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Guam Rail and other recent species recoveries you should know about


According to an updated report of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, conservation efforts have led to improvements in the status of ten species.

This includes the recovery of the Guam Rail, a bird previously listed as Extinct in the Wild.

Despite these improvements, the IUCN Red List now includes 30,178 species threatened with extinction.

The report also finds there is increasing evidence of the negative effects of climate change. There are now 112,432 species on the IUCN Red List.

“This IUCN Red List update offers a spark of hope in the midst of the biodiversity crisis,” said IUCN Acting Director General, Dr Grethel Aguilar.

“Though we have witnessed 73 genuine species declines, the stories behind the 10 genuine improvements prove that nature will recover if given half a chance. Climate change is adding to the multiple threats species face, and we need to act urgently and decisively to curb the crisis.”

So what are the conservation success stories

The latest IUCN Red List update reveals genuine improvements in the status of eight bird species and two freshwater fishes.

Captive breeding, combined with careful management of wild populations, has been key to these conservation successes.

Among these improvements is the flightless, fast-running Guam Rail (Hypotaenidia owstoni).

It is the second bird in history to recover after being declared Extinct in the Wild, after the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus).

Once widespread on the Pacific island of Guam, its numbers declined after the Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis) was accidentally introduced at the end of World War Two.

In 1987, the last wild Guam Rail was killed by this invasive predator.

Thanks to a 35-year captive breeding programme, the Guam Rail is now established on the neighbouring Cocos Island.

However, the bird is still classified as Critically Endangered – one step away from extinction.

Guam Rail © Greg Hume CC BY SA 3.0 1
Guam Rail at the Cincinnati Zoo.
© Greg Hume

Other species

In Mauritius, the Echo Parakeet (Psittacula eques) continues its recovery thanks to conservation efforts. This effort included a highly successful captive breeding programme.

There are now more than 750 Echo Parakeets in the wild. With this update the species has been reclassified as Vulnerable, following its improvement from Critically Endangered to Endangered in 2007.

Two freshwater fish species – the Australian Trout Cod (Maccullochella macquariensis) and Pedder Galaxias (Galaxias pedderensis) – have likewise improved, from Endangered to Vulnerable and Critically Endangered to Endangered respectively.

Decades of conservation action have focused on establishing additional subpopulations through reintroductions and wild-to-wild translocations.

Both species face threats from invasive species and habitat destruction and degradation.

Increasing evidence of the effects of climate change

Despite these successful conservation stories, climate change has contributed to the declines of species. Some of them are several freshwater fishes and the reef-dependent Shorttail Nurse Shark.

Assessments in this update show climate change affects species by, for example, altering habitats and increasing the strength and frequency of extreme weather events.

This Red List update reveals that 37 per cent of Australia’s freshwater fish species are threatened with extinction.

Of this number, at least 58% are directly impacted by climate change.
Fish are highly susceptible to extreme droughts caused by declining rainfall and increasing temperatures.

Climate change also compounds the threat from invasive alien species, which can move into new areas as water temperature and flow change.

Native to the Western Indian Ocean, the Shorttail Nurse Shark (Pseudoginglymostoma brevicaudatum) has declined by approximately 80% over 30 years.

Simultaneously affected by unmanaged fishing and climate change, it has moved from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered.

Living only in shallow waters where it has no refuge from fishing, the shark is losing its habitat due to coral reef degradation caused in part by ocean warming.

Climate change is also threatening Dominica’s national bird, the Imperial Parrot (Amazona imperialis).

While hurricanes naturally occur in the Caribbean, their increased frequency and intensity result in high bird mortality and habitat destruction, alongside devastating impacts on people.

The species declined from Endangered to Critically Endangered after Hurricane Maria in 2017, the strongest hurricane on record to have struck the island. There are now estimated to be fewer than 50 mature individuals left in the wild.

Eucalypts assessed worldwide

Rainbow Eucalyptus © Thomas Caldwell CC BY SA 2.0
Rainbow Eucalytpus (Maui Garden of Eden, Hawaii)
© Thomas Caldwell

All known eucalypt species worldwide have been assessed in this Red List update, revealing that almost 25 per cent are threatened with extinction.

Of the 826 eucalypts – comprising the Eucalyptus, Corymbia and Angophora species groups – 812 occur only in Australia.

As keystone species, they define the landscape of the entire Australian continent, and are culturally significant to its First Nations People.

Eucalypts including the Vulnerable Eucalyptus moluccana are the sole food source for the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), which has declined significantly due to loss of eucalypt habitat.

Elsewhere in the world eucalypts can be highly invasive, but in their native range in Australia they face threats from human use of land, especially agriculture and urbanisation.

This has resulted in population declines of at least 30% for 134 eucalypts, such as the Endangered Rose Mallee (Eucalyptus rhodantha), which has declined by more than 50%. Mining also threatens some restricted range species, such as the Critically Endangered Eucalyptus purpurata.

Critical habitat for conservation now remains in the areas between rivers and land, on roadside patches and in paddocks where lone trees often remain.

5 things you need to know about the black orchid

The black orchid (Coelogyne pandurata) is such a unique plant that it is the official mascot for East Kalimantan province.

Also known as anggrek hitam in the Indonesian language, this orchid can be found in all three countries on Borneo; Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

Unlike popular belief, it is not endemic to Borneo. It is also found in Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia and the Philippines.

The orchid is an epiphyte found on large trees located usually near rivers.

Here are five things you need to know about the black orchid:
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Coelogyne pandurata
1.It is called black orchid but it is not entirely black

According to the book Orchids of Sarawak, stories of a mysterious black orchid from deepest Borneo has been told for years and people ask if such a plant really exists.

So you can only see the black coloured part of the flower for a short period of time because it blooms only five to six days.

“Although the flowers are predominantly a most striking lime-green, large areas of the lip are stained with a truly black pigment as though black ink had been splashed upon it.”

If you smell it closely, the bloom emits a honey-like fragrance.

2.It is first described by John Lindley way back in 1853

The flower might be rare to see, especially in bloom, but it is not new. English botanist John Lindley (1799-1865) was the first one to have described the black orchid, publishing about it in the Gardener’s Chronicle in 1853.

He wrote, “We are indebted for this striking species to Mr Loddiges, who informs us that it was imported from Borneo by Mr Low. The lip, although really oblong, yet in consequence of the manner in which the sides are bent down, has much the form of a violin.”

However, Lindley never commented about the black markings on the orchid.

3. Its alleged medicinal purposes

In some parts of rural Kalimantan, the black orchid is boiled and used as herbal medicines.

The flower is believed to have many medicinal purposes including for heartburn, diarrhea, stomach ulcers and even tuberculosis.

However, none of these have been scientifically proven.

Black Orchid
The mascot of East Kalimantan province.
4.The myth behind the black orchid

While some believed that it can be a cure for various diseases, it is also believed that the flower can be a curse.

Legend in Indonesia has it that anyone who is in possession of the black orchid or even attempts to culture it will obtain bad luck.

Perhaps the myth spread to prevent people from harvesting the flower and subsequently reducing its population in the wild.

5.Some of the environmental threats against the black orchid

Speaking of its population, according to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, some of the threats this orchid faces are forest burning and land clearing due to agriculture activities.

Since this plant is an epiphyte relying on large trees to grow, loss of jungle could immediately affect the population of black orchid.

Here in Sarawak, all orchids are listed as ‘protected plants’ under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998.

According to the law: “Any person who collects, cultivates, cuts, trims, removes, burns, poisons, in any way injures, sells, offers for sale, imports, exports or is in possession of any protected plant or any recognizable part or derivative thereof, except under and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a licence issued under this Ordinance, shall be guilty of an offence: Penalty, imprisonment for one year and a fine of RM10,000.”

10 interesting facts about Indonesia’s Kapuas River

Borneo has often been referred to as the Amazon of Asia thanks to its high density biodiversity. So if Borneo is the Asian Amazon, the ‘Amazon river’ of this island is none other than the Kapuas river.

Here are 10 interesting facts you need to know about Kapuas River, Indonesia

1.It is the longest river in Indonesia

At 1,143 kilometers in length, it is the longest river of Indonesia and the island of Borneo.

It is also the world’s longest river. The delta of Kapuas river is at Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan Province.

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An early morning view of Kapuas river from Semitau.

2.Wait, there are two Kapuas riverS?

There are actually two Kapuas rivers flowing from the same mountain range. One Kapuas river flows west into the South China Sea. Meanwhile, the other Kapuas river flows to the south, merging with the Barito Sea and ends at Java Sea.

3. Kapuas river originates from the Muller mountain range

Both Kapuas rivers originate from the Muller Mountain Range, located south of the Indonesian-Malaysian border.

The mountain range was named after Major Georg Muller. He was a soldier and even fought for Napolean Bonaparte when France attacked Russia.

So how did a European army end up in the middle of Borneo in the 19th century?

Born in Mainz, Germany in 1790, Muller joined the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in 1817.

He took part in the Dutch attack against the Sambas kingdom in 1818.

In 1825, he led an expedition to cross Borneo inland via Mahakam and Kapuas rivers. However, the expedition ended in tragedy when he and his party were killed by the local Dayak tribe.

4.There are two national parks on its river banks

Betung Kerihun and Danau Sentarum are the two national parks located at Kapuas river banks.

Together with Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary in Malaysia, Betung Kerihun has been proposed as a World Heritage site.

Meanwhile, Danau Sentarum National Park lies in the upper Kapuas river tectonic basin some 700 kilometers from its delta.

5. It is an important source of water and mode of transport

If you spend an early morning in any town located next to the river, you can catch some of the local people doing their daily chores.

You can see young children in large groups before going to school while the women do their washing on the wooden jetties.

Although roads are available to connect most parts of West Kalimantan, the Kapuas river is still the major waterway connecting the centre of Borneo with its western coast.

6.The Kapuas river and its flora and fauna are any researchers’ dream subject

Many researchers believe there are still many new species to discover in Borneo, especially small creatures

The most recent fascinating species found in the river is the Kapuas mud snake back in 2005. German and American researchers discovered it accidentally when it was put in a dark bucket and changed colour 20 minutes later.

The snake has chameleon-like behaviour which allows it to change its epidermal colour spontaneously.

In addition to that, tropical rivers are unlike rivers in temperate zones. To this day, researchers are still gathering more information on hydrology and geomorphology of tropical river system.

7. It has a high density of fish species

There are about 300 fish species recorded in the river basin. The most iconic one is none other the super red arowana fish. It is only found in Kapuas river and is a famous species in the aquarium trade.

Sadly, the species is continuously decreasing because of wild poachers and low productive rates.

8. There are other remarkable species too

Apart from the super red arowana fish, there is one striking fish species found in Kapuas river.

Only officially described in 2008, the eight-banded barb (Eirmotus insignis) is a small zebra-striped fish which measures about 3.6cm in length.

It was found between the towns of Sanggau and Putussibau, among overhanging tree roots and aquatic vegetation.

Where can you find the world’s first lungless frog? In Kapuas river, of course! The Bornean flat-headed frog breathes entirely through its skin.

Scientists first discovered the frog in the middle of Kapuas river basin back in 1978.

9.The longest bridge in Borneo crosses this river

The Tayan Bridge is the longest bridge in Borneo spreading over 1,975 meters. It crosses the Kapuas River in Sanggau, West Kalimantan to connect West Borneo with Central Borneo in Indonesia.

10.You can take a tour upriver from Pontianak

It takes up to two days on the deck to travel up Kapuas river from Pontianak depending on your mode of transportation. In Pontianak, there are travel agencies which can help you to plan a trip upriver if you are feeling adventurous. Plus, there are plenty to see along the river from local villages with different architecture to wildlife that might pass your way.

Go to the furthest upstream and you would find yourself in Tanjung Lokang. Located about 13 hours from Putussibau town by speedboat through Kapuas river, the village belongs to the Dayak Punan.

It is the last village in the Borneo jungle when you are heading east across the island.

5 things to do at Buntal Esplanade, Kuching

Located about 30km from Kuching city, Buntal Esplanade is a hidden gem waiting to be explored more by the locals and tourists alike.

Buntal Esplanade
The road into Kampung Buntal, a local fishing village located between Kuching city and Santubong.

The esplanade is inside Kampung Buntal, a traditional Malay fishing village situated at the mouth of Sarawak river leading to South China Sea.

The village is named after ikan buntal or the puffer fish which commonly found near the area.

If you are looking for fresh air on a Saturday afternoon, here are five things to do at Buntal Esplanade:

Buntal Esplanade 3
Welcome to Buntal Esplanade!

1.Enjoy the beach view

First of all, just enjoy the view of South China Sea at Buntal Esplanade. Do you know that Buntal beach offers a mesmerising scenic view of the sunrise? (Just make sure you’re there before 6 am).

Plus, the best part is that the walkway of Buntal Esplanade is wheelchair-friendly.

Buntal Esplanade 5
The esplanade was designed to be wheelchair-friendly.

2.Buy some seafood

Being a fishing village right next to the ocean, it is no surprise that Buntal provides a variety of fresh marine resources at its market.

Some of their seafood on offer are seasonal catch, so you only get to buy them during certain periods of the year.

These include jelly fish (March-April), swimmer crab (July-August), eng-ngoyang (October-February), sea anemone (December-January) and ambal (December-January).

Additionally, the non-seasonal catches are hard clams, mangrove clams, cockles, mud crabs and obtuse horn shell.

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Support the local communities by buying their products.

3. Do some bird-watching activities

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The observation point of Buntal Esplanade.

Did you know that Bako Buntal Bay is the wandering site for 27 migratory bird species in their annual migration between Southeast Asia and Australasia?

Completed on March 2015, Buntal Esplanade was designed as a walkaway with an observation point for bird-watching activities.

According to the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership, the Bako Buntal Bay area welcomes more 25,000 migratory birds between October and April every year.

Most of them are threatened species such as Nordmann’s Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher and Far Eastern Curlew.

Meanwhile in 2009, two rare birds – the Pied Avocet and Eurasian Oystercatcher were caught  on sight near the bay.

The habitat in the coastal area is mud and mangrove forest, making it attractive for migratory birds in search of food.

If you notice unique wooden structure near the beach while bird-watching, it could be an engian. It is a traditional trapping method used by the local fishermen to catch anchovies and small shrimps.

Buntal Esplanade 7
Take an evening walk at the esplanade to escape the hustle and bustle of Kuching city.

4.Taste the local food

Buntal Esplanade 8
Try some of these local delicacies such as pais.

Visitors should not miss the chance to buy local delicacies. These include kuih keria (fried dough similar to doughnuts but covered in palm sugar or gula apong), pais ikan (grilled smashed fish) and bahulu.

Other local favourite are belacan (shrimp paste), madu kelulut (stingless bee honey), jeruk buah (pickled fruits) and cencaluk (preserved shrimp).

Buntal Esplanade 9
Kuih Keria.

5.Eat some seafood

Kampung Buntal is one of the favourite local places for Kuchingites to go to enjoy some seafood.

While visiting Buntal Esplanade, why not drop by one of the seafood restaurants like Teo Seafood?

Besides Kampung Buntal, other famous local seafood cuisine spots are at Telaga Air and Muara Tebas.

Buntal Esplanade 2
Kampung Buntal is one of the popular places for local people to enjoy seafood cuisine.

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The view of Mount Santubong from Kampung Buntal.

How the tikung beekeeping tradition is supporting life for man and bee in Danau Sentarum

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A bottle of APDS (Association of Periaus of Danau Sentarum) honey.

Where the locals farm their own honey

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Honey coming in from different periau ready to be dehumidified and packaged at APDS.

At Danau Sentarum National Park, the local communities manage their honey production in groups called periau made up of traditional forest honey farmers.

Each periau belongs to a village, which will see their respective honey farmers collecting and harvesting their own honey from the tikung, an artificial branch the villagers of the national park use in their traditional honey farming.

Thanks to this traditional way of producing honey, the Board of Indonesian Organic Certification (BioCert) certified it organic in 2007.

There are at least 15 periau located in the area with the oldest group being periau Semangit.

After harvest, the honey will be sent to APDS (Association of Periaus of Danau Sentarum) located at Dusun Semangit (Semangit village).

From APDS, the honey is packaged and sent to Jakarta. According to APDS product manager Abang Muhammad Erwanto, APDS managed to export 7 tonnes of honey to Jakarta this year alone.

Even so, the association is still able to keep up to 3 tonnes for their own stock.

“This stock is for us to sell to any visitors who come to visit Danau Sentarum,” Erwanto said.

The income from the honey provides an alternative income for the these communities who rely heavily on their fishing industry.

Tikung 4
APDS office at Semangit village, West Kalimantan in Indonesia.

Tikung 2
The honey that comes in from the local villages is dehumidified for up to 48 hours before being packaged.

The legend behind the tikung method

How the tikung, or the rafter, method came about is an interesting story on its own. According to Erwanto, the tikung has been used by the local communities for generations.

“Once upon a time, flood hit our villages. Boats drifted away and one of the boats got stuck to a tree. As time passed, a colony of bees came and built their hives in that small boat.”

Inspired by this, the local Malay community of Danau Sentarum started to put up their own artificial branches which they called the tikung.

Tikung is usually made from tembesu (Fagraea fragrans) wood. It is cut into a board about 1.5m in length and hung at an angle from a tree. The bees will come and make their nests on the tikung when the trees begin to bloom. The size of the tikung allows the bees to make bigger hives.

Erwanto pointed out there are no specific kinds of tree to hang the tikung. As for the location of the trees, there is no preference either.

Tikung 7
Erwanto says the honey farming provides an extra income for the people of Danau Sentarum.

A song to call the bees

Tikung 10
Muhammad Wasir is one of the few who can sing the timang before a tikung is put up on the tree.

Interestingly, one of the most important parts of setting up a tikung requires some singing skill. Before a honey farmer climbs up a tree to hang a tikung, one of the villagers would sing a special song called timang.

Muhammad Wasir, 63, is one of the few who can chant the timang song. He remembers how as a young child he used to follow his grandparents to harvest honey. It was then that he first heard the song.

Wasir explained that they believed every tree had a ‘penunggu’ (spirit) who guarded the tree. By singing the timang, the farmers were asking permission from the penunggu to set up the tikung against the tree trunk.

They were also calling upon the bees, imploring them to set up their hives on the tikung and to call more of their friends to the tree.

He has taught his children the song, so he believes that the timang tradition will continue on.

Watch Wasir singing the timang song down below. Take note that every time he claps, those present during the setting up of the tikung also have to clap their hands too.

The importance of honey production to Danau Sentarum

The forest honey bee (Apis dorsata) is indirectly a bio-indicator of Danau Sentarum.

According to Erwanto, this is because the bees are sensitive to any changes of environmental factors such as temperature.

“If there is any forest fire, the bees will not return to make any hives the subsequent year. This happened once in 2005 when open burning took place near here.”

Erwanto explained that knowing the importance of the forest to these bees made the local communities more protective of the environment.

Tikung 3
A tikung hanging on a tree without its bee’s hive.

A partnership to make Heart of Borneo initiative successful

Located in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, Danau Sentarum National Park falls under the area of Heart of Borneo (HoB).
HoB is a conservation agreement initiated by WWF to protect a 220,000km2 forested region right in the middle of Borneo island.

As part as the HoB initiative, WWF-Indonesia has been supporting APDS through product marketing activities. WWF-Indonesia also been assisting APDS members in Internal Control System (ICS). This is to ensure the farmers maintain the hygiene of their products.

Tikung 6
APDS honey in stock at Semangit.

5 things I learned through my gastronomic experience at Kapuas Hulu

As a Kayan from the Malaysian state of Sarawak, Kapuas Hulu is a place that feels familiar and foreign at the same time.

First of all, the Kapuas Hulu region in West Kalimantan is home to a wide diversity of indigenous communities such as the Iban, Silat, Sejiram, Seberaung and Kayan.

Hence, some of the dialects, architecture and of course, food are so familiar making a Sarawakian like me almost forget  that I was in another country.

It seems only natural since the north of Kapuas Hulu borders Sarawak. The differences in Malay dialect and vocabulary as well as infrastructure, however, did remind me that I was no longer in Malaysia.

Thanks to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, I got to visit several districts (kecamatan) under Kapuas Hulu  such as Putussibau, Semitau, Suhaid, Badau and Batang Lupar from Sept 25 till 28, giving me the opportunity to explore what made us similar yet different.

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Indonesian nasi goreng.

Here are five things I learned from a Sarawakian perspective through my culinary experience at Kapuas Hulu, Indonesia:

1. You can take the girl out of the village, but you sure can’t take the village out of the girl

Kapuas Hulu 9
You can pick which side dish to go with your rice. 

Terserah kedayakanmu, asyik-asyik makan daun ubi, (You are obviously a Dayak since you keep on eating cassava leaves).”

This was what one of my travelling companions, a local reporter from Pontianak said to me.

Malaysian-style ‘nasi campur’ is also common in neighbouring Indonesia. It is our local buffet style where you pick two or three mains – vegetable or protein – to go with your white rice. The price of your meal will be based on your dish types and portions.

While other types of vegetables such as long beans, bean sprout, cabbage and cangkuk manis (Sauropus androgynus) are available, I guess the Kayan blood flowing through my veins led me to pick out the cassava leaves over the rest.

Locally known as daun ubi or sometimes daun bandung in Sambas regency, the leaves are pounded and stir-fried to perfection, just how Sarawakians would enjoy it.

Kapuas Hulu 8
Instead of the stainless steel canteen style setup we have in Malaysia, the nasi campur stalls across the border lay out their food in this attractive and ingenious way.

2. Chicken rice is called ‘ayam goreng’, not nasi ayam.

Kapuas Hulu
How an ‘ayam goreng’ would look like in Indonesia.

Ayam goreng means fried chicken in Malay. To order ayam goreng in Malaysia will bring you a piece of fried chicken. Meanwhile in Indonesia, ayam goreng comes with a bowl of rice and other side vegetables.

3. Tea is life, not coffee

Kapuas Hulu 17
Try es jeruk tambah susu which is lime juice with condensed milk.

Most of us in Malaysia love Indonesia’s famous and iconic beverage Teh Botol. Unsurprisingly, tea is a more preferred beverage in the country, compared to coffee.

Indonesia is just like Malaysia where ordering drinks can be tricky and different depending on which state you are in.

But here are key points to remember; it is called ‘es’ not ‘ais’ if you want to order an iced drink. Jeruk in Malaysia means pickled while in Indonesia, you can order ‘air jeruk’ which basically is a lime drink.

Interestingly, you can also order a cup of cappuccino in any common eatery. However do not expect it to come as a double espresso with steamed milk foam. It is equivalent to premixed Malaysian white coffee.

4. The fish is delicious in Kapuas Hulu!

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Fish cooked with asam pedas (spicy tamarind).

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Salted fish roe.

My visit to Kapuas Hulu revolved around Danau Sentarum. It is a magnificent-looking floodplain with plenty of  biodiversity treasures and resources especially fish. Hence, the star of my gastronomic experience is none other than the fish. At one point, it was hard to keep up with the types of fish I tried or which is which but I remember I have tried toman and biawan.

The only type of fish I tasted before during my trip was baung fish. It is a type of catfish which can also be found in Sarawak such as in Bakun or Belaga. In Kapuas Hulu, it is more common to cook these kinds of fish with asam pedas (spicy tamarind).

Fish may not be everybody’s favourite kind of protein, but in Kapuas Hulu,  you might find yourself enjoying it as the freshness adds to its tastiness.

5. Kerupuk basah is a must-try snack

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You must dip the kerupuk basah in the accompanying peanut sauce to enjoy it completely.

Kapuas Hulu’s kerupuk basah is reportedly Indonesian President Jokowi’s favourite food in West Kalimantan and I have to agree with the president because it was delicious. To this day I regret not buying some to bring home.

What might come to mind when you see kerupuk basah is how much it looks like the Malaysian keropok lekor, a traditional fish snack originally from Malaysian state of Terengganu.

The main similarity between kerupuk basah and keropok lekor is that both of them are made of fish but that’s where it ends.

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Freshly cooked kerupuk basah in a steamer.

Kerupuk basah has a spongy and smooth texture, almost like a crossover of textures between siu mai and fish cake.

Apparently the most delicious type of kerupuk basah is made from belidak fish. The one I tried was made from toman fish, but it is still tasty.

Most of the time, the kerupuk is served straight from a steamer, although some people prefer it fried.

What makes kerupuk basah extra tasty though, is the peanut sauce that comes with it. Made from fried peanuts, salt, chilli and sugar, the peanut sauce that goes with kerupuk basah is sweeter than our typical peanut sauce here in Malaysia.

So if you ever make your way to Kapuas Hulu, especially its administrative centre Putussibau, do not leave the regency without trying this iconic snack.

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Kerupuk basah.

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A view of Kapuas river from Semitau.

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A view of Kapuas river from Suhaid.

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Danau Sentarum of Kapuas Hulu.

5 reasons to visit Danau Sentarum National Park, Indonesia

Danau Sentarum National Park is a unique seasonal wetland where the water levels can rise up to 12m during raining season.

Together with Betung Kerihun National Park and Kapuas Hulu District, the whole area was awarded the biosphere reserve certificate from Man and Biosphere UNESCO last July 2018.

Located in Kapuas Hulu Regency, West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia, the park lies at the upper Kapuas River vasin.

It is a vast floodplain with 20 seasonal lakes, complete with picturesque freshwater swamp forest and peat swamp forest.

Here are five reasons why you should make your way to Danau Sentarum National Park:

1. Explore a maze-like peat land like no other

Travelling over the blackish water of Danau Sentarum is something that needs to be experienced at least once in your lifetime.

When dry season comes (June till September) and the water recedes, some of the lakes turn into narrowing channels while the channels turn into grasslands.

With all the trees that look almost alike and its winding channels, cruising through Danau Sentarum feels like going through a maze.

Plus, the vast floodplain leaves visitors wondering if there is something beyond the horizon of the lake.

Danau Sentarum 1
The national park covers 127,393.4 hectares whereby half of the area are lakes while the other half is swamp forest.

2. Do some birding activities

Pack your binocular and telephoto lenses to engage in birding activities at Danau Sentarum National Park.

About 240 bird species have been sighted at Danau Sentarum which include  the black hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus), great argus (Argusianus argus), Storm’s stork (Ciconia stormi) and crested gowshawk (Accipter trivirgatus).

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Catch some birds on binoculars at Danau Sentarum.

3.Observe the trees and wildlife (on camera) along the way

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Like any other national park, do not litter at Danau Sentarum.

Danau Sentarum National Park is located at the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative area. It is a government-led and NGO-supported programme that was initiated by a joint declaration by the governments of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia in 2007.

Today, it is one of the largest transboundary rainforests remaining in the world.

The whole island of Borneo is home to 6% of the global biodiversity though it only covers 1% of the world’s land area.

One of the areas which contribute to the high biodiversity of Borneo is Danau Sentarum.

It is home to 675 species of plants of which 13 are endemic to Borneo. Additionally, the park provides a natural habitat for orangutans, proboscis monkey, sun bears and arowana fish.

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If you are lucky, you will catch a stork landing on one these village jetties.

4.Watch sunrise and sunset over a floodplain

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A cloudy sunset view of Danau Sentarum from Bukit Tekenang.

Thanks to its flat geographical feature, Danau Sentarum National Park gives picturesque views during sunrise and sunset.

And the best place to catch this view is at Bukit Tekenang.

Lonely Planet called Danau Sentarum a “photographers haven”,advising visitors to bring that extra memory card during your visit.

5. Learn about the Malay and Dayak cultures of Danau Sentarum

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Dusun Kedungkang, an Iban longhouse located near Danau Sentarum.

What makes Danau Sentarum National Park a unique place to visit is the people living in its area.

There are about 3,000 people living in the 20 villages enclaves within the park. About 90% of them are Malay while the rest are Dayak Iban people.

The Malays live in high-stilt houses connected by bridges while the Ibans live in traditional longhouses.

The residents are very welcoming and visitors should fully utilise their visit to Danau Sentarum by visiting at least one of these traditional villages.

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A Malay village at Danau Sentarum.

Take in the mesmerising view of Danau Sentarum from Bukit Tekenang

A visit to Danau Sentarum National Park is not complete without a hike up to Bukit Tekenang.

With a towering height of 130m, the hill is one of the highest peaks in Danau Sentarum National Park.

The area was first gazetted as a wildlife reserve in 1982. Then in 1999, the area was declared as a national park.

Tourists can fly in from Pontianak to Putussibau, then take a four to four-hour-and-a-half hour’s journey to Semitau or Suhaid respectively.

From either Semitau or Suhaid, visitors can take a speedboat to Bukit Tekenang.

For Malaysians who are coming in from Sarawak’s Lubok Antu-Badau border, the closest way to get to Bukit Tekenang is from Lanjak town which takes about 40 minutes journey via speedboat.

It takes roughly 7 to 8 hours to drive to Lanjak from Kuching city.

At Bukit Tekenang, you will find a humble resort with basic amenities. So far the resort has welcomed both local and international tourists, especially from the UK and the Netherlands.

Not many locals live at Bukit Tekenang; the 20 families who do live there live by the lake on floating houses.

They are all fishermen living off the resources of Danau Sentarum (or Lake Sentarum). Apart from that, they also culture toman fish (Channa micropeltes) in cages.

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Floating houses at Bukit Tekenang.

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As always, don’t litter. A sign at Danau Sentarum reminding visitors to keep the national park clean by taking their rubbish with them.

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A map of Bukit Tekenang.

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A must-visit site of Danau Sentarum National Park.

Animals and plants who Danau Sentarum home

As for the wildlife at Bukit Tekenang, mammals such as proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus), long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis), common treeshrews (Tupaia glis), and painted treeshrews (Tupaia picta) have been sighted at the area.

Overall, Danau Sentarum is home to about 240 bird species include the black hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus), great argus (Argusianus argus), Storm’s stork (Ciconia stormi) and crested gowshawk (Accipter trivirgatus).

Additionally, the vast floodplain is habitat to more than 20 reptiles such as the viper, false gharial, estuarine crocodile and monitor lizard.

The trees found at Bukit Tekenang are the itchy tree (Baringtonia acutangula), grey satinash (Syzygium claviflorum) and kayu tahun (Carallia sp).

Meanwhile, the whole national park includesw 20 seasonal lakes and 40 small islands. The islands have freshwater swamp forest and peat swamp forest.

Peat swamp is where waterlogged soil prevents dead leaves and wood from fully decomposing. This consequently creates a thick layer of acidic peat over time.

The acidic peat causes the water around it to be brackish which explains the dark-coloured water of Danau Sentarum.

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Bukit Tekenang also has an office for Danau Sentarum National Park.

A breathtaking view of Danau Sentarum from Bukit Tekenang

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There are resting huts located along the way up to Bukit Tekenang.

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The trail is only about 500m long.

For the unaccustomed eyes, Danau Sentarum might remind you of 2007 British-Australian horror movie Black Water.

However once you get to on top at Bukit Tekenang, you will understand how the blackish water elevates the beauty of Danau Sentarum.

The blackish water serves as a mirror, especially when sun rays hit the pond at sunrise and sunset.

For photographers, it gives a golden opportunity to capture the perfect landscape of Danau Sentarum.

The hike up to the hill takes less than 30 minutes. Relatively an easy hike, it has a 500m staircase with resting huts located along the way.

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Can you see the storm on the horizon?

Do take note that the water level ranges from 5m to 12m depending on the season. The rainy season is usually from October to May when the water level is quite high.

Meanwhile, during the dry season (June until September), some of the lakes may dry out and some parts of the channels turn into grasslands.

Although the national park is open for visitors all year round, different months of visiting might give visitors different kind of view from Bukit Tekenang.

If you are planning when to visit, imagine what kind of view you expect Danau Sentarum to have. It is either greenish forest swamp surrounded by water or greenery with patches of brownish grasslands.

Both views are equally mesmerising as long as you have Mother Nature on your side to give you clear weather.

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If you are lucky, you might catch the sun in action when setting down.

Observing traditional fishing methods at Danau Sentarum National Park

Located in the province of West Kalimantan, Indonesia, the Danau Sentarum National Park is one of the most biodiverse lake systems in the world.

To give you an idea of how diverse; the park is home to about 240 recorded fish species.

Compare that to the European continent which has recorded about 546 species of freshwater fish, and Danau Sentarum has the equivalent of 40% of fish species for the whole of Europe.

The national park which covers an area of 127,393.4 hectares is basically a vast floodplain. Half of the area are lakes while the other half is swamp forest.

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One of the many channels in the complex lake system of Danau Sentarum National Park.

While most national parks in the world impose the heavy rule of ‘no fishing’ within its management area, the same rule cannot be enforced at Danau Sentarum National Park.

This is because there are roughly 20 villages located within the park’s proximity.

About 90% of the locals there are the Malay people while the rest are Dayak Iban.

With most of their villages built right next to a body of water, the lake also gives the villagers accessibility to the outside world besides providing

Most importantly, though, the communities rely heavily on the fish resources as their source of livelihood.

During a trip organised by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia from Nov 25 till 28, a group of media practitioners and travel writers paid a visit to Danau Sentarum National Park.

There, the group had the opportunity to cruise through the different channels of the lake system and observe the daily activities of local communities.

And it was not hard to find the locals at the Danau Sentarum. A number of them were seen on their boats busy with different kind of fishing gear.

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The local communities of Danau Sentarum rely heavily on fishing as their source of income.

Fishing nets of all kinds

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One of the fishing gears, commonly called ‘pukat’.

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A closer look at the pukat.

One of the most common types of fishing gear used at Danau Sentarum is the pukat or gill net. The nets look like rectangular hammocks with wooden sticks to put them in place.

Pukat is commonly used all year round. However when the water level drops during dry season, this fishing method is not practical as the net is not entirely submerged.

Apart from the pukat, the locals of Danau Sentarum can be seen casting jala or nets from the bows of their wooden boats.

Jala allows the locals to catch different kinds of fish depending on the mesh sized used.

Another common fishing gear spotted along the lake of the national park was the bubu. This is typically a large cylindrical fish trap made from rattan, although they do make rectangular traps as well.

Some fishermen were still seen using good old hooks. This kind of fishing method is used to catch fish for personal consumption.

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Biawan fishes in cage cultures.

Are those wind chimes?

Bubu is not the only type of fish trap used at Danau Sentarum.

If you are cruising through Danau Sentarum, youmight notice small items hanging from trees along the lake and the stilts of the village houses.

They look like wind chimes from afar but in fact they are bamboo tube traps.

Called tabung by the locals, these fish traps are made from bamboo tubes tied in bundles. The local fishermen used them primarily to trap live ulang uli.

Ulang uli or clown loach (Chromobotia macracanthus) have orange bodies with three black bars. They are usually sold as ornamental fish.

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Tabung hanging from stilts at Danau Sentarum.

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These fish traps are made from bamboo tubes tied in bundles.

Fishing for a living at Danau Sentarum

Apart from ornamental fish, Danau Sentarum fishery folk process their various catches into salted and smoked products for sale.

And their products cannot get any fresher; the fish are immediately gutted right on the boats or their village wharf.

According to one fisherman, Abang Usman from Dusun (village) Semangit, it takes up to four days to completely dry the salted fish.

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Abang Usman from Dusun Semangit.

The salted fish are sold to a seller who comes to the village every two or three days to collect the processed fish.

He explained that the type of fish sold vary according to the season. In September, some of the common catches are toman, baung and biawan.

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A group of villagers gutting fish together to make salted fish.

Fish for food at Danau Sentarum

At Danau Sentarum, fish is the main source of protein for the local villagers. While salted and smoked fishes are tasty and ready to have with a bowl of hot steaming rice, they still can’t beat freshly cooked fish.

And one of the favourite ways to cook any fishes here is with asam pedas, or spicy tamarind fish. It is a Malay sour and spicy fish dish popular in Indonesia.

The added bonus of having your fish freshly caught, is that they don’t have that fishy smell.

So if you are making your way to Danau Sentarum, do not miss out on having a taste of the fish.

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Salted roes from toman fishes, one of the delicacies found at a Malay village in Danau Sentarum.

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It takes up to four days to dry these salted fishes.

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Fish smoking in the process.

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The local fishermen dry their fishes in front of their houses.

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Toman fishes cooked in asam pedas.

3 botanical gardens you should visit in Kuching if you love plants

Calling out all botanists and horticulturalists who are visiting Kuching city for the first time!

Do not leave the city without visiting these botanical gardens:

1. DBKU Orchid Park

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One of the orchids found in DBKU Orchid Park.

While the hibiscus is Malaysia’s official flower, Sarawak’s state flower is actually the Normah Orchid (Phalaenopsis bellina).

So, having a whole garden dedicated solely to orchids in Kuching comes as no surprise.

Located near the State Legislative Assembly, the garden houses of more than 75,000 plants.

Some of these plants include Lady’s Slipper (Paphiopedilum sanderianum) and Bulbophyllum beccarii .

In July 2019, 600 participants from 13 countries are expected to come for 13th Asia Pacific Orchid Conference in Kuching.

2. Pitcher Plant and Wild Orchid Center

In the 19th century, Marianne North, a botanical artist came to Sarawak to paint scenery and plants. One of the plants she painted was a pitcher plant endemic only to Borneo.The species was eventually named after North, Nepenthes northiana as she was the first person to illustrate it.

Fast forward to 21st century, there are now plenty books and illustrations of pitcher plants. Plus, there is a botanical garden hosting up 35 species or subspecies of pitcher plants in Kota Padawan.

Apart from pitcher plants, there are other species including wild orchids found in the garden.Pay it a visit if you want to know more about this carnivorous plant. The centre opens Tuesday to Sunday.

3. Sarawak Botanical Garden

The third botanical garden is still undergoing expansion.

After receiving RM10 mil fund from the federal government in 2016, the garden is going to be spread over 83ha. It will link Darul Hana Bridge, Sarawak Legislative Assembly Complex and Orchid Garden.

The garden is targetted to be one of the sustainable networks of green spaces in Kuching city. It will also be a recreational activity area as well as a tourist landmark.

Special mention: Kuching Seed Swap

A public Facebook group, if you live in Kuching and are an avid gardener or even just starting out, Kuching Seed Swap is a free seed/plant/produce exchange group for all Kuching based gardeners.

The group aims to bring together a community of gardeners to share not just plants and seeds, but also knowledge and experience.

Happy Gardening!

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