9th Borneo Bird Festival 2017

9th Borneo Bird Festival 2017
by Martha Tan C.

The days leading up to the 9th Borneo Bird Festival had weather conditions that were less than ideal. The rain was relentless and our fellow WBCP members, who had gone ahead, were drenched walking through the streets. When the rest of us arrived at Kota Kinabalu on the 20th of October, the sun emerged and greeted us with a smile. Just as Elmer, a volunteer, did when he met us at the airport.

The festival itself was held from the 20th until the 22nd of October. Each day was filled with six to eight talks conducted by different speakers. Some of the topics were “Birding destinations in Sabah” by Gwenda Gui and Ali Suffri; Wildlife Rescue Unit by Dr. Diana Ramirez, “Figs and Helmeted Hornbill” by Dr. Miyabi Nakabayashi, “Wildlife of Borneo, Troubles Faced by them and how youths can save them” by Shavez Cheema, Bird Trade in Asia by Serena Chng of TRAFFIC; and our very own vice president, Karen Ochavo, gave a talk about the bird festivals held by in the Philippines.

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The booths of different exhibitors were set up inside the IMAGO Shopping Mall.  There were NGOs such as Jabatan Hidupan Liar Sabah, Wildlife Recue Unit, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center, TRAFFIC, Hutan, and us, the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines. Many had different pamphlet giveaways, and fun activities for the kids and adults alike. Beautiful works of art by local artists featuring different forms of wildlife and nature were for sale there as well. There were even some great selections of bins, scopes, and cameras from Canon, Sony, Olympus, Nikon, Leica, and Swarovski.

So not only were there talks, and activities conducted by the exhibitors, but contests too. There was a Bird Mimic Contest, which two of our WBCP delegates, Karen Ochavo and Mark Jason Villa, joined; quizzes and games; the Sabah Bird Race, in which WBCP had a team representative as well, and Bird Photo Race held at the Crocker Range Park.

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Being that the festival was held in a mall, there was always a lot of people passing by and taking an interest in what was going on. A successful come – on was the chance to spin the “wheel of fortune” with fantastic prizes like overnight stays in famous resort, free car rental for a day and lots more. We had heaps of kids come running to our booth to get a chance to do some coloring, people asking about birding sites in the Philippines, the conservation work being done for the Philippine Eagle, and so on. On top of that, there were two very adorable and fuzzy mascots that the kids and kids at heart would flock to whenever they walked around. One being a Bornean Bristlehead and the other was a Bornean Sun Bear.

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It was quite inspiring to hear about the different efforts that many of these individuals are undertaking and spearheading in Borneo. One of the talks I found most captivating and interesting was the “Hornbill Conservation in Borneo” by Ravinder Kaur. One of the things she said that struck me was how conservation takes a lot of creativity, creativity in the way one approaches preserving and protecting a habitat, or in her case, making one by creating cavities for Hornbills to nest in. Amidst seemingly insurmountable challenges, the group relentlessly continues to be steadfast in their endeavor.

The organizers and festival committee members were all so warm and inviting. They joked around with all us a lot and we shared in quite a bit of laughter throughout the entire trip, especially with Merwan, our very own Obi-Wan. For there was always a light and uplifting atmosphere, even when some of the topics discussed involved illegal pet trades, and other cruelties to the environment and wildlife.  The speakers all imparted such informative presentations and they exuded this aura of perseverance as they face many challenges.

They were all so proud of the good number of endemic birds they have, amounting to around 60 different species. All of which they hope and strive to protect, along with their beautiful songbirds such as the White-Crowned Shama, Straw-Headed Bulbul, Greater Green Leafbird, and the Oriental Magpie Robin. Protecting these songbirds and the Helmeted Hornbills was the overall theme of this year’s festival. For their songbirds are being taken away from their natural habitats and are made to sing their songs as a form of competition in certain sectors of society.

Spearheads Carol, Cede, and the rest of the BBF organizing team were wonderful hosts to this well-organized bird festival. It is an experience to treasure indeed.

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