Slim Sreedharan, an “A” class ringer with the British Trust for Ornithology since 1973 and field ornithologist extraordinaria, is in town. The purpose of his visit? To train National Parks Board staff in bird ringing. This is a training project he started way back in 1993 when Sungei Buloh was still in its formative stage. He was then a volunteer trainer training volunteers in wader ringing.
I seem not to be able to forget that Slim spoke to the then Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), now Malayan Nature Society (Singapore) in the 1990s on “The Problems of Ornithological Research in South East Asia.” What he said must have rattled the bills of some birdwatchers then as his paper on the talk was not accepted for publication in the society’s magazine by the then editor of Nature Watch. The paper was subsequently published in the main society’s 1996 issue of Malayan Naturalist 49(2): 29-33.
Slim has all along been encouraging birdwatchers to observe and record even the simplest of bird behaviour. Unfortunately his message fell on deaf ears. His most memorable quote is “There is an old adage: In the Land of the Blind the one-eyed man is king.” He has since explained that he was referring to himself, as when he first arrived in Sarawak, he was the only full-time ornithologist in the country. And he knew next to nothing about the birds of Sarawak. Well, time has made a difference. Now he is one-eyed no more. After so many years in Sarawak, he is an acknowledged expert on the birds there.
For a long time I thought the quote was “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed bird is king.”