Friday, April 23, 2010

Natural Science Lecture 2010

Lecture Title:

Speaker: Datuk Seri Lord Cranbrook

Venue: Dewan Kuliah Pusat 2B (Central Lecture Hall 2B), UPMKB

Date: 05 May 2010

Time: 7.00 – 9.00pm.

Audience: Public, Researchers, Planters, Lecturers, Students

Free Admission

Jointly organised by:
The Natural Science Society Bintulu & University Putra Malaysia (Bintulu)

Speaker’s Biography:

Earl of Cranbrook MA PhD PBNS(K)

Datuk Seri Lord Cranbrook received his Bachelor of Arts (1956) and Master of Arts (1960) degrees at Cambridge, England. He has pursued a career as an environmental biologist, initially in South East Asia and subsequently in the UK and Europe. He is a specialist in the biology and management of the cave swiftlets, the "birds-nest soup birds" and the biology of living mammals and archaeozoology of the Malaysian region.

His first post-graduate appointment, 1956-58 was at the Sarawak Museum, Kuching (Borneo) where he was engaged generally in collection and curation duties and specifically in the archaeozoology and studies of cave swiftlets. After obtaining a Ph.D. at Birmingham University (1958-1960), he undertook further swiftlet studies in Indonesia (1960-61). He then joined the Zoology Department, University of Malaya, Malaysia (1961-70).

In 1970 the Earl of Cranbrook returned to his family home in Suffolk, England and became both involved in the management of the family farm and active in local, national and international public and voluntary service, and in the private sector. In 1978 he took the family title and seat in the House of Lords until 1999 when hereditary rights were abolished by the Act of 1999.

He has been author (or co-author) and editor of books on the mammals, the birds, the tropical rainforest, and wonders of the natural world of the South-East Asian region, and of many scientific papers on these and related topics including Mammals of South-East Asia (1988), Wonders of Nature in South-East Asia (1997) as editor, and Swiftlets of Borneo: builders of edible nests (2002).

Lord Cranbrook is a frequent visitor to Sarawak and the region. His current activity is external adviser to Yayasan Ulin, a new (2009) charitable foundation for the promotion of conservation in unprotected habitat in Kalimantan, which has been founded by the oil palm plantation company, REA Kaltim.

Lecture Abstract


Earl of Cranbrook MA PhD PBNS(K)

There are many definitions of “Sustainable Development”, but all emphasise a synthesis of economic, environmental and social objectives, sometimes referred to as a “3-legged stool” . Nature conservation places stress on one leg, i.e., environmental objectives, but should not ignore the others. Indeed, in the opinion of many people, nature is worth conserving because it has intrinsic economic and social values. To arouse support and be successful, conservationists must convince others that their recommendations are grounded in sound science and, moreover, that their programmes are also beneficial in social and economic areas of activity. Above all, society as a whole needs to be persuaded that natural biodiversity is too important to be discarded in favour of short-term objectives.

The scope of this talk is limited to the island of Borneo, 762,685 sq km in area. This is the third largest island in the world and is also the largest of the Greater Sunda Islands that, with the Thai peninsula, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, constitute the Indo-Malayan zoogeographical subregion. Among extant mammal and bird faunas of the subregion, the large number of shared species with an evident common derivation from continental Southeast Asian precursors has long been recognized as the consequence of land connections during the Pleistocene . The majority of naturally occurring species of the mammals, including bats, and the birds of Borneo are associated with forest habitats; many have not been found outside closed tropical rainforest .
Land development involving the clearance of forest has therefore had serious consequences. The loss of biodiversity has aroused concern, not only among conservation NGOs but also among rural communities who have seen a dramatic diminution in the natural products, plant and animal, for which their traditional way of life found many important uses. The growth in oil palm plantations has been criticised, in particular, for the effects on orang-utan populations. These impacts cannot be denied, and the industry itself is working towards a form of certification for “sustainable” palm oil production that will assure customers that appropriate measures have been taken to protect “high conservation value” (HCV) habitats and “rare, threatened or endangered” (RTE) species, including orang-utan. It is sometimes claimed that measures to safeguard HCV habitat and RTE species will also, without additional input, serve to enhance the conservation of other biota. The truth of this assertion is a matter of scientific test, but it is not self-evidently safe to assume that it is correct.

In this talk, the scientific and conservation importance of Borneo mammals (including orang-utans) and birds is outlined. The variety of organisations that may be responsible for their conservation is reviewed, and suggestions are made of action that could be undertaken by a dedicated conservation team and by individuals. But the ultimate message is stark. Biodiversity loss is intimately associated with most other present trends that threaten to become a global, civilization-destroying crisis. In the long term, if society insists that it must drive down biodiversity to maintain the human species, then the future of the human species is not sustainable.

Article printed from The Borneo Post Online:

Looking back with the Earl of Cranbrook

Posted By rajlira On 16th December 2007

THE name Gathorne Hardy might not ring a bell for many, but in the world of animal science, the fifth Earl of Cranbrook (yes, he is an Earl) is an iconic figure and his name is as familiar to those in this field as David Beckham is in football.
Remarkably the 74 year-old zoologist began his career in Sarawak when in 1956 he worked in the Sarawak Museum under the supervision of Tom Harrison the curator then, for two years.
At that time he bore the title Lord Medway and for two years he was involved in extensive research and studies for the museum before going back to England to further his studies.
After getting his degree in Cambridge, Hardy obtained his PhD at Birmingham University through his research on the cave swiftlets at Niah caves in 1960.
He was made the fifth Earl of Cranbrook after his fathers’ death in 1978 and aside from his continuing scientific research and studies he was also active in politics.
Hardy is a regular visitor to Sarawak and I was privileged to meet him at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) last year. He came back again recently and I took the chance to interview him on his experience and career for thesundaypost.

Q: What was your job when you first started out in the Sarawak Museum in 1956?
A: I did everything… (laughed), I was the only zoologist here back then. I sorted all the birds coming in to the Museum from collectors all over the State.
At that time Bill Smythies was writing the checklist of birds of Borneo and collections of birds were coming in, funded by the keen amateur ornithologist, Dato Loke Wan Tho.
Tom Harrisson had arranged for people in the Ulu to collect birds and skin them. These collectors had basic training in the Museum; then they went back to their villages to collect the birds and send them to the Museum. And I used to sort all those bird skins. At that time I was also studying the swiftlets .
In 1957, I was asked to examine and identify animal bones collected from all the Sarawak Museum excavations.

Q: Why did you go back to England in 1958?
A: I went back to England to do my PhD but my research was on swiftlets of Niah Cave, so I came back again to Sarawak for fieldwork here.
Then, in 1960, I went to Indonesia under post doctrate fellowship for a short while, before getting an appointment in Universiti Malaya (UM). I was with UM until 1970.
All that time when my schedule allowed, I was looking at bones from Sarawak Museum.
Much later, in 2000, Cambridge University Professor Graeme Barker received a big grant to reinvestigate the Niah caves. I just sort of hung around, met them and talked to them and got involved again in archaeozoology….. looking at bones again.
And it had been great fun to work with the next generation. But I want to work with the next generation in Sarawak, not only with foreign colleagues.

Q: How were you involved in politics?
A: When my father died, as a hereditary peer I became a member of the UK parliament. At the same time, I held various appointments in public service, including the chairman of English Nature (1990-98) which is the government nature conservation organization for England.
In 1996, I was asked to head an entirely new organization called “the Regulator of Environmental Bodies under the Land Fill Tax Regulations”.
In 1996, UK government introduced a land fill tax, intended to be a “green” tax. Waste disposal companies, which had to pay the tax by weight on the waste they were treating, were able to avoid a proportion of their tax liability if that money was applied to environmental projects. This process required regulation and I was asked to set up a national regulator. It was very testing work, but satisfying. In the six years that I was there, we saw half a billion pounds sterling applied to environmental projects through the scheme, and that was great.

Q: How often do you visit Sarawak?
A: Yearly…sometimes twice a year. This time I was first at a conference in Bangkok on edible bird’s nests, and then I went with friends to Java Timur for a vacation before going to Peninsular Malaysia where there is a lady in Perhilitan who has a very good collection of shrews. I did some work with her on the shrews before coming here.

Q: Which part of Sarawak have you been to?
A: I have been to many parts of Sarawak but, during the time I worked here, I went to Sadong area, Niah, Bekenu, Tinjar and all over the place.

Q: Why do you come back to Sarawak so frequently?
A: I always enjoy coming to Sarawak and I have a diversity of activities here. This time I believe I’m becoming a three-day professor at UNIMAS to teach a short course on the recognition of animal bones in archaeology.
Last year I came and gave a lecture to the students and suggested that there was a huge resource at the Sarawak Museum which was underused and students could find a lot of studies or projects if they were to look at the archaeological remains at the Museum.
So, they asked me this time to give a course on bone recognition in archaeology and I am happy to do that. In the end, I hope there will be somebody here following my footsteps.

Q: You speak Bahasa Malaysia, how did you learn the language?
A: “Jadi masa dulu masa tahun lima puluh enam kalau kita tak cakap Bahasa Melayu memang tidak laku” (if we did not speak Bahasa Malaysia we could not do anything) because nobody spoke English those days.
So we had to learn the language. I had two teachers to start off with and I took the book “Teach yourself Malay” on the boat in 1956.
So when I arrived, I could say “saya baru datang” (I just arrived) and things like that. It was good. I learnt standard Malay but I could speak Sarawak Malay if I try.

Q: Was it a difficult language to learn?
A: It’s not a difficult language to learn. It’s a simpler language than Chinese, which is much harder. I tried once. I learnt 48 characters and I was always looking around but I could never see my 48 friends… and the simplest Chinese needs about 3000 characters.

Q: Do you speak any other local languages?
A: I learnt Iban by listening to it. It is quite funny, because when I tried to read, I found myself like somebody who could not really read, I had to read out loud. But I have forgotten most of my Iban now.

Q: What are the incidents that stand out from your memories of your first stint in Sarawak?
A: I took the Blue Funnel cargo ship from Liverpool, I arrived at Singapore then changed into another boat to reach Kuching.
The boat had to ram into the bank upstream of the Astana and waited for the tide to turn it around before it docked into Brooke dockyard. That boat was called Rajah Brooke.
Then when I first went to Niah, we sailed in a boat from Pending up to the mouth of Niah or Kuala Niah. The sea was rough and there was a small boat bobbing up and down and we had to choose the right moment to jump from the big boat into the small boat which took us up river to Niah and that was how we got to Niah those days.
And once, when we had been asked by Tom Harrisson to make a careful excavation of a full skeleton from Niah, we had to go from Niah town in a Chinese boat to get to Miri.
The Museum team was sitting at the deck with others out at sea.
The wind began to blow and we were getting nowhere because the waves were so strong the boat could not make headway.
Then our fellow passengers started asking “what’s in the box?” I guess if we had told them, both we and the box might have been thrown over board.

Q: How much has Sarawak changed since the 1950s?
A: Sarawak has changed so much. There’s always something new and it gets much, much easier to do things. Much easier to travel and go to exciting places like Mulu and Niah.
In the 1950’s it took me 28 days to reach Singapore from Liverpool and now it’s just 12 hours from Heathrow. And the food is also much better. A lot of choices, back then, it was rice and salted fish when we were on field trips.

Q: I understand that you have been visiting the Sarawak Musuem in the last few days, what do you think about the collections at present?
A: The collections have surprisingly changed very little since I was here. People come up to me saying “this box is just like you left it”. I think the Sarawak Museum collections at present are very historic and some are very old.
Some of these old records are quite indispensable and perhaps it would be very useful if there were some discussion about what the natural history collections are for and how this important material could benefit the public — for research, conservation and historic records. I hope this short course will invigorate research in collaboration between UNIMAS and the Museum.

Q: What are the standard methods of recording museum collections?
A: I was in Kuala Lumpur last week, taking part in a big consultative workshop, well attended, on the subject of a National Natural History Museum for Malaysia.
The idea, as I understand it, is that this museum would not be a centralised museum. It would be a repository where collections can be placed but at the same time it will be linked electronically to all other existing Natural History collections in Malaysia.
And it will bring uniform standards of registration and cataloguing. I hope Sarawak Museum will have a part in that, which would be exciting.

Q: What do you think about the conservation efforts taking place here?
A: In 1988, I was asked by the Chief Minister to head up something called the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) mission. I was the chairman, and that was very challenging.
We saw what forest policies were then and we advised on harvesting rates and other matters. Of course things have changed tremendously. One recommendation was 10 per cent of the State to become Totally Protected Areas .
I don’t think that target has yet been realised. But I think Sarawak Forestry is working steadily towards it. It is very good to come back here and hear that there are new areas gazetted for conservation. I understand that two areas of limestone and the Bongoh Hills are about to be gazetted as new national parks.
The ITTO mission suggested 10 per cent which is actually a big target. Brunei had already got there, a long time ago, but there will be many countries which will not have 10 per cent of their land area designated for nature conservation.

Q: How do you think UNIMAS is doing in terms of environmental education?
A: UNIMAS is doing a lot of research and there are some keen researchers out there applying a lot of new methods in their studies.
So I might sound a bit old fashioned because identifying bones is rather an unfashionable study. But there is a lot to be learnt from looking at archaeological bones.
It’s just one field of study and I am not suggesting UNIMAS be deeply involved but I do hope some of their students will come along, be enthused and realise what a tremendous resource there is in the Museum.
Because the Sarawak Museum has a huge archaeozoological collection and some collections have yet to be studied in detail. Some which I had looked at in 1959 are still in boxes, waiting.

Q: How many publications do you have?
A: A lot of publications. First book was the “Checklist of Mammals of Borneo”. Together with my colleague David Wells, I wrote “Birds of the Malay Peninsula, vol 5″, I also wrote “Mammals of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) and Singapore”, and together with David Edwards, published a book about the Belalong rainforest in Brunei.
I was asked by Oxford to compile an anthology called “Wonders of the Natural World in South East Asia” and together with Dr Lim Chan Khoon from SFC wrote the “Swiftlets of Borneo: Builders of Edible Nests”, published by Natural History Publications (Borneo) and still in print. There are also some other books and many scientific papers.

Q: What are your future plans?
A: My books have been on Borneo topics, rather than specifically about Sarawak. But I am hoping now that I’m here, together with a colleague Rambli Ahmad, who was the man who wrote “Looking at Loagan Bunut”, to put together something about Alfred Wallace in Sarawak, we which we hope will be ready next year.
So, that’s what we are working on now and so far we have about 140 pages.

Article printed from The Borneo Post Online:
URL to article:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Conservation Awareness & Biodiversity Program

The second event in CABEP took place on the 10-11 April 2010, with 14 all female participants from the Interact Club of SMK Bandar with their 2 teachers in charge, Miss Joyce and Miss Wong, as well as 2 representatives from the CIMB Shahida Bintulu Mr. Suaidi and Mr. Lu.

The team started out at 8.15am reaching the Samarakan Training Center in mid morning.
After checking into the hostel and a quick morning tea, the lecture program began in the Kakus Classroom with self introduction and welcome.

The lectures covered Conservation Program at the Sarawak Planted Forests, Conservation of Wildlife and Plants, Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies), Water Conservation in Agriculture as well as Global Trends in Environmental Management.

There was a short bout of rain in the afternoon but the evening frogging event went ahead after dinner, with the night walk in the forest which took about 2 and a half hours. Many species of stick insects were found, some frogs, lizards and even a sleeping Pita (bird).

Early the next morning was bird watching time, with Belden leading the team. We saw the Black Hornbill, Egrets, Chinese Pond Heron. Stork Bill Kingfisher, Sandpiper, Starlings, Swallows etc

After breakfast was time to look for Dragonflies and Damselflies with Ollince, who told us many things about these fascinating invertebrate. She even managed to catch a female dragonfly in the process of laying eggs.

After morning tea, Mr. Tham CK, a forester and planter with many years of experience in the field, gave us the benefit of his knowledge on Water Conservation In Agricultural Practice. Then it was time for the students to work out their presentations on what they have learnt.

Five groups of 3 students each gave their presentations after lunch. Overall most participants had earned some new experience from the program although not everyone enjoyed every aspect of the reality of conservation work in our tropical environment.
They were encouraged to ask more questions and to take active parts in educating the community about conservation and sustainable lifestyle issues.
The group returned to Bintulu by bus amidst patches of downpour along the way. The whole group had disperse each to their own home before 5pm.

Another great job done.

My thanks again to Joannes Unggang, for much of this program is his effort, the OC Billy Young for managing the event, liasing with the schools and education department, to all the lecturers who shared their knowledge with us and made such excellent work of it all, the students, teachers and bank officers who participated, the Sarawak Planted Forest for their support and their taking care of us at Samarakan, and to CIMB for giving us the grant to make this program possible.

We hope that we have done some good.

Monday, April 12, 2010

CABEP 2010 Second Group to Samarakan

Here are some photos taken during the second group during CABEP 2010 at Sarawak Planted Forest Training Center in Samarakan.

Congrats to all personals involved in the successful event.