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:, for request of a nature guide in Kinabatangan River.

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.


1. Melioidosis in

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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!


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