FOR several years, a small group of concerned Mirians have been lobbying to turn a small part of Piasau peninsula into a bird park before some bird species are gone forever in northern Sarawak.
Not because sailors are taking heads of the birds home as souvenirs but because development is zeroing in on prime land in Miri and Piasau Camp is considered one of the best sites for a glorious concrete jungle of the future.
Piasau Camp has been one of the green lungs of Miri and also a wind-breaker which protects the Resort City and Lutong from strong sea winds.
Any tsunami or oceanic surge will be blocked by this stretch of tree-lined peninsula. Miri city, less than 400M from the South China Sea, and the Miri River, must be protected from such storms.
There were ancient tales that the Bakam-Luak region was once washed away by a great wave — not unlike a tsunami — according to a conservationist Yusuf who is now working in Central Asia.
He is knowledgeable in offshore drilling and the geological structures of Borneo Island.
From a young age, he discovered from stories told by his grandfather why the Mirieks never built their houses along the seafront. The waves must have caused Sungei Lusut to split into two. Today, Miri has Sungei Lusut and Sungei Lusut Putus.
According to Yusof, the high ground of Sungei Rait has a strong straight cliff, facing the sea.
That probably represents the end of the waves as his grandfather must have narrated.
A cliff was then formed, leaving a long platform, which is now land, many metres towards Luak Bay.
Yusuf believes no houses should be built along the shoreline from the southern end of Luak in Sibuti, right up to Batu Satu in Lutong. Trees and other natural greens must be allowed to front the shoreline even if they are to only form a kind of windbreak.
Malaysia is only slowly waking up to having bird parks. There is a small one in KLIA to showcase a few birds.
On the other hand, the largest in the world, in fact just next door to Malaysia, is the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore, now in its 40th year.
Mirians are now facing a challenging time where birds are concerned. There have been sightings of some 100 birds of all colours and sizes at Piasau Camp and the surrounding Lambir, Baram River Mouth by members of the Malaysian Nature Society, Miri branch.
A pair of Oriental Pied Hornbill with two chicks have won the heart of Mirians. A small band of bird watchers have written some articles, a few blogs have been started and some facebook groups have gathered enough followers to even get politicians and local leaders involved.
Two recent Walk in the Park events attracted some 500 Mirians and expatriates to save the Piasau Bird Park.
The Oriental Pied Hornbill (OPH — anthracoceros albirostris) is a species in the Bucerotidae family. Its diet includes wild fruits (especially figs) and rambutans along with small reptiles such as lizards and frogs, and larger insects.
Piasau Camp has all the sustenance in its natural state for hornbills and other birds.
Save Piasau OPH is a vibrant Facebook Group supporting a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills and their new nesting at Piasau Camp.
The OPHs are often seen sitting on tree branches and sometimes resting on very low shrubs about three feet tall. They seem to be fairly used to humans — unlike their brethren in the jungles. They are often seen resting on tall fences of the PBC tennis courts.
The objective for the Save Piasau OPH campaign is first and foremost to highlight the issue of the destruction of habitat and potential displacement of the OPH family from the Piasau area.
“With that, we also hope to raise the community’s awareness level about hornbills in our midst or this emblematic bird of Sarawak may be found elsewhere other than the Land of Hornbills,” Yusof said.