Take care of birds’ welfare, nature guides reminded

KUCHING: Tourist guides, especially those specialising in nature, are reminded to be mindful of the birds’ well-being each time they bring visitors on birding trips.

The welfare of the birds comes first and therefore, guides and tourists must ensure minimal disturbance when conducting these trips, said a bird watching trainer and member of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Selangor branch, Ng Bee Cheng.

She pointed out that the move was one of the birding etiquette and ethics that all should observe because the activity itself was already an intrusion into the birds’ habitat.

“We need to be mindful of the birds’ welfare. Do not harass and disturb their nests, chicks and eggs.

“Always keep a distance from nesting and feeding birds because if we get too close to them, we may cause the parents to abandon their nests,” she told nature guides participating in a bird watching workshop here recently.

Bee Cheng — who has 10 years of birding experience and led many trips for MNS members throughout Malaysia — said when bird watching, one should minimise movements and keep quiet especially when there were other birders around.

Guides and their clients should also approach birds slowly and quietly and walk in a zig zag move so as not to scare the birds away, she reminded.

“Learn to recognise stress behaviour in birds and move away immediately if they exhibit any sign of it.

“Among these signs are when birds try to attract your attention by flying in front of you, trying to lure you to a spot, or carrying food or nesting materials perched at a certain position for a long time,” she explained.

Ng said those into bird photography should also be guided by the same principle — birds’ welfare comes first.

Bee Cheng said photographers should not go too close to nests and keep each photography session brief to avoid stressing the birds.

“Avoid using flash photography especially for close-up shots. For night photography, the light should be shone indirectly on the bird or partially on its lower body, not on its face,” she said.

Bee Cheng said nature guides should also be mindful when calling birds using recorded sounds as it could stress the animal and cause them to leave the area.

“Do it only once or twice. If the birds don’t respond, abandon it,” she said.

The workshop was conducted by the Sarawak Tourist Guides Association (SKTGA) at the Kubah National Park here, for some 20 guides and employees from the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC).

Held in collaboration with the MNS and supported by Tourism Ministry, it aimed at crea-ting interest and instilling knowledge about the rules of bird watching among local licensed tourist guides.

Apart from Bee Cheng, other trainers and field leaders during the workshop were Mark Ng from Selangor MNS together with Daniel Kong, Anthony Wong and Dr Ronald Orenstein from Kuching MNS.

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