Now disappearing birds pose a big question

WHERE HAVE ALL THE BIRDS GONE?: It is all quiet at nightfall when the birds fail to return to roost on these trees. Town folk are worried whether they have become victims of rapid urbanisation.

SIBU: Where have all the birds gone in Sibu? This is the question people are asking after the birds, which used to return by the tens of thousands at nightfall to roost on trees, have almost all disappeared.

The business district in the town centre is now all quiet in the absence of the chirping feathered inhabitants at nightfall.

Sibu Municipal Council secretary Hii Chang Kee, when contacted, confirmed the council had noticed less birds returning in the evening, saying the workers washing the birds’ droppings early each day re-confirmed this.

According to the workers, he said, it was common for less birds returning in the dry season, but whether or not the current situation had become abnormal, the council would have to monitor the situation before commenting.

Despite the dwindling number of birds, Hii said they would continue to clean up the town of the droppings each day.

He said the birds’ night resting grounds used to be on trees behind RH Hotel, in the parking lot behind Star Cineplex and near Sibu Post Office.

According to some town folk, the dwindling bird population could be a serious environmental concern as such they hoped the authorities would study it to ensure the safety of the wild life of Sarawak.

A bank officer, who withheld his name, said he became concerned a few weeks ago when he noticed the night had became quiet.

“The flock in the parking lot behind Star Cineplex used to be full of life at nightfall. We had to cover our glasses when we drank in the open-air coffee shop.”

He said lately, he and his friends did not have to do that anymore, and that was how he noticed the disappearance of the birds.

While the missing birds are good news to many who consider them a nuisance, others are worried of their survival.

“Have their natural habitat been disrupted? What is happening?” computer technician Kenny Lau, who used to frequent the commercial area, asked.

Lau said in an environmental aspect, a town without birds is a dead town.

But not all agrees with Lau.

One of them is the chairman of Malaysian Medical Association, Sarawak Branch, Dr Hu Chang Hock.

In an interview yesterday, he said he had noticed less birds in town, “but they are not totally gone yet.”

Hu was more concerned about the health hazard these birds might cause.

“People breathing in contaminated air in these areas could suffer from fungal infection. One of the sicknesses the birds could bring is histoplasmosis, a type of lung infection.”

Known also as ‘cave disease’, he said the infection in an acute case could be fatal. He said there were already cases in Sibu Hospital and the authorities could not turn a blind eye to the problem.

“There is a patient who has been admitted frequently for the recurrence of the sickness. In other cases, the patients are not as serious.”

A patient suffering from the disease will suffer from cough and other flu-like symptoms. Hu hoped the authorities would look into a better solution to the environmental problem.

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