Tourism can Soar with Birds

By : Sean Augustin.
New Strait Times.
30 Mar 2007.

KUALA TERENGGANU: It’s time the tourism industry cast an eagle eye on the northern frontier to promote bird-watching.

While Taman Negara, Pahang, and Fraser’s Hill are popular havens for bird watchers, several spots in the northern states have equally good potential for such activities.

These places include Ulu Muda, Pedu and Langkawi, all in Kedah, Kenyir in Terengganu, the Belum-Temenggor forest complex in Perak, and the Kuala Muda-Teluk Air Tawar coast near Butterworth.

Malaysian Nature Society senior science officer Yeap Chin Aik said birding was one of the most important income-generators for Fraser’s Hill.
A lot of tourists, especially foreigners, focus their efforts both on Fraser’s Hill and Taman Negara. “But this does not mean that the northern states have no prospects.

“In fact, these places have quite a good range of birds, some of which are unique to the areas.
“These include the plain-pouched hornbill found in the Belum-Temmengor area,” he said.

Yeap said the hornbill, which is a globally threatened species, has been seen flying in large numbers during certain periods of the year, similar to the raptors that flew by Tanjung Tuan, Malacca, on the way to North Asia from Sumatra earlier this month.

He suggested that the tourism industry follow the example of the Zululand Birding Route, a birding project in South Africa, which focuses on conserving birds and their habitats by promoting and developing birding tourism in the region.

The route is currently managed by the Birdlife SA Rio Tinto Avitourism programme.

To date, the birding route has trained more than 30 local guides, marketed the area nationally and internationally and was named as the finalist for the Smithsonian Institute’s sustainable tourism awards in 2003.

Irshad Mobarak, director of the Natural History Expedition, an eco-tourism company based in Langkawi, shared the same sentiment. He said the company planned to bring more Japanese and European tourists to the northern areas. Irshad said there were easily over 200 species around the Kenyir Lake here.

On a recent two-day excursion, he managed to spot 88 species. He said on average, a 10-day bird watching trip at Fraser’s Hill, the Kuala Selangor Nature Park or Taman Negara would allow tourists to see about 250 types of birds. “It is easy to observe birds, especially hornbills, in places like Kenyir.

“I brought a travel agent from the United Kingdom with me on my last trip. He was impressed with what the northern states had to offer. “I hope the state governments realize the potential they have in their own backyard and do something about it,” Irshad said.