Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bridging wild habitats in Sabah

Scientists and oil palm growers gathered recently in Kota Kinabalu for a common cause – to find ways to protect the wildlife of Sabah.

ENSURING the future survival of the endangered pygmy elephant, orang utan and rhinoceros in the state of Sabah hinges on these steps: stop further fragmentation and conversion of forests; establish wildlife corridors, such as along riparian reserves to connect forest fragments; and stringent enforcement against poaching.

These are the key strategies highlighted in the five-year action plans to conserve the three species drafted by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and launched early this month at the two-day Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloquium in Kota Kinabalu.

“Today, Sabah is considered as being rich in wildlife but in actuality, much has been lost and what we are trying to do today is damage control, which is why we have prepared action plans for keystone species,” says SWD director Dr Laurentius Ambu at the meeting, organised by SWD and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, and supported by Borneo Conservation Trust, Danau Girang Field Centre and Hutan.

He says Sabah’s wildlife remains under threat despite 15.5% of the state being gazetted as totally protected areas. Surveys estimated that 300 orang utans were lost in the past seven years in the Kinabatangan region alone, leaving the state with 11,000 orang utans today. The population of proboscis monkeys, now at 5,900, is on the decline too, as their habitat has shrunk and is degrading, while poaching remains a major threat.

Poor land use planning in the past has led to a situation where Sabah’s forests are now isolated islands surrounded by urban settlements and agricultural land, and too small to nurture a healthy array of wildlife. Connecting these forest patches is crucial to the future survival of threatened animals as it will allow animal movement within a larger habitat.

One green link identified by SWD is the Sabah Ecological Corridor which will bridge forest patches from Kinabatangan through Batu Putih to Deramakot. Over 70% of elephants, orang utans and rhinos populations in the state can be found in this green corridor, says Ambu.

Surveys by SWD and conservation group Hutan have found that over 60% of the estimated 11,000 orang utans in Sabah are found not in protected reserves and parks but in forest fragments, many of which are located within plantations. Primatologist Dr Isabelle Ancrenaz says even in those protected areas where the primate is found, the habitat is largely unsuitable, being hilly, with steep slopes. Orang utans prefer lowland areas. “It is very clear that protected areas in Sabah will not achieve orang utan conservation on their own. Orang utans outside of protected areas must be protected and properly managed.”

While there is consensus among the 280 colloquium participants that maintenance of forest corridors along plantations is important, there is equal agreement that establishing these corridors is expensive and challenging. For one, securing land for the linkages is difficult since much of it is a private property.

“Creating wildlife corridors will take a lot of commitment from the public, plantation owners, companies and government. But it is the ideal thing as it allows movements of animals. We’re working with different landowners on this,” says Ambu. He adds that a year 2000 estimate on the cost of purchasing land critical for the wildlife corridor in the Kinabatangan area alone puts the sum at RM40mil to RM60mil. “The cost will be higher now with the hike in land prices. We are talking about splitting the cost of buying the land between the federal and state governments.”

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Forgotten species: the wild jungle cattle called banteng

The word "cattle," for most of us, is the antithesis of exotic; it's familiar like a family member one's happy enough to ignore, but doesn't really mind having around. Think for a moment of the names: cattle, cow, bovine...likely they make many of us think more of the animals' byproducts than the creatures themselves—i.e. milk, butter, ice cream or steak—as if they were an automated food factory and not living beings. But if we expand our minds a bit further, "cattle" may bring up thoughts of cowboys, Texas, herds pounding the dust, or merely grazing dully in the pasture. But none of these titles, no matter how far we pursue them, conjure up images of steamy tropical rainforest or gravely imperiled species. A cow may be beautiful in its own domesticated sort-of-way, but there is nothing wild in it, nothing enchanting. However like most generalizations, this idea of cattle falls to pieces when one encounters, whether in literature or life, the banteng.

The banteng is everything domestic cattle are not: rainforest-dwelling, wild, elusive, obscure, almost mystical. Yet for all that, the banteng are cattle. They just happen to be cattle of the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, sharing their dark verdured habitat with tigers, elephants, and rhinos. Although co-existing with such exotic animals, the banteng, in appearance, could almost be mistaken for domestic cattle; they are similar in both size and general impression, but a bit different in color and pattering: males sport a black coat with white stockings and rump, while females are tan to dark brown with similar stockings and rump.

"Banteng are one of the few remaining species of totally wild bovids in the world," Penny Gardner, who is studying banteng in Borneo, says. "The behavior of the banteng is unique because they spend the majority of their time in dense remote forest, emerging at night and early morning to forage on grasses growing at the edge of the forest or in glades. They are incredibly elusive and rarely sighted."

A PhD student at Cardiff University, Penny Gardner is currently tracking banteng in two protected areas—Tabin Wildlife Reserve and Malua BioBank—in the Malaysian state of Sabah through the Danau Girang Field Center and Sabah Wildlife Department. Although wild banteng are found in several countries, including Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, Borneo's banteng are considered by many to be a distinct subspecies.

"They are the last large mammal of Borneo to be researched and very few people worldwide have heard of them. The threat of extinction is imminent; they are extinct from Brunei and Sarawak (Malaysia Borneo), and only occasional sightings of tracks are reported in Kalimantan (Indonesia Borneo). Sabah is the last stronghold, however the remaining forest habitat is fragmented and populations are isolated," she says. While the banteng is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, Gardner says that listing comes from a "crude population estimate conducted in the 1980s." Today, the species may be on the verge of disappearing.

"In reality, [the banteng] is the second most endangered large mammal in Borneo, after the Sumatran Rhino," explains Gardner. The species, across its range, is being pummeled by deforestation and poaching. Forests across Southeast Asia are being converted into palm oil, rubber, paper and pulp plantations at record rates. Although a protected species in all of its range states, the banteng is still illegally hunted with law enforcement lacking due to a dearth of funds. Given low populations and fragmentation of habitat, Gardner says the banteng is also facing "a reduction of gene flow between populations, (probable) inbreeding, hybridization with domestic cattle and disease transmission with domestic livestock." With the number of threats extinction may appear inevitable, but the situation is not yet hopeless.

Employing camera traps, Gardner has secured photos of a healthy herd in Malua BioBank, which was granted protection in 2008 largely due to its substantial population of orangutans. Given the banteng's well-known elusive personality, Gardner has depended heavily on camera traps to document the species. Camera traps, which take photos remotely of wildlife when an animal "trips" an infrared sensor, have become incredibly important to recent studies of rare tropical animals. Researchers are able to sift an incredible amount of information from photos.

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Proposal to hike entry fees at Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

KUCHING: Foreign visitors going to the iconic Semenggoh Wildlife Centre — where the Orang Utan primates live in semi-wild conditions — maybe asked to pay more when visiting next time.

At the moment, these visitors including domestic tourists and locals pay only RM3 entry fee but this amount has been found to be insufficient to cover the regular upkeep of the place despite it receiving 300,000 visitors every year.

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit, who made suggestion for the fee increase, said foreign visitors should be paying RM10 or roughly US3 dollars which he considered to be still cheap.

“I have told the Sarawak Forestry Corporation to consider the suggestion. They have done a Cabinet paper to that effect. Whether approved or not, I do not know. I have yet to meet the chief minister on the matter,” he said during the Meet-The People function at Kampung Garung, Jalan Puncak Borneo, 40km from here on Sunday evening.

Dawos, who is Mambong MP, also mentioned his vision to turn Jalan Puncak Borneo, which leads to Borneo Heights Resort, into a new tourism icon.

He said this was because, at the moment, tourists visiting Semenggoh Wildlife Centre also at Jalan Puncak Borneo often did not go further up the road to explore the other attractions available.

As such, he pledged to ask for an allocation of RM200,000 to upgrade the weekend market at Kampung Garung into a Biperoh Tourism Market which would become a new tourist destination.

“Those tourists, after visiting Semenggoh, may ask ‘what are the other attractions along Jalan Puncak Borneo?’

“Well, we have the hot spring in Annah Rais, tourist information centre at Kampung Timurang where there is a rafflesia garden, and soon the Biperoh Tourism Market,” he said.

On the Biperoh Tourism Market, he said facilities such as stalls would be set up for the sale of authentic Bidayuh cuisine, farm and jungle produce, and handicrafts.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Proposal to hike entry fees at Semenggoh Wildlife Centre
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Monday, January 30, 2012

Borneo's orang-utan sanctuary

IT'S not every day you're confronted by a naked male tourist striding somewhat apprehensively down a jungle walkway.

All in a day's work for Sylvia Alsisto, who runs the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, Borneo.

"He'd been approached by Raju, one of our male orang-utans who was eight years old at the time," Alsisto says.

"Raju had started tugging at his shirt, so the tourist had taken it off and given it to him," she says. "He then started on his shorts, his watch and finally his underpants.

"He was left with nothing."

It's best not to argue with an orang-utan. Even if they are only eight years old, they're still four times stronger than a human. Although not overtly aggressive by nature, they are wild animals and can be unpredictable.

More than 600 orphaned orang-utans have passed through the 4294ha sanctuary since it officially opened in 1964. The orphans are largely the victims of habitat destruction. Mother orang-utans are often scared by the unrelenting human onslaught that comes with forest clearing and drop their baby while trying to flee.

Occasionally mothers have been killed by hunters, who then capture the infant and sell it as a pet. Luckily this has become increasingly rare, particularly in Sabah, where the benefits wildlife brings to tourism are widely recognised.

The rehabilitation process begins as soon as they arrive at the centre. Young orang-utans spend time in the "nursery", developing essential survival skills that would normally be taught by their mother. They learn how to climb, find food and how to build nests. (Orang-utans are the only primates who build nests.)

Once they've "graduated", they move to the outdoor nursery, where their freedom is increased and their dependence on food and emotional support decreased.

Visitors to the centre can view part of the process by gathering on the walkway opposite the feeding platform. Here a ranger distributes fruit twice daily and this helps supplement the orang-utans' forest diet. In the wild an orang-utan feeds on more than 200 species of plants and fruit.

Alsisto views the visitors and tourists who flock to the centre as necessary but occasionally frustrating.

"It's educational, which is great, and we hope that they'll go away with a true appreciation of orang-utans and how important it is that they survive," she says.

"Unfortunately, there are always some visitors who refuse to obey instructions. Bags, insect repellents and food must be left outside but there are always some who'll try to buck the system.

"They'll try to feed them, pat them or pick them up. This is not only dangerous hygienically to the orang-utans but potentially dangerous to the humans, as well. The only time I've been badly bitten was when I went to rescue a woman that was trying to pet a young male and got bitten."

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo's orang-utan sanctuary
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Next year may be Visit Sarawak Year 2013

KUCHING: Next year may be Visit Sarawak Year 2013 to commemorate the state’s 50th anniversary of Independence.

Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, who announced this yesterday, said a host of exciting tourism-related activities were in the pipeline to celebrate the auspicious occasion.

“My ministry is prepared to make next year an exciting one, with numerous programmes and activities in conjunction with our 50 years of independence. A few approaches have been drafted, and this include making 2013 a Visit Sarawak Year.

“However, the whole idea is still in the discussion phase because various factors need to be taken into account,” he said after officiating at the ‘2012 Regatta Bandarayaku’ prize giving ceremony at the Kuching Waterfront here.

Also present were Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Talip Zulpilip, Kuching North City Hall (DBKU) Datuk Bandar Datuk Abang Abdul Wahap Abang Julai and director Dr Saadiah Abdul Samat.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Next year may be Visit Sarawak Year 2013
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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mulu challenges the adventurous

Photo Copyright to The Borneo Post

IF you are planning to visit Malaysia’s World Heritage Centre – the Mulu National Park – you should not miss trekking the 11.3km long Headhunters Trail or climb the famous 1,732m high Mulu Pinnacles.

Mulu can be reached by longboat from Nanga Mendamit in Limbang. Along the way, you can stop and rest at Mentawai Ranger Camp but the boat ride there will take quite a while – so make sure you bring along a raincoat just in case. You should also bring along plenty of drinking water because you won’t get to stop at any shops en route.

At Mentawai Ranger Camp, there is a hostel where you can spend the night before continuing to Kuala Tarikan in the morning.

The longboat ride to Kuala Tarikan along the Tarikan River will take over 30 minutes but the scenery is breathtaking. If lucky, you can see rare species of river fish in the clear water. Once you reach Kuala Tarikan, you have made it to the starting point of the Headhunters Trail where the thrills really begin.

It will take you almost one whole day to explore the Headhunters Trail where beautiful plants and trees, including wild orchids, Belian, Eucalyptus as well as fig, adorn the pristine surroundings. The exploration ends at Camp Five where you can rest for the night before tackling the Mulu Pinnacles the next day.

According to legend, ethnic groups such as the Murut, Iban, Tring, Berawan and Kayan frequently waged war along the Headhunters Trail. The raiding parties would drag their canoes across the watershed between the Mendalam River and the Melinau River.

The Murut and Iban of Mendalam were believed to have plundered the Tring and Berawan of Melinau. During one raid at a settlement near the Melinau Gorge, a number of women and children were beheaded while the men were away hunting.

Today, the remains of the victims can still be seen in a cave not far from the Trail. There, about 20 to 30 skulls are kept undisturbed in the stone jars. The area is believed to be a sacred spiritual resting place.

Challenges and adventures

After walking for about three hours, you will have covered one-half the Trail. Here, you can rest at Batu Rikan, also known as Lubang Cina.

Legend has it that a long time ago, two Chinese traders tried to take their boat across the watershed, not knowing what awaited them at the end of it. Both were swept into the cave by flood and perished. That was how Lobang Cina (Chinese Hole) got its name.

It’s quite a tiring walk to Camp Five – and keep your fingers crossed for good weather. One type of forest dweller you don’t want to tangle with are blood-sucking leeches. But you’re safely out of their reach once you reach Camp Five. The beauty of Melinau River which runs through the Camp is really fantastic. It’s also a place where you can actually swim with tropical fishes in the Melinau River.

Another challenge which should only be attempted after a good rest, is the 2.4km ascent to the 1,732m Mulu Pinnacles, the highest limestone mountain in Malaysia. It’s quite a tough walk up even though it’s only 2.4km to the top. The distance may not sound all that far but a lot of energy as well as mental and physical fitness is needed to conquer the Pinnacles.

At the summit, you can view the breathtaking scenery around the Pinnacles, making the challenging ascent well worth the while. But bear in mind, the descent is equally daunting as most times, you have to climb down backwards.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Mulu challenges the adventurous
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Naturalist Wallace’s Sarawak experience retraced

KUCHING: Most Sarawakians do not realise that in Kuching they are basically following the footsteps of Alfred Russel Wallace.

But who is Wallace?

Wallace is one of the two founders of the theory of evolution by natural selection. The other one being Charles Darwin.

Wallace is best remembered in the Wallace Line, a zoogeographic boundary separating Australia from South-East Asia.

Wallace’s independent discovery and publication of evolutionary theory in 1858 is said to be equal to Darwin’s.

On his travel as a free-lance collector of natural history specimens, Wallace first went to the forests in the Amazon and to the Malay Archipelago (Malaysia and Indonesia), including Sarawak.

An ecologist with the Sarawak Forestry, Rambli Ahmad recently shared his adventure in retracing Wallace’s actual footsteps in Sarawak and United Kingdom, the scientist’s home country.

Rambli’s talk entitled “Following the Footprints of the Great Naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace in Sarawak (1854-56), was to inspire listeners into appreciating Sarawak’s place in one of the most important events in the science.

Wallace spent 14 months in Sarawak (November 1, 1854 to January 25, 1856), a longer stay than at any other destination during his travels in the Malay Archipelago.

Rambli noted that Wallace’s insect collecting in Sarawak was extremely productive, amounting to some 25,000 specimens.

Continue reading at: Naturalist Wallace’s Sarawak experience retraced
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Malaysia saves endangered pygmy elephant on Borneo

Malaysian wildlife authorities said they had rescued a pygmy elephant calf on Borneo island and expressed hope a planned sanctuary would provide protection for the endangered animals.

The male calf, which is less than a month old, was pulled out of a deep moat surrounding a palm oil plantation in remote Sabah state on Friday, said Sen Nathan, a senior official with the Sabah Wildlife Department.

It is the fifth calf rescued by wildlife officials since 2009. Three of those previously saved have died but a female has recovered and is now at a wildlife park.

There are fewer than 2,000 Borneo pygmy elephants left in the wild, according to authorities. A sub-species of the Asian elephant, the creatures have a rounded appearance and are smaller than mainland elephants.

The latest rescued calf, which weighed about 50 kilograms (110 pounds), was in a serious condition, Nathan told AFP.

"He suffered severe dehydration and cuts and abrasions, probably while trying to get out of the moat," he said.

The elephant's mother was probably forced to leave it behind after the pair fell into the moat, and the calf likely spent more than a day there before being spotted by plantation workers, he said.

Nathan said a planned elephant sanctuary on 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of land within the 26,000-hectare Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary in Sabah would help protect the animals.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Malaysia saves endangered pygmy elephant on Borneo
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Where is Borneo?

Exactly where is Borneo?

I was asked that question repeatedly after visiting there in 2010 and sharing amazing photos of wildlife and outdoor adventures with friends.

Borneo is actually the third-largest island in the world, situated in the center of Southeast Asia just east of Singapore and southwest of the Philippines.

Technically known as Kalimantan, Indonesia owns a lion's share of Borneo. The northern edge, which is also the most visited and developed, is owned by Malaysia. Made up of two states, Sarawak and Sabah, Malaysian Borneo is an outdoor lover's dream.

Tiny Brunei -- an oil-rich, independent country -- separates Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. With a population of just over 400,000, Brunei is famous for being the most Islamic country in Southeast Asia, as well as for the fact that citizens do not pay taxes there. The government is funded by oil and natural gas, which makes up for 90% of the GDP.

Arguably one of the wildest places on Earth, Borneo is unfortunately also one of the most rapidly deforested places on the planet as well. Logging has dwindled down once-pristine rainforests to make way for sprawling palm oil plantations. Palm oil turns up in a wide range of products from chocolate to cosmetics.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Where is Borneo?
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Tourist influx begins in Brunei

By Fadhil Yunus

Brunei received a significant tourism boost as a chartered flight carrying 284 tourists including a toddler and a six-year-old child touched down at the Brunei International Airport last night.

It is also the largest group of tourists from either Taiwan or China travelling to Brunei during the Chinese New Year 2012 celebrations.

The tourists, who will be separated into eight groups, will be staying at the Radisson Hotel while some will be at The Empire Hotel and Country Club, said one of the tour guides from PJ Majestic Tours.

When asked through an interpreter what the Taiwanese tourists are planning to do or see in Brunei, most of them said that they wanted to meet singer-turned-actor Wu Chun. They also said that he is extremely popular back in Taiwan.

The majority of the tourists also said that this was their first time in Brunei and are excited to learn more about the country.

Upon arrival, they were greeted by representatives from the Tourism Development Department. Eight tour guides from PJ Majestic Tours will be with the tourists for the entire duration of their stay.

More flights are scheduled to arrive in Brunei starting tonight until January 28 bringing in nearly 1,400 tourists.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Extinct Dracula monkey found in Borneo

The humidity was oppressive and the leeches insufferable as an expedition led by Simon Fraser University PhD student Brent Loken waded into the jungles of the Wehea Forest in eastern Borneo.

Loken sought to document the forest's biodiversity and help the indigenous Dayak people advocate for its legal protection against Indonesian development for palm oil plantations, coal mines, or logging.

With remote cameras set up in the forest near two mineral licks, Loken had hoped to obtain photos of the elusive and littleknown clouded leopard.

What he got was a monkey--the Miller's grizzled langur--so rare that scientists consider it to be teetering on the edge of extinction. Even rarer, the discovery occurred where the monkey, which some say looks like Dracula, had not historically been documented.

"We knew we had something special," Loken, 40, recalled Thursday in an interview. "We knew it was unique because it is a very distinct-looking monkey."

The langur has a dark face, light front, grey back, and long tail. "The only descriptions came from museum specimens from the 1940s and '50s," he said. "Our pictures are some of the only ones we have."

Loken lives in Squamish and is finishing his PhD in resource and environmental management at SFU.

He is a former high school chemistry and physics teacher from Iowa who took an interest in Borneo during a visit in 2006.
Two years later, he co-founded Ethical Expeditions (ethicalexpeditions.ning.com), which integrates conservation, applied research and education with traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous peoples.

The non-profit organization led the almost 10-week expedition last summer involving 20 people, including a photographer, scientists, students, local people, even a tree-climber.

Between June and July, up to 11 of the langurs - a subspecies, under consideration for full species status - were observed in a single day at a single site. "It's one of those monkeys that when you walk through the forest you'll never know that it's there," Loken said.

The langur is at risk from loss and fragmentation of habitat and hunting in Indonesia. However, Loken said a few dozen Dayak people regularly patrol the 38,000-hectare Wehea Forest to help keep hunters out.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Extinct Dracula monkey found in Borneo
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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Regatta participants greeted with cultural show at BSB Waterfront

By Fadhil Yunus

International contingents and participants who will be competing in the Regatta Brunei Darussalam 2012 were entertained to some of Brunei richest cultural performances at the BSB Waterfront last night in a cultural reception.

Present as guest of honour at the event was the Minister of Home Affairs, Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Othman. Never short of wise words, the minister encouraged those present last night to show their pride and passion and to strive to be honoured as countrymen and countrywomen.

In a motivational speech that shed light on the minister's own experiences in the old days of the Regatta, Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin said, "We should feel proud and appreciate the identity of our beloved country. The Regatta will truly mark a memorable occasion, bringing back past memories and showing how much Kg Ayer and BSB has evolved since.

"The current generation should make their passions known in that they will be able to witness the experience of the Regatta," the minister added.

Last night's cultural performances received overwhelming response as nearly all of the seats were occupied even before the arrival of the guest of honour.

The international delegates also witnessed some of the country's popular and traditional dances and poetry-inspired music, with performers dressed in full traditional attire. The dances include the "Tarian Alai Asyik", "Brunei Indung Anak Indung Bunga Ku" and "Medley Cabuk-Cabuk Mukun Menyubuh", to name a few.

The cultural performances also showed signs of encouragement in the artistic development and growth of youths who created plenty of excitement among the audience, while at the same time keeping their poise and composure.

Among those present at the cultural event was Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Awg Halbi bin Hj Mohd Yussof, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs who is also the Chairman of the High-Level Committee Regatta Brunei Darussalam 2012.

Today marks one of the historical dates of the year as the Regatta Brunei Darussalam takes stage for the first time in 20 years.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday
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Rhino romance may be last hope

Puntung is a Sumatran rhino, one of roughly 200 left in the world.

Captured in a Borneo forest on Christmas Day, she is the latest addition to Malaysia's Borneo Rhino Sanctuary - and possibly one of the last hopes for a species on the brink of extinction.

Veterinarians want to introduce Puntung to Tam, a 20-year-old male Sumatran rhinoceros in the enclosure next door, in the hopes that they will breed - although this cannot take place for a number of months, until Puntung is deemed ready.

Estimated to be 10 to 12 years old, she was airlifted to the sanctuary after her capture and has since been adjusting to her new home, eating more than 60 kilograms of leaves each day.

"She doesn't look stressed, she's eating well . but the stress [of a new environment] is enough to offset her cycle, her normal cycle," said Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, a veterinarian with the Borneo Rhino Alliance.

Captive breeding is now regarded as the only way to boost the population of the two-horned Sumatran rhino, which at 500 to 600 kg and 1.3 metres tall is the world's smallest rhinoceros.

Deforestation and illegal hunting have decimated the population in the wild, and habitat fragmentation has cut the surviving animals off from potential mates. The animals are aging to the point where they are too old to breed.

But even the capture of Puntung, dubbed a "Christmas miracle" by scientists, does not mean success is assured.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Rhino romance may be last hope
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Application for Rainforest World Music Festival Food Mart and Village Mart stalls now open

KUCHING: Applications are now open to vendors who are interested to set up stalls in the Food Mart and Village Mart for the forthcoming 15th Rainforest World Music Festival to be held from July 13 to 15 at the Sarawak Cultural Village here.

The Food Mart and Village Mart application forms are now available at STB Leisure & Properties Sdn Bhd at 6th Floor, Bangunan Yayasan Sarawak, Jalan Masjid here and the closing date for submission is Feb 24.

The Village Mart will provide vendors with the platform to display and sell their products and exhibits such as souvenirs, handicraft, arts and many others, while vendors at the Food Mart will be able to sell varieties of food.

Both Village Mart and Food Mart will be operational as early as 9am until the festival ends for each day of the festival.

The rental stall size of 10’ X 20’ for the three-day festival at the Village Mart and Food Mart is priced either at RM1,000 or RM1,200 per stall depending on the location.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Application for Rainforest World Music Festival Food Mart and Village Mart stalls now open
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Transformed Sibu Airport surprises crowd

SIBU: For the past year or so, Sibu Airport has gone through some major physical changes considered by many here as timely.

Many Sibuans arriving here, who have not returned home for a few years, find the renovated building unrecognisable, especially with all the construction work going on.

A student surnamed Ling said she was surprised to see the major transformation of the airport.

“The last time I came back was a few years ago and there was no construction at that time.

“In just a few years, so much had changed and I believed it is for the good of all,” she said.

According to Ling, her sister informed her about the renovation before she returned here.

However, she did not expect to see such a major transformation upon her arrival at the airport.

“It feels like a marketplace. It’s hot and dusty, no doubt about it,” she said.

A teacher surnamed Yii said she was surprised to see the construction going on at the airport.

“I settled in Perak with my husband and three children and I come home for Chinese New Year once every two years.

“The last time I came home, the construction was already on going, but it was not like this,” she said.

Yii said the construction had caused some difficulty and inconvenience but understood it was expected.

“It’s not always I come back to Sibu, so I would normally spend a longer time here and besides, it is school holidays, so the kids can see their grandparents as well,” she pointed out.

Many praised the check-in counters section as beautiful and were proud that the airport had finally improved.

A visitor at the airort commented that he was happy about not having to wait in the heat anymore and that there were no more long queues.

Meanwhile, airport project manager Felix Su said package one was 68.36 per cent completed while package two was 54.25 per cent completed.

“Everything is ahead of schedule, so we are very confident that the people here will see the completed airport before September,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Transformed Sibu Airport surprises crowd
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Friday, January 20, 2012

Rare Monkey thought to be extinct found in Borneo

Scientists working in the dense jungles of Indonesia have "rediscovered" a large, gray monkey so rare it was believed by many to be extinct.

They were all the more baffled to find the Miller's Grizzled Langur, its black face framed by a fluffy, Dracula-esque white collar, in an area well outside its previously recorded home range.

The team set up camera traps in the Wehea Forest on the eastern tip of Borneo island in June, hoping to captures images of clouded leopards, orangutans and other wildlife known to congregate at several mineral salt licks.

The pictures that came back caught them all by surprise: groups of monkeys none had ever seen.

With virtually no photographs of the grizzled langurs in existence, it at first was a challenge to confirm their suspicions, said Brent Loken, a Ph.D. student at Simon Fraser University in Canada, and one of the lead researchers.

The only images out there were museum sketches.

"We were all pretty ecstatic, the fact that, wow, this monkey still lives, and also that it's in Wehea," said Loken.

The monkey, which has hooded eyes and a pinkish nose and lips, once roamed the northeastern part of Borneo, as well as the islands of Sumatra and Java and the Thai-Malay peninsula. But concerns were voiced several years ago that they may be extinct.

Forests where the monkeys once lived had been destroyed by fires, human encroachment and conversion of land for agriculture and mining and an extensive field survey in 2005 turned up empty.

"For me the discovery of this monkey is representative of so many species in Indonesia," Loken told The Associated Press by telephone.

"There are so many animals we know so little about and their home ranges are disappearing so quickly," he said. "It feels like a lot of these animals are going to quickly enter extinction."

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Rare Monkey thought to be extinct found in Borneo
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Thursday, January 19, 2012

More mammals in Brunei than whole of Borneo

By Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam is known for its pristine environment, rich natural resources and a high percentage of forest cover. A recent study conducted by Universiti Brunei Darussalam 'The Faunal Biodiversity Survey of Sg Ingei Protection Forest' has confirmed that mammals found in the forest are high in number compared to the rest of Borneo. This shows that the wildlife protection in Brunei Darussalam is still comparatively intact.

Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar said this at the National Planning Workshop on Wildlife Management in Brunei Darussalam yesterday.

"I believe that if the wildlife management in Brunei Darussalam is improved, the total number of wildlife could be sustained and our forest can be a safe sanctuary for the wildlife.

"Our management capabilities, as far as natural resources management is concerned, continue to develop at par with our regional and international counterparts. Our long-term development plan, Brunei Vision 2035, clearly provides for continuous efforts to conserve our country's remarkable biodiversity, rainforests and natural habitat.

"Thus, the formulation and development of an effective wildlife strategic framework would consolidate all wildlife management initiatives in the country giving specific focus on policy, institutional, research and development, and socio-economic concerns of wildlife resources management," Pehin Yahya said.

The minister also said, towards that end, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has consented to the transfer of wildlife matters to the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources in order to strengthen wildlife management and law enforcement considering that the natural habitats of this wildlife are already under the purview of the ministry.

"In view of this new development, it is very important to start with the right steps by inviting participation of our wildlife stakeholders in laying down constructive actions and initiatives needed.

"This workshop needs your constructive input, because the expected output of this workshop is expected to provide cross-cutting initiatives and concerns among development sectors of the country. Your technical and institutional knowledge will certainly guide us in the formulation of effective approaches at the national level and complement our own sectoral initiatives in attaining common objectives and admiration.

"Let us ensure that the output of this workshop would provide us more collaboration to further our research and development activities, economic opportunities and at the same time strengthen our wildlife law enforcement in view of the increasing wildlife crime in the region."

The minister also said that this workshop is very important to realise another milestone in the sustainable management of the natural resources of Brunei Darussalam. The Sultanate represents less than one per cent of the whole island of Borneo and yet its forests are among the richest in the world. This smallness at the same time exceptionally exposes us to environmental and ecological changes. Therefore we need careful and considered policy on wildlife.

Also present at the workshop was YAM Pengiran Muda Omar Ali, Curator of Natural History; Hjh Normah Suria Hayati bte Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama (Dr) Hj Awg Mohd Jamil Al-Sufri, Permanent Secretary at the MIPR; Dyg Hjh Hasnah bte Ibrahim, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the MIPR; Hj Saidin Salleh, Director of Forestry; and other senior officials.

At the conclusion of the workshop, the participants are expected to come up with recommendations for an integrated and holistic management approach for the conservation and protection of the country's wildlife resources that address legal and policy concerns, administration and enforcement, research and development, human resource development needs and socio economic opportunities.

The MIPR through the Forestry Department, Agriculture & Agrifood Department, Museums Department under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports with the support of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia is organising the national planning workshop.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
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Royal Brunei Airlines standardises Melbourne flight timings

From Feb 5, Royal Brunei Airlines passengers will have greater ease when making travel arrangements to and from Melbourne with its newly implemented flight timings that have been standardised for passengers' convenience, a press release stated.

With the new timings, the four times weekly flights from Bandar Seri Begawan will depart on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday at 12.20pm and arrive in Melbourne at 10.15pm.

Return flights will depart from Melbourne at 1.25pm and arrive in Bandar Seri Begawan at 5.35pm.

Deputy Chairman of Royal Brunei Airlines, Mr Dermot Mannion, stated, "This is just the first step to improve RBA's connections from Bandar Seri Begawan to Melbourne.

With the enhanced timings, our passengers from Brunei will feel as if it is merely a hop away to travel to the city of Melbourne."

Passengers may visit their travel agent or www.bruneiair.com to book their flights.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
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Miri's Imperial Grand Suites offer luxurious living

MIRI: Imperial Grand Suites will be the jewel in the crown for one of Sarawak’s largest Shopping Malls, Boulevard Shopping Mall Kuching.

The latest entry is designed by award winning architect and developed by reputable Sarawak based Group of companies, Boulevard Enterprise (Kuching) Sdn Bhd.

Once completed and adjoining the mall, it will feature two blocks of contemporary three-room and four-room luxury sky view suites, where each apartment suite features a balcony with unblocked view, furnished with high quality internal specifications a complete kitchenette.

The suites offer unparalleled luxury living with exclusive beautiful landscaped terrace gardens, gymnasium, sauna and a roof top swimming pool as well the multiple-tier security with CCTV and other recreational and leisure facilities- all which redefine urban lifestyle.

A 40,000 square feet area of lifestyle and wellness zone located on the fourth floor where saunas, steam rooms and whirl pool, spa, reflexology, aerobics, yoga equipment and gymnasium will pamper you all the way.

Over 10,000sq ft of function concourse situated on the ground floor enables all kinds of trade exhibitions and fairs to promote trader’s businesses and products, as well caters for stage performances and shows.

With 1.7 millionsq ft of retail extravaganza, the new wing of Boulevard Shopping Mall will prefigure a new shopping kingdom with more exciting retail choices.

Residents are poised to enjoy the best of both worlds, tranquil service suites apartments, 24-hour concierge service, personalised service for housekeeping and dining and thriving shopping mall and hotel with a purpose built bridge linking both worlds.

Doorstep convenience, amenities and entertainments for movie buffs, games and karaoke, ample car parking (underground & multi-storey car parking complex) and hi-speed Wi-Fi broadband will add value to the suite apartments.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Miri's Imperial Grand Suites offer luxurious living
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Safari on a raft

PADAWAN Bamboo Raft Safari — now, that may sound like Anakin Skywalker taking up a new hobby. But it is a bamboo rafting competition organised by the Padawan Municipal Council at Sungai Sarawak Kiri in Kuching.

It is one of the biggest events in the Padawan region and I am about to undertake the gruelling 3½-hour challenge.

There are over 100 teams — all are up early and stretched out by the river of Kampung Padawan. Everybody looks eager and ready to tackle the river.

Rafts are basically 4.6m long and 1.2m wide, made of tightly bounded bamboo, giving enough room for four team mates to take up arms and power it down the cool waters.

Options in paddling or pushing are given with either a small paddle or a long bamboo pole. I choose the pole, thinking that I have more advantage standing up and using my body weight to push the raft.

At 9am, the whistle to kick off the competition goes off. The excitement is rushing through the fluorescent life-jacket wearing rafters, most of whom smell of sun lotion and tuak (rice wine) from the night before.

At the sound of the whistle, my crew and I start our little expedition. We crash straight into some trees at the first corner!

“Hmmm ... not so bright future ahead,” I’m thinking.

I have to say it’s a lot harder than it sounds. It’s not just pushing this thing down a river.

You have to keep the raft balanced and navigate the rocks and little rapids in the water, all the while being distracted by the beautiful scenery.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Safari on a raft
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MAS should not wait till Feb 18

Kota Kinabalu: State Industrial Development Minister, Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah, said Malaysia Airlines (MAS) should resume the cancelled Kuala Lumpur-Sandakan flights immediately instead of waiting till Feb 18 in view of the coming Chinese New Year.

"Not only should MAS resume those cancelled flights, the airline should have considered additional flights to cope with the larger number of family members who wish to return to Sandakan for the Chinese New Year family reunions.

"Being a national airline with such a long record of aviation capability, it should have been able to provide more seats for this route for this festive season. MAS should realise this and act accordingly," he said.

Tan said the big question is why should MAS wait for Feb 18 to reestablish these flights when they should be doing so right away.

He was commenting on the fom Prime Minister's Department on Monday that after a meeting between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and senior management officials of MAS, the 11 times weekly direct flights between Sandakan and the main terminal of KL International Airport (KLIA) are expected to be resumed on Feb 18.

"This development goes to show that the Barisan Nasional Government is a responsible government that has the people's interest at heart.

"I am especially happy to see and thankful that the Prime Minister himself has responded so quickly to the plight of the people of Sandakan.

He has personally taken the matter up with MAS directly and produced positive result to correct a wrong action on the part of MAS," he said.

Tan said MAS made the wrong move to cancel the direct flights.

"Those direct air links from Sandakan, the second largest town in Sabah and the main commercial and industrial centre of the east coast of the state, are crucial to the tourism industry and other economic interest of the state.

"The people of Sandakan were rightly unhappy with the cancellation of the MAS direct flights. They had in fact expected those flights to be increased, instead of being cancelled," he said.

Continue reading at: MAS should not wait till Feb 18
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Jesselton Mall to house Kota Kinabalu's exclusive outlets

Kota Kinabalu: Jesselton Mall is set to be the State Capital's premier exclusive retail outlets once completed in four years' time from now.

Integrated with the on-going Jesselton Residences development, the Jesselton Mall offers 123 retail lots for businesses.

"This development augurs well with the State Government's aspiration of making Sabah as the main shopping tourism destination in the region," said developer, Jesselton Waterfront Holding Sdn Bhd, General Manager, Kevin Thong.

The Jesselton Mall is designed to add greater value to Jesselton Residences, which is a high-end luxury condominium development, making it the city's premier address much like Orchard Road in Singapore.

Speaking to reporters here, Thong said the area where Jesselton Mall and its neighbour, Suria Sabah would be the new KK town.

Besides from walk-in customers and tourists, the business outlets in Jesselton Mall are also assured of customers from the occupants of the 333 condominium lots in Jesselton Residences, he said.

He said the Jesselton Residences project was selected as the only one from Sabah to participate in last year's investment forum in Shanghai, China in view of its high value as well as for the promotion of tourism.

Continue reading at: Jesselton Mall to house Kota Kinabalu's exclusive outlets
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sabah Air urged to talk to Brunei Airlines on setting up airline

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Air Sdn Bhd should consider talking to Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) about its plans to set up an airline in Borneo.

This is because RBA is an established and successful airline, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Datuk Seri Panglima Yong Teck Lee said.

Yong pointed out that setting up an airline is not an easy feat to accomplish as it is much more complicated and risky.

There are more rules than land transport to abide by, he said during a press conference after launching SAPP’s “Sabah Economic Plan” here yesterday.

Yong was of the opinion that Sabah Air is not suited to start an airline because an airline has major risks.

“One miscalculation on the fuel prices will kill the company. It is the fuel price that is causing problem to AirAsia today,” he said.

According to Yong, in the past, when AirAsia took over MAS’ domestic route in Sabah with its subsidiary, FAX, there were so many problems at that time prompting him to propose that the State Government consider setting up some form of airline for Borneo.

“Tian Chua seems to have picked that up by having a Borneo Airlines. But we all know that an airline is not a simple thing, it is not a bus company … an airline is much more complicated and risky, there are more rules than land transport.

“So if some form of airline were to emerge in Borneo, I would feel that the first airline to talk to is Royal Brunei Airways (RBA) using Bandar Seri Begawan as a hub. RBA has this plan before, they want passengers coming to Sabah and Sarawak to stop over in Brunei. So it is possible that Brunei can be the hub. This is part of BIMP-EAGA,” he stressed.

Continue reading at: Sabah Air urged to talk to Brunei Airlines on setting up airline
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Gaya Street to hold City Day heritage exhibition

KOTA KINABALU: Reminisce and learn more about Gaya Street, known as Bond Street in the past, with ‘Bonding with Gaya Street’ programme will be held at Lintasan Deasoka and Gaya Street on February 11 and 12.

Bonding with Gaya Street is a community heritage exhibition co-organized by City Hall and North Borneo History Enthusiasts (NBHE) in conjunction with Kota Kinabalu City Day celebration.

NBHE is a group on Facebook that was created by Beaufort entrepreneur Justin Sunam Wong on May 7 last year, whereby its members comprise history enthusiasts dedicated to discovering, preserving and sharing the rich heritage of Sabah.

Organizing chairperson of the programme, Datin Fazar Datuk Arif, said it is Gaya Street’s 61st anniversary this year. Many might not know that the first 17 shophouses built along an area called Bond Street are what we know as Gaya Street now.

On the communal level, the organizers will be collaborating with Gaya Street shop owners to host mini exhibits which include stories, photographs and artifacts contributed by the public for Gaya Street’s community heritage and history.

The exhibition will encompass the Gaya Street area, including an ‘A Go Go’ inspired concert called ‘Together Again’ to celebrate our veteran musicians and musical heritage.

“NBHE’s creative team intends to set Gaya Street abuzz from February 2 with the community heritage exhibition.

“The launch of the event and soft launching of a coffee table book will be on February 11, with the ‘Together Again’ music concert charting the popular musical journey of Sabah circa the 50s, and 60s in the evening,” said Fazar.

NBHE encourages members of the public to participate in the event by contributing their personal stories and photographs of Gaya Street. Stories and photographs can be emailed to bergaya2012@gmail.com, with full name and contact details included for accreditation purposes.

A collection dropbox with an on-location photocopier machine will be set up specifically for public contribution purposes at Kedai Kopi Sen Chong Wah on Gaya Street. The dropbox will be open from 11.30am to 6pm, Monday to Sunday.

Continue reading at: Gaya Street to hold City Day heritage exhibition
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Travels in Borneo, the land of the orang-utan

IT was somewhere between a refreshing beer and just before the drum beats of Canadian band Iskwew that I looked around and realised how at home I was in a remote cultural village in the middle of Borneo.

It was the three-day Rainforest World Music Festival - a tribal Big Day Out - that hooked me on Malaysia.

It only took an hour to drive from the bustling city of Kuching to the Sarawak Cultural Village where the festival was in full swing with music workshops, sizzling food stalls and performers tuning up.

We stayed at the Kuching Hilton, an imposing hotel of 315 guest rooms perched on the Sarawak River.

The city was laid at our feet and we could explore the waterfront, pose with the city’s bizarre giant cat statues and brush up on local history in the Sarawak Museum.

A leisurely 275km journey, with stops at rubber, cocoa and pepper farms and a short boat ride, took us to the Batang Ai Longhouse Resort, managed by Hilton, its only jungle property.

Its 11 accommodation blocks are based on traditional Borneo longhouses.

Tours upstream the Ulu Air river in motorised longboats led us to the start of a humid but memorable trek under the rainforest canopy of the Batang Ai National Park, home to protected wildlife like orang-utans, hornbills and gibbons.

We were on the lookout for the notoriously shy ‘rangas’, but the only sign of them was their droppings in the middle of our track. Still, it was nice to know they were there, high up in the trees, watching us.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Travels in Borneo, the land of the orang-utan
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KLIA-Sandakan Direct Flights To Resume Feb 18

Direct flights between Sandakan and Kuala Lumpur are expected to resume on Feb 18.

According to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, the move would bring the frequency of direct flights between KL International Airport (KLIA) main terminal and Sandakan to 11 times weekly.

The statement was issued after a meeting between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Malaysia Airlines senior management to discuss various issues relating to the operations of the national carrier, including moves affecting consumers in Sabah and Sarawak.

"Among the issues discussed was the reintroduction of direct flights between Sandakan and Kuala Lumpur in recognition of existing and growing demand for premium direct full service connectivity between Sandakan and KLIA main terminal," the statement said.

Sandakan, on the east coast of Sabah, is the state's second largest city.

Continue reading at: KLIA-Sandakan Direct Flights To Resume Feb 18
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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rhino breeding facility urgently needed in Borneo

TABIN: There is now an urgent need to establish the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary (BRS) breeding facility.

The facility, expected to cost around RM8 million is needed badly, and while the government has agreed to its establishment in 2008, it has not been built yet, Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) Executive Director Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne said this to reporters visiting the interim facility on Thursday.

“I hope the capture of Puntung would prompt the government of Malaysia with renewed interest because we are in need of this proper long term breeding facility,” said Payne.

Puntung is a young Sumatran rhino that was captured on December 18, 2011, within the reserve itself and was moved to the interim facility next to the sole male rhino in captive, Tam, on Dec 25, last year.

“A tentative estimate of her age is 10 to 12 years old. She is feeding well and putting on weight,” he said.

Payne added that the capture of Puntung haD raised their hopes for survival of the species.

“What I can say at this stage is that we have a potentially fertile male, Tam, and a potentially fertile female, Puntung. So we are now presented with a potential that wasn’t there before, several years ago. If nothing else, it gives us something like the confidence element, not only for BORA but also the government, and that is something worth pursuing,” said Payne.

Without the facilities established, mating for Puntung and the sole male captive rhino on site, Tam, would have to take place in a small paddock between the night stall and the forest paddock, which Payne described, as tiny and not ideal.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Rhino breeding facility urgently needed in Borneo
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Friday, January 13, 2012

Sabah Air told to start with chartered flights

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Air can start with chartered flights or engage strategic partners prior to running a full-fledged airline due to the complexity involved.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun suggested that Sabah Air should begin with chartered flights as it was an easier alternative to get the feel on how to run an airline.

His second suggestion, that is to engage strategic partners, will allow the company to run the airline with people with expertise.

Masidi was commenting on Sabah Air chairman Datuk Yusoff Mohd Kasim’s recent announcement that Sabah Air was looking at serving regional routes such as to Korea, Japan and Australia.

“Although it is a good concept, the process is complicated, starting with buying or leasing an aircraft.

“Buying an aircraft is not easy because there are only a few manufacturers in the world – Airbus and Boeing, and the waiting period is five years,” he said in an interview after officiating at a book launch here yesterday.

In addition, he said most leased aircraft were used ones.

Masidi also cautioned Sabah Air that there were more airlines losing money than making a profit worldwide.

For instance, airlines who do make money include Singapore Airlines while those expanding at a very fast rate are Middle Eastern companies such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad Airways, he said.

The minister meanwhile welcomed Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to have another discussion and find a better solution rather than cutting routes.

“I believe tentatively that they have read all the comments in the paper and they are disturbed with the reaction from Sabahans.

Continue reading at: Sabah Air told to start with chartered flights
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Tourism accreditation scheme will boost industry in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry has encouraged owners of business premises especially those related to tourism to participate in the Accreditation Scheme introduced to boost tourism in Sabah.

Sabah Tourism Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the scheme would evaluate participating tourism players on the quality of their services and products.

“The ministry is very comfortable with the programme which will value-add the services and types of businesses that can be offered to tourists.

“The displayed certificate will draw tourists to the premises as they could expect better service and reasonably-priced items,” he said to reporters at Sinsuran, here yesterday after launching the ‘Fair Trade Tourism Select – An Accredited Outlet’ and ‘Kadaiku’ (‘my shop’ in local dialect) owned by Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd and incidentally the first outlet to be accredited.

Meanwhile, Kota Kinabalu mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir said accredited business premises would be presented with a ‘Fair Trade Tourism Select’ sticker that is valid for one year.

Continue reading at: Tourism accreditation scheme will boost industry in Sabah
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012 Borneo Jazz Festival: Musicians to come up with local jazz music

KUCHING: Sarawak can produce its own style of jazz music and present it to the world, says Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He thus challenged all jazz musicians here to compose a unique blend of jazz music by fusing it with the sound of the local multi-indigenous music scene.

“We have the capacity to do so. While it is good to hear foreign bands playing jazz music here we too need to present our own blend of jazz music to the world,” he told a press conference about the upcoming 2012 Borneo Jazz festival to be held at ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri from May 11-12.

The two-day show is organised by Sarawak Tourism Board Leisure and Properties, a subsidiary of STB and Tourism Ministry.

Abang Johari, who is also Housing Minister, said that for a start, jazz musicians might have to prove their talent before they could be selected to present the state at any level.

“We have personalities such as Bob, Hafiz and many others who have competed in the Akademi Fanstasia and who can contribute to the local music scene,” he added.

On Miri as the venue of the jazz festival, the minister said Miri was an ideal venue in keeping with its status as a resort city and its natural ambience by the sea.

“Also, Miri straddles Sabah and Brunei which have a sizeable number of expatriate populations who love jazz music.”

Meanwhile, STB chief executive officer Datuk Rahsid Khan said the (jazz) festival would be able to create an economic spin off to the tune of RM15 million to the local economy this year..

“It generated an income of RM13 million last year and we hope to record more this year,” he added.

Continue reading at: 2012 Borneo Jazz Festival: Musicians to come up with local jazz music
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Tawau to hold international cultural festival

TAWAU: The second Tawau International Cultural Festival is expected to attract between 50,000 to 70,000 visitors, and tourist and tourism players are called to play their role and promote the many places of interest in the district.

Tawau Municipal Council (TMC) president Datuk Ismail Mayakob when confirming the festival date on February 11, said this year’s festival would showcase the traditional wedding ceremony of each ethnic group apart from their unique traditional dance that would be performed by the villagers themselves and not by performers.

“There are a lot of changes this year and 25 ethnic groups have already confirmed their participation,” he said at a press conference yesterday.

Ismail said apart from the many ethnic groups in Tawau, Johore Bahru and Sarawak had also confirmed their participation, while Indonesia and Brunei had given a positive response to the invitation,” he said.

He said in the morning, there would be a showcase and sales of traditional food and the highlights would be at night in front of the TMC building.

Continue reading at: Tawau to hold international cultural festival
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Status of Borneo pygmy elephant upgraded

KOTA KINABALU: The status of Sabah’s Bornean pygmy elephant will be upgraded to Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Totally Protected Animals under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 of the State.

Speaking during the closing ceremony of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloquium 2012 held at the Le Meridien here yesterday, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said his ministry had decided to upgrade the status of the species which is presently protected under Part 1 Schedule 2 of the same enactment.

The status upgrade was part of the objectives in the Sabah Elephant Action Plan 2012-2016, he said.

Masidi said that with the upgrade, the issue of the ‘no kill for elephant’ will not arise anymore.

“If you kill, you will go to jail. There is a requirement of a jail sentence. The penalty requires a jail sentence of between six months and five years,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said that in the species present status, the penalty for killing an elephant is a fine of RM30,000 and/or imprisonment of three years.

He said that they had prosecuted a lot of cases involving the killing of elephants in Sabah.

However, he did not have the figure on hand.

He also said that prosecution was difficult as they needed concrete evidence before they could prosecute someone.

“Very often, they are not (prosecuted) and they get away scot-free. Evidence is hard to find,” he said.

Continue reading at: Status of Borneo pygmy elephant upgraded
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Unique Borneo trip aims to protect little known Sun Bear

The label reads, "Please look after this bear. Thank you." It worked for Paddington but can it work for the Sun Bear of Borneo?

You may not have heard of the Sun Bear. They are the smallest of all species of bear, they like to live in trees, and yes, they do eat honey. Their existence is being threatened by loss of habitat through deforestation, poaching and uses in Asian medicine.

So, some people in Borneo have said enough is enough. In 2008, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) was born. In August 2012, Kevin Albin who runs a trekking and expedition company, Let Loose with Adventure, will be leading a group to work at the Centre to continue this work.

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre was created by a group of people who wanted to help the bears including Siew Te Wong who has been studying them for a number of years. The Centre aims to provide care, rehabilitation and release of orphaned and captive sun bears as well as addressing the lack of knowledge and awareness.

They are getting ready to open to the public by building public access into the forest such as walk ways and observation platforms.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Unique Borneo trip aims to protect little known Sun Bear
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cruise Ships Spur Sarawak's Tourism

KUCHING -- The MV Orion II (Orion Expedition Cruises) from Australia, which is on its 10-night "Borneo-Rajahs, Riches & Rainforests" cruise, heralded the start of the 2012 season for cruise arrivals to Sarawak.

Maurice Balang, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) regional marketing manager for United Kingdom and Europe, said today that the ship, which sailed from Singapore, brought 100 passengers and 70 crew members to Sarawak, entering the Sim Kheng Hong Port in Pending here on Jan 2, via Bako National Park to Kuching.

"We welcome these cruises and look forward to more of such arrivals this year. This is definitely a very good start to the New Year," he said, adding that MV Orion II would then later sail to Pontianak in Kalimantan, cruising via Gunung Palung up to Tanjung Puting - Camp Leakey, Benoa in Kalimantan.

The passengers -- mostly from Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Indonesia, New Zealand and United States -- were welcomed on arrival in traditional Sarawak style by 10 members of a cultural troupe courtesy of STB, and took the opportunity to visit the orang utan in Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and tour Kuching city attractions, he said.

Continue reading at: Cruise Ships Spur Sarawak's Tourism
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Sabah losing flagship wildlife species

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is losing her flagship species, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

According to him, there are now less than 11,000 orangutans, 6,000 proboscis monkeys, 2,000 elephants, 500 bantengs and 40 rhinos in Sabah.

On the other hand, the human population in the State is increasing.

“We are 3.2 million today in Sabah. In 2025, it is predicted that we will be 4.2 million, an increase of 30 percent. I don’t want to think that at the same time we will have a decrease of 30 percent in our wild populations: 7,700 orangutans, 4,200 proboscis monkeys, 1,400 elephants, 350 bantengs and 28 rhinos,” he said at the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloquium 2012 yesterday.

Masidi also expressed his disgust over the killing of 5,000 kilograms of pangolins that were smuggled out of Sabah last month.

He added that he had instructed his permanent secretary to conduct an immediate probe on the issue and said that poaching was a big problem.

Continue reading at: Sabah losing flagship wildlife species
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Govt opts for foreign airlines to serve Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said with or without Malaysia Airlines (MAS), the state government will continue to talk to other airlines since Sabah will lose several direct flights to international destinations.

He said the state government had several high level talks with MAS, with one involving Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

“MAS have expressed commitment to look into our request but they have also stated that they cannot turn back on their decision… meaning to say we are definitely going to lose these direct flights.

“I think we should look into long-term and not short-term solutions. I am aware of their financial problem and I know they have serious financial problem, but at the same time I believe cutting down the air routes is not the only answer,” he said to reporters after representing Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman at the launching of Suria Sabah shopping mall here yesterday.

Masidi added the airline’s recent decision to suspend the routes servicing the Eastern Hub would only temporarily solve the problem facing MAS, but promoting Osaka, Haneda, Seoul and Perth with direct stop-overs at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) would certainly help the airline even for the medium term.

Continue reading at: Govt opts for foreign airlines to serve Sabah
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Sanctuary for displaced elephants, other wildlife in Sabah soon

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) is in the process of establishing a Borneo Pygmy Elephant Sanctuary at Lot 8, Kinabatangan.

Sabah Wildlife director Dr Laurentius Ambu told press members yesterday after the opening of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloqium 2012 that the 2,000-hectare sanctuary would be used to house displaced elephants and other wildlife.

The sanctuary has received an initial funding of RM5 million from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) and RM1.5 million from a Japanese non-governmental organisation.

He said that the establishment of the sanctuary is crucial as 60 per cent of elephants in Sabah are located outside of protected areas and presently, some 60 to 100 elephants are waiting to be rescued at the Kalabakan and Tingkayu areas.

He added that the sanctuary will begin operation sometime this year.

Continue reading at: Sanctuary for displaced elephants, other wildlife in Sabah soon
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Monday, January 09, 2012

Extra MAS flights for coming CNY exodus welcomed

SIBU: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will be mounting 14 extra flights for the KL/Sibu route and vice-versa, starting next week to ease the heavy bookings for Lunar New Year season.

According to the managing director of Equitorial Tours and Travel Sdn Bhd Robert Tan, this was a piece of good news for people returning to Sibu for the Chinese New Year (CNY) celebration.

“The load is very heavy in the run up to the Chinese community’s most important celebration. And MAS mounting additional flights will certainly do wonders to ease the heavy bookings and ensure that people reach home in time to spend the celebration with their families,” Tan told The Borneo Post when asked on air ticket bookings for the coming CNY.

However, he lamented that with the increased load triggered by the surging demand, the airfares are coming with a higher price tag.

“Starting next week, the fare for KL/Sibu (one-way) will cost about RM500 and the load is extremely high between Jan 19 and 21. The fare is priced as high as RM700 one-way during the peak period,” said Tan, who has 39 years of experience as a travel agent.

He pointed out that even the airfare for the low cost carrier costs about RM400 one-way.

He figured that the void left by FireFly (FF), which stopped flying the route on Dec 4 last year, was gradually being monopolised by AirAsia.

The drawback, said Tan, is that MAS has only one flight to KL, which is in the morning for now.

He recalled that initially when MAS resumed its service in December last year, they mounted two flights daily.

“But they have since reduced to a flight daily, and this may cause hassle to international bound travellers, who are on connecting flights,” he moaned.

Continue reading at: Extra MAS flights for coming CNY exodus welcomed
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Sunday, January 08, 2012

A deer tale in Borneo

IN recent weeks, I have seen two species of European deer: the artifi cial ones decorating shopping malls in Malaysia, Singapore and the UK with their glittering lights towing Santa’s sleigh, as well as two live deer in the fields beyond my house in South West England.

The Santa sleigh deer – reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) – is native to Northern Eurasia and North America.

Today, the Lapps in North Western Europe and the Tungus and Yakut peoples in Northern Siberia breed reindeer.

A herd has even survived in the Cairngorm Mountains in Scotland for over 40 years.

In the fi elds of a deep valley beyond my house, when taking two Chinese visitors on a ramble with my dog, we saw red deer (Cervus elaphus).

The red deer migrated to Britain from the European continent 11,000 years ago, when the English Channel was covered in ice near the end of the Pleistocene Ice Ages.

Carbon 14 dating has accurately identified the age of their antlers and long past lives in the UK.

The red deer now lives, in herds, in my nearest National Park on Exmoor, in valley woodlands and on the high exposed moors.

I know of one particular valley where I can guarantee my house visitors a view of 10 to 15 deer at almost any time and, during the rutting (mating) season, the sight of a magnificent stag with his huge, branching antlers held proudly aloft.

Photo shoots abound.

Having seen deer in public parks in China, my friends enquired about the species of deer I had observed in Asia.

Apart from the Shika deer – messengers from the gods – of Nara Park at Japan’s first national capital in Western Honshu, where the deer are tame, my encounters with wild deer have always been in East Malaysia.

The Bornean deer are all classified in the Cites lists as vulnerable verging on endangered species.

All deer are ungulates (hoof shaped animals) of the species Cervidae.

Muddy slightly crescent shaped imprints abound on paths and the sides of riverbanks.

Most deer have a facial gland set either in front of their eyes or beneath their chins, which secrete a strongly scented pheromone (a chemical to infl uence another animal’s behaviour) and this it does to excellent effect in the mating season to deter other deer from its territory.

(No wonder my dog has to be bathed at that time of the year when she comes back stinking of strong odours after rolling in a bed of reeds.) Interestingly in many classical paintings of deer, a teardrop seems to emerge from a deer’s eye – a sad-looking deer.

What the painter has not realised is that the deer is in love.

All deer are uni-parental, in that, after birth, it is the mother deer (doe) that cares for the offspring, whilst the stag disappears until he emerges, perhaps amongst other herds, to fi ght with opposing stags over his right to sire.

The Bornean yellow muntjac (Muntiacus atherodes) only occurs here and can be seen in the lowland areas of Gunung Gading, Lundu and near Bintulu as well as in the Mulu and Niah National Parks in Sarawak.

I have also seen them at the Danum Valley Conservation Area, alongside the River Danum in Sabah.

They are often referred to as barking deer, for they communicate with dog-like yelps, and are even considered a relic species of deer.

With antlers only seven centimetres long and a shoulder height of 50 centimetres, they are confi ned to moist forest areas alongside riverbanks and are easy game for poachers as they live essentially on herbs, grasses and seeds.

These are a subspecies of the Bornean red muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), which is more evident in the Danum Valley.

Both species of deer are diurnal in their habits.

The mouse deer of Borneo is the tiniest of all deer, yet it is the one most mentioned in Malaysian folklore as a shy and timid creature, which always gets the better of bigger and stronger animals (apart from human poachers) through its superb cunning in order to survive.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: A deer tale in Borneo
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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Book Review: Colourful guide to Borneo

PHOTOGRAPHS in Enchanting Borneo, a colourful book by travel writer David Bowden, are beautiful enough to enchant one to plan a trip to the world's biggest island, Borneo.

Though it is not written like a typical travel guide book, it is handy for those making a trip there soon.

The 80-page glossy book is visually-driven and packed with basic information and interesting facts that will guide you on your destination.

The colourful travel photo book also makes a well-informed guide for those who wants to know more about the richness and diversity of Borneo.

The first chapter is an overview of Borneo where Bowden touches on the geography, history, people, the uniqueness of the habitats, plants and animals, as well as the adventures and lifestyle.

Borneo is home to a rich profusion of flora and fauna. With such a wild landscape, it's not surprising that it offers tourist a wealth of thrilling adventures like climbing the world's highest “via ferrata” on Mount Kinabalu, white-water rafting on a raging jungle river and even water skiing around the Borneo coastline.

Borneo is an unrivalled destination for adventurous eco-travellers.

Major parts of the book dissects all four places — Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesian Kalimantan — in four individual chapters.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Book Review: Colourful guide to Borneo
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