Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Journey to the Cameron Highlands

The hosting institution for the ICBES conference in Malaysia was Tropical Entomological House. They maintain a beautiful butterfly display in Penang and supply live butterflies to other butterfly displays around the world, including ours. Earlier in the week , we had visited both their public display and their breeding facility. It looked lovely, even in the rain. Our hosts were, nonetheless, a bit disappointed that they had not able to show their facility at it's best due to the weather. They wanted us to return. As someone who runs a similar exhibit, I fully understood the motivation. Saturday morning was beautifully sunny, so we delayed our departure for the post-conference tour of the Cameron Highlands in order to have a better look at the exhibit.

I enjoyed the exhibit for a bit while waiting for my friend BT to show up. I had an ulterior motive. There is a nice population of tiger beetles on the grounds of the Butterfly Farm, and BT had told me I could collect a series. Let's just say that I had a very good time.

Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela aurulenta)

This was the only species of tiger beetle that I would see on the trip, however I got to see it in several different locations. We departed the Farm for a journey to the mainland peninsula of Malaysia, with the plan of seeing some sites on the way to the Cameron Highlands. Penang is an island, and we departed via the longest bridge in Southeast Asia. It was a glorious day and we were treated to views of the islands dotting the Strait of Penang.

Island in the Strait of Penang

The road runs through an extensive region of oil palm plantations, then enters some beautiful tropical forest near the mountains. We skirted the coast and had lunch at a fishing village. The restaurant where we ate is the upstairs of a facility where fish is unloaded from the boats. Let's just say that the fish was very fresh. I especially enjoyed the pompano and the blood cockles.

Fishing docks viewed from the restaurant

Fisherman about to catch a line and tie his boat up

The fishing village was on a river estuary, surrounded by mangrove forests. There is a beautiful nature reserve with boardwalks though the mangroves. We visited after lunch. There was excellent wildlife viewing, including long-tailed macaques.

Mangrove Forest

Colorful Crab

It's disconcerting to be as unfamiliar with the butterflies as I was here.

Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis)

During the walk through the mangroves, I had a chat with Michael who was part of the hosting team. On the first day of the conference, as I was signing in, he approached me. Asking if I was Doug Taron, he told me that he was a reader of Gossamer Tapestry. Hi, Michael! As I was taking photographs, he asked if I planned to blog about this. I said or course, and had a colleague take a picture of the two of us so i could post it here.

Michael, Mangroves, and Me

While the mangroves forest seems idyllic, it is exploited as a resource. After lunch we stopped by a charcoal factory that used mangrove wood as a raw material. We were told that the mangrove is sustainably harvested. I have no way of assessing this myself. The boardwalk runs through secondary forest, the primary forest having long ago been cleared for charcoal. The charcoal factory was decidedly low tech, using human labor rather than machinery for most of the operation.

A worker shovels finished charcoal out of a kiln

By now it was late afternoon. It would take us several hours more to travel into the mountains where we would spend the next day. It was dark when we arrived and I fell asleep to the gentle tapping of tropical rain on the window.

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At 15:38, Blogger Gaelyn said...

Looks like a beautiful country. I like that colorful spotted tiger beetle. Lunch sounds good, nice to eat fish that fresh. The mangroves must grow very fast to be exploited for charcoal. Human labor provides jobs. Excellent post. Looking forward to more of this trip.

At 16:25, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not much of a traveler, so I enjoyed the photos and narrative.

At 19:11, Blogger Floridacracker said...

Sounds like a good day, tiger beetles and seafood.

At 20:40, Blogger Ur-spo said...

You must have been very happy.

At 06:46, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Now THAT's a Tiger beetle!

At 15:35, Blogger Jim said...

Ha, thanks for your comment. You made my day :)

Great photos, as usual.

At 14:32, Blogger rodger said...

How beautiful! I'm crazy jealous but happy you're having such a wonderful time.

Did you bring home a cool hat for fen work?

At 21:28, Anonymous Mike said...

Hi Doug! I had actually put up the same photo of us on my blog too! I hope you enjoyed yourself in Penang and Cameron Highlands!


At 18:14, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Doug, what a trip! Sounds like heaven! So much to see and learn about. You must have been on sensory overload! How I would love to have this "problem!" That's a very pretty tiger beetle by the way, and how nice to meet Micheal! Thanks for introducing him to the rest of us! Hello from Arizona Micheal!


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