Thursday, February 28, 2013

10 rescued elephants translocated to Tabin Wildlife Reserve

KOTA KINABALU: The Wildlife Rescue Unit from the Sabah Wildlife Department rescued 10 elephants in Lahad Datu from January 18 to 25, this year.

The animals had ventured more than 45km from their original range, the Tabin managed elephant range, and were found only 10km from Lahad Datu town.

Senior officer of the Wildlife Rescue Unit, Jibius Dausip, said they received a call from a man from Sri Tungku Simpang Ladang Permai near Lahad Datu, complaining that elephants were roaming near his house.

“Our team was dispatched to the location and we found 10 individuals together, nine females of various ages and one young male of about four years old. It was most likely a family group that ventured far away from its range,” said Dausip.

Dr Diana Ramirez, wildlife veterinarian from Wildlife Rescue Unit and Danau Girang Field Centre, said in less than eight days, they darted and secured every individual of the family group.

“We then translocated all the females back to Tabin Wildlife Reserve after collaring the two biggest females with satellite units provided by Danau Girang Field Centre,” she said.

Ramirez added the young male suffered a severe injury to its trunk probably from a snare trap.

“Without captive intervention it would have minimum chances of survival in the wild, and we decided to transfer him to Low Kawi Wildlife Park,” she said.

Dr Senthilvel Nathan, senior wildlife officer and Wildlife Rescue Unit manager, pointed out it was impossible to translocate and release the whole group in one day for obvious logistics reasons.

“Bikang 1 was translocated on January 20 and Bikang 2 on January 23 and the other individuals around those dates. After one month, the two females have not met up yet. We are currently studying the possibility of releasing future translocated herds together to prevent the herd from separating.

“That might cost more and it would be logistically more challenging because we would need to set up a pre-release holding area and renting more transporting lorries. But our main concern is the elephants’ welfare and keep the group dynamic intact,” said Nathan.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said extensive agriculture through plantations such as palm oil had considerably reduced the habitat of the elephant and other wildlife in Sabah, therefore increasing human-elephant conflicts.

He said the recent death of 14 elephants was most likely a result of human-elephant conflict in elephant ranges and there was an obvious need to better manage the landscape within and around the plantations, by providing routes for wildlife to move from one forest to another.

“After one month of satellite monitoring, we can confirm that the two females have been exploring the reserve and have not (yet) ventured in plantations around Tabin. If they ever return in the vicinity of Lahad Datu, we will be able to analyse their migratory pattern and advise the plantation owners on how to fence their land to avoid any more intrusion.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sabah's pygmy elephant probe bogged down by red tape

KOTA KINABALU: A probe into the death of 14 Bornean pygmy elephants is being bogged down by international procedures.

Samples taken from the elephants that were believed to have been poisoned were supposed to be sent to Thailand and Australia for analysis but state authorities are awaiting the green light from international bodies, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

“We need to deal with procedures before we can have the samples sent overseas for testing,” said state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Man­­-jun.

Authorities here had decided to send the samples to Thailand’s Mahidol University poison centre and the Queensland Depart­ment of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry in Australia as part of the probe into the cause of deaths.

“I was told that we have the nod to send the samples to Thailand and we are doing this now but we are still waiting for approval to send the samples to Australia,” he said.

The 14 elephants were found dead at the Gunung Rara forest reserve, about 139km from the east coast district of Tawau last month.

A three-week-old male calf is the sole survivor of the herd and is being kept at the Lok Kawi zoo.


Sarawak national parks to have modern canteens, info centres and shops

KUCHING: The Bako, Semenggoh and Lambir national parks will be upgraded to provide better facilities for visitors.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the parks would be equipped with modern canteens, information centres and souvenir shops.

“The rooms and accommodation will also be upgraded,” he told a press conference after chairing a briefing with state tourism industry players here yesterday.

He noted that some of the facilities at the national parks were not up to the mark.

For instance, he said there was no souvenir shop at Semenggoh where visitors could buy orang utan-themed handicrafts and items like key chains.

Besides upgrading the national parks, Johari said other infrastructure development projects would also be implemented to boost the tourism sector.

He said these included a study on establishing a heritage zone in the old city centre and providing good infrastructure along the Sarawak River to optimise its beauty and attraction.

In addition, he said a study was being done on developing a tourism belt from the Santubong and Bako peninsula to Teluk Melano in Sematan.

“This development will take 10 to 15 years. It will include modern accommodation and tourism infrastructure but will be planned with our national parks in mind.

“It will become our thrust in ecotourism promotion. What we want to do is to give a certain level of comfort to our tourists in accommodation, planned on ecotourism,” he said.


Turning Sarawak River into major tourist attraction

KUCHING: The Ministry of Tourism will allocate RM35 million to spruce up the Sarawak River and beautify its riverbanks stretching from the Waterfront up to BCCK.

This is part of the ministry’s three-year tourism development plan which emphasises enhancing infrastructure in Kuching and Miri, the two gateways into the state.

This was disclosed by Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg at a dialogue with tourism industry players at a leading hotel here yesterday,

With the ‘Open Sky Policy’ to be implemented in 2015, Abang Johari stressed that his ministry must tailor their plans for the industry to fully benefit from the policy.

With the three-year plan and the lead time to the open sky policy, he hoped tourism industry players, especially tour operators, would have enough time to plan their business to attract tourists from all over the world.

“The focus will be given to Sarawak River because we want to utilise our river for more activities,” the minister said citing the success of the Melaka River project as a good model to follow.

Abang Johari who is also the Minister of Housing said: “The ministry will also look into redeveloping the Malay villages along the riverbanks at the same time.”

The Sarawak river development plan will include a pedestrian bridge across the river and setting up of water taxi service to turn the waterway into a main attraction for Kuching city.

Abang Johari said the ministry would also look into developing the Heritage Trail and make the city centre more friendly for pedestrians.

The plan will improve facilities at national parks and information centres to provide better accessibility and information for visitors.

“We have identified three national parks namely Semengok, Bako and Lambir in Miri,” Abang Johari said.

On tourist guides, the minister said their knowledge must be broadened and improved.

“Our guides must be competent in telling the story of a place and our natural vegetation.”


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Conserving Borneo

The future of Borneo doesn't have to be a sad one, there are active organisations that work hard to protect Borneo's natural beauty.

Sepilok Orangutan sanctuary in Sabah has been rehabilitating orphaned and injured orangutans since 1964. Sepilok boasts 10,000 acres of protected virgin forest to home the animals until they are ready to be returned back to the wild.

To the East coast of Borneo lies the Sulu sea. Sitting in between Borneo and the Philippines this section of water creates the 'turtle corridor', a regular thoroughfare for sea turtles. 9 islands in this stretch of sea make up, Turtle islands heritage protected area (TIHPA) and are host to a team of conservationists who work hard to ensure the safety of the turtles nesting sites.

One of the islands Pulau Selingan allows a strict number of guests to stay the night and visit the conservation head quarters. We both HAD to visit this place. We are lovers of turtles and tortoises and Laura struggled to keep her excitement under control for the 4 days leading up to it.

The day we went to Selingan we suffered a violent mood swing from the weather. In the tropics the weather is completely unpredictable. 35 degrees and catching a tan can quickly turn into, well, still 35 degrees but raining sideways. Arriving at the jetty in Sandakan city we were advised to get our coats on as we are going to get very wet.

The usually flat calm sea was a torrent of 7ft waves. Our 30ft open sided speed boat gave us a very rough ride and spent half of its time air-born trying to fly its way to the island. Incessant waves crashing against the boat soaking us from head to toe. After an hour in the washing machine we finally landed on Selingan.

This island from the beach looks completely deserted, no buildings, no lights, no sounds completely natural. The buildings are hidden behind the trees to not deter the turtles. In the centre of the island a small community of wooden structures stand to provide the space for the rangers to work. We are checked in, fed and allowed to go and relax on the beach.

After 40 minutes on the beach torrential rain hit and forced us to take refuge in our room.

From 6:30PM onwards no one is allowed on to the beach and we have to wait inside for a turtle to land. The turtles will wait until the sun has gone down and then start scouting the beach, any lights or sounds and they wont come. If she decides that the coast is clear the mother turtle will begin the laborious task of hauling her body up the sandy beach to lay her eggs. Once an adequate nesting spot has been found the turtle will dig a body pit with all 4 flippers, then she will use her rear flippers to dig an egg chamber.

At this point the ranger on the beach radioed to us to tell us it was "TURTLE TIME" and we made our way to the beach to watch the rangers work. If the turtle is disturbed before this time they will not lay their eggs and return to the sea. When the eggs start to come the turtle enters a trance like state and continues to push no matter what.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Conserving Borneo

The Wild Jungles of Borneo

Imagine yourself in the middle of the rainforest. An overhead canopy of thick tropical trees sways against a clear-blue sky. Droplets of moisture cascade down from leaf to leaf. The air is fresh and fragrant with tropical dew. The vegetation blooms in a thousand different techni-colors. And all around you, eyes are watching…eyes belonging to some of the most exotic species on Earth.

You’re on the island of Borneo, third-largest on Earth. An island so huge, in fact, that it’s part of three different countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.

Borneo is a giant living laboratory, a place where the wildlife and plant life hasn’t changed in thousands of years. The rainforests here have remained untouched by the Twenty-First Century.

In Kinabalu National Park alone there are more than 1,000 species of orchids, and some 300 species of birds. From shoreline mangroves to mountaintop forests of oak, Borneo’s varied environments provide habitats for animals such as the Sumatran rhinoceros, clouded leopard, Malaysian tiger, and monitor lizard. And its thick, deep-green forests provide some of the last habitats in the world for the rare proboscis monkey and the orangutan (which, in Malay, means “man of the forest.”)

Borneo has developed an infrastructure for observing its natural and animal habitats, but without disturbing them. For example, the dense forest features incredible aerial catwalks where one literally gets a bird’s-eye view of this still-primitive world. And well-marked trails lead to gorgeous waterfalls and natural swimming pools at which you’ll probably be the only visitor.  

Park rangers help guests explore Selingan “Turtle” Island, one of the most vital sea turtle conservation centers in Asia. Here, visitors can watch as turtles crawl out of the surf and lay their eggs.

At the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, guests can watch orphaned orangutans being taught skills that will allow them to successfully re-adapt to the wild. It’s a thrilling experience to hear the whooping of the apes as they approach, and to watch as they crash through the jungle treetops to feed at their eating platforms.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Wild Jungles of Borneo

Agnes Keith – A Hidden Treasure in the Land Below the Wind

Land below the Wind is a well known expression here in Sabah, Borneo and a often mentioned. Where does the expression come from? How come its so famous and who made it a such a well known expression?

Malaysia has many treasures and one of them we found is Agnes Keith. She was an American author and journalist who lived in Sabah, Borneo from the end of 1934 to the beginning of 1952.

We got curious and wanted to know more about this exciting woman who lived under a longer period in Borneo and made such an impact on people that she still is famous today.

How did she end up in Borneo?

Agnes Keith was born in Illinois, USA in july 1901. After meeting Henry Keith an Englishman (later known as Harry) and marrying him she followed him back to Borneo in 1934. Harry was Conservator of Forests and Director of Agriculture for the government of British North Borneo (now days known as Sabah) under the Chartered Company and was also Honorary Curator of the State Museum.

Their home in Sabah was in Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah. While Harry were away on his many trips and adventures all over Sabah Agnes started to write about her new land. She always kept a diary and could easily collect her notes.

The title of Agnes’ first book about the North Borneo (now known as Sabah), LAND BELOW THE WIND (1939), has become the unofficial motto of Sabah. The phrase was used by sailors to describe all the lands south of the typhoon belt, but Agnes Keith popularized the special connection of the phrase with Sabah, by applying it exclusively to North Borneo in her book.

She makes a vivid picture of the land she came to love. People, culture, adventures and her daily life gives us a picture of how life was here in Sabah back then.

It was followed by THREE CAME HOME (1947), which focused on hardships suffered in the Second World War, and was subsequently made into a Hollywood movie, and the third book was WHITE MAN RETURNS (1951), which tells of her life in Sandakan after the war.


Clouded leopard's death in Sarawak to be investigated

KUCHING: Sarawak's Forestry Department has ordered "a full and urgent investigation" into the killing of a rare and highly endangered clouded leopard in Saratok last week.

The department, in expressing its regret over the shooting of the leopard, said initial reports indicated the leopard had inadvertently wandered into the compound of a government agency.

A member of the public, who was unaware of the animal's totally protected status, shot it dead.

"I am deeply saddened by this incident," said its director and and the state's Controller of Wildlife Datuk Ali Yusop in a statement.

He said the incident served to remind the department of the need to redouble its efforts to educate the public on the importance and necessity of protecting endangered flora and fauna.

"I wish to reiterate to the public not to approach, catch or harm any unknown and non-threatening wild animal they may come across."

Clouded leopards, the largest cats in Borneo, are also found in India, southern China, mainland Southeast Asia and Sumatra.

Despite their wide range, they are thinly dispersed and their total population worldwide is estimated to be fewer than 10,000.

They get their name from the distinctive "clouds" on its coat -- ellipses partially edged in black, with the insides a darker colour than the background.

The clouded leopard has remarkable tree climbing abilities for such a large predator, (1.5m from the nose to the tip of the tail), which allows it to hunt in the rainforest canopy as well as on the ground.


Monday, February 25, 2013

In the cage of one of Borneo's big boys

JUST metres away, one of the largest male orang-utans in captivity is staring at me through the bars of his enclosure.

Aman appears to feign indifference but I've tumbled to his game.

When I look away, he pulls out his stick and tries to pick the lock of his cage, hands the size and colour of well-worn baseball mitts deftly manoeuvring his tool into place.

He's smart but, luckily for me, not quite smart enough to defeat a Lockwood.

And, really, I don't know what he's complaining about.

I'm the one in the cage, holding the scrubbing brush, covered in sweat from head to toe with the added ignominy of having to wear a surgical mask to make sure that I don't pass any of my human germs.

Meanwhile, he's sitting in his spacious, grassed enclosure, which I have just cleaned and strewn with papaya and bananas to lure him out, enjoying the mid-morning sun, and apparently considering a bit of break and enter.

Perhaps I should be more respectful. Aman is kind of a big deal in the orang-utan community.

In 2007, he became the first orang-utan to undergo cataract surgery, which became necessary after he ruined his eyes biting through an electrical cable.

Indeed, the big fella has been in the wars over the years - an attempt to eat some glue on one of his forays over the wall ended badly and his left index finger was bitten off by another orang-utan.

These days, he enjoys a life of comparative leisure however, surveying - with restored eyesight - his domain from atop a sturdily built climbing platform, from where he can look out over the Matang Wildlife Centre in southern Borneo.

Matang was to be my home for two weeks while I volunteered to clean up after orang-utans, sun bears, the slothful binturong and an array of smaller animals rescued from owners perhaps tired of their exotic pets, markets and defunct pet shops.

It was hot, sweaty work, in 30C-plus heat and 90 per cent humidity. Every day started with cleaning up animal dung; there was no respect - one of the orang-utans pretended to spit at me every time I walked past - and the afternoons involved sometimes back-breaking work.

And I'd paid for the honour!

I couldn't be happier.

Matang, about an hour west of Kuching in southern Borneo, was established in 1998 and is a rescue and rehabilitation centre for all protected wildlife within Sarawak.

Its main focus is orang-utans and the less well-known sun bear - a charismatic, cuddly little creature with a monumental thirst for honey - that has all but escaped the notice of wildlife researchers.

Since 2006, Matang has operated a volunteer program, allowing the public to stay for two to four weeks, helping with the care of the animals and the building and maintenance of the centre.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: In the cage of one of Borneo's big boys

Beautiful Borneo

Borneo provides plenty of eco-tourism opportunities for those travellers prepared to put the work in, this huge island is draped in red tape and protected areas that can make independent travel quite difficult and costly. The fragile environment is highly sensitive to the actions of humans and it is crucial to ensure that the money you spend is going in to the right pockets and is used to conserve its beauty.

The rainforest is Borneo; once covering the island entirely the rich land is home to many weird, wonderful, endangered and truly wild animals. It is the reason we are here and we were eager to get into it. We arranged a 3 day stay in the forest exploring by foot and by river. We slept in a tiny wooden hut just big enough for 2 beds and our bags, basic but dry. Our guide Mohammad had grown up in a small village on the edge of the jungle and had spent his life learning about the native flora and fauna and was eager to share that knowledge with us.

Borneo is home to the endemic Borneo pygmy elephant the smallest (relatively) elephant in the world. The elephants had migrated south which while unfortunately giving a zero chance of us seeing them did mean that we could use their trails that they have carved through the trees. Hiking through the forest was demanding. The canopy top provides shade from the sweltering sun but locks in all the moisture that makes the place so lush, 100% humidity and shin deep mud gives you an intense workout that is far more interesting than any gym.

Walking through the jungle you can appreciate the size of this wild landscape, it isn’t the best way to encounter the rare mammals as they will generally see you coming and give you a wide birth; We did however get acquainted with tiger leeches. The leeches sit on the leaves waiting for vibrations to tell them that some food is walking by. They then stand to attention reaching out to grab on to you as you walk past. Once they get hold of you they use their suckers on each end of its worm like body to crawl to somewhere soft and warm before they sink their teeth in and plump themselves with blood.

Typically, Laura was the first to come into contact with the monsters and with a hike stopping shriek "THERE IS ONE ON MY BOOT!" I wasn't far behind her with one dead set on getting to a particular warm area, luckily we evaded donating any blood.

Most of the other critters in the undergrowth were more submissive; Chunky millipedes curl up into concker sized balls, mud crabs bury themselves deep in the thick mud and bright multi coloured snakes miraculously disappear into the fallen foliage.

A lot of the animals in the forest are nocturnal which meant if we wanted to see as much as possible we had to go for a hike at night. At dark we left the light of camp and headed into the trees. The thick trees block out any light from the moon that might have helped navigate leaving the jungle floor pitch black; if your torch isn’t shining on it, you can’t see it.  The mud and leeches are still present creating quite an obstacle course through the trees in the dark. On our first night walk we saw... Nothing.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Beautiful Borneo

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Wallace and the Bornean Bay Cat

As part of our observations of the Alfred Russel Wallace Centenary, we have an extra felid this weekend, the Bornean Bay Cat (Catopuma [or Pardofelis] badia).

It’s one the world’s rarest species of cat (see the IUCN Red List), endemic to the island of Borneo, and known (as of 2007) from only 15 localities and 10 specimens (some of the localities are sight records or photos), mostly in the center and north of the island.

Jerry has noted them here at WEIT before (here and here). Wallace’s connection to the species is that he collected the holotype specimen in Sarawak, and sent it to the British Museum in 1856, where it was received by J.E. Gray (who was also a scientific acquaintance of Darwin).

Gray hoped to study further specimens before describing it, but having received none, he finally described it in 1874 (from the wonderful Wallace Online).

To my knowledge, Wallace made only one published statement about the Bay Cat.

In the second edition of Island Life (1892), he analyzed the mammalian fauna of Borneo and concluded that its fauna must have been derived by a land connection:

"Nearly a hundred and forty species of mammalia have been discovered in Borneo, and of these more than three-fourths are identical with those of the surrounding countries, and more than one half with those of the continent. Among these are two lemurs, nine civets, five cats, five deer, the tapir, the elephant, the rhinoceros, and many squirrels, an assemblage which could certainly only have reached the country by land."

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Wallace and the Bornean Bay Cat

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Calling for votes on Borneo Jazz, Rainforest World Music Festival T-shirt designs

KUCHING: The general public is welcomed to vote for their favourite T-shirt design in conjunction with the upcoming Borneo Jazz and Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF).

The T-Shirt Design exhibition started at Boulevard shopping mall yesterday and ends tomorrow. It is open for public voting from 10 am to 10pm.

It showcases the final selection of 52 T-shirts designed by students of LimKokWing Borneo campus and Mara Technology University (UiTM).

Those who vote stand a chance to win tickets to Borneo Jazz and RWMF this year.

The winning designer will get a maximum of 10 tickets to the respective music festivals, along with appreciation certificates.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), for the third consecutive year, is organising the event to enable international and local university students to showcase their creativities.

The winning designs will be produced as merchandise items for the two iconic music events.

The 8th Borneo Jazz will be held in Miri from May 10 to11, while the 16th RWMF will be held in Kuching from June 28 to 30.

Both festivals bring dazzling performances from across the globe, attracting more than 22,000 international and local festival-goers to Kuching for the RWMF and over 8,000 for Borneo Jazz in Miri last year.

STBs senior director Michael Sim, who represented its CEO Datuk Rashid Khan to officiate at the T-shirt Design Competition and Exhibition launching ceremony at Boulevard yesterday, said this year’s T-shirt design focused on promoting a greener world.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Sabah tourism industry not affected by Lahad Datu stand-off

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) Sabah has not received any cancellation of visit by foreign tourists from travel agents due to the current stand-off with intruders in Lahad Datu.

MATTA Sabah chairman KL Tan said the incident had not affected the tourism industry or recreation spots in Lahad Datu yet as the intrusion took place far from town.

However, he hoped that the government would resolve the issue as soon as possible as it was not a good publicity for Sabah.

He said that after a joint press conference with various business and industry-based non-profit organizations on this issue here yesterday.

Meanwhile, the people in the east coast of Sabah should not feel worried and fearful of the intrusion of an armed group of people from Sulu as the situation is under control by the security forces.

Commanding officer of the 516th regiment of the Territorial Army for east coast of Sabah, Brigadier General Tan Sri Liew Yun Fah, gave the assurance after visiting Lahad Datu on February 19.

Liew said he is happy to see Lahad Datu residents viewing this incident rationally and having confidence with the government and the security forces in handling the situation.

He said the people should always understand the role of the government, the police force and the military in ensuring the safety of the people and security of the country. Everyone should therefore keep their trust in the government and the security forces and not listen to rumours passed around by irresponsible parties through the various forms of communication channels.


Travel Guide to Miri, Sarawak

Miri City in Sarawak, Malaysia is an interesting and exciting tourist destination with plenty of nature attractions and adventures. You can found a variety of accommodations style, deluxe hotels to bed and breakfast. There are also a lot of bar, bistro and dance club around Miri city.

Travel to and Around Miri City

Miri is accessible by air, land and also water. There are regular air flights in and out of Miri Airports, offered by Air Asia, Mas from both within and outside Sarawak. There are also Express Bus services from other towns in Sarawak, the Sultanate of Brunei and neighbouring Sabah.

Miri is also accessible by Express Boat from Brunei and also Limbang.

Interesting Places around Miri
  • Miri Old town is a narrow warren of streets crammed with tiny shops selling a huge variety of goods.
  • Opposite the central bus station at Jalan Padang is a colourful native market...Tamu Muhibbah...selling a range of exotic fruits...vegetables...handicrafts and produce from upriver areas.
  • Taman Selera...on Brighton a popular food centre..fresh seafood and ideal location for the watching the sun setting on the horizon....with Miri Marina's unique seahorse lighthouse in the distance.
  • Want to know where your meal of fresh fish and seafood come from..head out to the Fish Market on Jalan Bendahara...where you can see the local fishermen landed their catch of the day.
  • Next to the fish market is the Tua Pek Kong Temple..dedicated to the deity.
  • The award-wining urban park complex...popular with the local for strolling...jogging or just chilling out is the Miri City Fan located at Jalan Kipas roundabout comprised of variety of theme..a Botanical Garden and an Islamic Garden and also a large Amphitheatre where concerts are frequently held.
  • Your Miri city sightseeing journey is not complete without visiting the Grand Old Lady the no 1 oil well...located on Canada Hill...a limestone ridge with an excellent view of Miri city and its surrounding areas.
  • The Petroleum Museum which is also located nearby provide an excellent history of oil and gas industry in Miri itself and also in Malaysia as a whole.
  • You can buy beautifully crafted ethnic arts and crafts at the Miri Handicraft Centre on Jalan Brooke....the Orang Ulu beadworks...woodcravings...the Penans Mats and basketry and also variety of textiles from around Sarawak.
  • The Saberkas Weekend Market located at Saberkas Commercial Centre on Pujut-Lutong road open on Friday evening until Saturday has a huge variety of goods on sale...from everyday household items to local handicrafts and jungle well as dozens of tempting food stalls.
  • With its superb red roof...elegant lotus design cannot miss the San Ching Tian Temple...the largest Taoist temple in Southeast Asia is located on Jalan Krokop 9. It's an impressive and atmospheric place to visit.
  • The Sikh Temple which is attractively located in the shade of a 100-year old angsana tree at Jalan Kubu is one of the two in Sarawak is also worth the visit.
  • The Taman Awam Miri located at Jalan Miri-Bintulu is a huge family park with children playground...botanical garden...jogging trails and an observation platform accessible by a wooden walkway.
  • Hawaii Beach is about 20 minute drive from Miri City, located at Kampong Bakam.
  • The Miri Crocodile Farm located at Kuala Baram, 24km from Miri City.
  • The Luak Bay Esplanade Bay, 11km south of Miri City.
  • The Gunung Mulu National Park.
  • Niah National Park and Archaeology Museum
  • Lambir Hill National Park
  • Loagan Bunut National Park

Deluxe Hotels, Beach Resort and Golf and Country Club

Continue reading at: Travel Guide to Miri, Sarawak

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sarawak video series by adventurer Ben Fogle launched

Sarawak Tourism has launched the first in a series of videos by adventurer Ben Fogle who is traveling through Sarawak. The first video to air on YouTube features Ben visiting one of Sarawak's natural wonders, the Gunung Gading National Park.

You can see Ben's travel tips in this video, including how to catch a glimpse of the rare and giant Rafflesia flower and how to navigate the waterfalls in the park. The Sarawak Travel YouTube channel will be updated over the coming weeks with follow-up reports from Ben as he makes his way around more of Sarawak's attractions.

The next in the series of films will premiere in a few days and will see Ben visiting with the orangutans at the Matang Wildlife Sanctuary.

Ben is a presenter, writer and adventurer. His achievements include racing 160 miles across the Sahara desert, rowing the Atlantic Ocean in 49 days and crossing Antarctica in a foot race to the South Pole. He is an ambassador for WWF, Medecins Sans Frontier and Tusk, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the President of the Campaign for National Parks.

Located in Malaysian Borneo, Sarawak offers unforgettable travel experiences. Visitors can see amazing wildlife, trek through the rainforest, swim and dive in crystal clear waters as well as enjoy superb local cuisine and accommodation.

Sarawak Tourism will be showing all eight of "Ben Fogle's Sarawak Adventures" so please check back at regularly to catch them all and see why, when it comes to Sarawak, "Adventure Lives Here!"

Source:Sarawak Tourism Blog

Possible to turn Kuching International Airport into a garden airport

KUCHING: Kuching International Airport (KIA) could be turned into a garden airport or an airport with beautiful greenery and landscape, similar to Singapore’s Changi International Airport.

In saying this, Assistant Minister of Community Services Datuk Peter Nansian added that was possible with cooperation and efforts from all quarters.

“When you talk about airports, people would usually think of concrete buildings and runways and the busy and congested environment within the terminals. Most people don’t associate airports with beautiful greenery and landscape,” he said at the launch of the Green Day – Trees For Tomorrow Programme at KIA arrival hall yesterday.

“However, when Malaysia Airports Berhad (MAB) and Malaysian Environmental Partnership (MyEP) decided to embark on this Green Day – Trees For Tomorrow Programme, we can say that KIA is not only associated with the development of infrastructure and economy but also its green environment,” he said.

“It could be like Changi, where trees are not only planted outside the building but also within the terminal to create the garden airport feel,” he added.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Journey to Save the Bornean Elephant (Part III)

Pilot project to manage multiple-use forest landscape in the works

KOTA KINABALU: The Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) with the support from relevant government department (i.e. Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD)) are in the midst of preparing a five to 10 years programme as a pilot project to manage multiple-use forest landscape and secure the Sabah Mega Biodiversity in Gunung Rara and Kalabakan.

Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) conservation and research head, Raymond Alfred said in a statement that under the programme, each plantation would be needed to establish their own wildlife conservation unit.

Among others, the programme aims to initiative a monitoring programme to assess the status of elephant population.

It also hopes to start the honorary wildlife warden programme as well as manage and restore degraded forests corridor, particularly those within the DaMaI (Danum Valley, Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon) corridor.

Additionally through the programme, they also hoped to initiative enforcement using MIST and provide mitigation training and management measures to reduce human – elephant conflicts, he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A Journey to Save the Bornean Elephant (Part III)

Also Read: A Journey to Save the Bornean Elephant (Part II)

Also Read: A Journey to Save the Bornean Elephant (Part I)


Lambir Hills National Park, Miri, Sarawak, Borneo

I’ve climbs quite a lot of mounts in Kuching, like the Santubong, Matang, Sentah, Gading, Singai, and etc. Some of the mount was really challenging when going up to the summit, but non of the mounts are as tough as the Lambir Mount. By far that’s the toughest one I’ve ever climb!!!

When we go hiking on mountain trails, normally its just ascend, then descend. But if your at Lambir, its not consistent, you may ascend at start, then descend until the foot hill, then have to ascend again. Just when we tough its flat trail ahead, it surprise us with some hidden trails, some rope climb, some river crossing, or ascend a steep and long trail.

I was at Lambir Hills National Park on the start of Feb 2013, that’s just when my long Chinese New Year Holiday started. It’s a place that I always want to visit, so I asked my younger brother “Jye” to come along. He likes jungle trekking like me, so both of us make the perfect team.

We started our journey at around 7.15AM from Miri town, and it took us nearly ½ hour drive to reach the Lambir National Park. We paid RM10 each for the entrance fees, and off we go. Here I would like to highlight about the entrance, there are two. One it’s at the back of the hostel (1.5 KM to a checkpoint), and another one it’s at the main entrance at the front of the park HQ (2.2 KM to the same checkpoint).

The differences are 0.7 KM, but this can save you a roughly one hour of very tough walking distant. My brother and I don’t know about the short route, so we just ascend by using the main entrance.

Upon entering, we’re welcome by a bridge, which link us to the other side of the hill. At first it was still an enjoyable walk, I lead and my brother follow. At the Lambir park, there are 7 - 8 recorded waterfall. Along the way there are also lots of small waterfalls which are not recorded in the map.

Then we reach a suspension bridge, and just not far from the suspension bridge we reach the first waterfall. We stop by for a while to take some photos and video, our goal is to reach the Lambir Mount summit. So off we go after a short break.

Along the way, we encounter two waterfall, they have no names. On the map they only marks as Waterfall 1, and Waterfall 2.

 After that, we need to hike up on the concrete staircase, and then we reach another waterfall. There are no signboard on it, so not sure what is the name. Then, we pass the famous Latak Waterfall, to save time, we did not visit Latak waterfall. I told Jye that we just come back next time for this waterfall.

The Latak waterfall it’s the most visited waterfall in Lambir Park here, the water is clear, and cozy I can see why people like it here.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Lambir Hills National Park, Miri, Sarawak, Borneo

Desa Dairy Farm, Mesilau - New Zealand in Malaysia?

It is 30 minutes drive from Mt.Kinabalu National Park and the largest farm in Sabah with an area of 199 hectares.

The road into the dairy farmis not paved. The slow drive on the dirt road can be a tad frustrating but not for so long.

I was greeted with a spectacular view of rolling green meadows that stretch as far as to the foothills of the majestic mountain.

Every step I made or every angle I looked at, the view was constantly awe-inspiring. For a while, I though I was in New Zealand instead of Malaysia!

Apart from the magnificent scenery, visitors can also observed the milking process.

Guided tour can be arranged before hand, otherwise visitors can only observed the milking process without any assistance.

The farm is open daily from 8am to 5pm. The best time to visit the farm is around 2:30pm as milking session starts at 3pm daily.

There, you can see all the cows are lining up waiting for milking, without any guide needed as if they knew what to do. Cool! ??

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Desa Dairy Farm, Mesilau - New Zealand in Malaysia?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Journey to Save the Bornean Elephant (Part II)

Elephants are very suspicious creatures and that they can smell danger

KOTA KINABALU: The death of the 14 Borneo Pygmy Elephants within the duration of two months in forest in Sabah could be due to poisoning.

Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) conservation and research head, Raymond Alfred, in a statement yesterday opined that the poisoning could have been due to cyanide or sulphur contamination in their food sources.

“Traces of cyanide could be traced in certain pesticides that are being used to increase the growth of young oil palm trees. Whereas sulphur is normally used by local hunters or Indonesian workers hunting wild boars (bearded pig) at the edge of plantations which is sited adjacent to the forest,” he said.

He added however that no concrete evidence have been gathered to show that the elephants were poisoned by the plantation during their encroachment or presence along the Ulu Sg. Napagon and Imbok Rivers.

The following map 1 shows the historical movement of the elephants in key elephant managed ranges in Sabah.

“And there is also no concrete evidence showing that the logging contractors were using high amount of pesticides to kill the elephants at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, although one white substances was found within the vicinity where the elephant corpses were found. There were onlyfour plantations and one logging contractor camp sited within the elephant ranging in Gunung Rara Forest Reserve,” he said.

Raymond also emphasized that he was unsure if the 14 elephants found dead in Gunung Rara and Ulu Segama Malua Forest Reserve from Dec 29, 2012 to Jan 31, 2013, were killed intentionally.

He explained that elephants were very suspicious creatures and that they can smell danger if someone tried to poison them.

“So the key management measures now were not to blame any industries or group or people,” he said.

He also added that a similar incident has occurred in Sumatra.

In his statement, Raymond also explained that the reasons why the elephants encroached into the plantations sited within the Gunung Rara and Kalabakan Forest Reserve were to gain access to water source and saltlick.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A Journey to Save the Bornean Elephant (Part II)

Kuala Penyu's eco tourism potential to be tapped

Kuala Penyu: Efforts are afoot to attract more investments and tourists here by capitalising on the district's potential to be a top eco-tourism attraction, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

He said the district had been fortunate after getting several mega development projects such as the Sitompok Bridge, schools and replacement of old water mains spanning from Limbawang to Kayul that cost RM50 million as well as the RM226 million water treatment plant announced by the Prime Minister during his visit to Beaufort recently.

"These projects will not only benefit the people in Beaufort but also Kuala Penyu. This is what we want, a leader who listens whatever we ask, it will be readily considered for approval.

"But, it does not end here, we must not be easily satisfied, what is important, more will come for Kuala Penyu.

Since it is a very beautiful place our plan is to attract more tourists to come.

"With more tourists coming and investments it will create job opportunities for the local community at the same time creating economic spin-offs that benefit the whole district," he said.

Speaking at the Chinese New Year open house hosted by Upko Beaufort at Dewan Dato Shahbandar Makang here Monday, Musa who is also Finance Minister said it was crucial that the people not be influenced by leaders from the opposition here.

"If we look at these so-called leaders most of them are actually re-cycled leaders," he said.

According to him, the people should look for a leader who has a vision to improve the district and always finding ways as well as means to develop the district and surrounding areas like Mempakul and Menumbok, especially in the tourism area.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Kuala Penyu's eco tourism potential to be tapped

Monday, February 18, 2013

Chinese clan associations called to be tourism ambassadors for Sibu

SIBU: Second Finance Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh called on Chinese clan associations to be tourism ambassadors for Sibu.

Speaking at the Teochew Cultural Concert hosted by Sibu Teochew Association at Sibu Gateway on Saturday, he said after the RM137 million renovation of Sibu International Airport last year, they would lobby for more incoming flights to help boost various growth factors in the town.

One of their targets was to bring in more tourists; the extra flights would be convenient for outstation workers and as investment opportunities increased, additional air routes would provide an efficient trade and business link.

“The Chinese clans, in particular, stand at an advantage in leading such roles because their members maintain a bond with clan members in ancestral homes in China.”

Wong, who is also Minister of Local Government and Community Development, wanted them to help promote Sarawak Technology College University.

He said the university would open in September, and he wanted them to introduce the university to foreign Chinese students.

On the Teochew Cultural Concert hosted in line with the Chinese New Year joy, Wong patted the clan on the back, saying members were innovative and creative in promoting cultural art.

He said their youth members had participated well.

“We want this spirit to live on. We want our young people to pass on our culture.”


Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Journey to Save the Bornean Elephant (Part 1)

Reducing Human – elephants’ conflicts by understanding the elephants’ needs

KOTA KINABALU: Scientific information is extremely important and valuable for both conservation managers and research scientists in their effort to manage and save the Bornean elephants.

According to Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) conservation and research head, Raymond Alfred, who has been studying the movement of the species for more than 10 years, the scientific information is often used to direct daily activities by those in the field.

Additionally, the information is also useful during land use planning process, as research scientists will use the information to formulate hypotheses which they will test by undertaking further research, he said.

“I spent more than 10 years gathering key information on the Bornean elephant’s habitat ecology, population status, as well as their feeding behavior with the aim of providing this information and prepare guidelines to the future generation especially Sabahan so that they would be able to save the species from further extinction,” he said.

Among the major threats facing the Bornean elephants presently are the degradation and fragmentation of their habitat, which incidentally raises their risk of genetic isolation from other elephants’ population, particularly when their traditional seasonal migratory routes are blocked.

The blockage also encourages the impoverishment and stochastic extinction of the species.

Aside from that, Raymond also found that the home range of elephants residing in fragmented forests or habitat tend to be larger compared to those living in intact and contiguous forest landscape.

He cited the elephants’ population at the Lower Kinabatangan as an example of elephants living in fragmented forests.

The population at the Lower Kinabatangan has been separated from the main elephants’ population at Sabah’s central forest for 30 years as their traditional migratory routes have been blocked by the development of large scale plantations including the main Sandakan-Lahad Satu Road.

“My finding clearly showed that the size of the home range of the elephant herds in the central forest (non-fragmented forests) is smaller (300 km2) than the home ranging of the elephant herds in the fragmented forests. Human activities and forest disturbances have a measureable impact on the elephants’ movement.”

In continuous forest landscape, the movement rate of the elephant herds was about one kilometer to two kilometers daily but in fragmented forests such as the Lower Kinabatangan, the elephants have a higher movement rate of between five kilometers and nine kilometers daily.

The home range of elephants’ population living in fragmented forests recorded was more than 700 square kilometers.

Raymond blamed the mass difference to the elephant habitat fragmentation.

Incidentally, the fragmentation of elephants’ habitat has also led to the increasing number of human – elephant conflicts at the Lower Kinabatangan, he said.

He said that the herds were found to cover greater distances under three circumstances:

1) When the elephants were affected by elephant control activities’ such as the use of firecrackers and drums to scare them off the plantations;

2) When the elephants enter unsuitable forest habitats such as swamp areas and upland forest probably due to limited food resources; and

3) When elephants were forced to travel through narrow habitat corridors, sometimes as narrow as 30 to 50 meters along rivers that were bordered by oil palm plantations.

To counter the issues faced by the elephants, Raymond stressed the need to establish forest corridors or to strengthen existing ones.

“The corridors don’t necessarily have to be established at prime elephant habitats. It could be established at degraded forests areas to facilitate and not restrict the elephant movement. Additionally, the corridor will also provide the elephants with some cover,” he said.

He also stressed that the forest corridors need to be properly designed and managed as this will help minimize the elephants’ ranging distance as well as decrease human – elephants’ conflicts.

He also mentioned that some of the forests corridors that have already been established in Gunung Rara and several other areas by the plantations were not suitable as the elephants’ migration route as they were not wide enough.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A Journey to Save the Bornean Elephant (Part 1)

Sarawak doubling size of national parks

KUCHING: Sarawak aims to double the size of its gazetted national parks from the present 500,000 hectares to one million hectares by 2020, said Second Resource Planning and Environment Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan.

He said the gazetted areas would comprise, among others, forests, wetlands and sandy terrains.

“The state, which is covered with more than 90 per cent greenery, is very much suitable for national park development,” he said at the state-level World Wetlands Day 2013 at Sg Lemidin, Kuching Wetlands National Park here, yesterday.

“In addition, the remaining 10 per cent is also surrounded with vast flora and fauna.”

His text-of-speech was read out by Assistant Environment Minister Datuk Len Talif Salleh. Also present were Pantai Damai assemblyman Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi, Forest Department director Datu Ali Yusop and deputy director Sapuan Ahmad.

Awang Tengah, who is also Public Utilities and Industrial Development Minister, stressed that national parks in the state were administered in a very systematic manner and in accordance with international procedures.

“We developed our national parks in a smart manner despite many impressions that the methods used by the government would only disrupt the environment and nature. Such point of view is inaccurate.”

At the same time, he said he regretted the attitude of certain quarters for disposing wastes into the river indiscriminately.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sarawak doubling size of national parks

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Updated book on Proboscis monkeys of Borneo launched

KOTA KINABALU: The first book ever published on Proboscis monkeys ‘Proboscis Monkeys of Borneo’ written by Elizabeth Bennett and Francis Gombek 19 years ago was recently revised and updated with new photographs.

It was published as a limp-back edition by Kota Kinabalu-based Natural History Publications (Borneo).

During the press launch, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun, said all of these (the monkeys) were given by God, which is why it should be protected.

“This animal has been touted as the iconic playboy of the rivers. I hope people will realise that though plantations are important to the state’s economy, what will happen when the plantations are gone?

“With the efforts of the Sabah Wildlife Department, in collaboration with the Orang Sungei, tour operators and the plantation managers on the Kinabatangan, I am very optimistic that this endemic monkey of Borneo will be perpetually protected for the enjoyment of future generations,” said Masidi.


Friday, February 15, 2013

The Adventurer: orang-utans in Borneo

Last month, I had the privilege of a personal encounter with one of the world’s most extraordinary and charismatic creatures. Deep in the primary rainforest of Malaysian Borneo, I came face to face with a “man of the forest” – as the name orang-utan means in the local language.

Last year, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also saw these amazing animals in the Malaysian part of Borneo. My encounter was in a wilder, lesser-known area, in the state of Sarawak, at the Matang Wildlife Centre. Animals uprooted by deforestation or poaching are rehabilitated at the sanctuary, then returned to the wild in the surrounding Kubah National Park.

It was there that I helped a group of volunteers prepare hessian sacks stuffed with tapioca, jam, nuts and sunflower seeds, which are given to the orang-utans as part of an “enrichment” plan. Wearing a surgical mask and gloves (orang-utans are susceptible to human disease and it is vital they have no physical contact with visitors), I handed Aman, a 25-year-old male orang-utan, one of the sacks. I watched, mesmerised, as he carefully shucked each sunflower seed in his mouth, extracting the contents with his tongue and removing the shell from his mouth.

Aman was blind, but regained his sight after a pioneering operation on his cataracts. He is too old to be returned to the wild, but the younger orphans can be taught how to survive on their own.

This includes daytime and overnight lessons in the rainforest, and I joined four young orang-utans and six rangers during a lesson one afternoon. We hiked through dense green foliage to get to the “classroom”, to the accompaniment of a spectacular natural orchestra of the tropical rainforest, which buzzed, hummed, chirruped, barked and roared.

It was rather like being with a group of toddlers as they rolled around on the path. The orang-utans had tantrums and lay down, refusing to move. Except for the ginger hair and the wrinkled face, it could have been my son out there in the jungle. Without parents, these youngsters rely on rangers to teach them how to forage and even how to climb. One, which had been terrified of heights, overcame its vertigo after watching its foster carer climb a tree.

Soon the youngsters had tired and it was time to return to the centre. It was moving to see these young primates riding piggyback or holding their human carers’ hands as they wandered back, clutching fruit and sticks they had collected during the afternoon.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Adventurer: orang-utans in Borneo

Backpacking family explore the jungles of Borneo

WE are officially a third of the way through our trip now and I feel we are no longer novice backpackers.

Our rucksacks have been stripped of non-essential items and these have been returned home by sea freight and we feel tuned into our way of life.

Both the children continue to surprise us with their ability to cope with the constant movements to each new destination.

With mainland Malaysia behind us we took a short flight to Sarawak in Borneo.

For us, getting to Borneo has been a dream for years but we never expected to visit the jungle-covered island with children.

Borneo is home to the orangutans and we were lucky enough to see some in their natural environment.

We decided we would visit an authentic Iban longhouse set deep in the Sarawak jungle.

The huts house up to 50 families all under one roof and are governed by a chief tribesman.

Iban tribes have a long history of conflict with other tribes who threaten their territory and are notorious for decapitating their captors, hence why they are known as the Iban headhunters.

We hired a local guide and his taxi to take us to the Ngemah ili longhouse, situated six hours into the jungle and one hour by river boat.

Upon arrival we were greeted by an old lady banging a metal drum, which is a traditional for new guests to warn off unwanted spirits.

With only a few toys to play with from our packs the young inhabitants were kind enough to share their toys with Layla and Finley, which was wonderful to watch.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Backpacking family explore the jungles of Borneo

World Wetland Day to be celebrated at Kuching National Park

KUCHING: The state-level World Wetland Day will be celebrated tomorrow at Sungai Lemidin, Kuching National Park (Taman Negara Kuching).

Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan will be the guest-of-honour to officiate at the ceremony.

A press statement issued by Information Department yesterday said Kuching National Park Wetland was declared the first Ramsar site (Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention) in the state on Nov 8, 2005. It is the fifth Ramsar site in the country.

This year’s World Wetland Day themed ‘Tanah Lembap Menjaga Kelestarian Air’ aims to raise awareness on the importance of wetlands to provide sufficient water sources for all living things, including human beings.

This year, a few programmes will be held such as a colouring contest for primary schools, an essay writing competition for primary and secondary schools and a photography competition for the media in conjunction with the occasion.

Continue reading at: World Wetland Day to be celebrated at Kuching National Park

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Press Release: The 6th Borneo International Marathon 2013

KOTA KINABALU: The 6th Borneo International Marathon 2013 targets 5,000 runners, said Datuk Peter Pang, Minister of Youth and Sports at the official launch. The Marathon will be organized by Kinabalu Running Club (KRC).

"The race is scheduled for Sunday, 5 May 2013. Online registrations started on 1 November. We had quite a number of eager runners who signed up at the stroke of midnight! This is a good sign. It will be a great run for Sabah and I am sure we can all look forward to a much bigger and more exciting event next year.

Participation in 2012 was about 3,600 runners, 1,200 more runners than 2011. In 2013, we are targeting 5,000 runners. We expect more schools to participate in the race, especially in the 10KM category. This is something the students can really look forward to. We will have prizes especially for them," said Dr Heng Aik Cheng, KRC President and Marathon Race Director.

Heng said KRC hopes to tap on Sabah's hugely undiscovered pool of athletes through races like BIM. "KRC will sponsor the top Sabahan man and woman from this year's race to participate in one international race so that they can be exposed and compete against international runners. Who knows maybe a Sabahan can send the Africans a run for their money? We want to inspire more Sabahan youths to take up their athletic passion to another level," he said.

"Sabah's first marathon was held in 1984. This event must continue and be one of Sabah's flagship sporting events and attract more international participants. It will serve to promote Sabah as an ideal international sports tourism destination," said Datuk Peter Pang.