KUCHING: The sight of a crocodile looking for food in its natural habitat is enough to stop anyone in their tracks.
The species referred as ‘Bujang Senang’ by the locals were among those easily stumbled upon at the Kuching Wetlands National Park.
Despite being in a boat about 500 metres away, this writer’s heart was pounding fast especially when told that the river was a crocodile breeding area.
And the fear heightened when the occupants of the boat were told two individuals had fallen victim to these reptiles so far this year. Last year, 12 cases of crocodile attacks were reported of which nine were fatal.
During a media trip with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, participants were told in 2008, a total of 317 crocodiles were recorded in this part of the park and the number has since increased to over 500.
The figure shows that the park is an active breeding ground, especially in areas such as Sungai Lemidin, Sungai Samariang and Sungai Gelugor.
Though they may pose danger to human, they have an important role in maintaining balance in the ecosystem of the wetlands.
EYE ON THE PROBOSCIS MONKEY
Located about 15 kilometres from Kuching city and five kilometres from Pantai Damai, the Kuching Wetlands National Park was chosen an one of the six Ramsar sites (a wetland of international importance) in Malaysia in 2005.
Situated on the coast of Sarawak between Sibu Laut and Salak rivers, the area forms a part of the Sarawak Mangrove Forest Reserve.
Over 1,000 residents from seven villages here depend on resources from the mangrove forest and sea.
However, ever since tourism activities started booming here boat services were provided to take visitors from Kampung Telaga Air or the Santubong Jetty.
People were not only attracted to the beauty of the mangrove forests and crocodiles that were the main inhabitants, but also other protected wildlife found across the 6,610 hectares of land.
They include the Proboscis Monkey, scientifically known as Nasalis larvatus, which has been listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
This species of monkeys, which comes out by the swamp to look for food between 7.00am to 5.00pm, seem to be unfazed by the groups of human who come to see them.
They survive on the leaves of the Avincennia mangrove trees. These leaves are digestived by the bacteria in the gut and this is why the Proboscis has a protruding stomach, said Kuching Wetlands National Park Ramsar Site manager
The male has a long and peculiar nose, that is useful in attracting the females. The male may have more than eight females, with 16 the highest number recorded.
“They usually move in groups, one male and several females. These primate could live for up to 30 years,” he said.
Other species which can be found at the park are long-tailed macaques and the silvered langur.
VISIT FROM DOLPHINS
Lucky visitors might catch a glimpse of the rare Irrawady dolphins, which live in the Santubong and Salak river estuaries.
They are commonly found in saltwater areas of Sabah and Sarawak. They also live in river networks, coast and estuaries because it protects them from choppy seas.
However, the media personnel group were unfortunate as the dolphins did not appear during their recent trip. They were told that the mammals were synonymous with mangrove and muddy areas as they were fond of eating catfish.
According to Suliman the dolphins would approach boats returning after fishing, especially during the process of sorting unwanted catch.
“The dolphins will come close and jump out when the unwanted fish are thrown back into the water,” he said.
While cruising along the river visitors also have the chance of seeing 104 species of birds including shore birds, kingfishers and white-bellied sea eagles.
Five species of birds at the park were classified as almost endangered, seven species were fully protected and 38 species protected under the Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998.
The area also acts as a nursery for the breeding of fish, crabs and prawn. There are about 44 families of fish, 11 species of prawn and crabs as well as razor clams.
“The 75 species of fish here have high commercial value and are a source of livelihood for villagers. Besides that, there are other animals there such as wild boars, bats, beavers and squirrels,” said Suliman of the highly biodiverse area.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MANGROVE FORESTS
Meanwhile, there are 64 plant species at the national park, of which 14 are mangrove trees such as the Avicennia and Asiatic.
They play an important role in protecting the riverbank from waves, as well as provide a place for fish to breed and a source of food and protection for wildlife.
To educate the community about the importance of mangrove forests, mangrove tree planting awareness projects are offered to visitors from the corporate sector, universities and school to be carried out on the 50 hectares of land.
Suliman said the area would be turned into a crocodile sanctuary under the 11th Malaysia Plan, which would address the concern over crocodiles appearing in areas such as Waterfront.
“If we come across any crocodiles, we will bring it back to the sanctuary. We will also catch big and violent crocodiles in villages where the river is frequently used and put them in the sanctuary,” he added.-Bernama
Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/05/19/wildlife-species-an-asset-to-kuching-wetlands/#ixzz3dDGocv3J