Monday, November 27, 2006

Borneo Orang-Utans

I remember reading this news in the local papers earlier in the month and I found it in the net again, just occured to me whether all the campaign and promotion to help save the orang-utans of Borneo has actually bore any fruit or are all of us merely watching the annihilation from the comfort of our personal computers and LCD TV screens. Read on if you haven't done so:
1000 orangutans perished this year in forest fires that raged across Borneo and Sumatra according to a conservationist interviewed by Reuters. Willie Smits, an ecologist at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation in Indonesia, told Reuters that the fires forced hungry orangutans into agricultural areas where they were killed as pests. Orangutans are known for feeding on fruit of oil palm and other crops in fields adjacent to forest areas. "Orangutans are starving. They are sick and many of those we are treating were injured after being attacked by machetes," Smits told Reuters. He added that many orangutans that came to conservation centers are suffering from respiratory problems caused by the haze.
Reuters said that there were an estimated 56,000 orangutans in the wild as of 2002 but that the population has dropped about 6,000 per year. This past August, the Wildlife Conservation Society-Indonesia Program said that Indonesia's population of orangutans stands at 20,000, down from 35,000 in 1996. Environmental groups have warned that red ape could be extinct in the wild without urgent conservation measures. Recently WWF has launched the "Heart of Borneo" campaign to pressure Indonesia's government to protect orangutan habitat by establishing reserves and cracking down on illegal logging and oil palm plantations. Nevertheless, the outlook for Orangutans is not promising. Indonesia has an appallingly high deforestation rate and seems impotent in reigning im illegal forest clearing. In recent years neighboring countries have become increasingly vocal in criticizing Indonesia's lack of progress in addressing forest fires.
In Kuching, the Semenggok Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is home to several ex-captives orang-utan families that have been rescued from poachers and smugglers. Pay a visit to the Centre if you're in Kuching, it's a good 40 minutes drive from the city centre heading out through an area known as Kota Padawan or Mile 10.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Forests of Borneo & Mt. Kinabalu

In case you don't know, Borneo is primarily mountainous, with dense areas of rain forest mainly in Sarawak. The highest peak in Borneo, Mt. Kinabalu, stands at 13,455 ft. That's in Sabah. With a generally hot, wet climate, rain is more common than not, with some portions of Borneo receiving between 150 and 200 inches of rainfall annually. Between October and March, monsoons buffet the island. Given the abundance of rainfall, it makes sense that Borneo's flora is among the most diverse in the world. Borneo has nearly 11,000 species of flowering plants, about a third of which are indigenous. How dense is the vegetation? In one 16 acre area of Borneo's lowland forest, over 700 species of trees have been recorded. In comparison, there are only 171 native tree species in all of eastern North America. That's enough to tell you that to be lost in Borneo jungles would really give even the most experienced of trackers a hell of a hard time.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Borneo Local Natives' Folklores

I'm currently looking for material on Borneo or Sarawak natives' folklore in the shops. I remember some of the stories my late grandmother (bless her soul) used to tell my sisters and I when we were young. Bedtime stories. Some of them involved a half-wit character called Amang Alui (in Bidayuh Sadong) or Apai Saloi (in Iban). Borneo's version of Mr. Bean. I have to type them down somehow.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Have you ever been to Electric Ladyland (or Batang Ai Hydroelectric Dam)?

This has nothing to do with Borneo or Sarawak, its just one of my favourites Hendrix tune. If you've not listened to it, download the song from the net. Well maybe it does actually since Sarawak can be electrifying if you land your backside at the right place at the right time. For a view of one of Sarawak's more interesting man-made structures, go visit Batang Ai resort which is in the middle of a hydroelectric dam. It's a 4-hour drive from Kuching City. The place to stay there if you're not much of an outback Joe is the Hilton Batang Ai. Good location for a weekend retreat I must say, and if you're into a huge basin of water where you can fish all day long. I was there in 2002 for about 3 days/2 nights. The resort is on an "island" so to get there from the mainland you take a boat-ferry for about 30-45 minutes. Bring a fishing rod, might come in handy. The place is also part of the Batang Ai National Park but I've not managed to venture forth. If you do, tell me about it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Triple H (HHH) "Hash" Run

I don't really know the full history or purpose behind this hash culture of running in the woods but I'm informed that it started way back some 30 or so years ago by ex-patriates who came to Sarawak and brought in the idea of running in the woods to be a healthy recreational activity. It's also an international thing, with some very ardent hashers who spend time running at different parts of the world. I know Miri town north of Sarawak has their own runs, plus Sabah too.

The runs in Kuching City are conducted 3 times a week I think, in the afternoon around 5pm. It's on every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. I've only been to 2 runs so far, once in 2004 and once this year in July (a very difficult one that). The runs are about 10-15km and the ones I've been to are a mix of undulating terrains, small trails, across rivers, flat surfaces at some spots.

If you want to do the hash run in Kuching (well not in Kuching but the outskirts), you may contact a friend of mine, Chris Martin (012-8492187). He's part of a group of regular hashers who organise the routes for the Wednesday runs. Fee is a minimal RM10 - 15 per run.

By the way did I mention there's a mandatory beer-downing session at the end of the runs? Plus dinner if you're up to it.