Monday, April 25, 2011

CABEP 2011 April Samarakan Field Trip

The second CABEP field trip to Samarakan took place on the 16-17 April with 11 students and 2 teachers from SM Kai Dee and 9 students & 4 teachers from SMK Bandar, as well as four representatives from CIMB led by Encik Suaidi. As it was polling day of the 10th Sarawak State Election, we delayed the start of our journey to 9.30am to allow voting before the trip.
The participants from SM KaiDee were Form two students while those from SMK Bandar were Form four’s. After an introductory lecture, Joannes Unggang told the students and teachers about the conservation program of the Sarawak Planted Forest. Alex Jukie gave a lively talk about Wildlife Conservation, Ollince Tateh taught the students about Odonata while Belden introduced Birds and taught on birdwatching and taking notes of observations. The workshop session on how to use cameras was conducted by Joannes at the end of the lectures.
After a short rest in the evening and a quick dinner, everyone was ready for the night jungle trek. The students were divided into 4 groups, each group having a camera to record their sightings during the trek.
The moon was almost full that evening and was shining bright. Frogs, spiders, stick insects, lizards, ants, snails, civet cats etc were spotted during the trek.
The KaiDee group was up and ready to start birdwatching early the next morning well before the appointed time of 7am when the other groups arrived at the meeting point. Binoculars were issued to each of the participants after a brief instruction was given on their proper use and care. Herons, kingfishers, cuckoos, egrets, parakeets, swallows, starlings, sandpipers, waterhens were spotted and some students were able to note detailed enough observations to help in identifying the bird species from field guides, with the help of Belden and Ngegang.
Everyone was hungry after the morning session of birdwatching and tucked into breakfast. During breakfast while waiting for the food, Alex told the students about the Wildlife Protection Act and why it is important that wildlife should not be kept as pets or be traded.
Rejuvenated after breakfast, the students went on to study Odonata in the field and learnt to identify dragonflies from damselflies, males and females etc with Ollince to guide them.
After morning tea, it was time for the students to get to work on their own presentation of what they have learnt about conservation and biodiversity and their plans on outreaching to others in the community. Mr. Tham Chee Keong gave a short lecture on Forestry As A Career just before lunch.
During their presentations, the students showed the photographs that they had taken, and some groups presented the observations that they have made, which delighted Alex who remarked that they have taken an important step into the discipline of careful observation and note taking which is the essence of scientific field work.
The bus was ready by the time the students finished their presentation and everyone was brought safely back to Bintulu by 5pm on Sunday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Natural Science Lecture by Lord Cranbrook

Natural Science Lecture

Title: A New Look At The Biogeography Of Bornean Mammals

Speaker: Datuk Seri Lord Cranbrook

Date: 23 April 2011

Time: 3-5pm

Venue: Dewan A, University Putra Malaysia (Bintulu Campus)

Signs will be posted all along the way from the entrance gate to UPM. Inform the security that you are attending the Natural Science Lecture.

All who are interested are welcome. Admission Free.

Pattern and puzzles:
A new look at the zoogeography of Borneo/Kalimantan mammals

Earl of Cranbrook MA PhD

The island of Borneo/Kalimantan straddles the equator from about 7 o N to 4 o S between 109 o – 119 o E, and is the most easterly large landmass of the South-east Asian continental shelf, known as the Sunda Shelf. The wild land and freshwater mammals of the island comprise about 285 species. Since the beginning of zoogeography as a discipline, it has been observed that at the level of family, genus and frequently species, there is close affinity between the mammal faunas of the Thai-Malaysia peninsula south of about 10° N, Borneo and the other Greater Sunda Islands (Sumatra, Java and Bali), leading to the recognition of this area as a zoogeographical subregion. It has also long been understood that the existence of a distinct Sundaic mammal fauna reflects periodic exposure of the bed of the South China Sea during Plio-Pleistocene glacial episodes, which provided opportunities for migration and merger of populations.
In faunistic analyses it has been customary to treat Borneo as a single biogeographical unit. However, a review of well-documented species and subspecies, as defined by current opinion, shows a variety of distributional patterns within the island. Moreover, since the 1950s, archaeological discoveries have increased understanding of past distributions. Since the 1990s, molecular studies have shed new light on classical taxonomy and hence forced a revision of former zoogeographical assumptions. As we move into in the 21st century era of easy, rapid DNA analysis and molecular phylogenies, some surprising results are emerging.
This new evidence of regional and local speciation provides insight into selective processes and the time-scale of evolution. This information could assist the planning of measures to counteract the adverse impacts of global warming and human pressure on the threatened wild mammal resource of Kalimantan and the subregion.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Biogeography of Birds of Borneo by Professor Fred Sheldon

Professor Frederick Sheldon of Louisiana State University

The audience at UPM (Bintulu campus)

Calvin of was there to report on the lecture, along with Ms Anne Melissa King, Warden of Similajau National Park, see article below by Calvin

Cracking the bird code: why Sabah and Sarawak bird differ?

By: BO EDITORIAL Saturday, March 19, 2011, 12:55 MST

The magpie-robin found in Sarawak spotted a white belly, while in Sabah it is black. The bird species in Sabah said to be closely related to their cousins on the montane of Java island instead of Sarawak.

How could birds of same species found on same island could be distinctively different?

That is a uniquely Borneo phenomenon according to Louisiana State University don, in a public lecture attended by lecturers, university students, pupils, teachers and government officers held at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Bintulu on Thursday.

Professor Frederick H. Sheldon said the phenomenon can be explained by looking back to some 21,000 years ago. The ice age era. During that period, we were told much of the South China Sea was actually a Savannah – not sea, teeming with life – including birds.

The part of Borneo, now known as Sabah, then was much drier, with desert-like weather not the tropics. In contrast, Sarawak spanning towards Kalimantan, Indonesia was colder, lowland areas and green. This flora and fauna divide basically explained why birds found in present day Sabah and Sarawak are different.

“Bird of same species for example the Sharma and Pitta have distinctive Sabah or Sarawak features,” he said, adding “Sarawak Sharma spotted a white-rumped, while in Sabah they are white-crowned; Sarawak – Garnet Pitta, while Sabah Black and crimson Pitta.

“Many would say the birds in Sabah should be similar to those found in Sarawak as they are living on the same island,” Prof Sheldon said. Sarawak birds he said are closely related to peninsular birds, while Sabah birds resembled those found in the montane of Java island.

He also pointed out that some bird species found throughout Borneo, but not in Sabah – for example the Crestless Fireback (Lophura eryhrophthalma). Similarly, some lowland birds like the Chestnut-necklaced Partridge (Arborophila charltonii) only occur in Sabah not the rest of Borneo.

Prof Sheldon, 60, is no stranger to Borneo. He first set foot on the island about 35-year ago as a young, excited Yale university postgraduate student studying birds biogeography in Sabah. He also get a teaching stint at then Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Sabah campus. Ever since, have been regularly return to this part of the world.

“I would return to Malaysia like every five year. Each visit I saw different phases of development,” he said, adding only small part of Kinabatangan river were cultivated for commercial large scale plantation, then.

“Three decades ago when you told people you wanna go up the Kinabatangan river, they say you are crazy,” he recalled, saying Malaysians then were generally ignorant of the important environmental conservation, unlike they are today.

“Today people already saw the benefits of biodiversity conservation and actually proud to show you the forest in their surrounding,” Prof Sheldon said.

As a biologist, Sheldon confessed he is very protective of the environment and is more at ease working in the jungle, surrounded by animals, birds and insects than in air-conditioned office. Throughout his nearly two hours lecture, Prof Sheldon stressed the message of conservation of Borneo vast biodiversity.

“Do you know that Borneo is the center of biogeography studies in the world?” he said, and that Malay archipelago is the birthplace of biogeography studies.

Prof Sheldon acknowledged Sarawak’s biodiversity was still largely protected and thriving despite the immense pressure to meet the country’s development needs, which could lead to biodiversity losses in other part of the world.

He said Malaysian authorities in many aspects have succeeded in balancing those needs without compromising the environment.

“The creation of buffer zones in a plantation area is crucial at sustaining biodiversity,” he said, pointing to observations they had done at acacia mangium plantation, in Tatau, near Bintulu.

“The acacia plantation actually useful to the birds in the areas as it provides abundance of food supply.

Currently, an Adjunct Professor in Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University, Sheldon had published more than 34 journals/books in his field of interest: the evolution and systematics of birds, and the natural history of the birds of the Malay archipelago.

This article was also published at The Star (printed version) Saturday, March 19, 2011

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