There’s more to Raptor Watch than just the raptors…

By Serina Rahman
Photos by Effendy Rahaman

erahaman_kanaRaptor Watch Weekend (RWW) is internationally renowned as one of THE birding events to be at every year. Press reviews and RWW write-ups rave about the breathtaking sight of hundreds of
raptors circling and gliding overhead at times swooping in low to allow us a tantalising glimpse of the regal beauty of these powerful predators.

It is widely understood and accepted that the preservation of Tanjung Tuan is vital to the protection of these incredible winged species to continue to provide them with a stopover to rest and feed on their long journey home. But the value of Tanjung Tuan’s mangroves to many other creatures both terrestrial and marine is often quickly overlooked.

Every year the marine group organises mangrove walks in order to highlight this importance. Mohala Santharamohana (better known as Mo), a regular volunteer for the mangrove walks at RWW cannot help but rave about the importance of this unique ecosystem. Everyone knows that the mangroves offer protection from storms and tsunamis but it is also a source of food and traditional medicine, it prevents saltwater from coming inland and without it there will be no natural source of seafood (because the mangroves serve as nurseries to many species of fish).

Mo brings her passion onto her walks with the Kelab Pencinta Alam students, striving to show them the interesting adaptations the trees have taken to survive in this harsh environment. Most of the kids are really interested in what’s around them, she says, some are worn down by the heat, mud and dirt, but others already know what lives in the mangrove and how to catch them!

Unfortunately this year, one such excited young boy accidentally crushed one of his ‘specimens’ to death, but it was the single anomaly in a weekend of positive experiences.

Apart from tramping about in the mud, the children conduct water quality tests, learning about the pH level and phosphate and nitrate content of water. Mo reports that the phosphate and nitrate content was surprisingly low implying that the presence of nutrients (read: sewage) is negligible. Although the result is the same as last year’s, the guides are not sure if this is truly good news and that the water is clean or whether the receding tide had taken the sewage out with it.

erahaman_sandactivityTo cap off their walk, the children have a sand activity. This year a little girl built an ‘unglamorous’ representation of a turtle. When asked why she did that however, she responded, “turtles are endangered and we need to protect them.” She won the grand prize.

And so another successful RWW has come and gone and the birds of prey should soon be safely home. With strong public support, an increased awareness of the overall importance of Tanjung Tuan’s mangroves and a little bit of luck, we hope that the area will continue to be preserved not just for the sake of the raptors, but for the millions of other creatures winged, finned, scaly, clawed and even two-legged and upright who depend on it.

Many thanks again to the tenacious marine walk guides who never fail to entertain and inspire others to appreciate the mangroves like they do!