Saturday, May 8, 2010

Temengor, the land of hornbills

This is a love story, the story of my happy times in the Belum-Temengor forests. It all started with volunteering in a hornbill survey and ended up a love-affair that lasted from 2004 till today. Even as I sit here sharing with you I yearn to be back there. Through my pictures, I hope you will understand, why this love affair has lasted all these years.

Temengor, shrouded in morning mist

At dawn, as the mist lifts, the hornbills take to the sky

Temengor forest in a blaze of colours

When in Temengor, you are among giants.
The tiny greenish dot at the base of the tree is me.

A privilege to be in Temengor
I was very privileged to be able to visit Temengor. When I am there, I can forget my work and my stressful life in town. I can pretend to be Tarzan's Jane. I am in my own reality show. Don't help me, I am not a celebrity.

In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson,
"The Vagabond"

Give to me the life I love,

Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
And the byway nigh me.

Bed in the bush with stars to see,

Bread I dip in the river

There's the life for a man like me;

There's the life for ever.

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me;

Give the face of earth around

And the road before me.

Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,

Nor a friend to know me

All I seek, the heaven above

And the road below me.

Or let autumn fall on me

Where afield I linger,

Silencing the bird on tree,

Biting the blue finger.

White as meal the frosty field -

Warm the fireside haven -

Not to autumn will I yield,

Not to winter even!

What's happening in Temengor?

These photos were taken during my trips into Temengor. I have not been there lately but logging is still going on. Take a drive on the east-west highway today. You are bound to see lorries laden with timber.
Without fail everyday, I passed barges stacked high with logs. Each barge carries enough logs to fill 20 lorries. Each day. I can see at least two such barges heading for the mainland on the east-west highway.

A completely bald hill after the loggers are through with it

Tracks for lorries to haul out the logs turn into mush during the raining season. These together with the skid trails and patches of open ground where trees have been removed become the source of runoff which turn rivers into "streams of blood".

Where the logging camps are, vast areas are clear felled to make room for their "kongsi" houses and for log ponds. These are almost always by the lake side to make transporting log out easier. Another source of run off into the lake during the wet season, besides lost of habitats to both plants and animals.

Logging debris clog up rivers when logging occurs near rivers or the lake.

Rivers turn red, as if Mother Nature is bleeding from the gash man made in the forest. Fish and other aquatic life suffocate in silt laden rivers. Livelihood and lives are threatened when, the people of Temengor's source of food is wiped out by such pollution.

The people of Temengor
They are the gentlest people I have ever met. They know the forests like the back of their hands. For many of them, the forest is the only place they know.They have been in Temengor long before any other Malaysians has even set foot on the peninsula. They are the true sons of the earth. The forests and everything in it belongs to them.

Life is hard when you depend on a fast disappearing forest for food. You and your family walk miles, carrying everything you own with you. Every where you look, unsrupulous outsiders with their chainsaws and big machines are tearing the world you knew apart. All that's left is more hardships.

Outsiders created the lake and took your rivers away. You adapted. You now depend on the lakes for your daily washing.

You depend on the lake for transport

You depend on the lake for food but outsiders come in their fast boats. They fish for sport. You fish to live. How can you hope to compete with their modern rods and lines?

You depend on the lake but the lake is being contaminated with silt from logging

You keep your distance. You look at me with suspicion. Can I blame you?

What kind of a future are we leaving you?

The last refrain

Let the blow fall soon or late,

Let what will be o'er me;

Give the face of earth around,

And the road before me.

Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,

Nor a friend to know me;

All I ask the heaven above,

And the road below me.

Don't let the sun set permanently on Belum-Temengor. Help save it for our future generations.


  1. Hi KCnYian,
    Great photos, well said and commented.
    Good to create awareness to all Malaysians to save our forest, rivers and lakes. Looking forward to read more of your outdoor adventures.

  2. 1 question pop up for me. When is my time to visit temenggor.

  3. Thanks Ching for the compliments. Will try to share again soon.
    Terence, you can visit Temengor anytime. Just take leave and go.

  4. Lovely. Thanks for sharing.

  5. wonderful memory for me, the forest, the horbills and the people in Temengor, thanks.

  6. Big "Welcome" to a seasoned birder ...looking forward to see more posts from here on.

  7. Well written.. i'm waiting for october to come.. waiting....

    Two-thumbs up! ^.^

  8. Hi Yian,
    Well written blog. You should continue blogging!
    Don't just stop here.