Sunday, November 15, 2009

“Late Quaternary Mammals of Borneo” at the Rimba Ilmu Auditorium

MNS Selangor Speaker Series
Title: “Late Quaternary Mammals of Borneo”
Speaker: Lord Cranbrook
Date and Time: 6th November 2009, 8.00 p.m.
Venue: Rimba Ilmu Auditorium, University of Malaya
Organised by the Malaysian Nature Society, Selangor Branch.

I was at the University of Malaya Rimba Ilmu Auditorium again recently to attend a talk on the “Late Quaternary Mammals of Borneo”.

Judging by the turnout at the first of the Malaysian Nature Society (Selangor Branch) talks for the current administrative year, it’s going to be a great year for science and conservation-based events. The audience occupied every seat in the Rimba Ilmu Auditorium and spilled out into the aisles. Who would have guessed that there would be so much interest in the Late Quaternary Mammals of Borneo? Lord Cranbrook’s lecture was both fascinating and engaging. I almost thought that I was in the presence of a rock star!

Lord Cranbrook outlined the evidence of changes in the mammalian fauna of Borneo during the Quaternary, which was a period of very variable climate dominated by cyclic Ice Ages. The main information comes from archaeological work in the caves of Sabah and Sarawak, notably the huge cave at Niah.

Lord Cranbrook's first appointment was at the Sarawak Museum in 1956. After a short period on a post-doctorate fellowship in Indonesia, he joined the Department of Zoology, University of Malaya (1961-70). He was associated with the Royal Geographical Society Expeditions to Kinabalu (1964) and Vanuatu (as Deputy Leader, 1971), and the joint expeditions to Mulu (as Deputy Leader, 1977-78) and to Belalong in Brunei (as Joint Leader 1989-94). He has published many books on Southeast Asian wildlife, including Mammals of Borneo (1965), Birds of the Malay Penninsula Vol 5 (jointly authored, 1976), Belalong: a tropical rainforest (jointly authored, 1994) and Swiftlets of Borneo (2002). In recognition of his services to the State of Sarawak, Lord Cranbrook was awarded the titles of JBS (Hon) in 1997 & PNBS (Hon) in 2005 (the latter carrying the title Datuk Seri); he was recently (May 2006) elected an Honorary Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. He is an Honorary Life Member of MNS.

So what’s a Late Quaternary Mammal when it’s at home, if you please? Why, Ice Age Mammals, of course! Stegodonts such as this handsome fellow here walked the plains of Borneo in the Quaternary Period.

The talk covered topics such as:
- Mammals as environmental indicators
- Origins of mammal remains in cave sites
- The Borneo Anomaly – Quaternary Climate Change
- Past fauna and past environments

So why did the tiger (Panthera tigris) and Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus) disappear from Borneo, yet continue to exist in Peninsular Malaysia? What else is waiting to be discovered in the limestone caves of Borneo? The plot thickens!

Many thanks to Committee Members Ilyas Sapiyan and Cindy Chen for organising such a successful talk, and of course, to Lord Cranbrook, for being so obliging despite his hectic schedule!

Rimba Ilmu, which is Malay for “Forest of Knowledge”, is a tropical botanical garden within the University of Malaya, the nation’s oldest university. Rimba Ilmu was set up in 1974 by Professor W.R. Stanton to generate and promote awareness and knowledge of tropical plant life and its environment, ecology and conservation.

For a virtual tour of the Rimba Ilmu Botanical Gardens, please visit the official website.

The Rimba Ilmu main building, in which the auditorium is housed.

The water feature in front of the Rimba Ilmu Building. If you were to walk up the flight of stairs, you would arrive at the Orchids and Rare Plants Conservatory.

The Ceratopteris thalicbroides (Parkeriaceae) is regarded as a weed in the rice fields. However, its young fronds can be eaten and the leaves can be used as a poultice for skin ailments.

The Orchids and Rare Plants Conservatory.

A staff member hard at work cultivating plants in the Conservatory.

A charming little archway over the entrance to Rimba Ilmu.

Can you spot the Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) plant in the picture?

The Malaysian Nature Society, Selangor Branch, organises monthly guided walks around Rimba Ilmu. Led by the inimitable Angela Hijjas, this walk, which takes place on the first Saturday of every month, allows visitors to view and experience the collections in the gardens while discussing environmental and ecological issues.

The next walk will be on 5th December 2009, at 9.00 a.m. The Malaysian Nature Society Rimba Ilmu Guided Walk is open to members of the public. A fee of RM4.00 for each adult and RM2.00 for each child is imposed for the joint Universiti Malaya/MNS Environmental Education Fund.

For more information on the Rimba Ilmu Botanical Gardens, please contact:

The Coordinator,
Rimba Ilmu,
Institute of Biological Sciences,
University of Malaya,
50603 Kuala Lumpur.

Telephone No: +60-(3)-79674686, +60-(3)-79674690, +60-(3)-79674688 and +60-(3)-79674664

Office Hours:
Mondays to Fridays: 2.00pm - 4.30pm
Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays: Closed


Keats The Sunshine Girl said...

I'm sure Lord Cranbrook filled the minds of the audience with fascinating facts.? Questions that need answers, some answered, some waiting to be unravelled.
Rimba Ilmu is a lovely walk. I've taken some disabled friends here and we've had a picnic under some shady trees too.

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Thanks, Keats! So glad you dropped by. Rimba Ilmu is awesome, isn't it? I love the bat-faced lillies growing on the ground. Always such a surprise to come across them. Lord Cranbrook's talk was great. Photos of fossilized wild pigs' teeth everywhere. Makes me want to grab a shovel and dig up everyone's gardens and parks.

isapiyan said...

Have always wanted to do the Rimba Ilmu guided walk, alas I work on the first Saturday of the months.

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Ilyas! How nice of you to drop by. It would be great if you could conduct the Rimba Ilmu walk... and the KSNP mangrove walks, MNS Heritage Trail walks and KDCF walks while you are at it. :D

Thanks for visiting. Please visit again soon!

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~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Dear Anonymous @ 11.08 p.m. ,

Thank you for your encouraging words. I trust you would not mind identifying yourself?

marion said...

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~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Dear Alena/Marion,

Thank you for your visit and your kind comment. You made my day! I will come visit your blog shortly.