|Conserving Birds in Malaysia
Malaysia is a blessed country when it comes to birds. Over 750 bird species have been recorded within the country’s political boundaries in various habitat types or ecosystems ranging from the lush, evergreen tropical rainforests to even man-made environments such as urban parks and fruits orchards. Some birds are also ‘endemic’ i.e restricted to a particular area or region in Malaysia. More than 40 species are regarded as endemic where most of them can be found in Sabah and Sarawak such as the Dulit Partridge Rhizothera dulitensis, Black Oriole Oriolus hosei and White-fronted Falconet Microhierax latifrons. In Peninsular Malaysia, the Crested Argus Rheinardia ocellata, Mountain Peacock-pheasant Polyplectron malacense, Malayan Hill Partridge Arborophila campbelli and Malayan Whistling-thrush Myophonus robinsoni are restricted to our central mountain range. Little surprise that given Malaysia’s high levels of bird diversity, 55 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) have been identified to date across the country. IBAs are internationally recognized sites of bird diversity and conservation. Full information of Malaysian IBAs is available in the Directory of Important Bird Areas in Malaysia: key sites for conservation published jointly by MNS and BirdLife International in 2007 and endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
The Malaysian Nature Society has a proud and long history in bird conservation in this country. Since its inception in 1940, birds have interest many evident from the consistent bird-related contributions in the Malaysian (Malayan) Naturalist and Malayan Nature Journal. Bird papers in these two esteemed publications undoubtedly formed a large part of our understanding of Malaysian ornithology. Later, the publication of Suara Enggang, a quarterly (formerly monthly) bulletin of the MNS-Bird Conservation Council (MNS-BCC), further continued and strengthened the publication tradition. Other noteworthy bird publications by MNS include the out-or-print An Introduction to Malayan Birds (Malaysia’s first bird field guide), The Birds of Borneo (3rd Edition), A Checklist of the Birds of Malaysia and A Checklist of the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia. Some MNS Branch Bird Groups such as Selangor, Perak, Penang, Terengganu and Johor have also published materials on birds such as state checklists, bird/birding pamphlets and books.
Besides publications, MNS has been involved in bird conservation through many signature events. 2 iconic annual events organized every year are Raptor Watch and Festival of Wings. These 2 events which have a long history has been garnering support from many stakeholders and have become 2 important annual events in its local state.
Birds and their respective habitats in Malaysia are currently threatened by various forms of land use development, poaching/hunting, habitat degradation and possible competition with escapees/alien species. Thus, Malaysia is also ranked as one of the top 20 countries globally with the highest number of globally threatened birds, many of which are forest-dependent. Working closely with BirdLife International and other allies both regionally and nationally, MNS is working on various aspects of bird conservation to prevent its extinction in Malaysia. Some of these actions include:
• Advocating for the protection and/or conservation of key bird habitats/sites.
• Engaging relevant Federal and State ministries and government agencies on policy matters/issues affecting birds;
• Monitoring selected bird groups e.g. migratory raptors, common birds, hornbills and waterbirds annually using the ‘citizen science’ approach;
• Conducting bird-related CEPA (communication, education, participation and awareness) activities;
• Conduct targeted long-term field research and conservation actions on priority bird groups in key site(s) e.g. hornbills in Belum-Temengor Forest Complex;
• Capacity-building MNS Branch Bird Groups, MNS members, government agencies and other relevant stakeholders in bird conservation;
• Networking with key partners to advance Malaysian ornithology such as Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM); and
• Continue to publish bird-related materials and/or encourage MNS Branch Bird Groups to do likewise.