Monday, December 05, 2005

Carnival time at Semenggoh Nature Reserve, Sarawak

By Sharon Ling

The Semenggoh Nature Reserve, on the outskirts of Kuching, recently threw open its doors to the public for its annual park carnival.

Now in its second year, the Semenggoh Carnival is aimed at promoting awareness of the importance of conservation among the public, especially children.

At the same time, it is an opportunity for the reserve, which houses a wildlife centre, a botanical research centre and a tropical-tree seed bank, to showcase its conservation and research activities.

The reserve, managed by Sarawak Forestry, is home to 40 species of wildlife, including its star attraction, orang-utans.

According to Wilfred Landong, Sarawak Forestry’s protected areas and biodiversity conservation general manager, the wildlife centre cares for 22 orang-utans, including two babies born a few months ago.

“The centre was established in 1972 for the care and rehabilitation of confiscated or surrendered animals. The animals are trained to live in the wild again,” he said during the carnival’s opening ceremony.

Other protected wildlife in the reserve include the Bornean gibbon, sun bear, wild cat, bear cat, python, argus pheasant, hornbills, storks and eagles.

Landong added that the reserve had more to offer visitors than just animals.

“The lowland dipterocarp rainforest here, although small in size, has over 250 tree species and over 200 species of other plants.”

Sarawak Land Development Minister Datuk Dr James Masing, who opened the carnival, reminded visitors that the wildlife centre was not a zoo but a rehabilitation centre.

“The animals are not on display. Once they are fit and able to cope on their own, they will be released into the wild,” he said.

He later launched a 900m trail in the reserve named “Masing Trail” in his honour.

Dr Masing and Landong then gave away ornamental plants, seedlings and posters to visitors.

One of the carnival's highlights was the feeding of the orang-utans, an event that takes place twice daily.

Visitors followed Sarawak Forestry rangers along a trail to a clearing where they laid out food for the orang-utans

However, only one orang-utan came swinging down from the trees to collect its meal.

Perhaps the rest had felt shy because of the many people.

Another highlight was a demonstration on how to catch and restrain crocodiles.

The crowd watched in awe as American wildlife expert Robert Adams and Sarawak Forestry staff members manhandled a crocodile and restrained it to measure its size and weight.

Other carnival activities included talks on wildlife, orang-utans and conservation by Sarawak Forestry experts, jungle trekking and a lucky draw.

Source: The Star