Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Heart of Borneo Initiative boosts Sabah conservation

KOTA KINABALU: The federal government is committed to the Heart of Borneo (HoB) Initiative and will continue to support Sabah and Sarawak in the implementation of various projects and activities under the Initiative.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Datuk Seri G Palanivel said RM23.68 million had been allocated for various programmes under HoB since 2009 and more could be expected to be channeled in the coming years.

He added that supporting programmes related to HoB would be enhanced under soon-to-be set up National Biodiversity Centre, the establishment of which would now be fast tracked.

“I am glad to share that as part of our effort to leverage on scientific knowledge, the First National Council on Biodiversity chaired by the Prime Minister on Oct 22 agreed to fast track the establishment of the Centre.

“We foresee that through the establishment of the Centre we would enhance and support programmes related to biodiversity and forestry, including the HoB Initiative,” he said in his speech in the closing of “International Conference on HoB Natural Capital” here yesterday.

The text of his speech was delivered by the ministry’s deputy secretary general Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim Nik, who also officiated at the closing on his behalf. Also present was Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan.

Palanivel noted that the implementation of the HoB Initiative in Sabah has had many successes, including an increase in protected areas, since the introduction of its first Strategic Plan of Action (SPA) back in 2008.

These new protected areas, he said, had increased the connectivity in Sabah’s networks of forests and thus increased the survival chances of endangered wildlife dependent on theses forests.

Noting that Sabah is currently revising the SPA, he urged those involved to ensure the revised version would provide for more coordinated and synergistic efforts for achieving the overall goal and vision of the HoB Initiative.


SuperStar Aquarius makes maiden call at Bintulu Port

BINTULU: SuperStar Aquarius made its maiden call here yesterday, docking at Bintulu Port exactly at 9.45am, after making a similar call at Brunei’ Muara Port on Monday.

Her homeport relocation to Kota Kinabalu also makes it the first international cruise liner to homeport a ship in Sabah’s capital.

Nearly 800 passengers from Malaysia, China, Taiwan and other Southeast Asian countries were onboard the 51,309-tonne SuperStar Aquarius when it arrived here yesterday.

Among those present to welcome the passengers were Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Talib Zulpilip, Assistant Minister of Public Utilities (Electricity and Telecommunications) Datuk Dr Stephen Rundi, Bintulu Port chief executive officer and managing director Datuk Mior Ahmad Baiti Mior Lub Ahmad, Bintulu Resident Muhamad Yakup Kari and Bintulu Development Authority deputy chairman Tan Sri Celestine Ujang.

Star Cruises vice-president (East operations), Edward Johann Leong, said SuperStar Aquarius was proud to make a maiden call at Bintulu.

“I am sure our international passengers are excited to explore the extraordinary natural wonders and cultural treasures this amazing destination is so well known for.

“Our new 4D3N cruise departing every Sunday from Kota Kinabalu to Muara and Bintulu will give passengers a holiday experience they will never ever forget.

“We will continue to work closely with tourism and legal authorities to bring even more international passengers to Bintulu and promote its tourism appeal to the world,” said Leong.

The welcoming ceremony, which also participated by heads of government departments, members of the media, travel agents and business partners from Malaysia, China and Taiwan, was graced by Talib.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: SuperStar Aquarius makes maiden call at Bintulu Port

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sabah committed to Heart of Borneo

KOTA KINABALU: The State government is committed to achieving the objectives of the Heart of Borneo initiative, which includes conserving and efficiently managing rich biodiversity within contiguous tropical forests on the island of Borneo.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman said under the various government programmes, it is important to utilise natural and social capital for economic development in an innovative way to generate new physical and financial capital.

“As there is growing concern on over-exploiting natural assets, we have to ensure that such development is done in a sustainable manner, giving priority to biodiversity and ecosystem conservation.

“It is also important for us to work hand-in-hand with various stakeholders and sectors in achieving this goal,” said Musa at the launching of the “International Conference on Heart of Borneo’s Natural Capital: Unleashing their Potential for Sustainable Growth in Sabah” at Sutera Harbour Resort (SHR) here yesterday.

Musa who is also Finance Minister was happy to note that the Sabah Forestry Department has taken the lead in implementing various conservation efforts and activities under the Heart of Borneo initiative in partnership with international and local agencies, as well as local communities.

“The implementation of this initiative takes cognisance of local sensitivity and culture and adheres to existing legal instruments and policies. It is tailored to the current condition and availability of means of implementation,” said Musa.

Through the Heart of Borneo, he said Sabah increased Totally Protected Areas to 1.3 million hectares or 18 per cent of the State’s land area, surpassing the IUCN target of 10 per cent for countries.

“We have also improved the connectivity of existing protected areas, particularly the super corridor linking Maliau Basin, Imbak Canyon and Danum Valley within the greater Ulu Segama Malua, now dubbed as the ‘Green Heart of Sabah’, and we have further promoted Sustainable Forest Management,” disclosed Musa.

He added: “In addition, we have reinforced protection with the establishment of 14 Field Outposts and Wildlife Protection units.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah committed to Heart of Borneo

Orang Utan project at Matang Wildlife Centre earns recognition at award ceremony

KUCHING: The Great Orang Utan Project being run at Matang Wildlife Centre in Kuching has been highly commended in the Best for Responsible Wildlife Experience at World Responsible Tourism Awards 2013.

According to a press release issued by Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) yesterday, the award ceremony was held last weekend at the 2013 World Travel Market (WTM), a leading global event for the travel industry.

At the ceremony, the award was handed over to Minister of Housing and Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg by managing director of The Great Projects UK, Andrew Starbucks.

Also present at the ceremony were Assistant Minister of Tourism Datuk Talib Zulpilip, director general of Tourism Malaysia Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab and permanent secretary of Ministry of Tourism Datu Ik Pahon Joyik.

The statement also said the awards are the most prestigious and competitive of their kind in the world and are a collaboration between online travel directory and ICRT (International Centre for Responsible Tourism).

The award ceremony took place at the World Travel Market during its dedicated World Responsible Tourism Day which took place on the same time at the event venue supported by prominent mainstream media partners such as Metro and industry broadcasters such as TTG, Green Hotelier and Selling Long Haul.

This year, the award featured eight categories covering a variety of topics which reflect the hottest issue currently debated in the world of responsible and sustainable tourism.

The Great Orang Utan Project in Matang Wildlife Centre that has been highly commended for this category is part of a family of animal protection projects under The Great Projects of UK, the release said.

Marketing manager (Europe International Market) of Sarawak Tourism Board Maurice Balang who represented the board at WTM said: “We are proud of the recognition and hope that the awareness created will encourage more travel towards responsible tourism in Sarawak. We offer a great experience where tourists as part of their travels can help save the Orang Utan species.”


Lowland forest secured to ease wildlife movement in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Ten plots of lowland forest critical for the movement of endangered wildlife will soon be gazetted as part of the fragmented Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah.

Totalling 132.19 hectares (326.7 acres), the land titles were yesterday handed to the Sabah Wildlife Department to create natural forested corridors for Borneo Pygmy Elephants, Orang Utans and other wildlife pushed into pockets of protected areas and cut off by agricultural estates and settlements.

The international community raised funds via the UK-based World Land Trust (WLT) for the largest land parcel, the 89.8 hectare (222 acres) forest purchased from an oil palm company close to Kampung Bilit, with the Sabah Government meeting a shortfall in the price.

Conversion to agriculture for this piece of forested area would have ended hope of creating a corridor for wildlife, especially elephants, to move between lots three and five of the Sanctuary. A nearby oxbow lake is an important fishing ground and is used for eco-tourism programmes carried out by the local community.

The nine other pieces of land totalling 49.39 hectares in Sukau, downstream of Bilit, were bought from individual title holders, through funds from The Shared Earth Foundation and Abraham Foundation, both of the United States.

Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) partnered with several organisations including IUCN National Committee of The Netherlands (IUCN NL), the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry and the Land and Survey Department to secure the lands.

LEAP Executive Director Cynthia Ong presented the titles on behalf of partners and donors to Sabah Wildlife Department Director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu at the Heart of Borneo International Conference at the Magellan Sutera Resort, here.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman witnessed the handing over of the titles.

Ong said it was becoming more urgent to move Government and the private sector into gear to support efforts to reconnect forests in the 26,000-hectare Sanctuary divided into 10 lots, and which exists alongside mainly oil palm estates.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Santubong Nature Festival evokes proposal for a Wallace museum

KUCHING: The inaugural Santubong Nature Festival (SNF) is poised to generate a lot of synergy between various agencies in the appreciation and conservation of the Santubong peninsula.

With development from the city now encroaching into the area, it is increasingly vital for Santubong to be preserved as it is, said Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) Datuk Bandar Datuk Abang Abdul Wahab Abang Julai.

“It has history and rich archaeological treasures waiting to be discovered. It was the location of the first settlement in western Borneo dating back 1,600 years. Alfred Wallace wrote the first theory of evolution here just 150 years ago. It was where the Japanese invasion began in Kuching,” he said when launching the SNF.

With so much scientific research left to be done and many attractions that could be packaged, Gunung Santubong deserved to be better known in order for its significance to be appreciated, he added.

Abdul Wahab raised the idea that Wallace’s Bungalow could be repaired and converted into a museum to show artefacts found in Santubong.

“When tourists come here, they can go to the museum and learn about the history of Santubong.”

The festival began the same year as Clean, Beautiful and Safe (CBS) enhancement plan initiated by DBKU.

Abang Abdul Wahab said SNF co-organiser Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) was on the right track when it comes to helping enhance the city’s profile and getting agencies as well as more young people involved.

In his speech, MNSKB chairman Anthony Sebastian said there was a need to develop Santubong wisely as not all the development currently happening there was for the best.

“We are not against the government or development. We just need to develop wisely,” he said, adding that Santubong is a globally important site.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Boosting Sarawak’s tourism industry in 2014

As one of the most lucrative industries in Malaysia, the tourism industry is expected to garner total receipts of RM168 billion by 2020.

According to Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, Malaysia is expected to earn that amount from the targeted 36 million tourist arrivals by 2020 under the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan (MTTP).

Looking at Sarawak, if the current trend continues, total tourism receipts could breach the double digit RM10 billion revenue figure during Visit Malaysia Year next year, spurred by higher spending from more tourist arrivals and participations in various events and conferences.

According to data from the Ministry of Tourism Sarawak, the state recorded RM6.62 billion in total tourism receipts in 2010, RM7.91 billion in 2011 and RM8.57 billion in 2012.

Given such an upward trend, total tourism receipts would fetch an estimated more than RM9 billion this year and could potentially increased to more than RM10 billion in 2014 as Visit Malaysia Year 2014 (VMY) looms.

Meanwhile, the state will showcase its own activities and promotional events to attract more tourists to visit Sarawak in conjunction with VMY2014.

These events are envisaged to draw more tourist to the state besides lifting the economy of Sarawak by encouraging more spending and travels.

Some of the top annual events and highlights include Rainforest World Music Festival, Borneo International Yachting Challenge, Sarawak Regatta, Borneo Jazz, Mukah Kaul Festival, World Harvest Festival, Borneo International Kite Festival, Borneo Cultural Festival and Tidal Bore Carnival.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said, “The Ministry of Tourism Sarawak will highlight 13 major tourism events in conjunction with VMY 2014.

“These 13 major events will create excitement and provide value added activities for tourists to see and do while visiting Sarawak.

“In preparation for VMY 2014, the Ministry of Tourism Sarawak has embarked on a proactive initiative to launch our very own Visit Sarawak Year campaign.

“The objective is to be ahead of the VMY 2014 campaign.

“This will prepare the State tourism industry on the anticipated influx of tourists.

“At the end of next year, we hope to achieve increased arrivals and increased revenue for the tourism sector.

“We want to increase tourism contribution towards our Gross Domestic Product’s (GDP) growth to second place from third place currently,” he told The Borneo Post.

He pointed out that the ministry is eyeing 4.2 million of tourist arrivals in 2014, a progressive increase from an estimated figure of 4.1 million in 2013.

He revealed that there were four million of tourist arrivals last year into Sarawak.

Out of the four million visitors, 2.63 million people were foreign visitors and 1.4 million people were domestic travelers.

From the 2.63 million foreign tourist arrivals, 1.73 million were from Brunei, followed by 417,072 people from Indonesia, 113,174 people from The Philippines, 55,674 people from Singapore and 43,326 people from China.

Apparently, the top three biggest percentage increased of foreign arrivals into Sarawak last year were from the Middle East (87 per cent); Thailand (78.3 per cent) and Bangladesh (67.2 per cent).

Johari noted that Sarawak has a lot of attractiveness to offer to tourists.

“Sarawak has always been consistent in offering our unique selling point (USP) of culture, adventure and nature (CAN).

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Boosting Sarawak’s tourism industry in 2014

Friday, November 08, 2013

Spotting Wildlife on Sabah’s Sungai Kinabatangan

I hop on board a small passenger vessel at Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah and head across the Sulu Sea to the mouth of the wild Sungai Kinabatangan, the longest river in Sabah.

This is the famed Borneo jungle that I had flown from another continent to explore – an area now protected from the progress of agriculture and palm oil.

This is the domain of the deadly pit viper, the elusive clouded leopard, the Malay civet and the always popular pygmy elephant.

We journey up the deep brown river that’s surrounded by thick lush vegetation, for what seems only moment when I exclaim with much excitement, “There’s a monkey.”

I had spotted my first wild animal – sitting high in the trees.

My guide, Dean, who prefers to be called by his surname Nexter, scrambles for his binoculars to take a closer look.

This wasn’t a monkey – it was an ape.

But not just any type of ape; this was a famed orang-utan that can only be found in the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra – a glorious ginger beast that prefers a solitary existence, only coming together to mate.

Dean hands me the binoculars for a closer inspection.

The orang-utan is placed peacefully on the end of the branch surveying his surroundings.

I zoom in closer through the lens and to my incredible delight, there’s a juvenile waiting patiently for attention from his mother several branches below.

Dean explains that the young will remain under parental care until they turn six and then they’re on their own.

I had reserved two night’s accommodation at the award-winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge, an eco friendly set-up that provides comfort to travellers with a voracious appetite for adventure who want to explore and admire this astonishing region.

The 20 rooms within the complex are all named after noted conservationists and important individuals connected to Borneo.

I was lucky enough to be placed in the room where Sir David Attenborough stayed when he filmed a documentary on Sabah’s unique floodplain in 2011.

Sir David first visited the Kinabatangan in 1972 and was so impressed that he wrote, “Life on Earth is not evenly spread around our planet.

Borneo – the world’s third largest island – is one of its richest treasure houses, full of an immense variety of wild animals and plants, all living in a magnificent tropical forest.

“A vast area of this forest still cloaks the mountains, foothills and adjacent lowlands that stretch along the borders of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

This is the Heart of Borneo and all of us who value life on this planet should support the efforts of these countries to conserve it.

It is truly a world heritage and the world should respond to its needs.

“Like almost all such forests, it is threatened by being cleared or degraded, due to the economic and social pressures of life in the 21st century.

Unsustainable logging, clearance for agriculture and mining, and the increasing impact of climate change are all taking their toll.

Borneo is in danger of losing valuable ecosystems that are important to the survival of local communities and to the national economies of all three Bornean countries, as well as being a vital part of the global effort to combat climate change.”

In recent years, the authorities, recognising the importance of not only preserving the remaining rainforest from further destruction but also rehabilitating the environment that has been lost, created what is known as the Kinabatangan Wildlife Corridor, with the river at its heart.

Outside this corridor of life, the ever present palm oil plantations make for a stark reminder of the comparison between industry and the preservation of the habitat that so many fantastic creatures call home.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Spotting Wildlife on Sabah’s Sungai Kinabatangan

Orangutans of Borneo: Semenggoh nature reserve, Kuching

Bus K6 from Kuching, arrives with plenty of time to walk the 1.3km track to the centre at the Semenggoh nature reserve.

Here you can see crocodiles and maybe an orangutan or two hanging out near the feeding platforms.

At 9am the park ranger gather's people to head to the central feeding area, just a short walk into the jungle, giving a short commentary on what to expect and requesting the noise is kept to a minimum.

Two apes, one apparently the oldest female in the park, came to feed while we were waiting for the official feeding session to begin.

Then another three orangutans came down to feed on the bananas offered on the feeding platform inside the jungle and one was with baby.

The rangers clear you out very quickly after the hour is up, unfortunately there isn't much else open at the park anymore, but the orangutans are enough to make this a worthwhile visit.

I went to check out the crocodiles whilst the crowds cleared a bit, and was busy taking a picture of one of them when a ranger started calling out.

I turned around to see him waving at me, and just to my right shoulder was a huge orangutan... lumbering through the edge of the forest.

It was the biggest I've ever seen, and turned out to be Ritchie, who apparently isn't very friendly, doesn't like noise and who is renowned for causing many an evacuation. He was about 15 metres from me!

I quickly followed the group of people who were heading for the bridge, desperately wanting to turn round and take a photo of the beast, but the rangers were coaxing me out as quickly as possible.


Kota Kinabalu City Waterfront with 2km seamless boardwalk ready next year

KOTA KINABALU: SEDIA chief executive officer Datuk Dr Mohd Yaakub Johari said the KK City Waterfront project, with its iconic features and the boardwalk to be the main attraction for locals and tourists alike, is posed to change the landscape of the City.

He expressed his confidence that the mega-project, which is included under the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) umbrella, is on target for completion by next year.

Mohd Yaakub said this after a briefing of the project by the developer, Waterfront Urban development executive director Johnson Koh, during the former’s site visit yesterday, along with 25 investors from Japan who have shown keen interest in investing in the state.

Earlier, SEDIA hosted the group of Japanese investors from Tokyo and Hokkaido who made lots of inquiries about investment potentials that are available in Sabah.

“Mohd Yaakub wanted to make sure of the project status and came calling in the evening to the project site. He is convinced that this private project, which is included under the SDC umbrella which took off after the launch of SDC, is on target to be completed by next year.

“He congratulated the company Waterfront Urban Development and their partner, DBKK for the efforts and vision in coming up with this project,” said Koh to the media.

The KK City Waterfront project where progress harmonizes with nature, has been under construction since the launch of SDC by the then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Sepanggar, in January 2008.

KK City Waterfront is an integrated residential and commercial development on a piece of three-acre prime coastal land in the heart of Kota Kinabalu city.

Inspired by the beautiful seafront, KK City Waterfront is designed with seamless two kilometres waterfront promenade eco-composite material boardwalk along the coast that allows locals and foreign tourists to take leisurely strolls and be in touch with nature.


20 more parks and natural reserves in Sarawak to be gazetted

KUCHING: The Sarawak government plans to gazette 20 more parks and natural reserves statewide to conserve and protect the state’s diverse biological resources.

Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Special Functions), Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem highlighted this yesterday to rebut international claims that a big part of Sarawak’s forests have been destroyed.

“Despite the tremendous development that has taken place, the cultural and diversity is very much alive,” he said.

“We have proposed to the Cabinet for 20 more parks and natural reserves to be established, which have been approved as the government recognises the importance of the state’s diverse biological resources,” he said.

“The proposals include Piasau Camp in Miri,” he told reporters after opening the ‘Second International Conference on Alfred Russel Wallace: His Predecessor and Successor’ at Riverside Majestic Hotel here on behalf of Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

“To gazette the areas involved, we have to do things according to procedure including hearings and respect the Forestry Ordinance which may take some time, but we will do it as soon as possible,” he assured.

Re-emphasising the state government’s commitment to the environment in the chief minister’s speech, he pointed out Wallace’s other major publication from Sarawak on the orangutan was written in Simunjan in 1855 and published the following year.

Wallace’s measurement and observation of adult orangutans led him to speculate that two kinds probably existed in Sarawak – a smaller and larger type.

“We now know from DNA studies that two species of orangutan existed in the world – the Sumatran and the Borneon species,” he explained.

“His study of the habit of orangutan led him to conclude that the quality of habitat, especially level of disturbance caused by humans, was crucial in determining the occurrence of orangutan.”

Recognising the need for the protection of habitats for these endangered and other wildlife species, he said the state government was close to reaching the target to set aside about a million hectares of forest as totally protected areas (TPAs).

Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary have been gazetted specifically for the conservation of orangutans while rehabilitation and release programmes are continuing at Matang Wildlife Centre,” he added.


Thursday, November 07, 2013

Adding to the tourist surge for Sabah

Kota Kinabalu: Star Cruises' choice in making KK a homeport for the winter season of its Superstar Aquarius fits well with the need for additional tourist arrivals through other means of transport, said Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

"About 90 per cent of tourist influx arrive here is via plane. Illustrating that connectivity is important to keep a continuous flow of tourists coming into the state," Masidi said, at the Inaugural Cruise Ceremony, here.

He welcomed Star Cruises for bringing in a much broader crowd into the state and complementing the current 87 per cent increase in North Asian tourists going by statistics compiled in the first nine months.

"This includes those from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea."

In fact, this is phenomenal as by the end of this year, he expects and believes the percentage of tourist arrivals to increase.

"It's an all time high record of guests from outside of Sabah."

"A double digit growth can be seen this year in terms of international tourists arrivals, added Masidi who compared this with last year's statistics.

On security, he assured that the Malaysian Royal Navy would spare no effort to ensure passengers safety.

Masidi said the beauty of Sabah lies in the people because the tourist destinations that we have already exist in one form or another in other states in Malaysia or even other countries in the world.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Adding to the tourist surge for Sabah

Tourist arrivals to Sabah from China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan up by 87 per cent

KOTA KINABALU: Tourist arrivals from China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan have increased by 87 per cent in the first nine months of this year compared to the corresponding months of last year.

Minister of Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun described the tourist arrivals from the countries as ‘phenomenal’, adding that it was a good indication for Sabah to be a tourism hub in this part of the world.

He believed that the arrival of guests from outside Sabah would be at all time high record at the end of this year, considering that tourist arrival to Sabah was on double digit growth from January to September this year.

Masidi said that at the inaugural cruise ceremony of SuperStar Aquarius here yesterday. The SuperStar Aquarius will travel from Kota Kinablau to international waters on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and from Kota Kinabalu –Brunei-Bintulu-Kota Kinabalu from Sunday to Wednesday. The cruise will be stationed in Kota Kinabalu from November this year till end of March next year.

Masidi said there had been lots of discussion on the need for Kota Kinabalu to be complemented with additional arrival of tourists through other transports.

“Ninety-four per cent of the visitors (to Sabah) come by air, it is important that connectivity is there to ensure the arrival of tourists.”

He said the commencement of Star Cruises operations in Kota Kinabalu would benefit Sabah and the region.

Masidi said Star Cruises had chosen the right port to commence its operations and hoped that the organisation would continue its operations here in the subsequent seasons.

He also assured the people that security was not an issue in Sabah.

“The Navy has been deployed to its full capacity to ensure everyone is safe in Sabah.”

Masidi said there were not many places in the world like Sabah, where the islands were merely 20 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu.

“The Mount Kinabalu is just 1.5 hours drive away, and as for Sipadan, many people agree that it is one of the top three diving spots in the world.”

While the islands and mountain are available in other parts of the world, Masidi said that there was nowhere in the world where 32 races could live side by side in harmony.

“We take pride in ourselves that we are the most integrated Malaysians. The best Malaysians live in Sabah, and we are proud of it.”


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

First satellite collaring of civets in Kinabatangan

KINABATANGAN: To better understand the impact of habitat fragmentation on small carnivores at the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, two male Malaysian civets were recently trapped and later fitted with satellite collars to track their movements.

The first civet, weighing 5.5 kilogrammes was captured on the night of Oct 26 at Lot 5 of the wildlife sanctuary and was sedated the following morning by the Kinabatangan Small Carnivore Project (KSCP) team, while the second was trapped two days ago.

The success was a collaboration between the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the Kinabatangan Small Carnivore Project (KSCP), Cardiff University (CU) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC). Funding is provided by the Sime Darby Foundation and Houston Zoo.

“Despite heavy habitat degradation within the Kinabatangan, a widely diverse small carnivore guild persists, which includes six species of civets, three species of small felines, and two confirmed species of otters. Our project therefore strives to understand the influences of habitat fragmentation on the spatial ecology and ecotoxicology of small carnivores residing within the wildlife sanctuary,” said Dr Benoit Goossens, director of Danau Girang Field Centre.

Dr Sergio Guerrero Sanchez, DGFC’s wildlife veterinarian, said the 5.5kg Malay civet, named ‘Tenang,’ meaning calm, tranquil or still in Malay, was captured within the wildlife corridor of Lot 5 of the LKWS during the night.

“In the early morning, the KSCP team safely sedated Tenang and conducted the sampling on site. Morphometric measurements, such as total body length and height at shoulder, were recorded, and blood, saliva, faecal and hair samples collected. The project hopes these samples will help determine the health of the small carnivore guild within the landscape of the LKWS,” said Sanchez.

He added the team worked extremely well and the procedure was safe, efficient and minimally invasive.

Project leader Meaghan Harris, who is a PhD student at Cardiff University, said thay as very little fundamental knowledge was known about these carnivores, a 70g GPS collar was comfortably fit on Tenang, making this the first satellite collar placed on a civet.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: First satellite collaring of civets in Kinabatangan

'Guide to Gingers of Borneo' launched

Kota Kinabalu: Sprouting riotously colorful flowers always, Sabah's wild gingers in bloom never fail to make heads turn in the jungle.

"A Guide to Gingers of Borneo" launched by Tan Jiew Hoe, President of Gardening Society of Singapore, at the Sabah Society Secretariat, Damai, strikes the reader precisely with that overwhelming impression practically from cover to cover.

But strangely, the great potentials of gingers' sheer foliage beauty and very showy flowers as ornamental plants has been "totally under-utilised" in the horticulture trade, Tan noted, except for 13-14 kinds in the market although use of their edible fruits and shoots for food, salads and many medicinal purposes had been known for centuries.

By popular demand, ginger remains a major spice crop until today but not its instant captivating attraction, it was lamented at the book launch.

A total of about 1,500 species of gingers are found across the world of which Borneo has between 250-300 species with 19 genera - very diverse many of which remain undescribed, according to Anthony Lamb - lead author of the book.

The book covers 100 species with representatives of all 19 genera enumerated by Tony Lamb and three co-authors - Januarius Gobilik of UMS, Dr Marlina Ardiyani of Bogor Botanic Garden, Indonesia and Dr Axel Dalberg Poulsen, Director of Oslo Botanic Gardens, Norway - while many more species remain to be described.

"I really hope this little book will get people interested in ginger," Lamb said.

"Beyond that, it is also about getting people interested in learning about plants because without plants we won't be here," noted Lamb who said he'd just come back inspired from a major 5th Global Congress on Botanic Gardens in Dunedin, New Zealand, attended by 47 countries, in October.

"That was the major theme that without plants we won't be here and we really got to do something," said Lamb who cited all sorts of stepped up activities in Botanic gardens getting the public and children interested in gardens and learning about plants.

"What's amazing I was really shocked to find out that until 30 years ago there were less than 800 botanic gardens worldwide but now there are 3,000 and some huge ones in China some several hundred kilometres in size." Lamb noted.

"The down side is horticulturists - we just can't find horticulturists, people not going into horticulture, not going into botany because all the western countries are cutting down their work on botany É" he added.

"Here we are Sabah alone, there so much to discover and Malaysia as a whole and it struck me that there are not enough botanists to work on them," Lamb said.

"To cap it all, we have just discovered in the Kinabalu area of 754 sq km new plants and 6,000 species of vascular plants total which is the richest biodiversity per unit area in the world and that's quite amazing," Lamb pointed out.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: 'Guide to Gingers of Borneo' launched

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Adventures in an Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre – Borneo

I have always wanted to go to Borneo. I didn’t really know much about it, just that it sounded so exotic and it has orangutans! So when looking for somewhere different for a holiday we discovered that one of the world’s top dive sites is in Borneo (as rated by Jacques Cousteau - and he should know).

There’s also some important Australian WW2 history to keep my ‘significant-other’ stimulated, and of course, the orang-utans. So before we knew it the stars had aligned and we had booked our next adventure.

Little did I know that during this holiday I was to have one of the most amazing wildlife experiences. In my diary notes I even wrote, ‘I have put off writing about this day for ages because it was so awesome I’m worried I won’t have the words to recreate it!’

We stayed at the Sepilok Nature Resort, 30 minutes drive from Sandakan on Borneo’s north east coast, which is located right next door to the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre.

On our first day we head over for the 10am feeding time, buy our entry tickets (approx. $10 each), put our daypack in the locker (there are lots of warning posters about carrying bags into the reserve), then head off into the rainforest pathway to the feeding area.

We get a great position, perched up on a fence in front of the feeding platform, and wait. The orang-utans soon arrive and playfully make their way along the ropes to the basket full of bananas placed on the platform by the ranger.

By this stage my significant other has managed to drop his hat over the fence and into the rainforest below us – we’ll have to get it later as we don’t want to lose our spot. We keep watching the orang-utans and their antics, mesmerised for an hour or more, until the last one has had his fill and makes his way back into the jungle.

We hang around (no orang-utan pun intended!) until most of the people have gone, so that my significant other can make a Spider-Man-like move over the fence to retrieve his hat. Mission accomplished and we head along the wooden boardwalk leading us back towards the park entrance. And that is when the real fun begins.


Monday, November 04, 2013

Borneo bay cat photographed in heavily logged region

One of the world's most elusive wild cats has been captured on camera in a heavily logged area of Borneo rainforest together with four other endangered species, suggesting that some wildlife can survive in highly disturbed forests.

The Bornean bay cat (Pardofelis badia) has been recorded on camera traps on just a handful of occasions to date and was only photographed in the wild for the first time in southern Sarawak in 2003. The cat, extremely secretive and similar in size to a large domestic cat with a long tail and either a reddish or grey coat, had been classified as extinct until new images taken in Malaysian Borneo in 2009 and 2010 gave fresh hope for its survival.

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Imperial College London have captured more a dozen images of this animal following a study in Kalabakan forest reserve, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, together with evidence of four other wild cat species in a heavily logged area of forest where they were not expected to thrive.

Dr Robert Ewers of the department of life sciences at Imperial College London, who leads the Safe tropical forest conservation project in Borneo, said the discovery of the cats was evidence that large species can survive in commercially logged forests: "We were completely surprised to see so many bay cats at these sites in Borneo where natural forests have been so heavily logged for the timber trade. Conservationists used to assume that very few wild animals could live in logged forest, but we now know this land can be home for many endangered species."

The area is only one of four forest areas in all of Borneo – the third largest island in the world and shared between Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia – that has so far been reported to contain all five species, including the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) and marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata).

All five species are important to the forest ecosystem because they are predators of a wide range of other animals. They are also highly threatened: four of the five species are listed as threatened with extinction on the IUCN's "red list".

Camera traps – an automated digital device that takes a flash photo whenever an animal triggers an infrared sensor – have revolutionised wildlife research and conservation, enabling scientists to collect photographic evidence of rarely seen and often globally endangered species, with little expense, relative ease, and minimal disturbance to wildlife.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo bay cat photographed in heavily logged region

Wild Borneo: Sabah

The Dews are freshly back from a week spent in Sabah, and our heads are still attached! We survived a visit to the headhunters' village, saw wild animals, climbed (part of) a mountain, and soaked up the beach sun.

Our adventure began in style with three nights at the luxurious Shangri-la Rasa Ria Resort. My kids happily lived these days boogie boarding, flying down the waterslide, finding hermit crabs, and cooling off at the kids' club. Adam and I enjoyed a dinner sans kids, a leisurely bike ride to a water village, and even a deluxe spa treatment involving mud, steam, bubbles, and massage.

We also enjoyed a visit to the onsite Nature Reserve and its rehabilitation program for rescued orangutans. For one hour, we watched from a viewing platform as two toddler orangutans swung from the jungle canopy all around us. I marveled at their agility and commend the resort for its efforts to preserve this beautiful, endangered species.

Moving on from here, we checked in for three nights at the centrally located Kinabalu Daya Hotel in Kota Kinabalu. We shared a family room, which was quite comfortable with one king and two twin beds.

The first day, we walked a short distance to Jesselton Pier and caught a speedboat to Mamutik, one of a group of islands comprising the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Mamutik is a popular spot for snorkeling and beach lounging, and we were lucky to spot quite a few anemones among the coral reefs!

Later, we enjoyed dinner with some friends that recently moved to KK and had a wonderful time catching up on life.

The next morning, we hopped in a taxi and visited the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. Arriving at feeding time, the animals (especially the sun bears and Asian elephants) were quite playful!

After an afternoon siesta in our room, we enjoyed a night-time visit to the Mari Mari Cultural Village. Here, we donned mosquito repellant and were taken to visit the longhouses of five different tribes, learning about their culture and traditions from our guide and through hands-on activities.

Stilted above ground to avoid flooding and provide protection, longhouses are made of bamboo and have windows for air circulation. Daughters sleep in an upstairs room (with ladder removed), men and boys on the floor below to protect them, parents and grandparents in separate side rooms.

We watched as fire was started without matches, saw how vests are made from tree bark, and observed the clothing styles and skilled arts/crafts of various tribes. We drank homemade rice wine and honey, sampled bamboo cooking, and even got henna tattoos.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Wild Borneo: Sabah

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Join the Santubong Nature Festival

DO you wish to know more about the beauty, heritage and uniqueness of Santubong? Do you care about Santubong? Do you want to have a part in ensuring that Santubong is well-taken care of? Do you wish to have a fun-filled weekend?

If you answer “Yes” to one of these questions, then make a beeline to the coming Santubong Nature Festival.

The two-day festival will take place at Permai Rainforest Resort and Damai Central next Saturday and Sunday (Nov 9-10).

There is something for everyone at the festival. From nature talks to eco-fashion, easy hikes at archaeological sites and adrenaline pumping treasure hunt around Santubong, the festival promises to be a fun-filled and informative weekend for all.

The Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) is co-organising the festival with Permai Rainforest Resort, with support from Friends of Sarawak Museum, Sarawak Heritage Society, Sarawak Museum Department, Damai Central, Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), Trienekens (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd and Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam).

The objectives of this event are:

  • To raise public awareness of the priceless natural and historical – local and global – heritage value of the Santubong Peninsula.
  • To advocate for a holistic and integrated approach to development and management of the area safeguarding its unique landscape, biodiversity and historical assets.
  • To showcase the tourism and recreational potential of the natural and cultural values of the Santubong Peninsula.
  • To stimulate reflection on responsible and sustainable further management of the peninsula and its surroundings.
  • To create environmental awareness and value among our public especially our young ones.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Join the Santubong Nature Festival

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Life lessons from my Borneo boondoggle

Twenty-five days ago I left Taiwan in search of adventure in Malaysian Borneo.  There would be endless possibilities for excitement – Kota Kinabalu (the highest mountain in South East Asia), Sipadan (considered the best diving in the world), Survivor Island/Pulau Tiga (where the first season of Survivor was filmed), Orangutang Sanctuaries, Jungle Treks, Caves, and a stop into Brunei to add another country to this trip.

As a child, my father and I would make bird houses in the spring.  (We once even made a ‘bird hotel.’)  I remember that I enjoyed creating these things and always being excited to start our project …and at that exact moment he would ruin all of the fun by saying that we had to draw out what the bird house would look like on grid paper so that we knew what we were building.  What an idiot – we’re building a bird house, it should look like a bird house, and certainly by now you should know how to make one.  Supplies?  There are nails and wood in the basement – how could you have not known that?  So what does this have to do with Borneo?  Everything.

Borneo was a shitty bird house.  (Perhaps even the second one I’ve made in the last eight months.)  After arriving in Kota Kinabalu and getting situated at my first hostel, it quickly became clear that I didn’t have the right tools for this project.  Instead of hiking boots and reliable rain gear I had sandals and a four-year-old bathing suit.  (Better than a four-year-old’s bathing suit I suppose.)  Instead of cold weather mountain climbing clothes I had sleeveless shirts, a set of cheaply made Thai t-shirts that were $3 a piece, and shorts that quickly fall down to my knees if anything heavier than a pair of keys are in the pockets.

Even worse than everything tangible that I didn’t have was the fact that I didn’t have the desire to spend the remainder of my money to go on the myriad of tours associated with all of the interesting things in Borneo that I had wanted to see.  As it turns out – the most essential supply that I was running low on in Borneo was money.  I left on March 15th for a 2 to 3 month trip to Asia, never imagining that on November 1st I’d still be on this side of the world.

As this trip has stretched from three months to five months and now into November, the concepts of Resource Management and Opportunity Cost have become more and more important as I decide what is and isn’t worth doing for the respective costs of each activity.  In Sipadan I could spend $500 for 10 dives across 3 days and 2 nights, but for half of that money I could rent an apartment for an entire month on Koh Tao.

In Sandakan I could go on a jungle trek for 3 days and 2 nights for $110, but if I got caught in a downpour my laptop and camera would be ruined.  Two nights in Brunei would run me $100 in the cheapest of accommodation, while in Taipei I could live and eat well for more than a week on that same sum of money.  Making matters seem even worse is the fact that for “adventures of a lifetime” none of those things really costs all that much, yet after months and months of three-day adventures…well that money starts to finally add up.


Friday, November 01, 2013

Malaysia world’s top 10 travel destinations for 2014

Malaysia has been ranked among the top 10 tourism destinations in the world for 2014 by Lonely Planet, the popular travel guide.

Tourism Malaysia Deputy Director-General (Promotions) Chong Yoke Har said the ranking comes at an auspicious time for Malaysia, as the country gears up for Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014.

“We are elated with this ranking by one of the travel industry’s most authoritative publications.

“The VMY 2014 campaign will be the country’s fourth Visit Malaysia Year, and is estimated to attract 28 million tourists to the country, reaping RM76 billion in tourist receipts,” she added, in a statement yesterday.

Lonely Planet described Malaysia as “rolling out an array of new attractions”, such as Legoland Malaysia and the Hello Kitty family theme parks in Johor, as well as the Gaya Island Resort on Pulau Gaya in Sabah.