Birder's Guide

MAY 2017

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Borneo's Deramakot Forest Reserve 24 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2017 of the population lived under the pov- erty line. However, the plantations have marginalized wildlife populations; tropi- cal foresters have estimated that a paltry hundredth of the species that would be found in a healthy tropical forest can use oil palm plantations. In Sabah, some of the most emblematic species (orang- utans, big cats, pygmy elephants) are unable to thrive in oil palm plantations. As the timber is felled and the land con- verted, these species and many others struggle to maintain viable populations. This problem is one without an easy solution, and its severity is blatant to anyone who visits Sabah. Traveling be- tween the remaining forest islands re- quires a monotonous haul over endless kilometers of road flanked by planta- tions and clogged by trucks, burdened by the reddish fruit, that labor up the steep grades. It's demoralizing. The drive to Deramakot from Kinabalu Park is one of these—four hours of paved road through the unchanging monocul- ture. Mynas and Spotted Doves pant on wires; a few Oriental Pied-Hornbills— the only of Sabah's eight hornbill species that eats the oil palm fruit—flap across the road. Just beyond the dusty town of Telupid, we turn off the sealed road to venture into the bowels of the plan- tation itself. Two hours over a bumpy, puddled road remain before we enter Deramakot. We pass through uniform palm rows, denuded terraces awaiting seedlings, and frond skeletons littering the ground. The drudgery is broken only when we roll up to a candy-striped gate where proud roosters and defeated dogs loiter—a common sight in this part of the world. Then, we pause for vary- ing amounts of time to shell out varying amounts of ringgit. Mike, our guide, a Scottish rambo who wields a long lens in place of a machine gun, mutters. n Left: The distinctive shrieking of Black-and-yellow Broadbills is an emblematic sound of lowland Borneo and accompanies any walk at Deramakot. Photo © Jay Packer n Below: Visiting Deramakot requires a two-hour drive through oil palm monoculture. Photo © Alison Világ

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