Discovering Hornbills while Unraveling the beauty of Belum-Temengor forest of Malaysia
Delegates searching for the hornbills along the shore.
by J Kahlil Panopio.
Biologist, Haribon Foundation.
November 20, 2013
Haribon Foundation, the Philippines’ pioneer environmental organization, has been invited once again to visit Malaysia, but this time, it’s an expedition to the oldest rainforest in Malaysia, dubbed as “International Hornbill Expedition 2013” held from September 20 to 22, 2013.
The International Hornbill Expedition is a three day-two night event where delegates from different countries set out to explore, discover, and appreciate nature and wildlife of Belum Temengor Forest Complex.
Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) supported by Tourism Malaysia and Belum Rainforest Resort, hosted the International Hornbill Expedition 2013 at the Hornbill Capital of the World – Belum Temengor Forest Complex, Gerik, Perak Malaysia. Delegates from different BirdLife partner countries such Taiwan, South Africa, Ireland, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Japan, Hongkong, Sri Lanka, and Philippines presented discoveries in the forest complex as well as ecotourism and birding in their respective countries.
White Bellied Sea Eagle. Photo by Ty Srun / BirdLife Cambodia.
According to MNS, the contiguous Belum and Temengor forests are approximately 130 million years old, older than the Amazon and the Congo, and subsequently much more complex in their biodiversity. They support populations of large mammals and extensive stands of mixed dipterocarp forests over about 300,000 hectares, almost four times the size of Singapore, in one of the least accessible or developed areas of the Peninsula.
The event started with a glimpse of what the forest of Temengor has to offer. Delegates were taken on a boat ride around the valleys of Temengor Rainforest in search for the hornbills. Just a few minutes away from the jetty, the group was able to spot a Grey Headed Fish Eagle and a several meters away from it was a White Bellied Sea Eagle.
Perched flock of Plain Pouched Hornbills. Photo by Ty Srun / BirdLife Cambodia.
After spotting raptors, our bird guides heard a loud horn like sound. A HORNBILL! It’s the Rhinoceros Hornbill, the first hornbill of the expedition. From then on hornbills started to show themselves one species after the other. We saw nine of the ten (10) hornbill species of Belum Temengor namely Rhinoceros, Great, Helmeted, White-Crowned, Black, Bushy-Crested, Oriental Pied, Wreathed, and Plain Pouched Hornbills.
The highlight of the day was seeing over a hundred Plain Pouched Hornbills perched on top of a tree waiting for the right time to fly to their roosting sites. Seeing the hornbills in those numbers perched in a single tree was an amazing sight. When it was time for them to leave, they flew in large groups away from the horizon leaving only the sound of their wings flapping behind the blanket of silence.
The writer presenting at the International Forum. Photo by Jessie Kan / MNS.
The next day was the actual expedition; it was a fine day to go birding. While taking our breakfast, we were already greeted by a symphony of bird calls from bulbuls, tit-babblers, barbets, and sparrows. We set out early in the morning to increase our chances of spotting more birds, the wrinkled hornbill and other wildlife.
We saw several kingfishers, malkohas, babblers, woodpeckers, crows, mynas, aside from the hornbills of Temengor. Some were even able to see Asian Elephants, Otters, and fresh Tiger paw prints.
When the group was about to head back from the valleys, a resonating call from one of the rarest hornbills of Temengor greeted the expedition team… it was a pair of Helmeted Hornbill --- a fitting end of a day’s long expedition. The only hornbill that eluded the team was the Wrinkled Hornbill.
As the representative of the Birdlife Partner of the Philippines, I presented a topic on Birding in the Philippines, and ten of our endemic hornbills.
To view the proceedings of the expedition, please visit: http://www.mns.my/article.php?aid=2424
A copy of my presentation could be checked here: http://prezi.com/hug1duyutxvv/birding-in-the-philippines/
A truly great experience! Given another chance, I would definitely go back and enjoy what Belum-Temengor Forest Complex and Malaysia have to offer.