‘Brunei is a safe haven for migratory birds’

National 3 minutes, 8 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

Brunei is a major stopover for large populations of birds in Asia, according to the coauthor of the acclaimed Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo.

Quentin Phillipps told The Brunei Times recently that based on his research, he found that despite its small size, Brunei receives a lot of birds annually.

He said most of the birds coming from other countries in Asia such as China and Vietnam often choose Brunei as their main stopover.

Phillipps said Borneo has around 660 species of birds, and “two-thirds or roughly 400 species can be spotted in Brunei. The only birds that can’t be found in Brunei are mountain birds.

“Most of the birds that can be found around Brunei Bay or grassland areas have mostly migrated from Japan, China and Taiwan,” he said.

He said about one-third of the birds in Borneo are migratory.

“They come and breed during the summer somewhere in Japan and Taiwan, and when it’s winter, the birds fly down to Brunei. Some fly all the way to Australia.”

Phillipps added that many birds don’t prefer to fly across the South China Sea because there’s no place to land, and they migrate all the way from Vietnam in the north just to land in Borneo.

“The birds are usually coming from Korea and Japan, and there’s another route in the Philippines and along China’s coast. The important thing is the major migration route is from Vietnam, and after that, many of them land in Brunei.

“Brunei is very suitable for water birds because it has lots of swamp area. In fact, (bird) hunting activity is very low in Brunei. It’s become an excellent and safe place for (birds and) animals.”

He said due to this situation, Brunei has big potential in protecting wildlife and this indirectly promotes wildlife tourism.

“Brunei still has lots of forests and the birds are safe in the country,” he said.

He said other places in Borneo might not be suitable for animals and birds to live.

“Indonesians are very keen on keeping birds (without breeding them). Wherever there’s a human population in Kalimantan, the mammals and birds are being absolutely wiped out (from hunting and lack of breeding). Animal protection must be taken seriously.”

He said it takes two days by boat to get to remote areas in Kalimantan and it’s not easy to spot singing birds along the way.

“Throughout most of Kalimantan, the bird trade is very active. There are three to four different species of singing birds and it’s hard to find them in the forest, but they’re easily spotted at shops selling for hundreds of US dollars.

“Bird hunting activities are low (in Brunei), but there are still some birds that can be seen in the (local) markets. People are still mist-netting birds. What you don’t realise is, if that continues, (Brunei) will end up with the same situation like Kalimantan.”

He said Brunei’s government plays a major role in enforcing policies against mist-netting and bird trade activities.

“Anyone who wants to keep birds must have a licence and must breed the birds too. You need to have a proper system like in Europe and the United States that properly and strictly implement a wildlife protection policy.

“People are allowed to keep birds (with a licence) as long as they’re able to breed the birds. If people can’t breed the birds, they shouldn’t keep them. That’s the rule throughout Europe and the US,” said Phillips.

Phillipps has conducted research on birds since the 1980s. He will publish the 4th edition of Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by the end of this year.

The Brunei Times