A YEAR AGO ON Sept 24, Faridah was kidnapped; her carcass discovered in a dumpster a few days later.
Her brutal death angered the public, with many crying out for justice on social media.
Faridah’s death also left her partner, Jimmy distraught. He was spotted searching for Faridah a day after she was hit with a slingshot and taken away by three men.
She and Jimmy had been nesting happily together for over a decade as monogamous hornbills at a Piasau Camp in Miri, a former residential area for Shell employees.
Yes, Faridah and Jimmy were a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills, the smallest type of hornbills found in Sarawak.
Sadly, the carcass of the female bird was found in a rubbish bulk bin at Jalan Datuk Edward Jeli in Piasau on the night of Sept 26.
The men responsible for Faridah’s death were arrested that same night.
Soon after Faridah was poached, Assistant Environment Minister Datu Len Talif announced on Sept 29 that the state cabinet had approved the move to gazette Piasau Camp as a nature reserve.
Then nature lovers rejoiced when on Apr 3 this year, Piasau Camp was finally gazetted as Piasau Nature Reserve with a total land area of 88.5 ha.
It was the first time in Sarawak that a residential area has been converted into a nature reserve.
To date 45 species of birds, 25 species of mammals, five species of amphibians, 12 species of reptiles, 10 species of butterflies and 111 plant species have been recorded in the area.
All species of hornbills are totally protected under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998. If found guilty of keeping them as pets, killing, hunting, capturing, selling, trading or disturbing them, or possessing any recognisable parts of the birds, the fine is RM25,000 and up to three years in jail.
In the case of Faridah, one of three suspects Michael Rabai of Desa Murni was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment and fined RM2,000 in default of three months’ jail.
The other two were set free.
Faridah’s absence from Piasau Nature Reserve still lingers.
Musa Musbah, an honorary wildlife ranger and also the chairman of Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Miri Chapter said, “We are still sad over Faridah’s death even a year after the incident.”
He posted a photo of Faridah in conjunction with the anniversary of Faridah’s death on ‘Save Piasau Oriental Pied Hornbill the new nestlings’ Facebook page on Sept 24.
The post gathered some netizens’ interest including Beena Giridharan who commented “Hope Faridah’s legacy will be preserved for posterity” and Kamila Sazalie who wrote a simple comment, “Sedeh (sad)”, a testament that people still remember the dead bird.
Musa who is one of those tasked to study the flora and fauna of Piasau Nature Reserve also informed, “So far we have identified 17 hornbills here and each of them have their own names such as Ahmoi, Anthony and Alice.”
As for Jimmy, it was a good thing he decided to continue staying in Piasau Nature Reserve even after the death of his mate.
He was spotted with a new mate called Juliet a few months after Faridah’s death, but even so, some of his behaviour may indicate that Jimmy perhaps still remembers his first mate.
Musa shared that even a year after Faridah’s passing, Jimmy was still seen visiting and feeding the cavity he shared with Faridah – up to 19 times a day.
It is in hornbills’ nature that during nesting time, the female and her young are totally dependent on the male for food. Without the male to feed them through the partially sealed cavity, the mother bird and its young could die.
Hornbills are also known to be monogamous in their breeding nature.
When Faridah was still alive, Jimmy was often seen bringing food such as fruits and small birds to feed Faridah who could not leave its nest to incubate their eggs.
Musa continued, “We also saw Jimmy recently making ‘yak, yak, yak’ sounds into the empty hole.
“We don’t know the scientific reason why he is doing this. Maybe he misses Faridah. We don’t know what is going on his mind right now,” said Musa who is also the vice chairman of Piasau Camp Miri Nature Park Society (PCMNPS).
Barely five months after being declared a nature reserve by the state government, some concerns had been raised among Mirians as The Borneo Post reported the current fencing on a section of the reserve by a private developer on Sept 20.
Commenting on this issue, Musa said “We are not very happy about this”.
Last Monday, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem assured that he would seriously look into the matter.
According to Musa, even though Piasau Camp was already gazetted as a nature reserve they are still continuing to bring awareness to the public on this place.
The NGOs who are heavily promoting this reserve are MNS Miri Chapter, PCMNPS and the Hornbills Watch Group.
Interested in helping? Musa said the public can help by joining the monthly programme called Hornbill Walk. Admission is free and it starts at 4.30pm at the car park of the old Tenby International School.
He said it is a healthy walk to join and in the same time enjoying the nature of Piasau Nature Reserve organized on every third Saturday of the month.
Faridah is a victim of illegal poaching. On the first anniversary of Faridah’s death, the question we have to ask ourselves as Sarawakians now is how many Faridahs are out there and what can we do to stop it?
As for Piasau Nature Reserve, let us hope that Faridah’s former home will continuously be protected and the development of the park will be more transparent after this.
About Oriental Pied Hornbills
Faridah and Jimmy are Oriental Pied Hornbills or scientifically named Anthracoceros albirostris. They are mostly found in northern South Asia, southern China, Malaysia, Indochina and western Indonesia.
In 2010, however, researchers reported that this species was almost completely wiped out in southern China.
Oriental Pied Hornbills live in subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. Their diet includes wild fruit, larger insects and small reptiles such as lizards and frogs.
All Sarawakians recognise the hornbill as the state’s animal icon, but few truly know the significant role hornbills play in our ecosystem.
Hornbills are able to store many fruit per feeding in the esophagus and stomach. As such, they regurgitate up the seeds as they move thus making all hornbills important seed dispersal agents.
Faridah has now been preserved and mounted for display. On July 15, Faridah was placed at the window of Piasau Camp House 58. And guess what? Jimmy came to pay a visit.- Video by Musa Musbah
Photos and Video courtesy of Musa Musbah and Jool Othman