Sur­pris­ing Pangkor

Look beyond this is­land’s beaches and dis­cover bats, birds, wild fruits and other eco trea­sures in its hilly forests.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - By TASNIM SYAKIRAH

MEN­TION Pangkor, and you’d prob­a­bly think of the sea­side re­sorts and sa­tay fish snacks that are so of­ten associated with this small is­land, just off Lu­mut, Perak.

No­body could’ve imag­ined that in mid-July, over 115 re­searchers from 14 dif­fer­ent in­sti­tutes in Malaysia would have con­vened here for the Pangkor Is­land Sci­en­tific Ex­pe­di­tion 2017 (PISE 2017). They were joined by 300 lo­cal pri­mary school pupils.

Only a 10 minute boat ride from the main­land, this is­land is home to over 82 species of rep­tiles and am­phib­ians (her­peto­fauna).

PISE 2017 was a seven-day event hosted by the Eco­tourism and Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety of Malaysia (Ecomy) and sup­ported by Vale Min­er­als Sdn Bhd. Its aim was to doc­u­ment the lo­cal flora and fauna, and help the lo­cal com­mu­nity bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate the rich bio­di­ver­sity on the is­land.

The PISE also aimed to build on the knowl­edge that the Forestry Depart­ment of Penin­su­lar Malaysia had col­lected from an ex­pe­di­tion in 2009.

Another ma­jor aim was to pro­mote eco­tourism. The Malay say­ing “tak ke­nal maka tak cinta” was em­pha­sised time and again by Ecomy co-founder and CEO, An­drew Se­bas­tian, as a re­minder that only through get­ting to know the is­land can one ap­pre­ci­ate its beauty.

I was in­tro­duced to Is­madi Din, a lo­cal nat­u­ral­ist who was in­ter­ested in be­com­ing a cer­ti­fied na­ture guide. Se­bas­tian ex­plained that the main eco­tourism is­sue that he had iden­ti­fied when vis­it­ing Pangkor was that there are many lo­cals who take tourists trekking, but are un­able to pro­vide their guests with knowl­edge on the flora and fauna seen dur­ing treks.

This led to the birth of the Vale & Ecomy Men­tor­ship Scheme for lo­cals in­ter­ested in be­com­ing cer­ti­fied Pangkor Na­ture Guides.

In 2015, Se­bas­tian and a few other lead­ing sci­en­tists in­clud­ing Dr Manohar Mari­ap­pan (Mano) from Univer­siti Pu­tra Malaysia, had ed­u­cated and trained four lo­cal peo­ple on the his­tory of Pangkor, its flora and fauna (on land and sea) and na­ture pho­tog­ra­phy.

By 2016, there were five more guides who wanted to be trained and cer­ti­fied as well.

“Ecomy will just be in Pangkor tem­po­rar­ily, but the lo­cals who have been trained as guides will stay and ben­e­fit the lo­cal econ­omy, mak­ing it self sus­tain­able,” said Se­bas­tian.

Another im­por­tant rea­son for the sci­en­tific ex­pe­di­tion was to em­pha­sise the im­por­tance of the is­land’s bio­di­ver­sity on land.

Usu­ally tourists visit Pangkor for the sea ac­tiv­i­ties such as ba­nana boat­ing, jet ski­ing and kayak­ing. How­ever, they are of­ten bliss­fully un­aware of the beau­ti­ful trails scat­tered around the is­land.

Both Se­bas­tian and Mano high­lighted the fact that a rare tree called Shorea lu­muten­sis ex­ists in only three places in the world, all of them along the west coast of Malaysia, and mostly on Pangkor.

Se­bas­tian also men­tioned that he wished there were more lo­cal he­roes dis­cov­er­ing new species, in­stead of wait­ing for for­eign­ers to come to the is­land and dis­cover them.

The pur­pose of PISE was to ad­dress all these is­sues and pro­duce high qual­ity sci­en­tific eval­u­a­tions of the is­land that will be use­ful for the Pangkor Na­ture Guides and the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

— PISE

The fly­ing fox or large fruit bat is the sub­ject of a study be­ing car­ried out on Pangkor is­land. The mam­mals are cru­cial in help­ing to pol­li­nate fruit trees.

Na­ture ex­perts teach­ing young ones about sea cu­cum­bers and other marine life found on Pangkor is­land. — Photos: PISE

Learn­ing first-hand that ‘to know na­ture is to love na­ture’, as a gi­ant mil­li­pede crawls on a stu­dent’s arm.

The huge seed of the bo­gak tree, af­ter which a place on Pangkor is­land is named.

A tiny crab on a re­searcher’s hand.

A closer look at var­i­ous species of plants.

Dr Teo shar­ing his knowl­edge of snakes with the par­tic­i­pants.

Lo­cal stu­dents learn­ing about the var­i­ous species of plants found on Pangkor.

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