Saturday, 3 May 2008

Labour Day jaunt to the Kuala Selangor Nature Park


I had initially decided to spend the Labour Day holiday at the SPCA, but since I would be going there on Saturday anyway, I opted to do some trail cleanup work at any one of my favourite camping or trekking sites instead. I wasn't able to contact any of the Feroza Gang to come with me, and a few of my friends have gone off on a mountaineering adventure. Lillian was in hospital for a check-up, while Mun Yee was in Melaka playing football in the Bench and Bar Games. I decided to take a drive down to Kuala Selangor on my own because it was to be only a day trip and I didn’t want to have to drive for hours.

The Kuala Selangor Nature Park ("KSNP") was gazetted by the state government in 1987 and is managed by the Malaysian Nature Society. One of the best things about the park is that it is a synthesis of 2 ecosystems: tropical rainforest and coastal wetlands. I go there pretty much once a year and have not grown tired of it yet. I know that on weekends and public holidays, our friends from the Bird SIG can probably be found doing their LAMIBA (Local Area Monitoring of Important Bird Areas) data collection work at the Park, so I could always join them for a bit of birding if trail-cleaning gets too lonesome.

I reached the foot of Melawati Hill by midmorning. There was a family of Silver Leaf Monkeys feeding in the trees, and they watched me with their comical faces and held out their little black hands to me when I started eating the organic seed and berry trail mix I brought. I love Silver Leaf Monkeys because they are mostly gentle and retiring, not brash and belligerent like the Long-Tailed Macaques. I could write a book about the mischief the Long-Tailed Macaques get up to in my neighbourhood, playing on the park equipment, lifting our roof tiles, uprooting our potted plants, getting into the trash and stealing food. But Silver Leaf Monkeys are a different story. I tipped trail mix into each tiny hand and watched the monkeys nibble daintily at the treats. One tugged at the corner of my jersey and held out her hand for more treats. The others watched without attacking. If they had been Long-Tailed Macaques, I would have been mauled to death by now. I bought them bananas and the monkeys accepted the goodies politely with both hands, nibbling the bananas and staring at us with grateful eyes. We really shouldn't be feeding the monkeys, but Loretta and Vegan Eugene were not here to tell us off, so I could feed all the monkeys I want, with impunity.

Walked into the KSNP office and chatted with the staff after gaining admission. My old friend Laila was circling the grounds on her motorbike to check that the gates were locked and that the visitors were not starting fires or leaving litter behind. I walked past the office and campsite and down the first trail towards the lake, putting any litter I saw into the biodegradable garbage bag I brought with me. The Park was largely clean and litter-free, except near the mudflats where the river tides would bring the flotsam in.

There was no shortage of fauna sightings. Of birds, there were Greater Racquettail Drongos, Black-Naped Orioles, White-Throated Kingfishers, Pied Fantails, Common Ioras and Laced Woodpeckers around the trails, and Brahminy Kites, Purple Herons, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Great Egrets and Chinese Pond Herons at the lake. Besides the pugnacious Long-Tailed Macaques and canopy-dwelling Silver Leaf Monkeys, I didn't spot any other mammals. In the mudflats and water, there were Giant Mudskippers, Blue Spotted Mudskippers, Fiddler Crabs, Monitor Lizards, River Snails and other smaller fauna galore. Blink, and you might miss something.

We encountered a few of our birder friends and fellow MNS members along the trails. I managed to make conversation with 2 photography enthusiasts and persuaded them to join MNS, as they love nature photography but could not find many other people to go on field trips with.

Completed cleaning up all the trails in the Park by late evening. Deposited the bottles and cans into the recycling bins at the Park. Showered at the campsite's communal bathroom. Came out to the car park to find a monkey sitting langorously on the Battletank. Laila asked me to chase the monkey off, but I couldn't bring myself to say "Shoo!" to the monkey, so I tapped the monkey on the shoulder instead.

Two of the KSNP staff had by now gathered round to watch the fun. "Hello, excuse me," I said to the monkey, tapping him on the shoulder again. He merely turned around, gave me an insolent look, and went back to leaning against the back windscreen of the Ranger. The KSNP staff dissolved in a fit of giggles, pointing and carrying on. I tapped the monkey on the shoulder once more and explained that we had to leave and could not bring him with us as it was against the Protection of Wildlife Act. I switched the engine on but the monkey was unfazed. I finally brought out the last of my trail mix and managed to lure the recalcitrant monkey away from the pickup and onto the grass using the goodies.

At the foot of Melawati Hill, I decided I would like to go up the hill on the tram. I bought a ticket and duly rode up the Hill on a trip with a tramload of tourists. We disembarked on the top to visit the ruins of the old fort, the lighthouse and the royal mauselum. The view from the top was fantastic as usual, but I was disappointed to see a lot of litter. I believe the hawkers should be charged a fee for the cleaning and upkeep of the area, as they are primarily responsible for the litter being there in the first place. There were only a couple of rubbish bins, which is grossly inadequate when there are so many mobile hawkers selling all sorts of junk food.

Left Melawati Hill when it got dark and reached the city around 2100 hours. Went back to the 'Quarters, fed and cleaned up after the cats, tidied the place up and mopped the floor. It's been a public holiday well-spent.

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