Malaysia: Banking on birding in the name of conservation

FERNANDO FONG New Straits Times 23 Nov 16;

JELEBU: The untapped potential of Kenaboi Forest Reserve as a birding diversity hotspot has led to an expedition by bird watchers and photographers.

Touted as the first of its kind in the country, the expedition was organised by the Negri Sembilan Tourism Board and Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia (ECOMY).

Despite being extensively logged before it was gazetted as a forest reserve some twenty years ago, today the forest reserve is found to be abundantly rich in bird species.

ECOMY chief executive officer Andrew Sebastian said a recent two-day expedition listed 115 species of birds including the helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil).

The helmeted hornbill has recently been uplisted from Near Threatened to Critically Endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

“The current forested landscape must be retained as it is and enriched by the planting of forest fruit trees so that birds and wildlife can thrive.

“The untapped potential for bird conservation can also be unlocked by setting up an information centre, while active birding zones should also be identified,” he told the New Straits Times.

The expedition was also a collaborative venture between birdwatchers and photographers coming together to promote interest in birdwatching and birds conservation.

Andrew, a seasoned naturalist and bird guide, noted that the two groups play a vital role in helping to ensure healthy populations of birds for the future.

The former are primarily interested in watching, studying, and learning about birds, while the latter are passionate to get beautiful photographs of the birds, often investing a great deal of money in high-powered telephoto lenses and countless hours in time.

“It’s an uneasy grouping as both have different methodologies and agenda.

“But in an expedition setting, it’s the best formula as we had witnessed.

“They worked well as a team, recognising call notes of birds far away while keeping an eye on the camera,” he said.

Meanwhile, Negri Sembilan Tourism Board event manager Shamaruddin Saidin said plans are afoot to offer two days one night tour package for birding enthusiasts.

“We will find travel agents to sell the packages, which will also focus on conserving our birds and their habitats.

“The location is not too far from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which is a plus point,” he said.

He added that Kenaboi has other attractions which will appeal to outdoor lovers such as the beautiful Lata Kijang waterfall, lush and dense green bamboo groves, and exotic tropical fruits such as dokong and miniature-size durian kampung.

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