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A place to call home

By CHITRA S. NATHAN
THE STAR - MALAYSIA
metro@thestar.com.my

Site safeguarded for migratory raptors

THE thousands of raptors from the northern hemisphere which make their annual pilgrimage here will always be assured of a place to call home as the Negri Sembilan government is committed to safeguarding the stopover site for the migratory birds at Tanjung Tuan near Port Dickson.

State tourism, unity, culture, arts and Malay heritage committee chairman Datuk Mohamad Razi Kail said the conservation of its natural wonders would not be compromised for the sake of development.


Taking flight: An oriental honey buzzard.

“Our state has plenty to offer with beautiful beaches, mountains and waterfalls to explore.

“We will ensure that eco-tourism spots will be protected and not be sacrificed to development,” he said after the launch of Raptor Watch (RW) at the PNB Ilham Resort, Tanjung Tuan near Port Dickson recently.

Mohamad said RW was an example of the state’s eco-tourism potential as it attracted a large number of both domestic and foreign visitors.

“It is important to protect this piece of coastal rainforest which is a refuge for migratory birds.

“Conservation does not know borders... it is our collective responsibility to ensure that amazing natural wonders like this remain for generations to come,” he said.

Mohamad expressed his gratitude to the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), corporate sponsors and hoteliers in the area who worked together to ensure the success of RW, which is in its 12th year.

“Tanjung Tuan has been a stopover site for these migratory birds who journey thousands of miles from the northern hemisphere to the south and back.

“Awareness is key to preserve this site and ensure the raptors keep coming back and for that we have to be grateful to the MNS and sponsors for their efforts,” he said.

This year’s theme ‘Come together, forest for people and birds’ was in line with MNS’s objective to conserve natural habitats and forest landscapes.


Look at that: Maya Karin (fourth from left) and (from right)
Dr Maketab, main sponsor Low Ngai Yuen from Carrefour,
Negri Sembilan tourism, unity, culture, arts and Malay heritage
committee chairman Datuk Mohamad Razi Kail and some others
watching the raptors circle overhead at the
PNB Ilham Resort, Tanjung Tuan near Port Dickson

More than 20,000 raptors or birds of prey were spotted in the skies above Tanjung Tuan since the count began on Feb19.

Among the species of migratory raptors which pass through Tanjung Tuan this time of year are the oriental honey buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus), black baza (Aviceda leuphotes), Japanese sparrowhawk (Accipiter gularis), Chinese goshawk (Accipiter soloensis) and the grey-faced buzzard (Butastur indicus).

MNS president Assoc Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed said RW had become its signature eco-tourism programme and attracted birdwatchers from near and far.

“Besides domestic tourists and nature lovers, this year’s event also attracted birdwatching groups from Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore.

“RW is a platform to create awareness on the need to protect Tanjung Tuan as a valuable natural resource. The government and local community must work together to conserve this site,” he said.

Tanjung Tuan, together with 54 other sites in peninsular and east Malaysia, have been identified as key sites for conservation of biodiversity using birds as key indicators to gauge the health of the environment.

Hundreds of visitors — young and old and with families in tow — attended the two-day event for a chance to view the raptors up close.

Nature and seashore walks were also organised to educate the public on the importance of conservation.

The carnival-like setting also included informative exhibits, arts and craft booths for children and fun games for the whole family to enjoy.

RW ambassador Maya Karin, who was also present, said she was glad to be a part of the event especially since she was passionate about the environment.

“This is my fourth year working together with MNS for this event. It is a two-in-one project, people get to enjoy watching the birds but they will certainly leave knowing the importance of conserving our natural environment.

“It is an awesome experience and I hope more Malaysians will be able to join us in future,” she said.

Nadia Khairani Ahmad Khir Saifuddin, 17 from SMK Bukit Baru, Malacca, said she had never heard of Raptor Watch and was glad her school had organised a trip to the event this year.

“It took us an hour-and-a-half to get here but it was definitely worth it. It was an amazing thing to see the huge birds glide across the sky.

“We learnt firsthand about the coastal rainforest here and conservation efforts from MNS members. It’s surprising to think that we Malaysians know little about this event in our own backyard while so many foreign visitors made the trip just to see the birds,” she said.

One of those foreign visitors was Filipino Alex Tiongco, who volunteered to count the raptors at Tanjung Tuan.

“The birds are spectacular and it was worth making the trip from Manila just to see them.

“This year, I volunteered to be among the raptor counters and it has been a truly rewarding experience,” said the Philippines Wild Bird Club member.