Friday, March 22

Nature Reserve dream comes true for Mirians


An aerial view of Piasau Camp with Miri City in the background.

(From fourth right) Ting and Musa with exco members from the Piasau Camp Miri Nature Park Society during the recent 11th Hornbill Walk.

Miri District Officer Boniface Intang Apat (standing centre) holding the registration certficate of Piasau Camp Miri Nature Park Society with its exco members.

Piasau Camp Miri Nature Park Society members and others examining the carcass of Faridah (hornbill), retrieved from the bulk bin.

MIRI: The earth-breaking of Piasau Nature Reserve here today (May 10) will enhance the historical value and functions of the area, formerly known as Piasau Camp, which was synonymous with Miri’s oil and gas industry, dating back 103 years.

Head of State Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud will officiate at the ceremony.

This Nature Reserve urban park is famous for its rare hornbills and is probably also the only urban centre in Sarawak, or even Malaysia, where a viable number of the totally protected bucerotidae species is surviving.

Most importantly, gazettement of the Nature Reserve is another proof of the government living up to the 1Malaysia Concept of putting the people first and encouraging smart partnerships in development.

The Nature Reserve was set up after persistent calls since last year from Mirians to save endangered wildlife in the area and prevent the historical Camp from being developed into another concrete jungle once Shell relinquished the land to the government.


Why Nature Reserve

Honorary forest ranger Musa Musbah, who was among those tasked with conduct the survey on the camp, said the matured forest in the area made it a viable breeding ground for hornbills – and so far, at least 15 of these birds have been sighted nesting there.

The Reserve is also a sanctuary for 41 species of birds, 25 of mammals, 10 of butterflies and five of amphibians.

According to Musa, the gazettement, effective May 3, 2014, will pave the way for intensified conservation and management of the 88.5ha Reserve which doubles as the green lung and a new recreational tourist attraction for metropolitan Miri with a population of over 300,000.

“It too will be the greatest birthday gift for me,” said Musa who turns 59 today (May 10).

Musa, chairman of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Miri branch, and deputy chairman of the newly-formed Piasau Camp Miri Nature Park Society, is one of the prime movers behind the creation of the Nature Reserve.


Lead-up to gazettement

Piasau Camp’s best known inhabitants are the Oriental Pied hornbills (anthracoceros albirostris).

A pair named Jimmy and Faridah nested and hatched their chicks there last year.

Faridah was killed by poachers on September 26, 2013, prompting loud calls for the Camp to be gazetted as a protected area.

The local community, State Barisan component parties, the opposition and non-governmental

organisations such as the Malaysian Nature Society and the Piasau Camp Miri Nature Park Society aggressively lobbied the state government for the area to be declared totally protected.

A signature campaign and several events, including the Hornbill Walk, exhibitions and talks on hornbills at Piasau Camp, were organised. In all, 11 Hornbill Walks have been held since last year with overwhelming response from both the public and the media.

A special gathering in memory of Faridah was also held, drawing a big crowd of about 1,000 people.

With gazettement of the Nature Reserve, Faridah’s death had not been in vain. For the record, she had produced 56 offspring since 2005.

Jimmy has since found a new mate named Juliet. And in anticipation of the arrival of Juliet’s future broods, a 24-hour video surveillance data system was set up at the nest site to provide complete data for future reference and conservation purposes.

The system can be accessed online, making it the first of its kind in Sarawak and probably Malaysia as well.

The Piasau Camp Miri Nature Park Society was registered on October 2013 with Datuk Sebastian Ting, former political secretary to the Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister, elected as the first chairman, to pursue its cause (gazetting the Camp as a Nature Reserve) at the state level.

Last year, former Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud gave the gazettement the greenlight, probably marking the first time a residential area has been converted into a totally protected nature reserve.

Indeed, the much-awaited Piasau Nature Reserve is truly a success story of close cooperation between the people and the authorities – or the Camp’s stakeholders and the government.


People’s aspirations

National Malaysian Nature Society president Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed who also joined Mirians in lobbying for the Nature Reserve, urged the people to help the government make it a model community project for saving urban forest and its habitats.

He said one good example was Kota Damasara near Petaling Jaya where the Society was taking care of the forest jointly with Selangor Forestry.

Miri parliamentarian Dr Michael Teo said gazettement of the Nature Reserve was “very timely.”

“I hope the government will stick to its stand that no future legislations can revoke it. Let it be a truly community recreational area and for the conservation of hornbills and other rare wildlife habitats.”


Other activities

Piasau Camp, a former expatriate community in Miri, is a natural environment close to the beaches, making it an ideal venue for people-oriented activities, including charity programmes.

Among the programmes organised was the Charity Half Marathon to raise funds for the Palliative Care Association Miri and the Christmas Charity Bazaar in aid of local charities.

The Piasau Camp Miri Nature Park Society has been holding its monthly Hornbill Walk since last year while Paws Miri – the Dog Walk – was organised in appreciation of the environment, especially the hornbills that never failed to appear during all the events.

With the Piasau Nature Reserve now a confirmed project, the people can expect more recreational facilities to be provided. All the plans for the Reserve, including those for the hornbills and environmental conservation, will be unveiled during the earth-breaking today (May 10).

Mirians can turn up in green and in full force to witness the ceremony during which activities such as exhibitions, tree planting and the Green Walk will be held.

Among the VIPs expected are Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem, Shell Malaysia chairman Iain Lo and Petronas president and chief executive officer Tan Sri Dato’ Shamsul Azhar Abbas.