Rare Mt Kinabalu documentary at BEFF 2017


KOTA KINABALU: A historical account of the Royal Society’s first scientific expedition to Mount Kinabalu in 1961 will make its digital première on the opening night of the Borneo Eco Film Festival on  22 September.

Mount Kinabalu-North Borneo 1961 features rarely seen archive footage of British and local scientists exploring the lush untouched forests at the foothills of Sabah’s famed mountain. The expedition, led by Professor E.J.H Corner, noted a remarkable cache of new species discovery that provided the impetus to designate Mount Kinabalu as a national park.

Corner and his team started in Poring and explored two key areas of the eastern side of Mount Kinabalu; the Eastern Ridge (but were hindered by the steep precipices of the Pinnacles) and the Pinosuk Plateau. Some of the prominent discoveries include proof of existence of the elusive rhinoceros on Mount Kinabalu and new species of oaks and figs.

The expedition also shed light on the little known biology of endemic plants and animals. In one report, Zoologist J.L Harrison observed that squirrels scampering over the hanging lids and old empty pitcher plants of Nepenthes lowii in search of snail eggs produced ‘gong-like sounds’ that echoed in the forests.

The 35-minute film, shot using 16mm handheld cameras, was recently digitised courtesy of the Royal Society. Originally, the film and audio were separate reels.

“This extraordinary film is a feast for the eyes and soul. We get a deeper sense of appreciation of the wealth of biodiversity and Mount Kinabalu’s cultural significance that had enthralled Corner and his team,” said BEFF festival director Melissa Leong.

“Now more than ever, we see the significance of good protection and management of our natural heritage.”

Commenting on the film, Keith Moore, head of the library at the Royal Society said: “With its vibrant footage of Borneo, and local people and scientists at work, the film ‘Mount Kinabalu’ is one of the most precious in the Royal Society’s archive. Now available for the first time in digital format, we’re proud to have the film return to Borneo for its digital debut at Borneo Eco Film Festival.”

A number of experts in botany, zoology, soil science and other fields from Britain, Singapore, Malaya and Sarawak, participated in the 1961 expedition with help from local villagers. Corner and his team’s success led to a second scientific expedition in 1964, the same year the Kinabalu National Park was created.

The rich Pinosuk Plateau described in Corner’s various reports is now gone. It was originally part of the park’s boundary but was de-gazetted in the 1980s to make way for agriculture.

Mount Kinabalu-North Borneo 1961 premières at 6:30pm on 22 September at Suria Sabah (5th floor). Entry to all Borneo Eco Film Festival screenings is free. Detailed screening dates and times are available at www.beff.org.my