| Hakim Hayat |
BRUNEI Darussalam is keen to develop ‘bird watching’ as a tourism product as the recreational activity is gaining in popularity in the country and more ideal spots have been identified for the enthusiasts.
While launching Brunei’s first ever Bird Race at Tasek Lama Recreational Park in the capital yesterday, Acting Director of Tourism Development Department, Mariani Hj Sabtu in her speech said the pioneer event, which has gained an encouraging number of participants, was aimed at promoting the activity, as well as instilling awareness on environmental conservation which is also in sync with the government’s ‘green’ initiatives.
Mariani further said that the activity has the potential to grow Brunei’s tourism industry, and spur the local community’s economy. “Bird watching is for everyone, and is fast becoming a major factor for choice of destination for today’s tourists,” she said, adding that the activity is increasingly becoming popular among eco and wildlife enthusiasts.
She also cited the United States as an example, where in 2011, studies have shown that bird watching enthusiasts spent about US$15 billion in travelling expenses and US$26 billion on equipment. Around 51.3 million Americans had declared themselves as bird watchers in the same year.
“There is no doubt that this activity has a big potential to become a tourism product, opening avenues to bigger markets,” she added.
She also urged for more initiatives, especially among local bird watching enthusiasts to encourage the activity to the public, so that the healthy and enjoyable activity can garner more support. She also called on enthusiasts to move a step forward by becoming members or support conservation and wildlife bodies so that they become active in conservation programmes and are aware of its issues.
She also shared that the Tourism Development Department has plans to identify bird watching destinations in the country, and ensure abundant facilities for the convenience of bird watching enthusiasts from inside and outside the country.
The whole-day event, supported by the Tourism Development Department, was organised jointly by Sakam Enterprise, as well as committees of different groups from the Brunei Darussalam Photographers Association and the Wildlife & Nature Photography Club.
During the race, ‘birdwatchers’ were required to make use of their binoculars to spot different species of birds and capture clear pictures with their cameras within a set timeframe. The person with the most number of birds captured on photo wins the race.
Race Director Mohd Vol bin Hj Momin told the Borneo Bulletin the photography quality aspect does not count in the race, but the number of species identified will determine the winner. The birds will be identified through a guide book showing different species of birds.
A bird watching enthusiast himself, Mohd Vol said about 39 species of birds have been identified throughout their group outings at Tasek Lama Recreational Park, and they are looking forward to identifying more in yesterday’s event.
When asked why they chose the Tasek Lama Recreational Park as the venue for their pioneer bird race event, he said the park is easily accessible, has excellent facilities and is home to a vast number of bird species, which makes the activity more convenient and enjoyable for birdwatchers.
He also shared that a number of other locations for bird watching has been identified in different districts, including Belalong, Tasek Merimbun and Labi. He hoped the activity would garner more support and followers, hence allowing more locations to be identified, developed and preserved for the activity while at the same time promoting it as a new tourism product for Brunei Darussalam.
Winners of the race will be announced on October 2, 2014 during a ceremony at the Rizqun International Hotel.