Environmental engineering students from Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) learnt about wildlife conservation in Miri through activities organised by the university’s Faculty of Engineering and Science.
The activities included a field trip to the Kuala Baram Wetlands about a 40-minute drive from the city centre and a short distance from the Curtin Malaysia campus.
Eleven students led by unit lecturer Dr Tay Ai Chen conducted a survey of the wetlands to determine its geographical features and its role and importance to wildlife.
This gave the students a better understanding of the ecosystems and biodiversity of Miri’s wetlands.
Extending over 600 hectares, the Kuala Baram Wetlands is a popular location for bird-watching in Miri, being a haven for a wide variety of indigenous and migratory birds.
Much of the Curtin Malaysia campus surrounded by the wetlands.
The area consists of mudflats and mangrove forest, salt pans, prawn and fish ponds, as well as freshwater lakes and rice paddies which are ideal habitats for wetland birds.
Dr Tay also led a group of 16 students to the Piasau Nature Reserve (PNR), Miri’s unique urban forest reserve dedicated to the preservation of indigenous wildlife about five kilometres from the city centre.
While there, the students were briefed by park warden Louis Velda anak Dominic Salon, who also took them on a walking tour of the reserve to give them further insights into the resident flora and fauna, including its famous Oriental-pied hornbills; the management of PNR by Sarawak Forestry Corporation, and the ongoing wildlife conservation and forest rehabilitation activities there.
Another activity for the students was a guest lecture on bird identification by Lee Bor Seng, a committee member of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Miri Branch. He gave an overview of MNS Miri activities and explained different aspects of bird identification such as bird topography, plumage features, bird habitats, and birds commonly found in Miri. Lee also led the students on a bird identification survey.
Student Woo Jun Fui said he was most fascinated with the Kuala Baram Wetlands as he felt very close to nature there.
This view was shared by his coursemate Diya Merlin Varghese, who said it was the ideal birding spot. She said the PNR was also an excellent location for wildlife observation and photography.