Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bornean Groundcuckoo and Beach Thick-knee

A member of our Suai recce team claimed to have spotted something that looked like a largish tall chicken by the estuary of Sg Suai back in October 2008. Of course in situation like these, there's never any cameras involved, no one took videos or images. It was just a quick look resulting in vague and sketchy descriptions from a non-specialist doing his best to describe something he's never seen before in his entire life.

Our friend knew it was "like a chicken" but confidently confirmed that it's not a chicken. And he knew what a junglefowl looks like.

Imaginations ran wild: Beach-thicknee and Bornean Groundcuckoo made the shortlist. Pictures and sketches went back and forth, we still couldn't decide on either one. Both seemed likely. Habitat wise, the coastal settings seems to suggest a thick knee or even one of the larger waders. But it's not exactly a bird common in these parts. Groundcuckoo was equally unlikely, what is it doing on a sandy beach near an estuary?

Not having seen either birds, we started building up expectations to find them. Either one would be a major tick. Both have never been sighted in the vicinity of our shores.

Bornean Groundcuckoo:

Photograph by (c) James Eaton from and

"Records of the Bornean Ground Cuckoo show it to be or to have been widely and evenly distributed across the island of Borneo, with a total of 49 localities, 10 in Sabah, 15 in Sarawak, four in Brunei, and 11 in East, four in Central and five in West Kalimantan.

Although it is normally characterised as a rare species, evidence is accumulating that it is better considered a generally highly secretive but in fact moderately common bird. However, its habitat is clearly mainly primary forest, and it probably favours level areas near rivers, mainly but not exclusively in the lowlands.

Rates of loss of such habitat probably cancel any positive effects on its Near Threatened status stemming from improved knowledge of its range and numbers. It subsists chiefly on forest-floor invertebrates, sometimes following bearded pigs Sus barbatus or sun bears Helarctos malayanus, but its combination of apparent pheasant mimicry and unpalatability is puzzling.

Its breeding remains unknown, but the various reports of its vocalisations sort into at least five calls, a deep thook-torr, a monotone koo, a rolling torrmmm, a snarling ark or heh in alarm, and a bizarre bleating in breeding-related behaviour."

Local names : kruai manang, manuk babui

Description of Bornean Groundcuckoo above from "Distribution, status and natural history of the Bornean Ground Cuckoo Carpococcyx radiatus" A. J. Long and N. J. Collar, FORKTAIL 18 (2002): 111-119

Beach Thick-knee:

Photograph by (c) Hans and Judy Beste on

"The beach thick-knee is the largest species of thick-knee and ranges from 21 to 22.5 inches (53 to 57 centimeters) in length. It has thick yellow legs, a long, strong, bill, and yellow eyes. The beach thick-knee is gray-brown on the back and pale on the belly. The shoulder is black above a thin white line. The head is mostly black, with a white stripe through the eye. The bill is black except for a yellow base. There is a rust-colored patch under the tail.

The beach thick-knee is found on seashore beach habitats. These include sand, shingle, rock, and mud beaches.

The beach thick-knee eats crabs primarily, but also eats other crustaceans. Large crabs are torn into small pieces before they are swallowed. It generally follows its prey quietly, and then suddenly lunges and grabs. Sometimes, beach thick-knees also search in mud and sand for prey."

Local names : kedidi malam

Descriptions of Beach Thick-knee from

We came back in January from our 70kms coastal walk from Bungai Beach (26/12) to Similajau National Park (31/12) passing through Suai, endless sandy beaches and countless river estuaries over 5 days empty handed. The largest bird we saw was White-bellied Sea Eagle and a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha. Clearly, both did not fit the "largish chicken" descriptions, they werent anywhere near the ground.

We didn't see a single groundcuckoo nor a shadow of the thick-knee. We did however stumbled upon a family of breeding Malaysian Plover with chicks near a secluded coralline sandy beach exactly at the tip of Tanjong Payung promontory.

We are building high hopes for the groundcuckoo having recently seen published accounts of it's sighting last in Similajau National Park. In all honesty, no, the sighting was not on the beach but close enough. And we can drive to Similajau NP.

Google map (Image 2001). Mark the spot "M" for Bornean Groundcuckoo, as reported by Duckworth et al (1996), sighting made Sep 1995. Degraded area on the right showing conversions to oil palm plantation bordering the forested areas of the park.

MNS Miri, Nov 2009

MNS 70th Anniversary Celebrations and then some

Malaysian Nature Society is celebrating it's 70th year Anniversary in October 2010!

Though MNS Miri has only clocked up 13+ years in Sarawak, we will be head to head with the older branches such as Penang, Perak and Selangor Branches to celebrate MNS 70th year Anniversary.

Some of our original members from Mar 1996 : Charlie Lee, Lucas Johny, Jim Warburton, Sim Wan Chee, Wendy Langga, Clements Lim, Hoo Chee Sian are still with us today. Betcha they've got plenty of stories to tell about MNS Miri, it's original members and their first few outings.

70th Anniversary 2010 yearlong activities:
a) 70th Anniversary Press Conference KL Friday, 8th January OR Monday, 11th January
Secretariat to have a media event to announce 70th Anniversary celebration.

b. Commemorative Stamps, Jan 2010
Launching to be expected early in the year.

c. Raptor Watch 13-14th Mar
Our 11th year Raptor Watch in Tanjong Tuan will be packaged together with our 70th Anniversary.

d. Earth Day 22nd Apr

e. Climate Change Convention, Langkawi Wednesday, 19-22nd May
All branches are encouraged to support, promote and attend this event.

f. Biodiversity Day 22nd May
f. Langkawi Music Festival June 2010
g. World Enviroment Day 5th June
h. World Oceans Day 8th June

i. International Congress "State of the Nation, Environment Perspective", KL 8-9th Oct
All branches are encouraged to promote and attend this event. Branches to supply volunteer assistance in rapportering, chairpersons, logistic handling. In conjunction with congress, an exhibition showcasing MNS 70th Achievements where branch are to highlight their successes and ongoing programmes.

j. Fundraising Dinner, post conference (Oct)
A gala dinner to highlight MNS achievements and opportunity to raise funds.

k. Festival of Wings (Oct)

Activities requiring specific input and direct involvement from Branches:
a. Branch Road Show
Council and Secretariat will be making a Roadshow to all the Branches in the country to:
i) strengthen the interaction between council, secretariat, branches committee members and members at that particular state
ii) obtain feedback from members pertaining to the proposed MNS Constitution
iii) highlight MNS 70th Anniversary Lecture Series (run up to MNS Symposium in Oct 2010)
Branch to submit most optimum dates for members throughout 2010.

b. 70th ANniversary Coffee Table Publication
The content of which will highlight particularly the activities of the branches and secretariat. As it is going to be a coffee table book publication, the book would feature a lot of photographs. Branches and branch members are invited to provide a brief write ups of the highlights of the many interesting activities of the branch along with photographs of high resolution (1MB each). Andrew, Head of Communications will be point of call for all branches' contribution. Dateline : 31st December 2009.

c. Exhibition for "State of the Nation" Congress.
Branches are invited to provide material to support a major exhibition at the congress showcasing and highlighting 70 years (or subset thereof ) of MNS achievements within the branches.

MNS Miri has appointed Sara Wong, Branch Vice-chairperson as our Coordinatoor for the 70th Anniversary Celebrations. Sara will liase with Secretariat pertaining to all matters related to the grand celebrations and material input from our branch. Sara will be fully supported by branch EXCO and members to ensure our branch gets the mileage we deserve, all of the 13+ years of MNS in Miri.

If you have any particular memorabilia, subjects, stories, articles, images related to MNS Miri Branch, it's activities and members, please get in contact with Sara Wong soonest. We might just be able to accomodate some of these material in print as part of MNS history in Sarawak in the coffee table book as well as the congress exhibition.

MNS Miri/Oct 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

MNS Miri Nature Education Day Camp 07th November

Come and join the the MNS Miri in its Educational Camp at Lambir National Park where you will learn more about Lambir's famed flora and fauna.

Topics to be covered includes insects, fungi, trees, leaves and seeds. Participants will enjoy a mini explore-race which would be held in the afternoon. It's a treasure hunt incorporating vital learnings about nature.

There will also be talks by Lambir Hills NP PIC regarding Lambir National Park and it's history, and special treasures.

After a long absence from Nature Education Camp activities, we are getting back into the program aimed at raising awareness about our surroundings and priceless natural heritage.

Program details as follows:

Date: Saturday, 7th November 2009
Venue: Lambir Hills National Park
Person-in-charge: Amer & Grace
Cost of camp : RM 50 Non Members and RM40 Members inclusive of transport, modules, materials, food and park entrance fee.

We have places for 30 students, places are limited so please book your spot early.

Camp Itinerary:
7.00 am: Arrival of participants at the meeting point in Pustaka for transport to Lambir
7.30 am: Arrival of all facilitators for preparation and briefing
8.00 am: Arrival participants at Lambir NP and registration
8.15 am: Gather at the NP hall, safety briefing, programme briefing
8.30 am: Ice-breaking session
8.45 am: Break into working groups and start of Nature Education modules
9.00 am: Walk on the trail
10.30 am: Gather back at the hall and brunch
10.45 am: Gather all finding and prepare a presentation
11.15 am: Presentation (10mins each group)
12.15 am: Lunch
1.30 pm: Introduction to Lambir NP (Presentation by Lambir PIC)
2.00 pm: Nature Xplore Hunt
3.30 pm: Tea break,
3.45 pm: Present findings to rest of group
4.05 pm: Prize and certificate giving ceremony
4.30 pm: Program ends
5.00 pm: Transport back to Pustaka Miri

Participation is open to all, members and non-members alike.

Please contact Amer (012-6259121/085-454711) or Grace (085-452585) for further details.

Common Kingfisher by Choo Tse Chien

The resplendant Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis which is not so common as photographed by bird photographer and MNS Miri friend Choo Tse Chien. More of Tsechien's work can be found at :

A fine collection of Tsechien and friends' work, titled "101 Birds" was exhibited at the recent MNS AGM hosted by MNS Miri at Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort for three days, 25-27th September 2009.

The group donated 15% of the proceeds from the sale of prints from the exhibition to MNS Miri for it's Birdwatching with Schoolchildren Program.

Tsechien can be also be contacted at chootc at gmail dot com.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Walking the Old Logging Trail in Lambir 18th October

Surprising for a place just outside Lambir Hills National Park, which was logged before could still hold some interesting wildlife. Everytime we walked the trails here, we see numerous marks left by the critters that frequents these trails almost without fail.

Birdlife along the tracks isn't all too bad either. Bear in mind, sometimes it is better to view birds in open places such these. It's a wooded area with ample open sections which is great for viewing wildlife. It's brighter, birds more visible on perches. We've spotted three species of malkoha, a couple species of raptor, barbets, broadbills, treewifts, beeaters, crows and other smaller sunbirds.

The elevation is similar to Lambir Hills NP, rising up gently to a maximum of 200m to a ridge and tapers down gently again to the flat swamps of Pantu Buri. From the top of the ridge, Lambir summit is visible in all it's glory. Several places afford fantastic views of the summit.

Along the way to the ridge, there's verdant secondary forests, and in some place a few tall old growths. These sometimes are important perches.

What's more amazing is the number of animal tracks present in the area. So far we've seen deer tracks, wild boars, small and medium sized feline, viverides and mustelids. We even saw sunbear tracks there several times, this was confirmed by local people living near the area.

It's evident that the animals do not respect park boundaries, they don't know any better. Their traditional foraging grounds may have well been outside the park. By instinct they follow the usual route. Secondary logged over forest could still be important areas for these creatures as far as securing food is concerned. Existence of such buffer zones outside could very well be important in securing the life of these animals within the protected area itself.

Our latest finds:

Nitewalk at Lambir Hills National Park 17th October

Ever since MNS Miri members went on their first nitewalk way back in 1998 with Dr Rhett Harrison (not sure whether he was already a doctor then or not), we have kept this aspect of our outing alive come rain or shine, full moon or not.

Many have gone with use trudging thru the damp forest, sometimes in drizzles characteristic of the namesake rainforest. Children as young as six and members well over sixty; parents, teachers, inquisitive youngsters have enjoyed the wonder of seeing the creepy crawlies on the main trail of Lambir.

It can't be compared to Singapore Zoo Nite Safari of course but the charm of Lambir Hill Nitewalk lies with the little critters that makes Lambir Hills their's home. Our big animal sightings so far have only been restricted to monkeys, tarsiers, and giant squirels. We are still praying hard for an encounter with the resident clouded leopard or sunbear.

Our most exciting and favorite must have been the snakes and tarantulas. A few close encounters with the crawling kind have made some members addict to the nitewalk.

It's not just the off-chance sighting that draws people to a nitewalk. The serenity of the rainforest after sunset, the ruckus or lack of it mixed with the damp darkness creates a feeling of mysterious calm about such places. It helps that you are well familiar with the place by day, seeing it at night just further adds to the affinity to the trails.

This nite we didn't see many of the usual big players on the trails other than some oversize snails, frogs, ants, numerous stick insects, and a beautiful gecko. Our resident tarantula seemed to have gone AWOL.

The nite's tally:

Keep a lookout for our Nitewalks in Lambir, we've gone in with a minimum of five people. In a way smaller numbers are easier to manage, it increases the chances of seeing more critters along the way too.

Monday, October 19, 2009

People, use less plastics

A gallery of dead albatross chicks from Chris Jordan.

(c) Chris Jordan.

More on :

Death due to plastics, you must have wondered where all those plastic bottle caps went.

Thanks Tsechien.

A short introductory trip to Bekalalan in mid December

12 - 14 DECEMBER 2009

Members are invited to take part a short weekend trip to Bekalalan up in the highlands on the above dates. A short trip on a twin otter from Miri airport will transport you across from the humid lowlands to cool quiet surroundings of Bekakalan. Friends of MNS Miri are welcomed too.

Some of the activities you may find yourself taking part include:
1. visit apple farm (apple harvesting is around end of Nov to early Dec, hope there are some left for us to pick and sample)
2. climb up a hill to a view point, enjoy the scenery of Bakalalan
3. walk from Buduk Nur to the other end of Bakalalan and visit Buduk Bui (salt spring) on the way ~ about 3 hours walk one way, passing paddy fields and villages
4. birdwatching and photography for those seeking a more leisurely weekend up in the highlands.

It's an introductory trip so it'll be a leisurely affair, you choose yourself how you wish to spend your first Bekalalan weekend.

We will be stating for 2 nites at Bekalalan Apple Lodge Homestay, cost per room and board specified below:

Single/double with attached bathroom - RM60 per room per night
Twin/double with shared bathroom - RM50 per room per night
Breakfast - RM5, lunch - RM12, Dinner - RM12 per person

Guide and Transport:
Guide around Ba'kalalan - fee is about RM45 - 60 (for group of 12).
4WD ~ RM250 per vehicle one way from one end of village to the other end (optional, price depends on distance and type of vehicle. It is also possible to hire motorbike)

MasWings flights:
Sat 12/14 MYY/BKM ETD 7:30am ETA 9:05am
Mon 14/14 BKM/MYY ETD 10:05am ETA 11:40am
RM177.00 return.

The thing with trips to the interior is always the availability of tickets to board the plane. This announcement hopes to give you ample notice to scramble to the airport closest to you and book your Bekalalan tickets. We'll be firming up our accomodation bookings by mid November, so do get going if your're joining us.

It'll be fun raoming around unfamiliar surroundings making new friends along the way.

Monday, October 12, 2009

MNS Miri Branch October Updates

Dear Members,

As mentioned in a separate email a couple of weeks back our AGM went well and we saw a few items successfully lobbied to be included onto the MNS workplans for next year. One is the issue with Sime Darby opening up new oil palm plantations, second is the Green Audit Criteria for Corpoarate members and last but not least issues relating to deforestation in Sarawak. We'll see how those items pan out over the next year.


1. Similajau Trekking over Hari Raya long break, 20-22nd September
Sara led a group of members and friends trekking Golden Beach during the raya break, I think she's hooked now. Check-out Sara's write-up on our blog, the same article is on

2. MNS 62nd National AGM at BTRR, 26th September
Read the write-up here on our blog pages.

3. Kuching Mini Birdrace, 04th October
The successful race added 11 new birds to the list of birds in Borneo Highlands Resort! Though we did not participate this year, we should plan to join the festivities next year 2010.

4. Borneo Bird Festival, 10-15th October
This event is still ongoing in the new Rainforest Discovery Center, Sandakan. Our friend Choo Tse Chien 'bagged' his first Bornean Bristlehead finally just a couple of days ago while attending the activities there.

5. Birdwatching near Bukit Song, 03rd October
Our small birdgroup went fr a morning's stakeout first thing Saturday morning and came out with 40+ birds by just staying put in one shady spot on the fringe of Lambir Hills National Park northern corner. Read about it here as well as on

6. Trekking with Sara at Lambir Hills NP, 03rd October
Sara and few avid trekkers attempted Dinding Waterfall and succeeded!

7. MoonCake Fest at Curtin (Astronomy), 03rd October
Aju and Ernyza wowed the attending crowd with close-up views of the full moon.8. Scouts in Ulu Baram, 10-19th OctoberWe've send out a small advance party from the Society to conduct an exploratory walkabout to Ulu Baram to suss out the area. We will share their findings and images upon their return with the greater membership.

We should be able to start organising group trips to the area starting Jan 2010 depending out the outcome of this trip. Those interested to participate can start submitting their names now.


1. Birdwatching Walkabout in Curtin, October
Aju to pencil in a date for a short early morning or late afternoon walkabout on campus to initiate the Curtin Birdlists. Announcement will be made soon as we've got a firm date from Aju and teh Curtin birders. Those interested to participate, please revert.

2. Lambir Hills NP Nitewalk, 17th October
We'll explore the main trails for creepy crawlies and usual suspects found in and around the trails. Opportunities to spot the arboreal tarantula and maybe snakes.Meet 5.30-6.00 pm at the ticket counter. Entrance is $10/adult. Please bring water and wear covered shoes. Please revert to participate.

3. Birdwatching along the Lambir Logging Trail, 18th October
Join our birdgroup to canvas the trails for anumal tracks and birdsMeet 7:30-8:00 am at Lambir ticket counter. This event is FOC. Bring water and wear comfy trekking shoes. Please revert to participate.

4. Council Meeting, 23-24th October.
Nazeri will be attending discussions of Sarawak issues 23rd and Council meeting 24th in KL. We are strategising actions for Sarawak based on members discussions and input at the recent AGM. Outcome of this meeting will be shared with branch members in due course.

5. KMA Camp at Niah NP, 24-25th October
Puteri and Musa will be participating in this Camp at Niah Caves NP.6. Birdwatching in Niah, 01st November Our small bridgroup will be descending onto Niah NP for a spot of birdwatching near the surroundig area. Please revert if you are interested to participate.

7. Nature Camp for Children in Lambir, 07th November
After a very long hiatus, we are embarking to a nature camp for children again this November led by Amer and Grace from the NEC group.

This will be a day camp at Lambir Hills NP and we are trying to arrange for transport, insurance and speakers for the program. This is now firm and participation is invited from all segments of the branch and Miri community.

If you have kids or know someone who have kids who'd benefit spending a day in a natural forest with fullfilling activities, please call us.We will also be needing a few volunteers to help out with the program.


1. Fireflies Survey and Training, Kuching 5-6th December
We are sending Musa on a fireflies training in Kuching with Sonny from our Conservation Division. Hopefully upon successfull completion Musa can help us get more intimate with fireflies and conduct surveys in and around Miri.

Read about it here on our blog.

2. Membership renewal.
A big THANK YOU to those members who've taken the time to renew their membership. Those who havent, please do so at your earliest convenience. Please revert to this email if you require assistance or more information on how to renew your membership painlessly and hassle free.

Membership for the following members are expiring end of this month:
Adrienne Marcus Raja
Bejay Ugon
Jia Jiun Law
Masatoshe Sone
Nurhazwani Abdul Munaf
Terry Justin Dit
Elisabet Wee Siew Siew
Yong Kah Hian
Sim Yuh Thin
Lim Teck Huat

Members, please take time to renew your membership. If you need assistance, please contact us. Your Society needs your continued support.

3. Branch Blogs and Facebook.
Keep updated with Branch activities via our blog( and Facebook (search for "MNS Miri").

If you've articles, write-ups and pictures to share on our blog, please email

Thank you and kindest regards,
MNS Miri Branch Commt

Friday, October 9, 2009

MNS Firefly Survey in Kuching 5-6th December 2009

Image from (c)

MNS is currently compiling a directory on congregation firefly zones (CFZ) of the mangrove rivers in Malaysia.
Sonny Wong, MNS Senior Conservation Officer, have started work in Peninsula, and have recently covered Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor, South Terengganu, Pahang and Johor West.

Although the project will end in January with a draft CFZ directory, the compilation continues and will be updated regularly. As all the mangrove rivers are being threaten at a quicker rate, this project will not just end in January.

With Malaysia having at least 7 species of congregating fireflies in the mangrove rivers, MNS would like to mobilise the Branches help in carrying on updating, monitoring and lobbying for the State Government to conserve the firefly and mangroves habitat.

Rebecca D'Cruz, MNS Kuching Chairperson has suggested to bring the firefly survey course over to Kuching for the benefit fo Miri and Sabah branches. This will facilitate sharing of experiences with the members and conduct one day and night rapid assessment of significant firefly rivers in Sabah and Sarawak.

There will be discussions on the design of a more suitable forms to involve local communities (for river monitoring and even firefly watching tourism). This is expected to be used by the Branches once local community involvement is initiated.

Together with MNS Kuching Branch, MNS will be organising a small workshop on how to survey and monitor firefly rivers.

All 3 East Malaysia Branch members, UNIMAS and UMS are invited to participate in this program. We expect the branch representative will continue working with local community to monitore fireflies in their respective locations.

UNIMAS or UMS students are expected to help in the effort of documentation and monitoring of Congregating Firefly Zone.

Places are limited to the number of passengers in one 10 man boat or two boats depending on the budget and level of interest.

However, due to the small project budget, participants will have to bear their own expenses.

Tentative Programme
December 5-7th in Kuching, assuming a fine weather.

Dec 5: Arrival
3pm : firefly survey project sessions (what, why, how and when) and discussions
5.30pm : field sessions (boat provided)
9pm : search for firefly larva

Dec 6:
4.30 pm: discussions about last night sessions and sharing sessions
5.30pm: Field sessions (boat provided)
9pm: end with discussions

Dec 7: home

Please let us know your interest to participate in this program by emailing before 21 October 2009.

It's not only about fireflies, it's about conserving our entire riverine mangrove ecosystem.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Birdwatching near Bkt Song, Lambir Hills NP

Van Hasselt's Sunbird. Photosource : Lip Kee Yap, Singapore.

The section of Lambir Hills National Park we went birdwatching 3rd October was perhaps the least visited part of the NP other then by villagers living in Pantu Buri, farmers opening new land or those travelling to the newly opened oil palm plantations further north of the NP. Though the roads are typical 4WD Sarawakian dirt road, it's just barely manageable even for a 4WD. We definitely do not recommend going in there with a family sedan.

Steve, Musa, Liz and Nazeri made up the team of four that could wake early enough to make it to the 0530 hrs meeting call at Mosjaya. All the other sane birders were undoubtedly in bed dreaming of their most favorite birds. We on the other hand fantasized about Wreathed Hornbill, Wrinkled Hornbill and other rarities in these parts all the way to Bukit Song.

The early morning departure was actually perfect, by the time Steve maneuvered the DMAX and Nazeri opened up the gates we were only a few minutes shy of 0630hrs. For Sarawak, this is as bright as 0700 hrs in KL with even less people but fresher jungle air.

Birds were fortunately already busy catching the proverbial early worms, while some were contented with just singing their hearts out for the whole forest to hear. The forest edge we were at was perfect for the sort of birdwatching we intended to do for the morning. Sandwiched between two patches of prime rainforests, on a dirt track well hidden away from traffic, we were perfectly positioned to watch the birdies. Big trees stood tall towards higher elevation away from our chosen spot.

A shama full of song was the first to announce it's presence, followed by the Black-headed Bulbul. A few short seconds later these were followed by the Plaintive Cuckoo, Black and Yellow Broadbill, Barbet sp. and Hornbill sp. Faintly audible but completely out of sight the whole time was the soft tap-tap-tap of of Woodpecker sp. Hopes were quite high that we would record the presence of either a Wreathed or a Wrinkled Hornbill on this auspicious morning. Any day where you can go out twitch this early hour at such a prime spot should be declared an auspicious day.

A large hornbill finally did fly past, landed right at the top of a tall tree in front of us. Bino poised, Steve and et al prayed for Wreathed Hornbill, clammy hands on the focussing ring, heart beating fast, the Leica Televid APO 77 swung to position just as quickly ... to confirm the bird : Asian Black Hornbill! A few long seconds of close scrunity later, it was still an ABH. It with was full agreement and without a doubt NOT a Wreathed Hornbill that day. We waited ...

There were plenty of other birds to watch and tick notwithstanding. We noticed two flowering species of trees all around our perch, small little birdies were flitting in and out, some went for the fruit and some went for the nectar. Yellow-eared Spiderhunter; Hairy-backed Bulbul, Lesser Leafbird, Cream-vented Bulbul, and Yellow-vented Bulbul were all there taking turns foraging around the forest feeding stations. Once in while a bird would stop to preen. A group of Hill Myna made a fly past several times right above our heads low enough to pick out their yellow markings.

Many flowerpeckers and sunbirds were sighted fleeting amongs the forest edges too. Purple-naped Sunbird did not make an appearance today as it did 15th August at the same patch. However we saw Plain Sunbird, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker, and the brilliant Van Hasselt's Sunbird.

Throughout the morning many more birds made their own private appearances alongside those already mentioned above:
Thick-billed Pigeon
Dusky Munia
Red-bearded Bee-eater
Lesser Coucal
Red-eyed Bulbul
Red-throated Barbet
Black and Yellow Broadbill (heard)
Argus Pheasant (heard)
Dark-necked Tailorbird
Crested Serpent Eagle
Crested Goshawk
Silver-rumped Swift
Chestnut-rumped Babbler
Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot
Blue-throated Bee-eater
White-breasted Woodswallow
Tricolored Munia

With the conversions and opening up of forested lands and secondary forests near Lambir, the actual protected area has become more accessible of late. All around Lambir, oil palm plantations are cropping up, while others are at the forest clearing stage. New farms are being opened up and planted. This new access points gave more people greater opportunities to walk right up to the park boundary, enter it if they wanted to. What we hope is that those who do take the trouble to go to these places, actually went there with benign intentions, to enjoy nature like us, birdwatching. Encroachment with a less harmless purpose is a given in such cases.

We are in the midst of keeping track of birds we see in Lambir in the hope of contributing to the Lambir NP Birdlist. Partly to monitor and keep track of what's in and around the national park currently as well as note those that are getting less regular. As for the hornbills, though seven species have been recorded at Lambir and on the NP's birdlist, only the Asian Black Hornbill has been regularly sighted of late.

Lambir Hills National Park is one of Birdlife's International Important Bird Area (IBA) within the northern division alongside with Niah Caves National Park, Loagan Bunut National Park, Mulu National Park and Similajau National Park.

We hope the park to successfully continue to harbour most of the flagship bird species that made it an IBA even with all the external pressures it's experiencing today, an oasis for birds and other wildlife amidst the flurry of conversions around it.

Add ImageLambir Hills National Park, IBA (dark green) and surrounding areas from Google 2005. By Musa Musbah.

Write up by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/Oct2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Faces of the Rainforest

"Our land, our forest will only die off if the white man destroys it. Then the streams will vanish, the earth will become parched, the trees will dry up, and the rocks of the mountains will split with the heat. The Xapiripe spirits who live on the mountains and play in the forest will run away. Their fathers, the shamans, will no longer be able to call them to protect us. The land-forest will become dry and empty. The shamans will no longer be able to deter the smoke-epidemics and the evil beings who make us fall sick. Thus, all will die."

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, Shaman

Friday, October 2, 2009

Press Statement by Penan Support Group

1 October 2009


The Penan Support Group (PSG) would like to acknowledge the important role played by the Jawatankuasa Bertindak Peringkat Kebangsaan bagi Menyiasat Dakwaan Penderaan Seksual terhadap Wanita Kaum Penan di Sarawak (the Task Force) in the mission to ascertain and establish that the reported rapes of Penan women and girls by outsiders had indeed taken place.

We applaud the Task Force for correctly identifying imbalanced and poorly planned development programmes as a cause of the problems faced by the Penan, including the exploitative situation that Penan women and children in Middle Baram, Sarawak find themselves in. However, acknowledging that these incidences of violence against women and children have taken place is only the first important step towards more crucially redressing these heinous crimes and the structural problems underlying them.

At the very outset, the PSG was dismayed that the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development delayed the release of the Task Force Report by some nine months. Its inaction and indifference has delayed justice for the victims, their families and the community as a whole and has further increased the vulnerability of Penan minors and women who are already living in a precarious and potentially dangerous environment. Upon review of the report that has recently been released, we find that there are certain obvious and fundamental recommendations missing from the findings of the Task Force.

These omissions have prompted the PSG to issue this response:

Following are our key observations and critiques about the Task Force Report and the circumstances by which it was pulled together:

(1) To begin, it is important to situate the abuses and problems faced by the Penan within a larger picture where ill-conceived development programmes that pay little heed to international norms and/or local customary laws have led to the systematic disempowerment of Malaysia’s indigenous peoples, thus making them vulnerable to all forms of sexual violence and other human rights abuses. The Sarawak Government has awarded vast logging concessions to private companies on Penan ancestral lands since the 1980s.

The Penans’ dependence on logging companies for water, electricity and transport was a problem created by these logging operations. The Penan were traditionally able to trek around forests before logging destroyed many of their natural forest paths which were safe from loggers and other outsiders. The Penan knew in advance how many days’ walk was required and could plan their journeys, including trips to and from school. With those traditional paths replaced by logging tracks, the Penan have no choice but to depend on irregular transport along these tracks.

This dependency on the “kindness” of loggers for transport has increased the Penan women and children’s vulnerability to sexual abuse. Furthermore, cost becomes a major factor in moving around. After decades of impoverishment by logging “development” and, more recently, oil palm plantation “development”, such inequitable and unsustainable notions of development have seriously threatened the very existence of Penan communities by destroying the forests that their livelihood and lives depend upon.

(2) Such a comprehensive and holistic understanding of the Penan communities seems to have escaped the Task Force. This could be due to the limited and Semenanjung-biased composition of the Task Force as well as the unfortunate and obstructive presence of Sarawak Government officials. The PSG notes with great concern that no Sarawak-based NGOs were included in the Task Force, even though the authorities knew that several such NGOs were ready and had offered to contribute to the investigation. These NGOs have worked with the Penan communities for decades and have gained their trust.

By comparison, the Peninsular Malaysia-based NGOs in the Task Force were far less familiar with the historical, socio-economic and cultural environment of the Penan and were in no position to counter the skewered inputs of Sarawak Government officials upon whom the Task Force relied heavily for the planning and execution of the field investigation.

(3) Furthermore, the recommendations of the Task Force lack a timeframe or any mechanisms to ensure that authorities involved take concrete steps to meet these recommendations. More crucially, by focusing only on what the communities can do and not on what the perpetrators and outside parties must do, the Report fails to address the fundamental challenge of ill conceived, non-consultative, top-down development processes that threaten the lives of Penan communities, and push them further and further to the margins of existence.

(4) We bring attention here to the police response to the Task Force report with grave disappointment. The police representative on the Task Force completely failed to raise matters concerning the police. There was no indication in the report to demonstrate that police involvement in the Task Force would lead to police action against perpetrators. After the report went public, the Bukit Aman police top brass has continued to insist on “more information”, as if criminal investigation is the domain of NGOs. The Police have reneged on their earlier commitment to mount a joint Bukit Aman-NGO investigation team to interview victims, saying the Police have insufficient funding for a joint mission.

The police and Federal Government departments and agencies must prove, through concrete actions, to be independent entities serving the Penan and other indigenous communities as the rakyat, and not political masters and logging or plantation companies.


To rectify the serious omissions on the part of the Task Force, we submit the following recommendations:

A. Immediate

(1) Acknowledge the Penan’s right to self-determination and include them in all decision-making processes that affect their livelihood and lives.

We note the frequent failure to include the Penan in decision-making processes that affect their everyday lives. Such failure reflects the erosion of customary, constitutional and legal rights among the rural indigenous peoples of Sarawak and blatantly contradicts the universal human right to self-determination. The Sarawak Government-appointed representative for the Penan, Hasan Sui, has failed to correctly reflect the Penan communities’ views and by our reckoning is unfit to represent them. There is no reason why Penan leaders from the communities, elected by majority vote, should not be allowed to represent their own communities. The Sarawak Government’s refusal to recognise these leaders contradicts basic democratic principles and must stop.

We call on the Federal Government to strongly urge the Sarawak Government to acknowledge the rights of indigenous communities, as recognised and upheld by the Federal Constitution and the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and to respect the customary rights of indigenous communities. We further urge a close review of any Federal Government development programmes to ensure a genuine and completely transparent and thorough involvement of all segments of the Penan communities in decision-making processes that affect their lives.

(2) Review development projects that adversely impact on the Penan

To prevent further development projects that encroach upon the rights of indigenous peoples, we call upon Federal Development Agencies (such as FELDA and Tabung Haji, both involved in plantations on Native Customary Rights Lands, and Petronas, which has a pipe-line project linking Bintulu with Sabah that will slice through much NCR land) to immediately reconsider their programmes and projects in light of the recommendations made by the Task Force. We urge the Sarawak Government to review all its logging, plantations and dam projects in line with the Task Force recommendations and to withhold funding for projects which do not conform to these recommendations.

(3) Hold logging and plantation companies accountable for their actions and take immediate mitigating and preventative action against exploitative and illegal actors.

Logging and plantation companies have for too long had disproportionate access to power and authority in the parts of Sarawak that they are operating in. They have attempted to mislead the public with their minute contributions of occasional “free” transport, housing materials, water and even cash gifts as “corporate social responsibility”, but these have brought about untold sufferings to the Penan and other rural indigenous communities We call for concrete action to be taken to strictly regulate logging companies, their workers and other outsiders who seek to gain profit through exploitative means. The prevention of sexual violence must target potential perpetrators, even while efforts are made within the Penan communities to equip them with awareness on precautionary measures.

We strongly believe that all forms of sexual violence and exploitation stem from the unbalanced power relations in overwhelming favour of the logging companies and their workers. Indeed, the multiple problems inflicted upon the Penan and other Sarawakian indigenous communities are due to unequal social structures, in which the government-corporate collusion must be addressed as a root cause.

(4) Resignation of Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu

We also call for the resignation of the Chairman of the Sarawak Cabinet Committee on the Penan and Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu anak Numpang. His continued denial that any rape of Penan women and girls had taken place, even after the Task Force reported that rapes had been committed is a grave travesty against the very people he has been appointed to protect the interests of. His insensitive and highly prejudicial statements indicate that he is incompetent and unfit to hold public office.

B. Longer term

There are additional aggravated injustices that adversely affect the daily lives of Penan communities that the PSG wishes to highlight here.

We call on the government to:

(1) Improve measures for the Penan and other Orang Asal to obtain identity cards

To resolve the predicament of indigenous peoples who are unable to obtain identity cards despite repeated applications and promises by the authorities, we call for the setting up of a one-stop centre in which standard procedures are used and a fixed processing time is set for each application. This centre should be supported with adequate resources for well-equipped mobile units to reach all remote settlements over a set period of time. In addition, if an application is delayed, a proper appeal mechanism must be put in place to record any delayed processing of applications by the relevant authorities. For example, if a birth in a remote settlement was never registered, then a temporary IC must be issued immediately, pending appeal. Undocumented Malaysians must be restored with basic rights as Malaysians and accorded registration documents immediately.

(2) Improve opportunities and access of Penan children to education

To enable Penan parents to send their children to school, we call on the Education Ministry to plan and build schools within larger Penan settlements, to support the operation and maintenance of community-run pre-schools, and to explore and implement education solutions using new information and communication technologies that allow schooling to be conducted at community settlements. The Ministry should also set up an effective Penan Parent-Teacher Association in each of the rural schools, so that culturally appropriate educational goals can be institutionally implemented with the involvement of Penan families.

(3) Provide safe transportation for Penan children

As an immediate remedy to the problem of safe transportation, we urge the Federal authorities to allocate resources for schools to be equipped with appropriate vehicles and drivers to transport schoolchildren, safely supervised by accompanying teachers or parents, on all trips to and from schools. All such transportation arrangements should be run in agreement with parents and with their input on frequency and other issues.

(4) Ensure the provision of adequate healthcare services and clean water

Regarding the issue of healthcare, we acknowledge the Federal Government’s flying-doctor service and its rural health programmes as having brought much needed health services and benefits to the communities. However, these services and benefits are limited and the PSG sees great room for improvement. We urge the government to allocate more resources, in a transparent and accountable manner, to overcome widespread neglect of rural healthcare in Sarawak. We call upon the Health Ministry to evaluate healthcare services in consultation with the local communities and the general public and agree on ways to reduce healthcare disparities. In addition, we note the Sarawak Health Department’s remedial support to rural communities by providing water tanks for rainwater storage. However, we point out the fact that the Penan and other rural indigenous communities always had access to clean water before logging operations and plantations began that have since destroyed their sources of clean water. We urge the Health Department to be proactive in ensuring that water sources for the Penan and other rural communities are protected from logging, plantations and other “development” projects.

(5) Establish a Committee for short, medium and long term follow-up action

We call upon the Task Force to promptly reconstitute a decision-making and monitoring committee at the Federal Women, Family and Community Development Ministry level. The committee must put in place sufficient financial resources and operational mechanisms, and develop immediate, medium and long-term plans, strategies, programmes and projects to ensure that actions go beyond the limited Task Force recommendations. The committee should work to ensure that rights of the Penan and other indigenous communities are respected while appropriate, fully consultative, people-centred development takes place. Definite preventative action must be taken to ensure that all forms of sexual violence and exploitation against rural girls and women be ended. We urge the Federal Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to offer victims and their families regular financial, medical and counselling support. It is well within the Ministry’s responsibilities to deliver such support to the Penan victims and their families identified in the Task Force Report.


The PSG stands willing to work with the relevant authorities to ensure that common goals are achieved. We also stand ready to play our part in working with the communities to improve their capacity to work directly with the authorities to reach agreed-upon goals. For example, we are willing to work with the Education Ministry to help organise “Parents Organisations”, so that community-based Parent-Teacher Associations can work together on the transportation needs and education requirements of children.

The PSG reiterates that while the Task Force Report was specific to the Penan, we are conscious of how other indigenous communities in Sarawak face similar problems in their struggle for recognition of their customary and basic human rights.

The state government’s seeming defiance, disrespect and downright rejection of native customary land rights thus far have resulted in outsiders entering settlements without community consent, and often with the support and complicity of government authorities and the police. This has resulted in outsiders taking advantage of the communities’ vulnerability, including by subjecting them to rape and sexual abuse, with impunity.

We call on the logging, plantations and other outsider companies to withdraw their operations until safeguards against sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation are put in place and NCR land is gazetted by the state government.

For further information, please contact :
See Chee How: +60198886509 or
Colin Nicholas: +60133508058.