison. Here is the picture below taken in first week of June, our 8th planting with Mandy.
These were the rubbish at the edge of the water. Take note at the circle on the picture. That was a beach deck chair. Wonder what happened to that chair? Read on...

And this picture below was taken on this day, 9th planting.
Mudflat turned sandy beach, swept clean! Cleaning away those mangroves seedlings as well.

Yes, a beach swept clean by the strong surfs and waves of course. The strength of the waves pushed that deck chair further in land.
The deck chair from a resort somewhere has finally found its new home. Together with other trash knocking down most of the mangroves seedlings.
More trash!

When I was about to begin planting, some domestic wildlife came and greeted me. Oh gosh... they came trotting along and stomping on some of the seedlings.
Calves trotting by

I cannot recall exactly how many seedlings I had planted on this day. Probably between 40 to 50 of the Rhizophora Apiculata propagules.

Observing the challenges faced by these young Rhizophora seedlings since our first planting and staggered site visits, I have to submit to reality that this place is incredibly impossible. Perhaps, my friend, Chew was right. Only Avicennia genus or perhaps Sonneratia are the only ones that can survive.

It was also a windy evening and so the storm clouds were blown else where. I only had the drizzles and continued planting till the last one.
Last seedling going in

Good luck to this last seedling

As this will be my final planting on Kuala Melaka and so I left my footprint before leaving the site.
There is always something good that made me stopped and turned around. The fantastic wildlife...
Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra) attempting to catch a mudskipper

This may be my last planting but not my last visit to my favorite "warung" that serves delicious "slurpy" Sirap Selasih, Warung Pais.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Shh...! Be Quiet Tokay...

When it is time for mating, the male Tokay Gekko (Gekko Gecko) can be a noisy little fella. While its call can attract the females and as well as a lucrative opportunity for the greedy ones.  A gecko's loud funny call can give away its hiding spot, endangering the life of that gecko.

In some Asian counterparts, these geckos are kept as pets because it is regarded to be harbingers of luck and good fortune. For many years, these geckos have been caught in large numbers in countries like South China, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia to be sold as pets and to be used as traditional Chinese medicine bringing a steep decline of its population (Extract from BBC Science and Nature). And this craze of capturing tokay geckos has hit Langkawi and apparently this craze started a few months ago or maybe for a year. 


I was told recently that some boys had been spotted carrying torchlights lurking around an apartment looking for these geckos. There used to be the calls of tokay geckos in the area of this apartment and now it is zero. There was a rumor about these gecko poachers being caught in a resort for trespassing and the greatest fear is that these are the acts of these security guys themselves.

I stumbled upon a research paper on Geckos in Traditional Medicine: Forensic Implications by Prof Aaron Bauer from Villanova University. He wrote that geckos had been used in Chinese traditional medicines for at least hundreds of years. These creatures have been used to treat a variety of ailments including coughs, kidney stones, asthma, diabetes and sexual dysfunction (Read, 1934). More recently, gecko products have been used for the treatment of cancer as well, and there is much study regarding the relevant active ingredients, pharmacological effects, and clinical applications of gecko products (Chen and Huang, 2001).

Samples of tokay geckos in a form of dried eviscerated and in a bottle as wine as chinese traditional medicine. Pictures taken from a pdf format of Professor Aaron Bauer's research paper on Geckos in Traditional Medicine: Forensic Implications

And there is another rumor on what tokay geckos can offer. A cure to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)! It is just a rumor and there is no confirmed research done as yet to prove this fact.

A call was made to the Perhilitan (Wildlife Department) of Langkawi and I was told to refer to their website to confirm its protection status. Unfortunately, there is no information in that website. After looking through the website of CITES, IUCN database and BBC Science and Nature, the Gekko Gecko is not endangered and not listed as a protected species. The danger with this rumor going around about curing AIDS will definitely endanger the population of tokay geckos. Please do something about this, Perhilitan!

How I wish I can be the messenger telling these tokay geckos to keep their mouths shut!


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Sunday, August 8, 2010

What's Next for Langkawi?

Langkawi will become a State Park!!

Wow! That was a very strong and bold statement made by the Head of Jabatan Perhutanan of Langkawi (Langkawi Forestry Department), En Rashid.

That statement was made on the evening of 5th August 2010 at LADA Auditorium for an event jointly organised by Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and Langkawi Development Authority (LADA). The attendees were from MNS, Tourist Guides Association, resorts, Taxi Drivers Association and some government agencies. Sadly, the attendance was quite poor.

There were two discussion sessions held this week. The first discussion was on the 3rd August 2010 targeted to the boat operators in Kilim Geoforest Park. The purpose of this session was to present Langkawi's natural heritage, the need for conservation and resolutions.

The speakers for those two sessions were Dato Hashim bin Abdul Wahab, Vice President of MNS and Prof Ahmad Ismail, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science UPM.

The second similar session was for the rest of the stake holders of Langkawi's tourism industry. The panel of the discussion session were Dato Hashim, Prof Ahmad, En Megat from LADA, a representative from Tourism Department and En Rashid from Jabatan Perhutanan (Forestry Department). 

After the slide presentations from Dato Hashim and Prof Ahmad, the rest from the panel were given the opportunity to speak about their roles before the Q & A session started.

The most interesting part came from the Head of Forestry Department in his statement about creating Langkawi as a State Park and it is now a proposal that is in the discussion and planning stage.

A State Park. What does one understand from it? 

From my layman's point of view, it would mean protection of land under the jurisdiction of the state government and no one else can touch it. Does that mean no one can touch the forest and its natural beauty? When En Rashid was asked about the priority of the state park whether it is for conservation or development, his answer was CONSERVATION. Good answer!

Now, further questions...
What about the current gazettement of Langkawi's forest reserve? Will that be altered as to increase the size of forest reserve?

Which areas would be gazetted as State Park? Kilim? Mat Cinchang?
I do hope that they will not solely focus on those Geoforest Parks above as other areas like Kuala Teriang, Gunung Raya, Bukit Sawak, Pulau Tuba, etc. are equally important for Langkawi's biodiversity.

How committed the state government can be in ensuring the State park is managed in a clean and ethical manner?

The current enforcement by Jabatan Perhutanan is in a pathetic situation. You need to first beef up your team of enforcement officers against the poachers before this State Park is turned into reality. And then... WHEN? WHEN WILL THIS HAPPEN? Next year? or next decade?

There were many good relevant questions from the attendees. One of them commented on the lack of networking between government agencies. For example, when poachers were spotted or caught, the issue will be pushed from one Jabatan (department) to another Jabatan. Oh... so true!

Someone commented on Prof Ahmad's conflicting ideas about eco-tourism and bringing buses into small kampung roads leading to the Buffalo Park. To allow buses into the Buffalo Park would mean destroying the small kampung roads. Small kampung roads are used by cycling tour operators taking tourists into rustic kampung houses, paddy fields, rubber plantations and the Buffalo Park. These are the scenic experiences that tourists are looking for and not some big roads! There are alternative means to bring in groups rather than by buses and yet maintaining the current kampung roads. Thank you to that person for reminding all of us that eco-tourism equals to minimum impact. This is what I had studied before, eco-tourism is defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well being of local people. In layman's term, controlling the number of people going into an area according to the sensitivity of the eco-system means lesser the impact to the surrounding. Simple equation!

A representative from the Taxi Association brought up about alternative to using petrol like LPG. Applaud to him!! Instead, the answers given to him was about this and that policies with such and such company... aiyo, I felt his frustrations too..

En Megat from LADA pointed out that there was lack of support and participation from the local born and breed Langkawians themselves. He was right. In that auditorium, more than 90% were locals from other states. Most of the Langkawi's conservation and green issues were raised by locals from other states and the Mat Sallehs (expatriates). Where are the local Langkawians? The vibes that I got at the end of his comment was:
"Please give us solutions. If the rakyat are not interested, this is as much we can do."

And... I just thought of this. One of the solutions will be making strong commitment in educating the young Langkawi kids. It is time for LADA or any other organisation to think about setting up a proper fully funded nature education center with trained and passionate facilitators instead of developing more buildings or resorts.

After sitting in the auditorium from 8:30pm to 11:00pm, the next question will be SO WHAT NEXT? What are their action plans?

That question was answered by Dato Hashim as his conclusion. After all his ramblings that went round the circle on the conclusion, it seemed to me that there was no definitive plan or was it just too late at night for me? Another wait-and-see game? Or one is waiting for the other hand to clap?

These two events are a good start towards protecting Langkawi's natural heritage. We look forward to the next actions, commitments and more participation from the local Langkawians. Many thanks to Jimmy, MNS-UNDP and En Megat, LADA for bringing this together. 

1. UNTAMED Defining Eco-Tourism

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Jelly Night Op

After three nights of rain and rough sea at Pantai Cenang since the jellyfish operation, we finally had the opportunity to head out.  That night was two days after the fullest moon.
Osman leading the group
We headed out to Pantai Cenang about 10:00pm in a fishing boat equipped with a strong spotlight. This sort of light is used by fishermen for squid catching. With just four of us on the boat armed with scooping nets, we were ready!
Within thirty minutes out in the sea, Jimmy of MNS spotted a jellyfish. But it was the common brown one. We decided to let it go because the species is not considered dangerous. And then it was the moment of waiting again. We found ourselves scooping up plastic bags and polystyrene boxes instead. 

After about an hour, my eyes caught something floating... That "thing" was scooped up instantly and it was a bit heavy (maybe it was the scooping net, it has an extremely long heavy wooden handle). 

It was a jellyfish alright. However, this one was something out of the ordinary and it was notoriously looking. We were shocked to see such long tentacles. Could this be the one that we were looking for?

To respect Osman's decision, I will not post the picture of this jellyfish caught until he has confirmed the species from the experts. I hope this will not take too long.

That blob filled up the whole space in that small aquarium. Because of the weight of the current while scooping it up, most of its tentacles were detached. A lot of its broken tentacles were stuck on the scooping net.

We continued scouting around. Our boat was not very far from the shore and while passing some resorts, we could smell the sewage...

Another one hour until 12:00am and no more jellyfishes were spotted. Osman took the species home and tried to keep it alive for identification purpose. As for now, please do not swim in the sea after dark. There is something lurking out there.


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