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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : December 2000 : On the road to high adventure

On the road to high adventure

By Anita Anandarajah
New Straits Times Press
December 2, 2000

We gathered at 7.30am at Level 2 of the Putra World Trade Centre where the conspicuous 4WD safari tour coach was already waiting for us. We certainly attracted attention wherever we went as the vehicle was decorated with paintings of animals.

A detailed itinerary had been prepared to ensure that we were constantly entertained. And there were so many meals! I think we spent most of the time eating in the true Malaysian spirit of Malaysia Boleh (Makan)! We were served chocolates and mineral water on the bus. A movie also was shown - 007 no less, perhaps to instil a sense of adventure?

After 1 1/2 hours, we stopped at Ulu Bernam for a breakfast of nasi lemak, telur dadar and teh limau ais. Many burps later, our journey commenced. The view along the long and winding Sabak Bernam trunk road was breathtaking - at least to the jaded city-dweller - with lush greenery on either side and rays of sunshine filtering through.

Sumatran Rhinoceros Conservation Centre (SRCC), Sungai Dusun Wildlife Reserve, Hulu Selangor

This centre is home to eight endangered Lesser Two-Horned Rhinoceroses, which make up half the world's population. We were given a tour by resident veterinarian Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, who provided an insightful view of the life and habits of the animals.

Who would have imagined that a 700kg rhinoceros named Seputih could prance around like a puppy? And did you know that these tame babies love bananas?

Sadly, the rhinoceros faces the greatest threat due to the high demand for its hooves, horns and skin which are used in traditional Chinese medicine preparations. The centre aims to conserve its small population of Sumatran rhinos and to provide a temporary home to displaced rhinos.

Wildlife Conservation Centre, Sungkai, Perak

The conservation centre sits on 20 hectares of protected land 60km south of Ipoh. It was gazetted as reserve land by the State Government in 1971.

Visitors may view the Sambar deer that are specially brought into an enclosure for public viewing. The deer are bred for the purpose of restocking for licensed hunting. They are also propagated to facilitate research which helps create public awareness on conserving the animals.

The centre's head of projects Mohd Samsudin Mohd Suri pointed out the rare birds, including hornbills, partridges and pigeons, at its aviary. Look out for the majestic Green Peafowl (Pavomuticus), said to have last been sighted in Malaysia in the 1960s. The Malaysian peacock, Crestless Fireback/Merah Mata (Lophura erythropthalma), commonly found in the lowlands, is also an endangered species.

The seladang are allowed to roam free in their enclosure, which is covered with thick undergrowth and overhanging vines. Those lucky enough to spot them would be amazed by their sheer size - the beasts stand at 2.1m on all fours!

Pasir Salak

We arrived at historical Pasir Salak to kompang beats, and were greeted like royalty with smiling kampung folk lining the road. Cosy wooden chalets by the Sungai Perak lent a rustic charm to the Pasir Salak Riverine Resort, where we were to spend the first night.

A cultural dance and huge array of Perak delicacies were laid out for dinner. The way to dinner was lit by kerosene lamps. This, plus a joget competition, teh tarik dance contest and roti canai-making session, made for a great night out in rural Perak. The next morning, we took a cruise down the river, after which came the highlight - the historical complex, which features a traditional Perak house, a museum and a watch tower near where J.W.W. Birch was murdered.

Bota Kanan River Terrapin Wildlife Conservation Centre

We had the opportunity to hold live terrapins! River terrapins or tuntung are bred in captivity at Bota Kanan. Any visitor will be captivated by these creatures which feed on kangkung and bananas.

Gua Tempurung

Words cannot describe the beauty of these limestone caves. The dust trail that leads from the main road through the kampung to the caves is an experience in itself. The serene plains dotted with seladang on a sunny Sunday afternoon were a lovely sight.

Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary

This is a small Chinese fishing village about 50km from Taiping. Birdwatchers will find Kuala Gula a haven as it is host to some 166 species, including migrant birds. Between August and April, more than 200,000 migratory birds stop over at the sanctuary.

The Milky Stork (Mycteria cinera) is one of the vulnerable species found here. Gliding down the river in a catamaran with breakfast served on board is THE way to go. If the timing is right, one can see thousands of birds taking flight from the shoreline of the mangrove swamps and mudflats. Binoculars are provided.

The highlight of the tour (Gua Tempurung aside) are the dolphins in the Straits of Malacca! Yes, we were lucky to encounter four friendly dolphins who tailed our boat for a short while. The village is the defining characteristic of Kuala Gula. A walk through is recommended, to watch fishermen hauling in their catch of shellfish, prawns, crab and fish for the day.

Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, Kuala Sepatang

Every Malaysian should feel proud of the Matang reserve as it is internationally known as the best-managed sustainable mangrove forest in the world. The bakau minyak and bakau kurap species are cultivated to produce firewood, charcoal and structural foundation piles.

Mangrove ecosystems play a vital role in preventing coastal erosion. They are also a source of nutrients for marine life. A trip on the boardwalk through the forest is a must to see the beautiful stilt roots of the bakau.

Charcoal Kiln Factory, Kuala Sepatang

A short distance from the mangrove reserve is the charcoal factory. It smelt like a great big barbecue! The one we visited is owned by Chuah Chow Aun. We were briefed on the various stages of charcoal-making. Chuah said his charcoal is exported to Japan where it is still in great demand for cooking and generating heat in saunas, among other things.

The kilns look like giant igloos, each measuring 6.7m in diameter and 7m high. Bakau minyak timber is smoked in the kilns for up to 30 days to get the end product - charcoal.



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