Sunday, March 27, 2011

What? Another Planting?

Vanessa called me in the morning on the first week of March 2011; I cannot recall which day was it but it was the early of the week. She sounded so excited over the phone telling me about a group of students have arrived on her backyard and were getting ready into the mudflat. 

While talking to her, I was telling myself, "Oh no... not another planting on the same site.." As I was rushing to get to my work site, I told her to capture a video or some pictures. 

Well... this is her video on youtube...

At the end of the week, I went over to Vanessa's Backyard to check the outcome of the latest planting. 

Saplings barely half alive

After all the planting and fun the group had, it seemed that the project leader had forgotten the most important thing to do - collect all the polybags. Vanessa wasn't happy about all these trash left behind as the tide and current will wash these plastic bags to another location. Also, this kind of project is meant to "be green" and yet the group had forgotten the simplest task; "Clean As You Go".
There were a few of these polybags left at site as most of them were probably washed away before I got there

These were a group of college students who came from the mainland for a holiday-cum-environmental project. My guess would be that this college must have provided the funding for these students to do this planting. Who was the organiser? 

Any mangroves planting especially the Rhizophora genus; will be futile. It is a waste of time and money from the experiences we had. 

Kuala Melaka and Kuala Teriang sites require intervention from the experts so that the generation of mangroves forest can be successful. Meanwhile, let this site be a complete mudflat and allow nature to take its course.


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Monday, March 21, 2011

"Ingat Bungkus; Ingat Bekal..."

Simply means "Remember container (referring to a food container) when you think of take-away".

I gave this idea to a five-star resort last year in conjunction of the Environment week and they did it. It was a very easy task to do and zero cost. The staff gathered at a pasar malam (night market) armed with their own food containers, used plastic bags or cloth bag for storage bags, tiffin carriers, etc. In a troop, they marched down the lane of the night market and took away their dinner using their containers. That was only for one day and how effective or impactful can that be?

A pasar malam stall
Not until last year when I met this amazing local lady, Kak Zuraidah; through an invitation to their Raya open house by her brother, Razak.  Kak Zuraidah is currently an active committee member with Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Langkawi chapter. As we chatted during the open house, she spoke with passion of her dream to see Langkawi people doing green practices which led to our idea about gathering an army to march down the pasar malam lane with food containers. She was keen about this and not only we spoke about it but she did all the work to materialize this event.

Why pasar malam (the night market) is the target? 

On those pasar malam days, I observed that most littering on the ground left by the public mostly came from all those small to medium sized of red, green, yellow or white plastic bags. It is the "D-day" when a lot of NEW plastic bags and polystyrene boxes (Styrofoam) were utilised. I don't have the statistics or plastic usage count now but I am sure you can imagine this. Each time a different kind of food is purchased, a new plastic bag will be used. For example, a person walks to a stall that sells an assortment of delicacies. He will chose a few pieces of fried chicken and a NEW plastic bag is used. Then he picked up RM2 of keropok lekor (fried fish crackers) and second NEW plastic bag is used. Hmm... how about a pack of nasi lemak kukus? And a NEW Styrofoam box is used. The list goes on. Imagine he walks to the next store, he does the same thing and together with hundreds of other people doing the same thing too. That is hell of a lot of NEW plastic bags and Styrofoam boxes used in one night! The worse part of it is when some of these irresponsible people threw these NEW plastic bags and Styrofoam boxes onto the ground, into the nearby river, into the drain or even next to a tree after they had filled up their tummies. This is not an unusual sight in Langkawi for I had seen this many times and had seen enough of it!

Also, pasar malam is the spot where most of the Langkawi locals congregate and "lepak".

The green, red, yellow, white small or medium sized new plastic bags
Kak Zuraidah has knocked on doors of NGOs, government agencies and other stakeholders of Langkawi. She has been getting positive response from most of them. Bravo, Zue!!

And so, this event will happen on Wednesday, March 3oth in Kuah town where the pasar malam is happening. Here are the details:

Date: Wednesday, 30th March 2011
Time: 6:00pm-6:30pm

Meeting point: Tapak Ramadhan, Kuah Town

Our society has been dependent on plastics since an Englishman, Alexander Parkes invented the first human-made plastic in 1855. Surprisingly, polystyrene was discovered earlier than plastic, which was in 1835 by a German, Eduard Simon. Plastic is inevitable and it is impossible to create a plastic-less society within a short span of time. Not in my lifetime, at least. 

Most of us would have known about the 3Rs (Recycle, Reuse and Reduce) and there is no need for introduction here. With the 3Rs, which "R" should come first? This is my personal opinion.  The "R"s lining up with the utmost priority should be "Reduce"; follow by "Reuse" and then "Recycle". 

With this pasar malam event, I hope this will create awareness to the locals that the first priority is to REDUCE usage of new plastic bags and polystyrene materials. By reducing, then REUSING is possible by bringing your old plastic bags or any reusable bags (eg cloth bag). Lastly, "RECYCLE" those existing plastic or glass materials once their usage are exhausted.
Bring any kind of containers. As long as new plastic bags or styrofoam boxes can be avoided

Kak Zuraidah's wishlist on this day will be having lots and lots of people participating together with a perfect weather. In order for this effort to be effective and impactful, this gathering ought to be done continuously, for example, once a month or even twice a month. An once off event tend to make a purpose to be forgotten; homosapiens' habit. Best of luck to you, Kak Zuraidah and thank you so much for making this happen.

As I mentioned earlier, this effort is the easiest task for the public to do and zero cost. As easy as All Bring Containers (ABC). Please spread the words/emails around for the benefit of making Langkawi a greener island to live. Keep these in your car; old reusable plastic bags, food containers or cloth bag or anything you can use to take-away your lunch/dinner. Remember, "Ingat Bungkus, Ingat Bekal". 

1) Wikipedia about Plastic
2) Wikipedia about Alexander Parkes
3) The History of Polystrene

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

All Saplings Gone

In December 2010, I took a researcher from UKM to the mangroves planting site at Kuala Melaka and Kuala Teriang to assess the area. After all my nine times of planting the Rhizophora saplings there,  it is not a surprise that most of the 90% of the seedlings planted by us and other groups were all GONE...
All wiped out!

Let's go back in time. Back then, a planting project sponsored by Digi program in August 2007...

Another group planted at Vanessa's backyard. The group and the date of planting is unknown.

A YouTube Video by Vanessa - Thanks for this!

Another unknown group planted hundreds or if not, almost thousands of seedlings on the coastline of Kuala Melaka and Kuala Teriang in May 2010

And our little planting project-cum-experiment with my group of friends from year 2009 to 2010...

Let's look at how the soil condition of this area can do a 180 degree change!

From very muddy:
Aida in the mud... back in April 2009

Wet, wet,wet in April 2010 desert:
Desert in January 2010

And the changes in the population of saplings:
We wanted to test a small plot and so Aida speared a marker into the ground

January 2010: Our marker was still there after a month

Our marker in May 2010

Our marker in June 2010

Our marker was still standing after most of its "friends" (young Rhizophora saplings) were all washed away. Can you see the marker? It has somehow got further into the ground. I didn't push it in, I swear! Accumulation of mud to be blamed?

After all of our efforts and amateur strategies, I decided that these spots are impossible to start a healthy mangrove forest due to the wave actions, soil instability and the huge amount of big trash that came in during the South-West monsoon. Unless a wave breaker structure is built at the front, which will be an expensive project; otherwise, any future planting projects would be futile.

Both researchers that I know suggested to plant Avicennia saplings instead of Rhizophora as they are the front liners. I must agree that Avicennia genus of mangroves flora is indeed quite hardy. However, the seeds are difficult to collect. Hmm... another project?

The recent earthquake in Japan has created a strong and devastating tsunami. From the videos I have seen on how the waves destroyed the cities and if the mangrove forest are there, I would imagined that they will be eventually be flatten. (MK, you were right) My deepest condolences to Japan who had lost many lives in the tsunami.

Click here for all the posts on our planting.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Have you ever experienced this? Just when you decided not to take your camera out for the day, something rare and elusive like this one here appeared right in front of your eyes.
This picture was taken in October 2010, not today..

My aim for this morning was to focus on my walk up the 4,287 steps on Gunung Raya and in wanting to reach the top on time, I decided not to take my camera along. And at the same time I was hoping that nothing special would come along...but that didn't help... Aaarrrrgggghhhh......

On my first 5-minute of the walk, the first birdie greeted me in the morning with a sweet whistling call of a female Tickell's Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis tickelliae). This small flycatcher does not usually perch for long but she did, for 5 minutes. I could have.... Aaarrrrgggghhhh!

"Whoooppp...whoooppp... whooooppp..." the loud helicopter-like sound made by the flapping wings of hornbills. A flock of Wreathed Hornbill (Aceros undulatus)!! Both males and females! It was alright that I didn't have my camera. They were flying above the trees canopy and I saw them though the gaps with my binoculars. One of them perched on a leafless branch for a short while. Then I heard a call of a Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela) and saw a quick glance of that raptor. It seemed to be annoying those hornbills.

While ascending up that steep stairs, I heard the call of another elusive bird, Orange Breasted Trogon (Harpactes oreskios). I imitated its call... but it flew further away...

Not along after, a whitish butterfly with some yellow patches near its abdomen was fluttering in front of me. I was watching it till it landed on a vine. Then it started to open its wings slowly, then closing it slowly, opened again very slowly and repeated the actions many times for five minutes. As if it was saying this to me, "See my beautiful wings... and you don't have your camera with you... neh, neh, neh, neh, neh..." Aaarrrrgggghhhh!

After a good 2-hour workout, Phew!!! up on the hill. I thought I heard a Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) nearby. And I was right, I startled that hornbill with my presence and it flew above me showing its bright yellow bars under its wings. 

It was hot and sunny when I got up there. After I had a quick snack, the mist came in quickly. It cooled the area down and I was reluctant to descend. Such a nice temperature on a hot dry season in Langkawi now. I sat on a rock and savored a 20 minute power nap amidst the cool mist. Not far away on the trees behind me was a group of Long Tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) feeding.

Time was up and I had to descend. After twenty minutes on those steps again, shower came!! Yeeehoooo!! It was strange to have rain in this time of the year. 

About midway down, there was a bit of disturbance at the canopy layer and a bird shrieked. I caught a glimpse of it and followed it. Then it perched. It has a longish tail and I quickly took out my binoculars from my day pack. OMG!! Orange Breasted Trogon (Harpactes oreskios). Yeah! Got it finally! It perched for less than 5 minutes and I could have ... Aaarrrrgggghhhh! And then it flew away.

"Thonk, thonk..." The call of a Dusky Leaf Monkey (Trachypithecus obscurus) above the last 550 steps of the stairs. I looked up attempting to spot them. Suddenly a bird flew in front of me and perched on a liana about five meters away. Through my naked eyes, I saw a longish bill and I didn't want to believe what I saw. Again, I quickly took out my binoculars to confirm my curiosity, yes indeed that this bird was a male Banded Kingfisher (Lacedo pulchella)! This kingfisher is  elusive and a rare sighting bird. This male kingfisher looked up at the monkeys crossing from tree to tree and he didn't seem to be bothered at all. I was drooling over him through my binoculars and at some point, I caught him closing his eyes and he dozed off. He was there for fifteen minutes. And then I thought, "A good fifteen minutes and just five meters away, I could have...." Aaarrrrgggghhhh! 

And so, this was one of those days when you asked, "Where is my camera when I needed it?" Aaarrrrgggghhhh!

About 100 steps to the recreational park, two Greater Racket-Tailed Drongos (Dicrurus paradiseus) came along to say, "Bye bye" by swaying their elongated tails.

Oh well, I must admit that I had a fantastic day out there and the elusive creatures that revealed themselves were the greatest treat for the day. I was also smiling from ear to ear along with my Aaarrrrgggghhhh!

1. A Field Guide to the Birds of South East Asia - Craig Robson

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