Saturday, 27 October 2007

To Eat or Not to Eat (Fins - Best on Sharks)

I admit that I like shark-fin soup. It’s not that I get to eat it very often though, in fact only very rarely, like at weddings, major family gatherings, and so forth. Over the years, I may have even included it in one or two (or even 4!) of the dinners that I had given or presided over. But that was in the past, albeit only the recent past and at that time when one talked about sharks “Jaws” came to mind. Who wants to save sharks? Why protect them? Who would believe that the millions of sharks in the ocean could be decimated? They are ferocious beasts that can take care of themselves!

Anyway sharkfin is so expensive - how many people can afford to eat it? Exactly! It’s mostly the Overseas Chinese who ate sharkfin but only a small percentage of them could have yee-chi tong regularly in those days not so long ago! Now with the billion-plus population of Chinese in the Mainland so much more economically enpowered almost every Chinese family wants and can afford to have this delicacy on the menu at every wedding, birthday, New Year, get-together, and business dinners. They can even have sharkfin-filled dimsums for Sunday brunch! It’s a status thing!

Not that it is so delicious that the ingenious Chinese cannot find or make a substitute for it, there are already faux sharkfin on the market! But nobody wants “fake” they want the real fins chopped right off the swimming fish!

That makes it different now! Sharks simply can’t reproduce fast enough to keep up with the demand! Sooner rather than later they will become extinct, they are already on the way now!

Friday, 26 October 2007

Sputnik and Harvestmen

When I saw this spider-like creature with a pea-sized body and very long thin legs, it instantly reminded me of Sputnik-1 (Спутник-1) the Soviet Union’s and the world’s first ever man-made satellite to be put into orbit around the earth 50 years ago this month. Launched on October 4, 1957, Sputnik-1 was the first of a series of satellites collectively known as the Sputnik program and its success ignited the so-called Space Race between the then USSR and the United States within the Cold War.

Although this arachnid looks like the so-called daddy-long-leg spiders that we sometimes find in damp places in our bathrooms it is not a real spider. It belongs to the Order Opiliones whose members are commonly called Harvestmen (for what reason I don’t know). Like spiders they have 8 legs and feed on small insects and belong to the Class Arachnida but unlike them they do not produce web. Quite a number of species of harvestmen are found on Borneo, generally living on the soil among leaf litter, in foliage or on tree trunks.

This interesting specimen was photographed in the forest near Madai Waterfall, Kunak where they are quite common. (The super-imposed Sputnik image is produced using a photo found on the Net.)

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Borneo's Own Big Cat

The caption under a small photo of a clouded leopard on the index pages of the October 2007 issue of the National Geographic, “A New Species”, was a little misleading. However further inside the magazine is the full explanation and a full length photo of the feline together with a map showing (somewhat optimistically, IMHO) the extent of the remaining rain forests on Borneo.

Neofelis diardi is not exactly a new species as it was first described by a zoologist 184 long years ago in 1823. However later taxonomists demoted this cat to sub-species status, i.e. they thought this cat was merely a race of the species Neofelis nebulosa which are found all over Asia ranging from Nepal through Eastern China to Southeast Asia including Sumatra and Borneo. Thus those Borneo, and Sumatra, were classified under Neofelis nebulosa diardi until now when new detailed analysis shows that, in spite of very similar appearance, they are genetically vastly different from their mainland cousins.

While we think this calls for a celebration, we also mourn the fact that the rain forests of our great island where these magnificent cats and countless other animals live, are disappearing fast! The so-called Heart of Borneo set aside by three countries that share it is indeed being set aside FOR the cultivation of oil and bio-fuel production with each of these participating countries seemingly trying to outrace each other to “develope” (read “destroy”) the land.

This photo of a bored and unhappy captive animal was taken at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Kota Kinabalu. I accept that some animals need to be captured for various legitimate reasons, including for display to educate the public but I strongly oppose capturing and displaying animals sorely for entertainment and financial gains. Though sometimes it’s difficult to judge and draw a line…

The common English name for this cat would probably be Bornean Clouded Leopard or Island Clouded Leopard (to include Sumatra). Anyway the many natives of Borneo have their own name for it: Mondou/Inanasad/Nanansad/Tangangansad (Kadazandusun); Enkuli (Iban); Lakuing (Brunei); Kuleh (Kayan); Kuir (Kelabit, Lundayeh); Tantanion (Murut). In Malay it’s Harimau Dahan or Rimau Dahan.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

First Post - dedicated to Streamyx, TMNet

I've been working on my first post for this blog for days now, or rather trying to publish my nicely thought out first post but thanks to Streamyx our almighty broadband provider I have to attempt doing it with a snail-paced dail-up connection... I shouldn't get so worked up and mad really, after all this is Borneo! And I happen not to live in KL or even KK or Kuching but in a small pekan bah. And when we have broadband or don't is all up to Streamyx, great god! We just have to accept it, sabar and be grateful when we have broadband for a weekend! Yes just be sabar and/but DON'T forget to pay your monthly subscription! Or your connection will be disconnected!

Foreigners who find out that we live in Borneo are invariably surprised that we (who are supposed to live in trees - maybe our over zealous Tourism people should not use so many of those Orangutan photos in their advertisements) are also connected to the Net, maybe just as we are sometimes surprised when we found out that one of our chat mate in the chat room is a pygmy in Congo! Ha? U mean u also cn use computer ah?

Sure, we are connected to the www too like everybody else, just that we are not as equal as everybody else. People in the big cities of course are more equal, they have fast broadband, WiFi, etc, etc. Not like us in the pekans, (I think people in the kampung don't even have dail-up?, I think only, I am not sure). Yes most of us have dail-up and some of us have slow broadband or intermittent broadband... like available one or two days in a week, or sometimes even one whole week without interruption! But mind you, we pay the same rate as the city folks (city folks who can afford sitting in some of those expensive kopitiams sometimes get to use free internet! But of course they have to buy their expensive laptops also lah).

Anyway, I'm rambling off the point now, and I don't get to post my first blog! Sabarlah, friends try to come back to read my blog some other time, maybe next Sunday. If Almighty Streamyx permit! (no point getting so angry)

pekan = town/ kampung = village/ sabar, sabarlah = patient, be patient,/ kopitiam = coffee shop (usually the old-fashion type)