In the last week of July (25th to 30th July 2013), NCRT (NUS Civet Research Team!) and two other friends managed to take a six day highland hiatus to Fraser’s Hill in Malaysia. It was our first time to Fraser’s Hill and we were really excited about this trip.
Each day was lined with many activities. We had a great time exploring while doing morning walks, afternoon treks and even evening spot-lighting. During a few trips, we had a few firsts –
1. Leeches. Walking in Singapore forests, we hardly encounter any leeches. But if you are a true biologist, you will know for places where there are leeches, there will be lots of animals around. However, we also heard quite a few horror stories about leeches describing how they will inch and wave to you to search for its next meal. On the first day, we encountered two that had attached themselves to Tze Kwan’s shoes and we did not take any more chances ever since.
Out came the leech socks and even then, we still encountered leeches, but fortunately, we did not get any bites. We took the chance to get photos of these hungry leeches and here is a tiger leech trying to search for its next meal.
2. Birds! Fraser’s Hill is known for its bird diversity. We also managed to see some of the iconic birds of Fraser’s Hill such as the silver-eared mesia and were constantly surrounded by lovely bird songs in the morning. One of the highlights was a photograph of the majestic-looking Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle on our very last day while heading down from Fraser’s Hill.
3. Mammals, especially civets! During our walks, we managed to see diurnal animals such as squirrels and White-thighed surili. We could also hear the calls of the siamang troop from far away. What we love best is the civet diversity in these hills. Over the course of six days, we managed to see three different species, the common palm civet, the masked palm civet and the small-toothed palm civet.
We even saw a sleeping small toothed palm civet taking a rest! It was a chilly evening after a short rainfall, but this civet was unfazed and it just used its tail to shield itself from the cold.
We were told that it is quite difficult to see these three species within such a short period of time. Each civet sighting was an exciting moment for us as we took a closer look to see which species we have encountered.
4. Local outreach
On the second last day of our stay, we helped our friends to conduct a “Mammals of Fraser’s Hill” workshop for the local schools. This is the first of such workshops to be conducted for local students. During the course, the students learnt about their local wildlife, had fun colouring their favourite mammal and learnt about camera trapping. During the workshop, we also picked up the malay names for some of these animals. For example, the common palm civet is “musang pulut”, otter is “memerang” and slow loris is “kongkang”.
We helped out with the camera trap station and taught the students how scientists use this technology to learn more about wild animals that are shy and elusive. The students also got to try out how to set up the cameras and do the “walktest” pretending to be the animals that the camera trap may capture.
Some of the students were really excited about the testing of the camera trap. Below are some camera trap photos of the students in action.
We were glad that the workshop was a successful one, It was really great for the students to have fun while learning about the animals in their backyard. We hope these students will be a positive influence to their family and community and that there will be many more of such outreach events to raise public awareness of the local wildlife of Fraser’s Hill.
We had a great six days of close encounters with nature and it was fun travelling with like-minded friends. Such short breaks are hard to come by and we really treasure the memories from the trip. In the meantime, it is time to focus on our own studies, back to work and see you soon, Fraser’s Hill!