TAIPING: The name may be unappealing but count your lucky stars if you meet the burung botak upeh at the Kuala Gula bird sanctuary.
That’s the local name for the endangered Milky Stork, which can be sighted in large numbers at the bird sanctuary in Kerian.
Taiping Zoo and Night Safari director Dr Kevin Lazarus said the species of the stork is nearly extinct and the Kuala Gula mangrove forest is the only place where the bird can be seen in the wild in Malaysia.
There were about 10 protected wading birds left in the forest during a census conducted 10 years ago, he said.
“About 25 years ago, there were more than 100 of the species, but the number of these birds has dwindled over the years. There is no sign of them breeding.
“The number has declined significantly due to poaching, people shooting the birds and the danger of predators such as eagles and monitor lizards eating the eggs,” he said yesterday.
However, bird lovers can also see the Milky Stork at the Taiping Zoo, which has 26 of the birds.
Dr Lazarus said Zoo Negara, together with the Perak Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department (Perhilitan), carried out a rehabilitation and reintroduction programme to breed the Milky Stork.
When contacted, state Perhilitan director Fakhrul Hatta Musa said a memorandum signed between the department and Zoo Negara had stated that about 150 of such birds were to be released at the bird sanctuary in stages.
“So far, 49 birds have been released. We are hoping for another 100 to be released by end of next month or early next year,” he said.
“The stork is endemic to the mangrove forest of Kuala Gula, and since the introduction of the programme in 2007, we have found four baby storks hatched in the wild.”
On another matter, Taiping Municipal Council president Datuk Abdul Rahim Md Ariff announced the birth of several animals at the zoo, which included a chimpanzee, a Malayan porcupine and five brush-tailed porcupines.