Saturday, July 11, 2009

Water Skink – Something New

I only talk about monitor lizards quite some time in my previous post. It was my new discovery of Rough-necked Tree Monitor (Varanus rudiclois). For this entry, I have new discovery of another lizards. I found something interesting. I only can say that I found a Water Skink because I don’t know what species was it.

I tried to do some reading and look in my field guide book written by Das (2004) but my photo and my memories doesn’t help me much to identify it. This book only mentioned about five species of water skink. They are Tropidophorus beccarii (Smooth-scales Water Skink), Tropidophorus brookei (Bornean Water Skink), Tropidophorus micropus, Tropidophorus mocquardii (High-elevation Water Skink) and Tropidophorus perplexus. All these five species are endemic to Borneo. Sounds really interesting isn’t it? This one, the one that I found maybe something new or maybe one of these five. I have no idea.

I saw it stand still on the dead log inside the small stream. Actually I tried to get closer and get the close-up photo but it was inside the stream and the water limits my movement. So, this is the only best shot that I have.
Anyone dare to help me identifying this water skink? Do leave me comments. Thanks guys.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Animal Droppings/Dung

I am not sure if I need to share a story about this photos that I have. But, I think it is worth to be shared. As we walk in the forest we will always found something interesting and this dropping draw my attention. It looks like quite new and I can say the animal doing its business during the night. Must be this animal is a nocturnal species which only going out during the night.

There are two possibilities. It might be owned by civets or wild cats. I ask my field guide @ my assistant for my hiking. He told me it looks like civet droppings. I have no idea about it but maybe he is right or he maybe wrong. I was lucky because at the same time I got the chance to take a nice shot of this butterfly which lingering on this dropping.

Alright, I think it is enough about this animal dropping. Will talk about something alive again tomorrow. Just stay with me and my discoveries.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wild Gingers

Wild ginger is one of my favorite plants. I like to eat some of the consumable such as Etlingera coccinea or in local names they are famous with names such as tuhau (Kadazan-Dusun), tepus (Iban), tipu (Bidayuh), tubu buen or tubu nanung (Kelabit).

The ginger family (Zingiberaceae) consists of more than 1200 species mostly growing in tropical forests. Southeast Asia especially rich, and Borneo alone harbours more than 200 species; the exact number has still not been established and more work is needed even at the generic level.

Gingers are herbaceous plants but some species can reach a height of 8 m. The flowers, which are often short-lived, superficially resemble orchids. They are highly specialized and usually bisexual. Because of their brilliantly coloured flowers, many gingers are commonly grown as ornamental plants. In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in cultivating gingers for landscaping in tropical gardens and glasshouses or for the cut flower industry. Sevaral species provide a source of food, condiment, spice or medicine. At the same time, knowledge of their basic taxonomy and their distribution and conservation status is incomplete. Several ginger species play an ecologically important role in the forest understorey, particularly after moderate logging, landslides or forest fires.

I have two photos of ginger flowers and I only can identify one to the genus level but I am not confident I get it right and the other one I don’t know what it is. Both are very pretty flowers.

This is under genus Globba. The name of the genus is based on an Indonesian plant name galoba – a spice from Ambon. However, if anyone knows about this species I hope please corrects me if I am wrong. I don’t want to give the wrong information.

For this one, I really don’t have any idea of what species is this. But what I can say is, this is the first time I saw it and this flower is really pretty with lots of flies and ants on it. What are these insects doing there, I don’t know either.
Reference: Poulsen A. D. 2006. A Pocket Guide: Gingers of Sarawak. Natural History Publications (Borneo), Kota Kinabalu.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Blogs being monitored

The Star Online
Published on: Wednesday July 8, 2009
SPECIAL units have been set up under both the Home and Information, Communications and Culture ministries to monitor blogs and ensure that their content adhere to local laws.
Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, who is in charge of the communications portfolio, said both ministries would also exchange information to ensure maximum monitoring.
Besides monitoring, Dr Rais said his ministry also held meetings and dialogues with bloggers and website operators to inform them about government policies.
"We will inform them about the various laws that they should be aware of when they blog, especially those relating to racial harmony and national security.
"We also remind them about the existence of legislation such as the Sedition Act, Defamation Act and Internal Security Act," he said.
Earlier, he told both Shamsudin Mehat and Datuk Dr Yeow Chai Thiam that the Government would adopt an "open approach" towards the new media.
"The Government encourages people to use the Internet to search for information and knowledge as this helps to increase the broadband usage in the country," he said.
Dr Rais said the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission also organised programmes to promote awareness on proper usage of the Internet, such as cyberspace security, publication of articles, interviews in the electronic media and advertisements.
To a question from Ahmad Hussin on whether the Government intended to draw up a code of ethics for bloggers as they had the power to unite or wreck society, Dr Rais said the Home Ministry would monitor the bloggers under the Printing and Publications Act.
"My ministry will monitor these blogs under the Communications and Multimedia Act," he said.

Wild Fruit Trees

Quite a few fruits on the large or small trees and fall on the forest floor attract my attentions as well. Some of the fallen fruits have been eaten by animals based on the bite on it. I am not sure when is the flowering or fruiting season for wild fruits in tropical forest but during my visit, there are quite a few trees are flowering and fruiting.

Not all species of forest fruits are consumable and animals are very smart and aware about it.

These are the two types of fruits that I saw during my walk and I am sure only one of these is consume by animal.

This is Ficus sp. and actually there are lots of ants covering these fruits but not clear in this photo.

This is a lower plants and very small trees but i am not sure if this fruit can be consume.
Tomorrow i will share a little bit about gingers. Till then.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sanctuaries Sacrificed

The Star Online
Published on: Tuesday July 7, 2009


Despite what they stand for, Permanent Reserved Forests are being clear-cut for rubber plantations.

RUBBER trees – which dominated the Malaysian landscape a century ago only to be replaced with oil palms in the 1980s – are making a comeback. And this time they will not only yield latex but also wood, to make up for the shortfall of timber from forests.

Which all sounds like an excellent idea except that natural forests are being stripped bare for the plantations. Instead of being grown on idle land as intended, rubber trees are sprouting in Permanent Reserved Forests (PRF).

This alarming new trend appears to be widespread in Kelantan but forest reserves in Selangor and Johor have not been spared. The Star recently reported on the decimation of the Sungai Jelok forest reserve in Selangor and the Sungai Mas forest in Johor for rubber estates, while the Johor State Assembly has heard that 37,881ha of Terosot forest reserve will suffer the same fate.

This boom in rubber estates is driven by the Government’s move to expand timber plantations of latex timber clones (LTC), sentang, teak, African mahogony, kelempayang, batai, binuang and Acacia. LTC, which can yield latex in the fifth year (intensively in the ninth) and timber after 15 years, is the favoured species.

Forestry Department reports show large expansions of forest plantations in recent years – from 83,464ha in 2006 to 108,512ha in 2008. Figures culled from Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports show 16,207ha of LTC plantations were planned this year alone, while 11,497ha were approved last year – and all are in Permanent Reserved Forests.

But figures could well be higher, Worldwide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF) chief technical officer Surin Suksuwan believes, as only plantations with larger areas will require EIAs. “When plans to expand timber plantations first came up some years ago, the key question was where they would get the land. Now, our greatest fear has been confirmed.”

Permanent Reserved Forests form the bulk of the forest cover of Peninsular Malaysia, at 4,815,529ha or 36.5% of the land area. As the name indicates, these are forests to be kept in perpetuity. Yes, they are largely “timber production forest” meant for logging but under sustainable forestry management, they are supposed to be “selectively logged” – this means only big trees of stipulated sizes are cut while smaller trees are left behind to mature, to be logged 30 years down the road.

“But what we are seeing today is wholesale clearing of PRF and massive conversion to plantations,” says Suksuwan.

Forest Plantation Development, a government-owned company that monitors and funds the industry, has guidelines that disallow plantations on PRF. “Before giving the loan, we will check the land status to ensure that it is alienated land, state land or land given for forest plantations,” says chief executive officer Zaini Ithnin A. Razak.

When showed a list of plantations located within forest reserves, Zaini says none are financed by his firm, which means that these projects fall outside its restrictive safeguards.

Severed spine

When natural forests give way to single-species tree farms, the forest’s ecology will begin to unravel. “Clear-felling natural forests and planting rubber trees inside forest reserves will impact many species that rely on these forests, many of which have endemic species,” says forestry researcher Lim Teck Wyn.

Although EIAs state that the PRF to be planted with rubber clones are logged and degraded, WWF believes that reasonably intact forest with considerable biodiversity are being cleared. In Kelantan, most of the affected reserves host endangered wildlife and even endemic species, and some are water catchment areas.

Wildlife officials say Lebir and Relai forest reserves are important green links for Taman Negara, and converting them to plantations will lead to more “human-wildlife conflict” involving elephants and tigers entering plantations and villages.

According to WWF and several forestry consultants, all of the PRF earmarked for rubber clone plantations sit within the Central Forest Spine, a network of forest running the length of the peninsula. The Town and Country Planning Department had identified the contiguity of this swathe of forest as vital for supporting wildlife and ecosystem functions such as watershed protection, soil erosion control and climate regulation.

“The loss of these forest reserves will mean failure of the Central Forest Spine plan,” says one wildlife official.

Loss of these forests will also damper tiger conservation efforts for these PRF are all within the three tiger refuges identified in the National Tiger Action Plan as crucial for the survival of the big cat. “All the forest reserves are important tiger habitats and likely to be important for other wildlife as well,” says WWF’s Suksuwan.

Tree farms or forests?

The irony is that these forest plantations are still categorised as PRF, although being planted with a single tree species, they are nothing like natural forests. This labelling has severe repercussion: Forestry Department figures will not show a decline in forest cover despite massive tracts of natural forest being turned into neatly planted rows of rubber saplings.

Also, the converted area is not degazetted and replaced with a similar-sized tract of forest, as legally required when alienating PRF for agriculture or development. What this means in the long term is further shrinkages of our natural forest cover but on paper, all looks well as PRF figures remain unchanged.

This quandary, says researcher Lim, stems from the Forestry Act which does not say specifically that PRF has to be natural forests. “Under the Act, most PRF are classified as ‘timber production forest’ under ‘sustained yield’. This can be interpreted to mean that a forest that is clear-felled and then replanted with rubber trees, will provide ‘sustained yield’, thereby justifying the conversion into plantations.”

Lim says plantations can be validated in certain circumstances, such as in a severely degraded forest, but even then, it is advisable to plant a mix of native species to mimic a natural forest rather than monoculture.

Environmental consultant Dr Sanath Kumaran points out that monoculture or single-species plantations come with a host of problems: clear-felling to harvest the logs will lead to soil erosion, susceptibility to fires, and low biodiversity.

In global talks on forestry management, Malaysia has always lobbied for rubber estates to be included as tree cover but conservationists disagree.

“Forest plantations cannot be compared with natural forests, which preserve biodiversity, carbon stock and the water cycle. We are not weighing the ecological functions of natural forests and instead, systematically turning them into forest plantations,” says forestry consultant Andrew Ng.

He finds the assertion that plantations are sited only on logged or degraded forest a poor excuse. “These areas can always be rehabilitated. And how degraded must a forest be before it can be converted, and how is it assessed? A degraded forest might lack biodiversity but it still provides connectivity between fragmented forests.”

Doubts over sustainability

The claim that only degraded areas are used for plantations further begs a question: why is there so much “degraded forest” available for conversion if, as Malaysian forestry agencies have been telling the world, we practise sustainable forestry management? Far from what is claimed, the reality on the ground is an entirely different picture.

“Our PRF are being pecked away like a piece of bread thrown to a flock of chickens,” says one forestry consultant. “Forests are logged until degraded and not allowed to regenerate, thus providing the excuse to convert them into rubber plantations. This pattern has been going on. It is a convenient way to legitimise the act of clear-cutting natural forests, and turning PRF into forest plantations.”

The threat is not only from rubber clone plantations. Despite governmental assurances that oil palms will only be cultivated on idle or degraded land, EIA reports show that estates will come up in these forest reserves in Kelantan: Batu Papan (2,000ha), Gunung Setong Selatan and Balah (4,307ha), Sungai Betis (2,626ha), Sungai Terah and Limau Kasturi (3,513ha), as well as Sokor Taku and Sungai Sator (808ha).

In Pahang, 2,142ha of Cereh forest reserve near Kuantan will be planted with oil palm.

Despite all that is said about sustainable forestry management, biodiversity and environmental considerations seem to be ignored when states make decisions with regard to converting forests to other land use, says environmental consultant Dylan Ong. Although the Department of Environment requires a detailed EIA for any logging of over 500ha, Ong has yet to see one done in clearings for rubber clone plantations.

“Also, PRF are classed as Environmentally Sensitive Areas Rank Two in the National Physical Plan whereby no development or agriculture is allowed. So all latex timber clone projects in forest reserves should not have been approved,” he says.

Pointing out the widespread conversion of forests into plantations, Ong says if the trend continues, our natural forest coverage will dwindle.

“The National Forestry Council should respond to this expansion of forest plantations within PRF,” he adds.

Indeed, if the matter is not addressed, more forest reserves risk being lost what with the Government planning to have 375,000ha of such tree farms by 2020. On paper, 44.4% of Peninsular Malaysia is still forested. But what kind of forests will these be in future?

Will they still be intact forests which can harbour wild species and provide a host of ecological services, or will they be merely forest plantations – or more accurately, tree farms?

Until press time, the Forestry Department director-general is not available for an interview.

Dandelion - an invasive killer on Mt Kinabalu

Daily Express Newspaper Online, Sabah, Malaysia
Published on: Sunday, June 14, 2009

By: Kan Yaw Chong

THE battle is on - against a silent killer in our most cherished wilderness -Mt Kinabalu, Malaysia's first World Heritage Site. The enemy? Dandelion.
Anything wrong with this good looking flowering 'character' worth waging a war against? Yes.

It is non-native, it's heavily invasive, it doesn't believe in balance or co-existence, it came in surreptitiously, its seeds probably hidden in boots or bags of tourists from Europe or northern hemisphere, germinated, established itself in strategic spots and it is now set to out-compete, overwhelm, displace, kill off native species and become the single 'king' weeds eventually when you might see cherished endemic species choked by 'him'.

How domineering, how sinister, how impoverishing this sneaky 'guy' can be against the famously rich flora of Mt. Kinabalu.

Most people don't know a floristic 'invasion' of Kinabalu by an invasive alien species is already underway.

Or they know but dismiss it as a small matter which it is decidedly not.

The good news is a handful of people do know, understand its damaging consequences on biodiversity beyond their life time and acted incisively.

This is a small army of 35 people, an unlikely cohort of pensioners, librarians, pharmacists, North Borneo Herb Growers, park rangers and navy men who 'fought' a deep-rooted invader for three days in drenching conditions on Mt Kinabalu and forcibly plucked out 300 kilograms of dandelion.

But this is not the end of the problem, mind you.

Experts know once an invasive species has set root, it is impossible to eradicate, only abate, by constant action. So, this is likely to be a battle in an endless war.

But battle ravaging invasive species we must and dandelion is but one of a growing tide of such intruders here and worldwide.

The Giant Millipede

When we reach flattened area, we walk through to get to the main stream where the waterfall peak was located. As we walk I was amazed by the black giant size of millipede crossing our trail. It is so sensitive to our movements when it is trying to hide its head when we passed by. As you can see in these photos, it looks like dead.

I remember last month when I went to the village for Cultural Meets, we went to jungle trekking and we found this type of millipede too but a little bit larger than these two.

I think this is the largest millipedes that I ever found in the forest. I am sorry that i can't tell much about this animal but please visit this link to read more about Millipede.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bryophytes (Mosses & Liverworts)

Let us continue with my discovery through my hike. I think I forgot to mention about the altitude of this place. From the base of this hill it is about 780 m a.s.l and the highest is 1116 m a.s.l.

It is quite tough trail to reach the highest place because at some part the slope is very steep. Okay, it is not what I want to share today since we all know that hilly area is tough.

Along the hill ridge I was attracted by the varieties of bryophytes. Based on the information I get from the book written by Frahm et al (1990), most of the bryophytes of the world occur in tropical forests where 5000 species are found in tropical rainforest over 15, 000 species of the world. Let me share a little bit info about bryophytes. The bryophytes comprise of two sharply different groups (classes): liverworts (Hepaticae) and mosses (Musci). They are separated by various different morphological and anatomical features of the gametophyte (the green plant, vegetative phase), as well as the sporophyte (reproductive phase). The plant may consist of a thallus, showing no differentiation into stem or leave (e.g. in some liverworts) or it may show a definite stem with leaves (e.g. mosses and the major part of the liverworts). Within the mosses, two major groups can be distinguished according to their habitat: acrocarpous mosses and pleurocarpus mosses. Both groups can be easily recognized in the field. In acrocarpous mosses, the main singular axis is erect, little branched, and the sporophyte grows at the end of the main axis, whereas pleurocarpous mosses are creeping, are branched irregularly or pinnate, and the sporophyte originate at the sides of the stem.

This is liverworts (please correct me if i am wrong).

This is also liverworts (again, please correct me if i am wrong).

This is mosses (i am sure i get it right for this one).

Alright, too much information and I am not sure if non-botanist understand what I am trying to tell about this bryophytes. By the way, at least some of you will aware of the difference between mosses and liverworts.

I have a few pictures that I have taken and I hope I am right about what is it.

Okay, that’s it for today. Till tomorrow.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Giant River Toad (Bufo juxtasper)

We walk along the board walk for about 1 km. As usual I will try to be aware of my surroundings but this time I have to make sure GPS that I am holding not lost its coverage. The canopy cover is very dense, only at some parts there are gap that can help me to make sure my GPS get its reading.

My friend and I keep on moving forward along the board walk. We have a regular Giant River Toad sit still on the board walk and I hope we will see it as we walk through.

We are very lucky because we found one and here it is. According to Inger and Stuebing (2005), the male size is between 90-120 mm and for female is between 125-215 mm. This is very large toad and it is not tied to stream banks. No wonder we found it on the board walk which is quite far from the stream.

That’s it for today. Only one discovery for one day. See you tomorrow.