Tuesday, June 25

Sarawak the country’s bird paradise

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WONDERUL EXPERIENCE: Bee Cheng (right) guiding a family during a
bird-watching trip in Fraser Hills.

KUCHING: Sarawak, with at least 10 ideal sites for bird-watching and accessible to the public, is a birding paradise in the country.

They are Bako National Park, Semenggoh Nature Reserve, Kubah National Park, Borneo Highlands, Buntal mudflats, Lambir Hills National Park, Loagan Bunut National Park, Niah National Park, Similajau National Park and Maludam National Park.

The state’s specialist birds include the Pygmy White-eye Oculocincta Squamifrons which are easily seen in Ba’Kelalan and Borneo Highlands than anywhere else.

Gunung Mulu National Park, Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Talang-Satang National Park which are also rich in bird species are difficult to visit without permits.

There are an estimated 4,000 Chinese Egret in the world, out of these, Buntal holds 400 (or 10 per cent) of them during the winter months between September and April each year.

Some birds which are rarely seen but can be seen within the Kuching vicinity include Blue-banded Pitta (Kubah National Park, Borneo Highlands), Borneo Bristlehead (Matang Wildlife Centre & Kuching Wetlands National Park), Borneon Barbet (Borneo Highlands) and Silvery Pigeon (Pulau Talang Talang Besar).

Despite having such attractions, major overseas bird tour operators often confine themselves to Sabah as Sarawak has not made any effort to attract birders.

Lack of attention to Sarawak means a loss to the birders as well as a loss of revenue to the state.

Through birding, we protect our forests, wetlands and important bird habitats, and recruit birding guides.

Although tour operators in Sarawak may have enquiries for birding tours, they hesitate to sell them due to lack of
licensed tourist guides who are trained in birding.

For these reasons, the Sarawak Tourist Guides Association (SKTGA) will be holding a bird watching workshop at Kubah National Park near here from Oct 5 to 7.

The workshop will be held in collaboration with Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), and supported by the Ministry of Tourism Sarawak.

It aims at creating interest about bird watching among licensed tourist guides; study field craft on how to identify birds, and how to use field guides; emphasis on ethics and etiquettes in bird watching; and inculcate safety considerations and bird conservation.

The organisers hoped that licensed tourist guides will appreciate the habitats where birds are found will lead to protection of these sites for conservation of birds.

It is also hoped that more workshops will be conducted by local experienced birders from MNS Kuching Branch in the future.

The workshop will include classroom as well as field studies at Kubah National Park over three days and two nights.

Participants comprising licensed tourists guides who are SKTGA members will stay overnight at Kubah National Park.

They will experience real-life and hands-on situations in bird watching techniques, to be led by experienced bird leaders from MNS from Peninsular Malaysia and MNS Kuching Branch.

The workshop speakers are Ng Bee Cheng and Mark Ng from MNS Kuala Lumpur; Anthony Wong, Daniel Kong Fuk Sin and Daniel Jee Phet Long from MNS Kuching Branch.

Bee Cheng has 10 years of birding experience, trained others in bird watching and led many birding trips for MNS members throughout Malaysia.

Mark has seven years birding experience and is a trainer for Bird Watching Beginners Course. He has led birding
trips for MNS members throughout Malaysia.

The other three presenters from Kuching Branch are also very experienced birders and trainers, and have been instrumental in creating awareness in bird watching in Kuching, especially at Bako Buntal Bay, Borneo Highlands, Kubah National Park and Matang Wildlife Centre.