Thursday, January 27, 2011

Same Old Langkawi Forest Story

Oh well, same old story. It is starting again this year. Open forest burning and it is on the same area of Bukit Sawak, Langkawi. The picture below was taken this evening. 

Today's weather was mostly cloudy for the whole day and a bit drizzly in the evening. So, it is only lots of smoke that you are seeing on the picture.

Where is Bukit Sawak and why it is also important?


In the legends of Langkawi, Mat Sawak played a role as a mediator during the legendary fight between Mat Raya and Mat Cinchang. To cut the story really short, all three of them were turned into mountains as the gods were angry with the situation. Therefore, Bukit Sawak (Sawak Hill) now stands at 471 meters high and it is tucked in the middle of Gunung Raya and Gunung Mat Cinchang (where the cable car is sitting).

In the ecological sense, Bukit Sawak serves as a wildlife corridor especially for our primates and the hornbills. It is a forest reserve. If this hill is torn apart, these wildlife will remain imprisoned within Gunung Raya or Gunung Mat Cinchang and thus will lead to the risk of inbreeding.

These are the pictures of Bukit Sawak encroachment in year 2010:



We had experienced a prolong wet season from December 2010 till first week of January 2011 and then only came the dry season. The dry season was supposed to start from November onwards and surprisingly for the past two days, the clouds came in with some rain. I would say... "Applaud!" Alleluia for the rain! With the constant rain (hopefully), that will deter these bloody rascals to continue taking away her rainforest. Of course, it will not be good for this year's weather pattern if that would happen for the fruiting season would be messed up. Also, the tourists would not like it if there will be rain everyday on Langkawi. That will make the tour operators frustrated as well. So, what it is going to be, save the rainforest by the rain or to keep everyone happy with some quick bucks in their bank accounts?

To the Langkawians, if you see a forest being burned away and there is any sign of smoke, please do her a favor by calling the Bomba (Fire department) or the Forestry Department. Save these numbers in your hand phone: 
1) Forestry Department:  019-5168578
2) Bomba (Fire Department): 04-9693004

Yawn, yawn, yawn... As long as these relevant authorities are not doing anything about Langkawi's forest being burned away, I will continue to write the same old story. 

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Poorly Maintained Dolphin Pens At Awana

Update from Singapore news on Langkawi Solomon dolphins that died in vain.


Langkawi dolphin pens 'appalling'

Acres says enclosures didn't meet standards; RWS rebuts allegations

Sandra Davie Straits Times 14 Jan 11;



THE dolphins, slated to be an attraction at an oceanarium in Resorts World Sentosa, continue to draw debate.
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After going to Langkawi to inspect four sea pens where the bottlenose dolphins had been kept for a year before they were relocated to the Philippines, local animal protection group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) has said it is 'appalled' at what it discovered.

Two of the nine marine mammals died last October while the remaining seven were recently sent to a facility in Subic Bay in the Philippines, which houses another 18 of the RWS dolphins.

The 8ha oceanarium, called Marine Life Park (MLP), was among the draws touted by RWS, owned by Genting Singapore, when it made its bid to run an integrated resort here.

Acres executive director Louis Ng and another staff member visited Langkawi from Sunday to Tuesday. 'The dolphins were housed in rusty enclosures measuring approximately 10m by 10m,' he said. 'If you go by the standards set by the European Association for Aquatic Animals which AVA (the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority) goes by, this is clearly insufficient to meet the needs of these wild-caught dolphins.'

He added that the pens, just off the coast where the Genting group has a hotel called Awana Porto Malai, is in an area frequented by boats.

'Sounds of mechanical origin are probably the most stressful for the dolphins because of their regular repetitive nature,' Mr Ng said, claiming that RWS did not employ a full-time vet to care for them or have an animal hospital.

The female dolphins - one aged between four and five years, and the other around 10 - died from an acute bacterial infection arising from contact with contaminated soil and surface waters.

Mr Ng also asked why the dolphins were not sent to the Philippines from the start. Citing studies, he said: 'Each time they are confined and shipped from one place to another, it is as traumatic as if they were being newly captured from the wild.'

Contacted by The Straits Times, RWS spokesman Krist Boo said the allegations against the MLP were 'cursory' or 'inaccurate in parts'.

Noting that Acres visited the Langkawi facility nearly a month after it had closed, she said the enclosures were more than double the size of what Acres had indicated, and met global standards. She added that there was a full-time vet and two consulting vets.

'Acres chose, in pictures it used for campaigning, to highlight rust on the side of a boardwalk next to the enclosures. This picture is not reflective of the facility when it was in operation.

'Acres, with its own experience and challenges in setting up an animal shelter, should be familiar with how swiftly unpopulated outdoor facilities deteriorate. This is especially so at sea.'

She added that round-the-clock security had been provided to prevent boats from coming too near the enclosures.

Ms Boo explained that the relocation to the Philippines had been part of a plan to expand the 'development of our dolphins and trainers'.

'The MLP team will also start preparations to commence our long-term goal of developing a breeding programme for the dolphins,' she said, adding that all are in good health.

While animal activists here have been up in arms over the captivity of dolphins, RWS has stressed that the oceanarium - the world's largest aquarium - was 'part of the bid' when it won the IR licence in 2006.

The Singapore Tourism Board had stressed recently that RWS must comply with global regulations, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), and the requirements of the AVA, to safeguard animal health.

Bottlenose dolphins are listed in Appendix II of Cites which entails strict regulations in their trade. The RWS had said previously it would comply with these regulations.

Link:

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

LADA's Mission

Bravo to LADA (Langkawi Development Authority) for stepping up to support Malaysian Nature Society Langkawi branch in efforts to sustain tourism on the island while conserving Langkawi's natural heritage. This is indeed welcome by some stakeholders. While some stakeholders may not be too happy should unfavorable strict rules and regulations be implemented in complying to the correct practise of eco-tourism.

I especially love the part where LADA's Tourism Manager said, "Tourism can really improve the locals' standard of living but we must not kill the goose that lays the golden egg."

What a relief to Langkawi for such news from LADA! However, before the country code can even be implemented, LADA ought to clean up their backyard first.

Click below for the story.

For the full news from The Star on Protecting Langkawi's Splendour, please scroll all the way down.
We wrote a couple of letters concerning two conservation issues to The Star (our Malaysian famous newspaper) and they failed to publish them.  It was Malaysiakini and EcoMalaysia.org  who helped published our concerns. A BIG THANK YOU TO Malaysiakini and EcoMalaysia.orgAnd now The Star has finally decided to put Langkawi's plight in the limelight. Why?

Actually, I must also thank YB Dato' Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen, our Minister of Tourism, for her frequent visits to Langkawi in the year 2010 and her efforts to improvise the tourism facilities on the island. Because of that, the medias are now opening their eyes in seeing Langkawi as the goose that lays the golden egg. Read her posting in related to Langkawi in her blog.

Back to LADA's commitment to support the conservation efforts. In my opinion, to allow conservation efforts to have a higher rate of success, the relevant authorities ought to walk the talk. Show the local Langkawians that the relevant authorities are rolling up the sleeves and getting the results out. LADA created and implemented a lot of projects to facilitate tourism on the island that had helped the locals to earn their living. However, some of the failed projects are often left abandoned, no proper studies conducted before implementation and no follow-ups to ensure facilities are maintained well and efficiently. Therefore, how do we expect the local Langkawians to respect the authorities?

I have a few examples that LADA ought to buckle up. For now, I will put up one example by focusing on Kilim Jetty which is in our pride Kilim Karst Geoforest Park. Why Kilim? Because the mangrove tour is one of the most popular activity on the island and a majority of tourists flocked there to partake on such tour.

Let's look at what has been done at Kilim and what are those that are left as eyesores:

1. I shall begin with this short bridge to allow visitors to cross over to see the mangroves. It is a nice bridge opposite the toilet building. By the way, the toilet there is properly maintained because visitors have to pay RM0.30 to the Persatuan (Society) to ensure its cleanliness. I have no objection to that. Here is how the short bridge looks like.
Once you have crossed over, this is what you will see...

2. While on the boat towards Gua Kelawar (Bat Cave)...
The short left most cement structure seems to be the remaining section of a bridge that was supposedly to link to the other side where the Gua Kelawar (Bat Cave) is. 

Maybe some of you remember the incident of a newly constructed bridge that collapsed in February 2008. Here is the story below, click on the image to read the contents or use a magnifying glass.
That cement block looks like one of the missing part. Call the CSI please...

If this ugly thing was not meant to be the bridge, then what the hell this is supposed to be?? A wildlife observation tower? Or Monkey's tower to look at men's stupidity?

3. After the Gua Kelawar and Kilim's new incinerator area, you will come to the remnants of a heritage site. The old time favorite, Barn Thai Restaurant that once stood pride for its fabulous Thai food is now left with this.
A website claimed that this restaurant was constructed without having a single tree chopped down. Well... I doubt so.
The owner left in a hurry that there were some stuffs left behind in the mangroves. All of these were there for a few months now.
This is one of those things left behind. At an angle, this thing can be clearly identified. Anyone want to guess what "species" is that? Let me give you a hint, is a bowl where we put our bum on it!

4. Next, let's take a boat ride towards the fish farm from Kilim Jetty.

This is one of the latest display which was put up less than six months ago. WHAT IS THIS?? Obstacle course?
5. Next to the "obstacle course", you will see a tributary adjoining Kilim River. According to the local, that is known as Sungai Garam. Do you see the section of mangroves has been cleared?
It is such a visible deforestation of the mangroves. Why our authorities claimed that Kilim mangroves are untouched?

According to the locals, that area was cleared to build a small jetty for fishing boats to dock their boats. That area was cleared for almost a year and nothing happens until now. So, all those trees died in vain... sad...

That's all for the Kilim Jetty area. There are more and I will keep them to myself for now. I seriously do not understand how the stakeholders, tour companies and users of Kilim Jetty can withstand all these eyesores that had been there for all these years. No wonder they say Malaysians are very patient lots!
Overall, I must salute En Megat, Tourism Manager of LADA for his bold statement to support  conservation efforts in Langkawi. I hope that En Megat will get the fullest support from other government agencies otherwise he will be the soloist in LADA's conservation work. It is a tough job indeed and conservation work cannot rely on a single person. Good luck to En Megat and his team.
==============================================

Protecting Langkawi’s splendour

By CHRISTINA CHIN, TheStar


COME March, the Langkawi Country Code, a guideline for sustainable eco-tourism for Langkawi, will be available for all local authorities, tourism operators and stakeholders.
Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Langkawi branch chairman Eric R. Sinnaya said the code hoped to prevent natural attractions from being ruined by tourism so that everyone could enjoy long-term benefits.
“Tourism can really improve the locals’ standard of living but we must not kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” he said.
“We can have the greenest is- lands in the world if everyone works together.
“Two decades ago, 95% of the Langkawi islands was green — now we are down to about 60%,” he said.
He said although NGOs could prepare a guideline of best practices, the state and local authorities’ support was needed to endorse and enforce the code, adding that the ecology of Langkawi was very sensitive and needed protection.
He said the Pulau Payar Marine Park was a good example of how tourism had resulted in garbage pollution and coral damage.
The code addresses the conservation of existing tropical rainforests, mangrove forests, coastal eco-systems, bio-diversity and landscapes; garbage management; reduction of pollution and usage of natural resources and adoption of ethical business models by all parties.
The code was among the out-comes of the ‘Conservation of Bio-diversity in Langkawi through Sustainable Eco-tourism’ project funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and implemented by the MNS.
The project, which was initiated in October 2008, ended on Thursday.
Other activities carried out under the project were bird watching, shark spotting, green month campaign, beach cleanups, jellyfish operation at Pantai Cenang and myriad exhibitions, dialogues and seminars on fauna and flora.
The aim was to nurture, educate and empower the community to protect Langkawi’s natural heritage through a pragmatic environmental awareness, training and monitoring programme as sustainable eco-tourism practices would minimise the negative effects of tourism on bio-diversity and natural resources.
Eric said the RM145mil project was very important for Langkawi because there was low conservation awareness among the locals and those who were aware didn’t know how they could help protect the environment while helping the tourism sector grow.
Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) tourism manager Megat Shahrul Azman Abas welcomed the code.
He said that as a tourist development agency under the Ministry of Finance, Lada’s focus was to develop the 99 islands as a premier tourist destination.
“We want to practice green tourism by complying with eco-tourism practices to ensure sustainable development,” he said.
“The Langkawi Country Code is a very good effort by the MNS — it shows that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are playing their roles well by being pro-active,” he said, adding that Lada would continue working closely with the MNS.
He said Langkawi’s main draw was her natural surroundings and laidback lifestyle.
“Here, visitors feel very safe — they are not harassed by haggling traders.
“Eco-tourism activities like bird-watching and mangrove tours are very popular these days,” he said.
Tourists arrivals from January to October last year was about 1.8mil compared to more than 1.9mil for the same period this year.
Besides Europe which is Langkawi’s traditional tourist market, Middle Eastern and South Asian tourists are also flocking to the islands.
Megat Shahrul Azman also noted an increase in arrivals from Scandinavian countries.
He said Lada would target tourists from Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan next year.

Links:

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Who Are These Towkays For These Tokays?

A casual chat with a local driver this morning has changed my viewpoint about certain countries that advocate on wildlife conversation.

It is about our dear little friends that look like this:

These geckos are still being sought after and the prices are still very lucrative for those big fat ones. I came across a local who told me that these geckos would be taken out of Malaysia via Thailand and towards Taiwan and Japan. I always thought that the culprits were from the East Asia only. Not quite so. 

Which other countries that are buying these tokay geckos?


1. Germany
2. Netherlands
3. United States
4. Australia

Were you shocked? If you were, I was shocked too. This local driver has some connection with the poachers and also the buyers. He told me that the upcoming country buying them would be Australia. In his hand phone were a few pictures of tokay geckos caught or breed by his friends. There was one picture with a size of a medium size adult monitor lizard! That would certainly cost RM1 million.

These people would go out into the forest in the middle of the night to catch these creatures which claimed to have medicinal properties. Professor Aaron Bauer from Villanova University wrote about geckos that had been used in Chinese traditional medicines for a 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).

Now, these geckos are in high demand by medicine industry abroad as it is believed that the tongue of these creatures can cure AIDS. 

However, the Deputy Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Augustine Tuuga warned:

Friday, 11 June 2010

The public are advised not to simply believe the medicinal cure of Tokay gecko without scientific proof, said deputy director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Augustine Tuuga.He also advised people who venture into jungles in the hope of capturing a gecko believing it would fetch a high price to think twice as no research had been done to verify the claims.
The sudden trend in rearing Tokay gecko, believed to be a cure for AIDS, had caused a soar in demand for live crickets here as crickets are its main source of food.
The internal organs of the gecko were also rumoured to be able to treat asthma, skin diseases and mental illnesses.
Although Tokay gecko is neither a protected nor an endangered species in the state, Augustine pointed out that the trend to capture the gecko could led to its extinction.
“If there is really scientific or medicinal proof that the gecko could be used to make medicine, we will see if we have to enforce a limited number or stop the people from catching the gecko.
“If we feel that the Tokay gecko is threatened, we will enlist it as a protected species,” he said when contacted yesterday.
Augustine further said that it was legal to sell Tokay gecko, as it is not a protected species.
“However, to export it will require permits from the Department of Veterinary and the Wildlife Department.” While he confessed that he has heard many rumours about gecko, Augustine said he did not know anyone who has actually sold a Tokay gecko.
Augustine also revealed that there had been a lot of similar cases where animals said to have medicinal benefits were caught for business purposes, including leeches.
“But they did not earn anything in the end, and even faced greater loss.
“I feel that we have to get scientific evidence, if not it will be a waste of time.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun pointed out that the medicinal benefits of Tokay gecko was an ‘unsubstantiated claim’ at this point of time.
He also advised the public to be cautious on these kinds of claims.
Source: Borneo Post

Yeah!! Bravo to Sabah Wildlife Department for making those statements! I would say that  these geckos should now be listed as protected species for Malaysia and also either in Appendix I or Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)

I was shocked to learn that Australia is one of the buyers. I tend to look upon Australia as one of the role models in protecting their wildlife. I seriously hope that the local driver was only joking and yet again, he sounded serious.

Link:

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

All Dolphins Gone?

LANGKAWI - First there were seven, then five and now there are none.

The five remaining bottlenose dolphins at a holding area in Langkawi destined for Resorts World Sentosa's (RWS) Marine Life Park were no longer at the pen of the Awana Porto Malai resort when MediaCorp visited on Friday.

Where have all of them gone to?



An employee who wanted to be known as Ahmed, told MediaCorp that the dolphins were put into a container last month and sent to Langkawi's international airport, from where they shipped to the Philippines.

MediaCorp had reported on Dec 18 that two of the dolphins had died from an acute bacterial infection in October.

The dolphins were caught in the Solomon Islands last January.

Mr Ahmed believes that the rest were moved from the Malaysian resort, which is owned by the Genting group, because the water "was not good" for their health.

"We had a lot of rain and muddy run-off from the nearby mountains could have affected the dolphins," he said.

Until they were removed, said Mr Ahmed, the dolphins were friendly and trained three times a day by six trainers - two each from Mexico, Hong Kong and Singapore.

"Contacted by MediaCorp, RWS was unable to respond by press time if the mammals were joining its 18 other dolphins being trained at the Ocean Adventure Park in the Philippines.

The RWS had previously said the dolphins there were in "good health" and that it was continuing with the "development and establishment of the medical, behavioural, husbandry and training programmes ... to ensure the well-being and health of the dolphins".

While animal activists have been up in arms about the captivity of dolphins in Singapore, RWS had stressed that the Marine Life Park was "part of the bid" when it won the integrated resort licence.

After winning the bid, RWS signed an agreement with the Sentosa Development Corporation, a Government statutory board. This means the ball is not just in the RWS court when it comes to any decision about the dolphins.

On Friday, the RWS wrote to MediaCorp to explain how its Marine Life Park would support conservation.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Tourism Board stressed on Friday that RWS must comply with international regulations, which include the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), as well as the requirements of the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority to safeguard animal health.

Bottlenose dolphins are listed in Appendix II of Cites, which entails strict regulations in their trade. The RWS had said previously it would comply with these regulations.



This news was taken from TODAYonline.com by Esther Ng

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Langkawi Nature From Our Lenses Throughout 2010

After cracking my head for hours in search for lines and words that would describe the condition of Langkawi's natural heritage for the year 2010, I still couldn't find the words to make up for this blog post. At the same time, I am feeling exhausted to write about it. 

In the end, I surrender to what I have to support my thoughts in replace of words...

1. Langkawi - The Good & Glorious Wonders....





Check out who are the good guys, ugly ones and the bad guys...


Thumbs up to some of the authorities, NGOs and individuals for taking positive actions...




2. Langkawi - The Ugly Ones...
If the Fisheries Department (Jabatan Perikanan) is not earning anything from allowing the Solomon dolphins to be kept in Langkawi's waters, it is about time that they should start charging the "parking fees"





3. ..and Langkawi - The Bad Guys...


My question is, "Is Langkawi's protection to her natural heritage on the losing end?" 

Since the launch of the Care2: Online petition to conserve Langkawi's remaining rainforest in May 2010, the number of signatures only stands at #428 as at December 24th 2010 . This is shockingly slow as the ultimate goal is to gather up to 3000 signatures. Can anyone help to speed this up? You can click here

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