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Nocturnal wonders

ANN/THE STAR – Malaysia has earned its place as one of the planet’s most biodiverse hotspots, a distinction held by a select group of just 17 countries. The jungles and waters teem with activity, both in the light of day and the shroud of night.

Under the moon’s silvery glow, a cast of charismatic creatures steps into the spotlight, ready to dazzle and amaze.

What can one hope to encounter in the jungle after dark? Here are just a handful of the fascinating characters of the night that never fail to elicit delight and wonder.

Imagine you’re deep in the rainforest, surrounded by a symphony of nighttime sounds. Just as you’re about to sleep, a haunting call pierces the silence. You crane your neck, and there it is – the Malay barred eagle owl, a true monarch of the night.

With its exaggerated ear tufts and piercing eyes that seem to hold ancient wisdom, this owl commands your attention like a regal ruler holding a court.

As the moonlight tricks your vision, you may stumble upon the dusky eagle owl, which could easily be mistaken for a shadowy figment of your imagination.

ABOVE & BELOW: Malay barred eagle owl and giant praying mantis. PHOTO: THE STAR
PHOTO: THE STAR

With its dusky hues and eerie hoots that seem to echo through the night, this owl embodies an enigma. It’s like the Houdini of the avian world, disappearing and reappearing with an uncanny sense of mystery. It is so elusive that many have thought it extinct in the country for the past few years. It has reappeared in the forests of the north and remains high on the list of all bird watchers.

While owls take centre stage, don’t underestimate the comedic charm of the Asian common toad.

With its plump figure and an expression that seems perpetually surprised, this toad is nature’s stand-up comedian. It hops and bounces, seemingly in sync with the rhythm of the night, eliciting chuckles and smiles from anyone lucky enough to witness its antics.

As the moon paints silver strokes across the forest canopy, the sunda colugo takes flight – not with flapping wings but through sheer grace and mastery of the air. With wing-like membranes attaching to its limbs and tail, it glides effortlessly from tree to tree, a true acrobat in the moonlit circus.

Watching the sunda colugo navigate the forest is like witnessing an aerial ballet. With limbs and tail outstretched, it glides gracefully across the night sky from tree to tree in search of nectar, insects and tree sap. If you dare to peer into the shadows, you might spot the lichen huntsman spider, which embodies the art of stealth and patience.

It has evolved to resemble the lichen that grows on tree bark and remains still while awaiting its prey. As a true master of espionage, the spider waits for the perfect moment to strike. It is so perfectly camouflaged that it appears invisible to the naked eye. Its only giveaway is its eyeshine when its eight eyes catch the light of a passing torch.

When it comes to nighttime glamour, the lappet moth takes centre stage. With its chic appearance and velvet-like wings, it’s as if this moth is headed to a red-carpet event in the forest. Each flutter of its wings is a fashion statement and a testament to nature’s boundless creativity. It can blend seamlessly with its environment, given its beautiful green shade.

Amid the moonlit splendour, the giant praying mantis emerges as a true warrior of the night. With its poised stance and deliberate movements, it’s a creature that combines the grace of a martial artist with the precision of a surgeon.

The moon’s glow turns its body into a sculpture of shadow and light, a living embodiment of zen tranquillity amid the nocturnal chaos.

These captivating species are a tiny fraction of the stars of a cosmic spectacle unfolding under the moon’s watchful eye. – Peter Ong

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