Haribon Foundation, the Philippines’ pioneer environmental organization, was invited once again to visit Malaysia. But this time, it’s an expedition to the country’s oldest rainforests. Dubbed as
“International Hornbill Expedition 2013,” it was held on September 20 to 22 at Belum-Temengor Forests Complex in Gerik, Perak Malaysia.
The International Hornbill Expedition is a three-day event where delegates from different countries set out to explore, discover and appreciate nature and wildlife of the two forests Belum-Temengor, also known as the Hornbill Capital of the World.
Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) supported by Tourism Malaysia and Belum Rainforest Resort, hosted the expedition. Delegates from different Bird Life partner countries such as Taiwan, South Africa, Ireland, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Japan, Hongkong, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, who presented discoveries in the forest complex as well as eco-tourism and birding in their respective countries.
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 stand of mixed dipterocarp forests of 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 the 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.
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 10 hornbill species of Belum-Temengor namely the 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 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 birdcalls 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 even saw 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 Birdlife Partner of the Philippines, I presented a topic on Birding in the Philippines, and 10 of our endemic hornbills.
To view the proceedings of the expedition here, visit: http://www.mns.my/article.php?aid=2424. A copy of my presentation could be checked in: 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.