SANTUBONG: Where the dolphins go
TOURISTS VISIT A PLACE for many reasons; the beach, the views, food, culture, history, nature… the list goes on and on.
What about a place that offers both history and biodiversity? Wouldn’t that be a great catch for a place to visit?
Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) highlighted the Santubong peninsular in a talk called ‘An Afternoon on Santubong’ at Kota Sentosa Public Library on July 16.
The Santubong peninsula is home to 810m high Gunung Santubong, Kampung Buntal, Kampung Santubong, the nearest public beach at Damai Beach resort and more scenic sites.
Into its second year, the festival will be held from November 8-9 at Permai Rainforest Resort.
In a session called Archaeology of Santubong by Ipoi Datan, the Director of Sarawak Museum Department Santubong underlined the archaeological sites in Santubong.
Ipoi outlined the archaeological sites of Santubong are Sungai Jaong, Bongkissam, Bukit Maras, Tanjong Kubur, Sungai Buah, Tanjong Tegok, Sultan Tengah Mausoleum, Sungai Santubong and Santubong Headland.
He mentioned that Santubong was historically significant because it could have been part of the Srivijaya Empire of South Sumatera from the 7th to 13th century and then also that of the Javanese Majapahit Empire from the 14 to 15th century.
“But what is evident is that it was part of the Brunei Sultanate under the first and last Sultan of Sarawak, Sultan Tengah who died in 1641 and was buried in Santubong.”
The tomb of Sultan Tengah is preserved to this day and is located about 5km away from Damai Beach Resort.
Other archaeological findings are a stone Buddha figure – minus the head and limbs – similar to 7th century images from the Indian Gupta School found at Bukit Maram.
“Based on the archaeological findings, Santubong can be said to have been a trading centre linking West Asia, Southeast Asia and China from 10th to 13th centuries.”
According to Ipoi, Santubong was a place for iron works because some excavations at Sungai Santubong in 2007 yielded some stones with engravings on them and boulders with troughs carved on their upper surfaces.
The inscribed hammer stone clearly hinted at the possibility of iron working and petroglyph carving occurring at the same time. Besides Sungai Santubong, hammer stones also found in Bongkissam.
He continued, “As such, research proposals with University of Malaya and Leicester University are being planned to further investigate the area for its role in iron working and ancient international trade.”
Sarawak Dolphin Project (SDP) was started in 2008 by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) along with founding partners, Sarawak Shell Berhad and Sarawak Forestry Cooperation.
Since then the project has continued under Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation in Unimas, with funding assistance from Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, the International Whaling Commission and in-kind support from Permai Rainforest Resort.
Cindy Peter has been working on SDP which has been focused on Kuching Bay and Similajau area since it was launched.
According to Cindy, SDP has found that the species most commonly observed by the order of frequency are Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella breviostris), finless porpoises (Neophacaena phocaenoides), Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus).
According to Cindy, SDP estimated about 233 individuals of Irrawaddy Dolphins in Kuching Bay which encompasses the area from Telaga Air on the west and the Bako peninsula on the east, as well as the rivers that connect these areas, namely Sungai Sibu Laut, Sungai Salak and Sungai Santubong.
As for finless porpoises, a line-transect distance survey has yielded a result of 135 individuals (CV=31%, 95% Cl=74-246) in the same area.
“However, it is important to note that the numbers listed are not reflective of the population at all times, threats on their survival as wells as possible immigration and emigration of the population could decrease or increase their estimates.”
According to Cindy, threats of bycatch from fisheries, habitat degradation and heavy vessel traffic especially by tour operators that provided dolphin watching services are problematic in the cetacean habitat in Sarawak.
She also emphasised that the public can help lessen the threats on dolphins by reporting incidences of stranded or dead dolphins to SDP, or simple actions such as keeping clean and going green.
The biodiversity of Santubong
Oswald Braken Tisen, the Deputy General Manager of Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation division of Sarawak Forestry Corporation was another speaker at the talk where he spoke on Santubong’s biodiversity, briefing participants on examples of animals and plants that can be found in the area.
Oswald said that Bako Buntal Bay in Santubong area was the first East Asian Australasian Flyway Site Network in Malaysia.
East Asian-Australasian Flyway is one of the world’s great flyways which is important for the millions of migratory waders or shorebirds that breed in northern Asia and Alaska and spend the non-breeding season in Australasia and Southeast Asia which is, in this case, in Bako Buntal Bay.
Oswald gave an example of Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophoyes) which is considered an iconic bird for Bako Buntal Bay. The highest number that SFC counted in one sighting came up to more than 400.
According to him, the Chinese Egret is considered a globally threatened species with a small and declining population (2,600 to 3,400 in number).
This upcoming SNF is open to all MNS members and the public.