Saturday, December 30, 2006

Danum Valley Conservation Area - Walk on the wild side

SPOTTING wildlife in Taman Negara is like striking a 4D lottery – you’ve got to be really lucky. But in the 438 sq km Danum Valley, Sabah – where I spent three days at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge there – you don’t even have to budge from your chalet to spot the occasional rhinoceros hornbill or sambar deer.

Teeming with unique flora and fauna, Danum and its Field Centre, built in 1986, has been a tropical rainforest research and environmental education hub for scientists and students from all corners of the globe.

Over the years, rare, endangered and endemic wildlife have been spotted in Danum; the long list includes the elusive Sumatran rhino, Borneo pygmy elephant, rare clouded leopard, sun bear and banteng or wild ox, which has been extinct in Peninsular Malaysia since the 1940s.

More than 300 species of birds have been sighted at this bird-watchers’ utopia including the rare bulwer’s pheasant, buffy fish owl, Borneo bristlehead and all eight of Borneo’s hornbill species.

Standing on Danum’s 107m canopy walkway, suspended 27m from the ground, you get to be eye to eye with these birds. Danum boasts over 200 species of trees like the towering kapur, keruing and seraya trees with their gigantic buttresses, and a myriad of orchids, lianas, ferns, fungi and shrubs.

Thanks to Sabah Foundation’s foresight, the Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL) was built in 1994, about 35km from the field centre, so the public has access to this wildlife haven.

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