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ARCHIVES 2008 p2

Some items from the press relating to caves

Contents :

Gomantong Cave bird nests
Klang Gates quartz ridge
Gua Naga Mas fossil
Gunung Cheroh 1973 rockfall
Gua Sidang near Gua Musang, Kelantan
Ancient road found in cave in Vietnam
Tambun rock paintings and Naga Mas fossil

Gomantong Cave, Sabah's Largest Bird Nest Producer

October 06, 2008

Gomantong Cave, Sabah's Largest Bird Nest Producer

By Haslin Gaffor

KINABATANGAN, Oct 6 (Bernama) -- The largest limestone cave in Sabah, Gua Gomantong, is not only a tourism attraction but is also home to thousands of swifts, the bird famously known for its edible nest.

Hence, the cave plays an important role in Sabah's production of this famous bird nest.

The bird nest is renowned for its high commercial value and is a favourite among the Chinese due to its medicinal significance.

Spread over 3,297 hectares of area, Gua Gomantong is located in the Gomantong Forest Reserve in Kinabatangan and is under the Class VI Forest Reserve Category.

In Sabah, there are about 25 limestone caves that are home to the swifts but only two have high number of the bird nest -- Gua Gomantong and Gua Madai in Lahad Datu.


Gua Gomantong is under the care of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Office which is the authority in charge of the bird nest under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

Wildlife Enforcement Officer for Gua Gomantong, Hussein Muin, said there are four swift species in Sabah.

They are that which spawn the white nest (Collocalia Fuciphagus), black nest (Collocalia Maximus), moss-like nest (Collocalia vanikorensis) and white-bellied birds (Collocalia Esulenta).

He said only the white and black bird nest are edible and have high nutritional and medicinal value.

"There are 19 caverns in Gua Gomantong that produce the white, black and moss nests while four others only produce the black and white varieties," he told Bernama.

Hussein said management of Gua Gomantong takes into account the conservation of the swifts as well as sustainable generation of the bird nest.


According to Hussein, to ensure sustainable production of the bird nest, harvesting is carried out for only two seasons in a year.

He said the first harvesting season is from February to April with the second on August-September where only the white and black bird nest is harvested.

The bird nest harvesting at the 19 caverns of Gua Gomantong is sub-divided into seven lots and carried out by contractors who were awarded tenders.

Before harvesting, the Kinabatangan Wildlife Office would check on the size of the bird nest and prepare the report on it.

He said the tender to harvest the bird nest is then offered followed by the harvesting work.

Hussein said the contractors need to follow several regulations like registering their vehicles and workers, duration of harvesting period allowed, time of harvesting and other aspects like the name tags of their workers and safety measures applied.

He also said harvesting the bird nest in Gua Gomantong is by the traditional method involving the use of Guggulug (wooden ladder), Piatau (bamboo), rope and Ambong (container to keep the bird nest as well as other equipment like the Sesungkit and Serapong.

"This traditional method is to ensure conservation of this cave as well as as sustainable production of the bird nest," he said.


Among the risks that could be encountered by the harvesters is the danger of slipping and falling down. However the work is carried out by experienced workers and they are also covered by insurance in case any untoward incident happens.

Hussein said after the harvesting work, the contractors are required to make sure that the caverns are free from debris and other rubbish while all the harvesting tools should be well kept and stored properly.

"This is crucial for the conservation of the caves and sustainability of the bird nest," he said.

After harvesting, the bird nest is cleaned, graded and packaged.


Hussein said the post-harvest processing should be done cautiously as well as vigilantly to ensure that the bird nest is really clean and ready for sale in the domestic or overseas market.

Before being moved to the market, the pre-processed bird nest is priced at between RM2,500 and RM6,000 a kg but the figure could reach RM12,500 a kg after processing, according to the respective grades.




Although not limestone, Klang Gates quartz ridge is an important geological formation in Selangor, and forms an impressive backdrop to the north side of Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately there is little recognition of its importance, as this letter shows.....

Malaysiakini Letters

Klang Gates' quartz ridge - heritage being destroyed

Oct 9, 2008

Malaysian With Children

The Klang Gates quartz ridge is one of the longest, if not the longest quartz outcrop in the whole world.

It is possibly the most stunning geological feature, and certainly the most obvious, in Peninsula Malaysia, as it creates a magnificent backdrop to the north of Kuala Lumpur skyline.

Sadly, this magnificent natural heritage goes unrecognised and unnoticed by so many Malaysians. The 1996 structure plans for the Selayang area did not even put the ridge on its map, when in fact there may be 5 kilometres or more of it that run through Selayang.

The Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ), meanwhile, has approved a large number of developments all along the ridge, as if it does not even exist.

In October 2003, the former Selangor menteri besar launched the Selangor State Park study in the shadow of this magnificent giant. In August 2005, the deputy prime minister stood at the foothills of the area, and declared it part of Taman Warisan Selangor (the Selangor State Park).

Yet still no protection has been offered for this magnificent ridge and development plans continue unabated.

The slopes of the Klang Gates ridge are largely class 3 and class 4 slopes and combined with the quartz soil, the area is unstable for most types of development.

It will be a real tragedy if the government remains so disinterested in this geological wonder, and allows it to be destroyed and desecrated by wanton development; the way the beauty of Batu Caves has been destroyed.

Why has it not yet been declared a national-natural heritage site? Why is it not a proper part of the Selangor State Park?

Will no one in authority stand up, recognise and protect this spectacular gift that God has taken a millennium to create and man intends to destroy in a few decades?

Let’s hope someone takes and interest besides the housing developers.



Monday October 20, 2008

Klang Gates Quartz Ridge unprotected

WE travel to as far as Australia to admire the Blue Mountains and Ayers Rock; or to Krabi, Thailand to admire their vertical outcrops jutting from the sea; or even to the Grand Canyon in the United States. But little do most Malaysians realise what an amazing natural treasure lies in our own backyard.

I am talking about this magnificent natural heritage of ours, the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge in Selangor which, unfortunately, is unprotected.

The area around the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge has been designated as an environmental sensitive area (ESA), but we are already seeing and feeling the effects of development with so many housing projects being located dangerously close to these areas.

One wonders how much of the land around the quartz ridges have already been approved for development by MPAJ and the former State Government!

If you climb up Bukit Tabur, which is part of these magnificent quartz ridges, the view is breathtaking on one side and heartbreaking on the other. It is heartbreaking to see the devastation, ugly scarring and flattening of the hillsides in the vicinity of the Klang Gates dam and around Taman Melawati, Kemensah Heights, Kampung Kemensah (once famous for its streams and waterfalls which have now turned muddy) and Taman Zooview.

Further down all the way to Batu Caves too, we see commercial as well as housing projects mushrooming close to the ridge. The developer and local authorities may comfort us with arguments that all mitigating measures to ensure “minimum effect on the environment” will be carried out.

They may come up with an impressive array of engineering solutions to protect the slopes and the environment and they may even say this is only a low-density development that will not affect earth movement.

But we know from experience, as in the case of development on hillslopes in Taman Melawati and Kemensah area, that “low-density development” does not mean low impact on the environment.

Do we really believe that all that piling will not affect the stability of the ridges? And when huge chunks of the ridge come crashing down, after all the damage is caused, are the developers or MPAJ going to very magnanimously offer for our safety to build ugly cement retaining walls to patch up the quartz ridge just like they did in Taman Zooview?

Is that the view we want of our natural treasure - all patched up, plastered and cemented?

The Quartz Ridge of the Klang Gates is a unique natural heritage. Let us not throw away our chance to preserve and protect this heritage for our future generations.


Taman Melawati, Kuala Lumpur.


No protection for Gua Naga Mas fossil


20 October 2008

p16 Letters

No protection for ancient cave fossil

In a cave known as Gua Naga Mas in Perak, there is a fossil of a mammal embedded in the cave wall. It was found in 1992. No real tests have been done, but the fossil is thought to be a leopard or other cat, and may date to the Pleistocene, 1.8 million to 10,000 years BP.

The Dept of Museums and Antiquities erected a sign board at the base of the steps leading up to the cave. My first visit to the site was in 1996.

On subsequent visits, by comparing my photos over the years, I could see that pieces of the fossil have been removed. It is very disheartening to find that unscrupulous people have been removing these ancient bones, and that nothing has been done to protect them.

In Oct 2008 I tried to get to the cave and found the signboard had completely disappeared, and the steps were totally overgrown and were not to be seen. Also a factory has encroached right up to the hillslope.

This fossil is thought to be the only one known in SE Asia. It is really sad to see that the authorities have done nothing to protect this site and to promote it's importance.

I hope someone from the Museums or Tourism Depts will read this and take some action to preserve such an important piece of Malaysia's past.

Liz Price


NST Online » Letters


Cave exhibit: A fossil of a cat is going to the dogs

By : LIZ PRICE, Kuala Lumpur

IN a cave known as Gua Naga Mas in Perak, there is a fossil of a mammal embedded in the cave's wall. It was found in 1992. No real tests have been done, but the fossil is thought to be a leopard or some other cat, and may date back to the Pleistocene, 1.8 million to 10,000 years BP (before the present era).

The Department of Museums and Antiquities erected a signboard at the base of the steps leading to the cave. My first visit to the site was in 1996. On subsequent visits over the years, I could see that pieces of the fossil had been removed. It is disheartening to find that unscrupulous people have been removing these ancient bones, and that nothing has been done to protect them.

This month, I tried to get to the cave and found the signboard had completely disappeared, and the steps were totally overgrown and were not to be seen. Also, a factory has encroached right up to the hillslope.

This fossil is thought to be the only one known in Southeast Asia. It is really sad to see that the authorities have done nothing to protect this site.


This letter was put on an Italian blog PaleoNews

See also page on threats

Gunung Cheroh 1973 rockfall

The Star November 11, 2008 reported on the 1973 rockfall at Gunung Cheroh.

Valley of Death

A proposal to set up a monument to remember those killed at the famed ‘Valley of Death’ in Gunung Cheroh, Ipoh, where 42 people were killed in the early 1970s, has been initiated by the residents there.
State executive councillor A. Sivanesan said he would seek the state government’s help to set up the memorial.
“We recognise this as a fair request. We must not forget the tragic incident and those who died,” he told reporters after giving out relocation compensation cheques to 12 Gunung Cheroh squatter families recently.
On Oct 19, 1973, a massive chunk of limestone fell from the mountain’s cliff and landed on top of a longhouse where 10 families were living.
Despite a three-day rescue effort, only 12 bodies were retrieved from the disaster zone. The others are still buried there.
Some of the remaining foothill dwellers, famed for their kacang putih trade, were relocated to other parts of the town after the state government declared the place a disaster zone after the tragedy.
Their new settlement in Ipoh is now known as Kampung Kacang Putih.
Gunung Cheroh residents committee chairman T. Thangaran said those who still lived at the settlement wanted the limestone to be turned into a monument to remember those who died there.
Earlier, the 12 squatter families who received their compensation cheques said they were happy with the setlement.
They have agreed to move out of Gunung Cheroh by Nov 15 to make way for a RM2.2mil river-deepening project.
The project was supposed to be completed in August to ease the area’s flooding problem but was temporarily halted because the residents had refused to be relocated.


Gua Sidang near Gua Musang, Kelantan

[ I was interested in this as I have visted the cave and saw some interesting charcoal rock drawings which didn't look modern]

NST Online » Local News


Residents cry foul over quarry activities

By : Sulaiman Jaafar

(photo) The 2km road that was built through a deer park, affecting the animal’s habitat.

GUA MUSANG: A silica quarry operator has allegedly built a 2km road through a deer park.

The pollution caused by lorries plying the road has now forced the Kelantan Wildlife Department to abandon its plan to develop a popular limestone cave called Gua Sidang as an eco-tourism site.

The 40ha deer park is managed by the department.

Residents here said the cave, which got its name from being a popular place where communists' sidang (meeting) was held during the insurgency, is no longer a peaceful site with lorries passing by it daily.

The residents in Taman Rusa have been complaining about the pollution for the past three years.

They claimed that the quarry caused noise and dust pollution from morning till night.

They also said that since a hill was levelled, flash floods have hit the nearby Tanah Putih settlement.

Residents fear the worst as the quarry operator is expanding operations by acquiring 40ha of land early this year. The displaced villagers, however, could not claim any compensation as the land is state-owned.

The quarry operator allegedly put up notices around the area stating that the land was leased from the Yayasan Kraftangan Kelantan, under the patronage of the Raja Perempuan Kelantan.

When villagers held a demonstration two months ago to protest the acquisition, they were told that the Kelantan royalty was not involved.

Taman Rusa Residents Action Committee chairman Hisham Mustafa said: "Gua Musang member of parliament Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has given a statement denying the palace's involvement.

"Yet the quarry is still operating. They have acquired land and orchards but the villagers who have worked for years on it did not get a single sen. They should get something for the loss of the trees and income."

Hisham said the committee had sent memorandums to the departments involved and also to the state government but there had been no reply.

Ancient road found in cave in Vietnam

Although this is not Malaysia, it is interesting, as it shows that people were travelling 21,000 years ago.

Ancient road found in cave

17:09' 26/11/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Traces of a road used by ancient people 21,000 years ago have just been discovered at the Xom Trai Cave in the northwestern province of Hoa Binh's Lac Son District.

Road less travelled: A view of Xom Trai Cave. — VNS File Photo

Scientists from the Centre for Southeast Asian Prehistory recently made the discovery during an on-going preservation project at the site.

"This is the first discovery of such an ancient road in the Southeast Asian region and a rare discovery in the world," Nguyen Viet, PhD, centre director told Viet Nam News.

The Xom Trai Cave represents a typical residence of the Hoa Binh civilisation (from 34,100 years ago until 2,000 BC) in the ancient Muong Vang region, which is today's Tan Lap Commune, Lac Son District in Hoa Binh Province.

The cave was discovered in 1974 and went through various stages of excavation in 1981, 1982, 1986 and 2004. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism listed it as a national archaeological relic in 2005.

The Hoa Binh Museum has co-ordinated with the centre to preserve the relic since 2004. Since then, researchers have discovered traces of approximately six metres of a road at the south end of the cave's mouth. The ancient pathway lies 60-70cm deeper than the Hoa Binh civilisation layer. The traces are believed to date back 8,000-9,000 years ago and remain in good preserved condition.

Another four metres below the Hoa Binh civilisation layer, a route presumed to be used by the earliest cave dwellers has also been discovered. The route had been hidden by several layers of stones and debris that have fallen over time due to landslides and other geological events. Also, portions of the route have been covered by hard water resulting from rain water and local limestone.

One month ago, researchers discovered 10m of another route linking the cave's mouth to the foot of the mountain.

The excavation has also uncovered a tomb from about 17,000 years ago. The remains were buried in the typical style of the Hoa Binh civilisation, leaning towards the right with legs folded. The body's hips were placed over 25cm of coal and the tomb was covered with soil and large stones. An oval pestle, two carving tools and a horn pointed hook were buried with the remains.

Many human bones had been found scattered about the cave before the complete tomb was discovered.

"Six clear traces of the road are being solidified by hard water", Viet said. "It is likely that more traces will be found. A larger number of worn-out stones indicate that the newly discovered road was used more often and for a longer period of time than the route at the southern end of the cave's mouth. I guess the route was used between 10,000 and 21,000 years ago."

The researchers plan to make silicon moulds of the traces and preserve them using the most modern techniques.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

Tambun rock paintings and Naga Mas fossil

Metro North
Monday December 29, 2008

Art of our ancestors
Story and photos by ANTHONY LAW

Delicate lines: Paintings showing a herd of deer. One doe appears to be pregnant.

THE prehistoric rock paintings in Tambun, Ipoh, may not be the only ones in the area.

Archaeology student Noel Hidalgo Tan believes the rock paintings are clues to show that there are other similar paintings yet to be discovered.

This, he said, was because prehistoric paintings were always found in clusters.

Tan, 30, who is currently doing his thesis on the Tambun prehistoric paintings discovered by the British army in 1959, was in Ipoh to take part in a guided tour of the Tambun caves organised by Perak Heritage Society (PHS).

Tan added that the limestone paintings in Tambun were of archaeological importance.

“I believe these are the only prehistoric iron oxide paintings in Malaysia,” Tan said of the paintings located several meters high on limestone walls.

Tan said he believed the prehistoric people used scaffolding to paint a dugong, a catfish, a turtle, a flying fox, a tapir and a herd of deer on the limestone walls.

“I will conduct an inventory of the paintings, none has been done so far,” Tan said.

He said his research would include determining the age of the paintings by carbon dating and conducting a chemistry test on the material used in the paintings.

Seashells found scattered nearby the prehistoric rock paintings. The site of the prehistoric paintings was once under the sea, judging from the presence of seashells found scattered on the limestone hill which is at least 30m high.

Perak Heritage Society president Law Siak Hong said the paintings were not cave paintings as they were not found in caves but on the face of limestone rock.

After viewing the prehistorical drawings, the society members travelled south to Naga Mas near Gopeng to see the fossil of a mammal embedded in a cave wall.

“The bones belong either to a leopard or cat,” said Liz Price who has written many books on caves.

The bones, though high up, have been vandalised and need protection as there are people who are trying to remove the bones, believing that they have supernatural power or potential for the practice of black magic.

This article was a huge disappointment due to lots of factual errors and misquotes, and no mention was made of the need to protect these sites. See more comments on SEAArch