Chance to see 600 bird species including previously-thought extinct fowl in Sabah

Liew (third from left) receiving a photo of the previously-thought extinct Bornean peacock-pheasant from Pudin and Sabah Birdwatchers Association committee members.

KOTA KINABALU: A bird endemic to Borneo but thought to be extinct in Sabah is among the more than 600 fowl species set to attract birdwatchers during the 12th Asian Bird Fair (ABF) here this October.

Sabah Birdwatchers Association (SBA) president Ron Pudin said the endangered Bornean peacock-pheasant was thought to have vanished until it was seen again some seven years ago in central Sabah.

“We thought this bird had gone extinct in Sabah,” Pudin said during a press conference to announce the ABF 2023 here on Thursday (May 18).

He added the bird used to be found only in Sungei Wain in Balikpapan, Kalimantan.

“But we have a record - a camera trap from our NGO and the Forestry Department - that snapped images of the bird in the heart of the forest in Telupid (some 200km from Kota Kinabalu) sometime in 2015-2016,” he said.

For the past one year, Pudin said, birdwatchers, or birders, have visited the district to catch a glimpse of the feathered animal.

“Previously, birdwatchers have gone to Balikpapan. But now, they have been coming to Sabah since last year.

“This is the impact when new or rare birds are sighted,” he added.

A photo of the Bornean peacock-pheasant which was thought to be extinct in Sabah.A photo of the Bornean peacock-pheasant which was thought to be extinct in Sabah.

The 12th ABF 2023 will be held from Oct 13 to 17 at the Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC) here.

As part of the programme, the SBA is planning to hold post birdwatching tours after the fair.

The organisers aim to attract some 2,000 people comprising bird enthusiasts as well as the public to the event.

ABF 2023 organising chairman and SBA committee member Roger Rajah said this would be the first time that a birding event of this scale would be held in Sabah.

“And we hope it will spark more interest in birding, not just in Sabah but on the island of Borneo.

“Our ecosystem here is intertwined and a concerted effort between Sabah, Sarawak, Kalimantan and Brunei is needed for a holistic environmental effort,” he said.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew, who attended the press conference, commended the efforts by the association to draw the younger generation into bird-watching activities.

She said it is crucial that we build up the interest of the bird-watching enthusiasts from a young age. They can become the country’s future birders, researchers, ornithologists, environmentalists, birding guides or lecturers on bird, she added.

“The theme for this year event of ‘Birding and Children: Hand in Hand’ is a good start towards instilling this interest in children at an early age,” she said.

Prior to the event, there will be a series of webinars, a bird photography competition and children birding activities in Sabah, leading up to the main event in October.

There will also be side activities to accompany the exhibition and forum during the fair, such as photography workshops, children’s colouring contests and a bird sketching workshop, besides the birdwatching tours.

Heralded as the biggest birdwatching fair in Asia, the ABF typically attracts 30 to 50 exhibitors from all around the continent, promoting birding tour packages, equipment or other supplementary products to birdwatching.

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