Sunday, October 07, 2012

Sarawak Nature Festival

NATURE was celebrated as the Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch and the Borneo Highlands Resort, with the support of Swinburne University Sarawak Campus, jointly organised the Sarawak Nature Festival.

Borneo Highlands Resort, the celebration’s host, is nestled along the border between Sarawak and Kalimantan, about 30km south of Kuching.

The five teams entering the Sarawak Bird Race 2012, the featured event, were waved off at 2pm on Sept 29 and handed over their log books to the judges – MNS Kuching Branch president Anthony Sebastian and well-known bird-watcher Daniel Kong – at 12pm the next day.

The wining team, MJC Birders, comprising Ng Jia Jee and Ng Yeow Tee, sighted 47 of the 200 known bird species in this Important Bird Area. Second place went to the Blue Birds, a father and son team, who sighted 18 birds, while third place went to mother-daughter team the Pink Birds, who sighted 15.

Ron Orenstein, a regular visitor to the shores of Sarawak, like the migratory species which escape the cold of the temperate winters, spoke of the natural wonders of the Penrissen Range and Borneo Highlands Resort.

Here rare birds, much sought after by the bird-watching world, are readily accessible. The small, pygmy white-eye, is rarely seen, but at the Borneo Highlands, it can almost always be sighted.

This area is one of the 22 Important Bird Areas in Sarawak. This internationally recognised designation is given by BirdLife International, a partnership covering about 170 countries. The recognition of these areas have many benefits beyond birds – bird populations, including species diversity and numbers, are an indicator of an area’s ecological health. Society benefits as these wild or semi-wild areas can act as rich ecological niches in the species poor environments created by man.

Nature and its importance was celebrated and highlighted in the other activities lined up. About 10 children and their parents were guided from the housing area, into a small forested area. They felt and saw first-hand, the magnificence of the mighty dipterocarps and the tree ferns that are indicative of the montane forest found at this altitude. Then they took the opportunity to visit the Herb Garden.

Many modern medicines have their roots in natural remedies and the traditional uses of several plants in the garden were discussed. Gingers for example have medicinal and culinary uses, not to forget species of onions. Junior Activities organiser Susan Teal found their enthusiasm invigorating – never a dull moment and never a dull question. Next the young birders participated in their own mini-bird race, but instead of sighting the real birds, they had to identify the birds from lifelike pictures.

Another of the many activities which took place on Sunday morning was a guided walk from the Kalimantan border along the Batu Panggah trail. This trail skirts the edge of the golf course, as it follows the international boundary. Ten walkers shared their knowledge of what makes this forest special: its location right on the Sarawak-Kalimantan border, its history during the Confrontation, (we saw a vast yellow meranti and other commercial dipterocarp species that characterised the forest before logging).

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Nature Festival