Meeting in the Land Below the Wind

on Sunday, April 29, 2007

I just got back from a week long conference of Governments and Protected Area specialists. The conference was to help the 10 nations who are members of ASEAN ( Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) to achieve the goals set for the creation and management of Protected Areas (PAs) by the years 2010 and 2012. There are basically two problems. There are still not enough PAs covering all the relevant ecosystems and endangered species and even where there is a PA, it is often still not managed properly. By the end of the week, I’d say that most of us were cautiously optimistic.

Optimistic because, there has been a great deal of progress since the last meeting almost 4 years ago. Cautious because, the entire program is still behind schedule and there are still some serious problems to solve.

The meeting was held in Kota Kinabalu which is the capitol of the state of Sabah, Malaysia. It is located at the foot of the Kinabalu Mountain which is South East Asia’s tallest and on the exotic and heavily romanticized island of Borneo. Borneo is also the world’s third largest island at 743,300 sq km. It is an island rich with natural resources, ancient rainforests, numerous ethnic tribes, endemic plants and animals and natural beauty. It is also a safe and bountiful land.

Sunset on Kota Kinabalu Waterfront

The name “Land Below the Wind” is given to Sabah which basically recognizes that it escapes the typhoon belt and is a relatively safe haven. The majority of the population are Kadazan-Dusun which is the main indigenous tribe but the Murut are particularly famous for being traditionally head-hunters (not the modern meaning about scouting appropriate talents for available corporate jobs; but rather the traditional meaning of fierce warriors raiding, killing and taking severed heads as trophies. More about this in a latter post).

Part of the 200 Delegates

My week in a nut shell:-
: arrived late in the evening, met my room mate and went for dinner nearby.

Monday:- Opening speeches. I was given the privilege to speak on behalf of the CEO of one of organizing organizations. This required me to dress in a suit ( a rare sight indeed). This was followed by country reports. First one was interesting, second one was reasonably interesting, third….fourth ….fifth…Zzzzzzzz. Woke up for summary session. Cultural performance and dinner for the first night.

Tuesday:- More of the same………Zzzzzzz. Had dinner with a local friend and his family.

Wednesday:- Field Trip to Crocker Range National Park. Woke up at 5.30 am. Had breakfast and boarded bus at 7 am. Visited the Park, Mahua Waterfalls and an interior village of the Murut called Ulu Senangang. Got back very tired and hungry at 9:30 pm.

Thurday:- Previous night and this morning, spent writing and preparing for my paper. Presentation went reasonably well. Had dinner with friend. Worked late into the night.

Friday:- Co-chaired a workshop for the entire morning. Prepared a report and presented it with recommendations for actions. Read that out in the afternoon session. Closing ceremonies. Additional meeting. Rushed dinner. Went with local friend to his bible-study group.

Saturday: Left for home. Arrived home. Had lunch and immediately started reading blogs. Good to be back. Will talk more about the cultural aspects of the trip in following posts.


mago said...

Good to see you back home healthy and well.

Michael C said...

That is quite a week! I guess life isn't too bad when you get to be around Borneo ;-)
Welcome back!

Becky Wolfe said...

Welcome back! Sounds like you had a jam-packed week of meetings & presentations. Glad yours went well! Interesting about the head-hunters. Want to hear more about them!

Also glad that there is optimism about achieving more land protection. Whocj endagered species & ecosystems are of the greatest importance at the moment in Malaysia and the surrounding nations?

Becky Wolfe said...

whoops - meant to say WHICH endagered species. :(

Becky Wolfe said...

lolol I really can't type today as I incorrectly spelled ENDANGERED twice.

guess it all starts to fall apart at 30 for me!

Josie said...

LGS, welcome back..! You truly live in the most beautiful part of the world, and it's wonderful to see that folks care about protecting it.

I would love to hear more about the headhunters... :-)


Janice Thomson said...

Great to know you're back safe and sound. I too am looking forward to hearing more. Like Becky I'd like to know which species are endangered and exactly why they are endangered in the first place. Would like to hear what future plans have been made to accomplish this as well.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Did you bring back any heads as souvenirs?

Borneo sounds like a lovely land, except for the head hunters, of course. I like to visit places where my body parts have a good chance of remaining attached.

Endangered species don't get nearly enough attention, legislation or funding, so it's most gratifying to know that some nations are actively trying to protect them. I wish it were more universal.

Your photo is gorgeous!

meggie said...

It is really sad to think such conferences are needed to make people realise what needs to be protected. I suppose there are far too many species under endangerment to be listed.
Nice to read your account.

Ellie said...

Hmmm, I see you did a lot of sleeping while in conference, I suppose squirrels may get away with that, huh?

The photo of the sunset is beautiful. Thanks for sharing it.

leslie said...

Wow! LGS - you certainly live in a beautiful area! Gorgeous photos! I just popped in to thank you so much for your cheery words last week when I was feeling so down. Today the sun is shining both literally and figuratively and I enjoyed seeing the Japanese cherries in full blossom on my stroll to Starbucks (frappuccino weather today). I will come back often and please know you're more than welcome to drop in at my place anytime. :D

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks. It was quite an easy trip.

Can't complain! Borneo is a great place to visit and the people are so much nicer than the Malaysian Peninsular where I come from. :)

Hi Becky,
You don't look a day older than 29! I'll post in detail about the endangered animals in the future but the short answer is the orang utan (or red ape), the sumatran rhino and the proboscis monkey for species and mangroves, peatlands and marine for ecosystems. These are probably the most under threat.

Thanks but grass is always greener on the other side. As I said before, I'd love to visit your old growth forests. However, Malaysia is blessed with a diversity of life. Headhunters will be coming to a blog near you soon.

You've asked some deep questions. Again, I'll post on it one day. For now, short answer is that the greatest threat is conversion of forest to agriculture and specifically cash crops like oil palm. There's also issues of poverty and social injustice at the root of it all. What we are trying to do is to tie legistlators down to an integrated landuse plan which includes conservation concerns and protected areas. At the moment, development and land clearing follows only the whims of the legistlators which justify all decisions on basis of economic gain.

I was lucky to come back with my head and my FEET! I'll explain in a post soon. Generally though, they all smile and tell you that headhunting was outlawed after world war II. However, you get the sneaky feeling that old habits die hard in the interior of the island which may be accessible only after 5-6 days walk.

Some people find these conferences depressing cause everything is so politicised and progress is slow. Nevertheless, it does tend to bind nations to acheive certain targets and this is good.

Picture yourself in a dark, climate controlled room, listening to a soft voice speaking English with such a strong Asian accent that it might as well have been Swahili, looking at slides of graphs done in such small print that binoculors are needed and there are no nuts. What is a squirrel to do? Zzzzzz. That coupled with my diabetic condition makes it hard for me to concentrate. Besides, the first two days focussed on countries boasting about their modest acheivements. Certainly not rivetting material!

Thanks for your kind words. Glad things are bright and sunny.

Jocelyn said...

I love knowing that work like this is going on in the world. You do good things--that is, when you're not dozing off...

Molly said...

I love reading about all the exotic places you visit/live in. The benefits of travel without the jet lag! Borneo sounds a lovely place. Glad you got home with your head still attached....

patterns of ink said...

Glad your back and that you managed to touch base while away.
Sounds like quite a trip.
I quoted you in Part IV of "Why Bloggers Blog" Sunday night. Hope that's okay.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

i don't know about doing good but if more politicians would doze off, they would likely do less harm!!!! LOL.

Borneo is a great place. Have returned with head intact but while I was watching my head, the blighters went for my feet!!!! I will tell all soon!

It's an honor to be quoted on your very scholarly thesis on bloging. Lot of hard work went into that effort.

nancycle said...

Welcome back!

nancycle said...

Welcome back!

Odat said...

Hey...Welcome Back!!! Wow, Borneo...that's about as far away from me as you can get...sounds sooo exotic...looks beautiful....
Sounds like you had a busy week...hope you had luck in the future of preserving our planet!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks, Thanks.

Hi. Borneo is special.I had a good meeting. They were more serious than usual about finding solutions.

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin