Category: Pantai Leka

Endangered birds of Pantai Leka

By CHONG CHEE SEONG|MUAR

REST AREA:The beach is one of the stopovers for migratory birds which fly thousands of kilometres from China, Russia, Australia, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and other countries to avoid the winter cold

THE Lesser Adjutant storks (leptoptilos javanicus), which are classified internationally as an endangered species, are breeding well in Johor.

Locally known as burung botak, these birds are breeding in the mangrove forests at Pantai Leka, Parit Jawa, Muar.

Pantai Leka is one of the stopovers for migratory birds which fly thousands of kilometres from China, Russia, Australia, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and other countries to avoid the coming winter. Many die on the journey south.

Surrounded by green mangrove swamps and forests, the 20-ha mudflat at Pantai Leka offers a rich supply of food such as eels, snakes, earthworms, crabs and shellfish

The presence of the migratory birds, especially the local Lesser Adjutant storks, has attracted droves of watchers from far and near, transforming the tranquil village into a tourist destination.

Chia Leong Heng, 105, the oldest resident in Pantai Leka, said when he settled in the village at the age of 20, many migratory birds were found on the mudflat and mangrove trees.

He said Lesser Adjutant was only identified about 30 years ago.

Chia observed that some of the Lesser Adjutant storks in Pantai Leka are breeding.

“The Malaysian birds are larger in size because of the conducive environment, abundant food supply and safe shelter in mangrove trees.”

His son, fisherman Chia Tee Tee, 60, said Lesser Adjutants often perched on his boat at sea during their journey.

“I give them water and fish. After a short rest, they continue their journey to Pantai Leka.”

Tan Yong Hwee, 57, said he had been seeing migratory birds of different species, including storks, cranes, local eagles and colourful kingfishers, fly across the Straits of Malacca since he became a fisherman 40 years ago.

“I usually feed them when they stop for a rest on my boat. They are exhausted after the long journey.”

Keen bird-watcher Jason Lim, a 38-year-old electronic engineer in Singapore, comes to Pantai Leka during weekends and public holidays with his wife, Nancy, and two children, to watch migratory birds.

He enjoys taking photographs of the majestic birds at the mud flats or mangrove trees.

“Although I have snapped many photographs of Lesser Adjutant storks, I find new angles to shoot each time.”

Another bird-watcher from Malacca, businessman Sam Leong, 45, said he travelled often to Pantai Leka to observe the migratory birds.

He said the construction of the bird-watch tower, gazebos and the concrete jetty was timely to promote bird-watching as a tourist attraction in Johor.

Leong said this would bring in more tourist revenue to supplement fishermen’s incomes.

Muar-Batu Pahat Fishermen’s Association president Ser Boon Huat called on the Federal and state governments to conduct an in-depth study to map the migratory routes and landing sites.

He said there was also a need to preserve the pathway along the coastal region and mangrove forests, protect the feeding and breeding grounds, and create more sanctuaries for the endangered species.

He said an adult Lesser Adjutant weighed about 30kg, with a wing span of two metres and a height of one metre.

Ser said the birds were sensitive and would fly elsewhere if their feeding and breeding grounds on the mud flats and mangrove trees were disturbed.

He said this would be a great loss to Johor, in particular Pantai Leka.

“It is a heavenly gift that these birds have come in droves to Pantai Leka.”

He chided irresponsible inshore fishermen for laying rawai (fish line with hooks) on the mud flat.

Ser said when the tide subsided, fish caught on the line were left exposed and the birds swooped down on them hoping for a meal.

“That’s how some of them are caught by the hooks. If they are not released immediately, they are likely to drowned during the next tide,” he said.

Bird watching in Pantai Leka is comfortable as there is no need to wade through mud or trek on jungle routes to see the birds.

Bird watchers can just stand on the shore under shady trees, or in the birdwatching tower, or on the concrete jetty, sipping a coconut drink, as the birds are just metres away.”

[Courtesy of NST, http://www.nst.com.my/streets/johor/endangered-birds-of-pantai-leka-1.91493]

Category: Pantai Leka