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“Forests and National Parks function as green lungs generating an ecological equilibrium, providing refuge and a home habitat conducive to wild flora and fauna.

“A place, where human beings have taken their share to not only use as academic field outings and scientific research but to enjoy some peace, find solace, exercise and in pursuit of ones’ hobbies – such as birding, photography etc…

“Good management and maintenance add to their credentials. Some countries excel in them while others, sadly less so…

“Here is an example of a less so, overlooked and overdue for review. This contraption (left) not only stress birds out to flee but the wacky, ‘voovozella’s noise and dirt polluting, diesel powered motor blower it makes, is equally stressful to visitors and an annoyance to birders and bird-photographers alike.

“This entire contraption works simply by blowing away dirt and unending fall of leaves to temporary clear a path or space. I view this method of disposal to be the most lazy, expensive way of task performing. A simple hand job broom and litter pan works quietly well, engaging and more effective.

“The approval of such a wasteful and noisy national inventory for Malaysian National Parks and Forest Reserves (Forests that are reserved primary for extraction of timber) speaks the calibre of ignorance allowed in park management.

“Malaysian recreational park forests are popular playground for morning exercises. Birds and visitors have to put up with agonising, loud speakers of aerobic exercises’ music. Included is the annoyance derived from some senior citizens’ brisk walking to the tempo of thunderous claps of their hands- some orthodox form of oriental exercise to…. perhaps exorcise their ‘chi?’
Surely an advisory signboard to keep noise to acceptable levels in recreational parks isn’t too difficult to implement?

“Birds and other fauna lose their homes permanently when forests they live in get converted for development. Replacing with plantations, while may look green and oxygen giving is never the same, as specific bird species live and thrive only in their specific types of habitats.

“Pasoh Forest Reserve (Pasoh FR) comprising approx. 600 ha. in Negri Sembilan, Peninsular Malaysia was once an excellent primary forest for wildlife especially bird species. It has served well as a scientific research site since the late 1960’s and boasted of at least 220 bird species alone in the primary forest, 13 species more in regenerating forest and forest edge (above).

“Then came the craze age of palm oil production in the 70’s- the ‘golden crop’ to grow and oil palm plantations took precedence amongst other things. Pasoh FR was not spared and found itself surrounded in three corners by oil palm plantations. If allowed to go unchecked or be converted, such prime forest reserve is waiting to be swallowed whole and be replaced with plantation estates (above).

“How have the bird community in Pasoh FR fared living with its new neighbours over a period of time?

“At the invitation of a senior science officer of FRIM (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia) in June 2008, I was guest at the research station and took to five, full intensive days and some nights of owling, check listing bird species and photography.

“Here are the results. There is approx.50% reduction in bird species. A longer duration of bird survey and with/or a more knowledgeable could possibly put in an extra twenty species at most, I would say.

“Confirmed sightings – 78; Heard only -19; Inconclusive sightings – 4; The plummeted list doesn’t look good.

“The bird list would have been shorter had there be no fig berries for birds to feed off starngling fig trees that grew from trunks of matured oil palm trees and old tree stumps. There were no less than four, fruiting fig trees at time of my visit. Most of them were near the edge of the forest reserve. Here are some fine examples of their growth (above, below).

“This positive indication serves to say that birds do visit oil palm plantations if foods are to be had. Encouraging a green long, wide corridor of fruit growing trees and/or transplanting parasitic, fruit bearing fig trees along forest edge, not only serve well to function as a seasonal food court but increases the chances of sustenance in bird population where they live in.

“Of notable mention at the forest edge of Pasoh FR, a Near Threatened species- Red Crowned Barbet (Megalaima rafflesii) was observed making quick sorties to forage ripe pickings of fig berries. The shy bird was equally quick to retreat into the forest (above).

“For a change of diet, a Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot (Loriculus galgulus) was also seen foraging caterpillars in rolled up fig tree foliages (above).

“A walk across the path into the commercial oil palm estate itself revealed very little birdlife apart from the hardy Red Junglefowl (Galus galus), Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis) and few Bulbul (Pycnonotus) species.

“For crop maintenance, fertilizers, herbicides/weed killers and pesticides are being used regularly in oil palm plantations. Sold under licence, the latter two have brands like Round-up, Garlon 250, Basta 15, Termifos 21 and Dursban 75.

“Unregulated and careless handling of these poisons cannot be ignored. In tropical countries where rainfall is heavy, apart from seepage into underground, run off flows and contaminate streams and rivers nearby that run along or cut through forest reserves. Fauna and birds depend on streams for water and the latter bathe regularly from it. Humans unknowingly, used them as well.

“Apart from the call of Great Argus (Argusianus argus), there were hardly any ground dwellings birds seen at Pasoh FR during my visit. Did researching scientists who spent weeks on end at the Field Research Centre felt healthier than ever?

“Dwindling bird populations in forest reserves near plantations where pesticides/herbicides are being used cannot be discounted nor further be ignored to rule out fauna/bird deaths and human illness/skin afflictions by toxicity.

“Regular water monitoring in strategic water catchments areas where plantation exists nearby would help to provide a clearer picture. If they had been done, I do not have or know of any results of water analysis ever been published by the Department of Environment to show transparency nor read of irresponsible culprits hauled up to account for abnormal water analysis caused by errant usage of pesticides/herbicides.

“Or, were pertinent information blocked along the way or Heads of Department/Ministry squinted and didn’t want to know?

“Some NGOs’ and conservation organisations would do better to play a more worthily role, apart from just counting birds, engaged in ecotourism products like-its members chasing and participating in bird races, to initiate a project- by collaborating with the respective departments to ensure safe water consumption by humans and fauna/birds alike.

“The plight of birds is further aggravated by opportunistic bird trappers, poachers and game hunters in more remote forest reserves as seen in the two images taken at the forest edge of Pasoh FR.

“A Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis) in wicker basket used as life bait (above left).

“A spent cartridge shell discharged from a shotgun (left).

“The best image I have to impart to readers is this one. ‘©Vietnamese Boy with Birdcage’ (above right).

“It makes an excellent campaign poster that sends powerful message of education, responsibility and freedom. It begins with this Vietnamese boy… ‘I’m returning my ‘chim’ to the forest'”

Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Penang, Malaysia
Copyright article and all copy images courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund
26th August 2013

References made:
The Bird Community of Pasoh: Composition and Population Dynamics by Charles M Francis & David R. Wells.

1). Appreciation and thanks to Forester Dr Pan Khang Aun (ex.FRIM) for invitation and arrangement of my stay at FRIM Field Research Centre.
2).Mr Low- Licensed Agricultural supplier of pesticides/herbicides for his marketing list.

DOBCF (Daisy ONeill Bird Conservation Fund) –Personal

Copy image of © Vietnamese Boy with Birdcage is now available to selected international organisation/s that is campaign planning an education/ conservation bird project or conference/symposium and need a suitable poster for theme. While a copy may be given free /accept a donation sum, purchase of original image copyright is reserved to best offer. Requests using organisation letterhead only will be entertained. Email: daisyoneillbirding@gmail.com

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