Maintaining habitat for birds in Bako Buntal Bay [EAAF112], Malaysia

Read in Bahasa Malaysia 

Translated by Rosa Risdiana, EAAFP intern

The situation of Buntal village in Bako Buntal Bay is different from other estuaries in eastern Malaysia. Hundreds of waterbirds visit this village, feeding on the lakes and breeding on the shore. The abundance of birds makes the village unique, and it attracts many tourists.

The estuary near the village is important place for hundreds of migratory waterbirds. A flyway is a route migratory birds follow every year from breeding grounds to non-breeding sites accross different countries and continents, escaping the arrival of winter in the habitat. The birds of Bako Buntal Bay belong to the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and migrate from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere, and back every year.

Oswald Braken Tisen, Assistent Director of Sarawak Forestry, said “there are nine flyways of waterbirds in the worldcovering an area of approximately 350 million square kilometers. Bako Buntal Bay is known as a wintering and refueling site for migratory birds of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway that spans Russia, Japan, China, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. He said,“this area is the first stopover site in Malaysia and was recognized on August 23rd 2013 as a Flyway Network Site [EAAF112], after Malaysia became a partner of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) in 2012.”

The habitat in the coastal area of Bako Buntal Bay is mud and mangrove forest, which makes it attractive to more than 25,000 migratory birds between October and April every year. Maintaining the area that is temporary habitat for migratory birds in the winter is very important to prevent their extinction. There are 27 species of migratory birds that stop over in Bako Buntal Bay. Most of them are threatened species, including Nordmann’s Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher and Far Eastern Curlew.

Threatened Species

One of the threatened migratory bird species that stop here during migration is the Chinere Egret. “Conservation of this area is needed because more than 10% of the world population of Chinese Egret stop over here, so if the place is disturbed or destroyed, it will definetely lead to further extiction” he said.

Among the biodiversity of Bako Buntal Bay, there are migratory birds as well as resident species, which permanently live in this area.

Surveys of migratory birds in this area are conducted by the Sarawak Forestry with Malaysia Nature Society (MNS) during the migratory season every year, to determine timing and direction of migration. Meanwhile, as a first step, Sarawak Forestry also plans to collaborate with a Flyway Network Site to study more about the species in East Asia, especially in Japan.

“We monitor this area regularly, including monitoring the mudflats, mangrove and the general environment to ensure that there is no change that may affect the presence of waterbirds during migration. The countries in the Flyway will cooperate to protect the sites. This is because these birds cannot survive if the areas are destroyed,” he said.

Not only important for the protection of migratory birds, Bako Buntal Bay also has a socioeconomic importance to local residents who depend on this ecosystem. In addition, the construction of the esplanade, completed early this year in the village, is believed to attract more tourists to the lake and create jobs related to ecotourism.


Oren Yatin (68), one of the residents, said that the village turned out to be busier in the migration season with tourists who want to watch rare migratory waterbirds. Because the place is a tourist attraction, local people, mostly the fishermen, do not want to miss this opportunity to generate income.

Kiflie Kamal (29), a tourist, said that he found out about this area through a friend who had the opportunity to see the thousands of migratory waterbirds coming from different countries. Even though this place is quite far, it is worth it, even though he could not see a glimpse of migratory birds, but the nature scene was enough to bring peace to him. “This place is a good vacation spot for families and friends, as there are facilities such as the esplanade, where the public can explore the city before going to enjoy their dinner in a seafood restaurant not far from here,” he said.

Original Indonesian article:

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