IT was heartening to read the letter “Raptor Watch needs more publicity” (The Star, March 17) by Lionel Perera. It reflected not only the writer’s deep understanding of the raptor migration phenomenon but also his observation on the lack of promotional materials in the surrounding areas and towns in Negri Sembilan.
Raptor Watch is an annual event founded and organised by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) at the forest reserve of Tanjung Tuan, Alor Gajah, Melaka. From late February till early April every year, thousands of raptors from Siberia, China, Japan and other countries in the northern hemisphere will fly back to their home country from Indonesia and Australia (where they spend the winter months) taking the shortest route, that is through Tanjung Tuan.
MNS members/volunteers from the Bird Conservation Council (BCC) dedicate hundreds of man hours from February to March to sight, identify, count and tabulate these raptor species as they fly in. It is important to note that it was the research and tireless efforts of the early bird enthusiasts which led to the decision to organise the first Raptor Watch in 2000.
Raptor Watch is the biggest eco-tourism event in Malaysia and it attracts both local and international visitors. This year, more than 2,000 visitors took part in the event along with 1,500 children mainly from schools in Melaka and Port Dickson on March 10 and 11.
Besides learning about the migratory flight of the various raptors hovering above the hot air current at Tanjung Tuan, the visitors and schoolchildren also participated in environmental games, painting, nature hunt, nature guided walks and exhibitions, and gained knowledge on environmental issues at the 20 booths set up along the way to the top of the hill where the lighthouse is located.
In line with the society’s vision and mission, this is an avenue to raise awareness and educate the community and schoolchildren on the importance of nature conservation. Visitors get the opportunity to experience and learn first-hand how their support and actions will contribute to conservation and preservation of the Malaysian forests and natural environment.
MNS takes every effort to engage with the relevant authorities and undertakes media promotions leading up to the event. However, the size and promotional reach is dependent upon, and hence limited to a large extent, on availability of funding and the capacity of partners/agencies/sponsors willing to be involved.
MNS is indeed grateful to corporations, companies and the Melaka state government for supporting this event. This is a demonstration of their determination to play their part in preserving and protecting Malaysian nature.
This event creates substantial tourism-based economic benefits, especially to Negri Sembilan, when visitors lodge at the hotels in Port Dickson and patronise the food stalls and restaurants in the vicinity. We look forward to involving the Negri Sembilan state government too, possibly to run awareness drives and promotional advertisements especially in Port Dickson and Seremban.
In the coming years, MNS will certainly try to involve more stakeholders to:
i) Increase visibility and event promotion of Raptor Watch;
ii) Improve the quantity and quality of nature-related activities and booths; and
iii) Increase the number of visitors over the duration of the event, especially international visitors and bird enthusiasts. We also welcome interested parties to join us as co-organisers, sponsors, participants or visitors next year when we once again welcome the raptors to our shores in March 2019. This will coincide with the 20th anniversary of Raptor Week as well as the celebration of MNS’ 80th year and as the oldest environmental NGO in Malaysia.
It is hoped that the society’s ongoing conservation and educational activities such as Raptor Watch will give rise to future generations of Malaysians with an inherent interest in conservation.
DR ZORINA KHALID
DR JESSIE CHEAH
MNS Negri Sembilan-Melaka Branch