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Friday, March 20, 2009

Malaysia’s Butterfly - The Lime Butterfly (Papilio demoleus malayanus)

A species commonly seen in areas where lime tree or citrus plants are found growing in the wild or cultivated, comes as no surprise as the food plant of the caterpillar is the lime tree and Citrus plant leaves, so much so it is regarded as a pest where these citrus plants are cultivated. With a fast erratic flight it is a capable flyer.

The butterfly has two unique and distinct round spot at the hind wing complimented with flowery yellow wing markings on the upper sides.
I have observed that the lime butterfly are usually not active in the early morning, preferring to perched with its wing wide open till it becomes warmer, than it becomes hyperactive, fluttering around stopping only briefly to feed on flower nectar with its long proboscis.

The phenomenon that the Lime Butterfly appears to be more common than normal during the Lunar New Year celebrations, due to the traditional practice of keeping Citrus plants with the orange fruits ripened, as symbols of wealth and prosperity during the celebration has some truth in it. I seem to encounter more lime butterflies during this period.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jungle Outing with the Family.

It was a late Sunday morning when I receive a call from my sister with an offer to accompany her for a visit to her friend’s 11 acres plot of land located in a secondary jungle that used to be a rubber plantation many years ago. With no plans on hand for the weekend, this unexpected trip will surely liven up an otherwise dull weekend.
Some huts seen along the way
For excursions into the jungles, I would normally prefer to go with friends that shares similar interest but on this occasion I think it will be fun to do it with family members for a change, notwithstanding the expected protest from my daughters and wife. The challenges, excitement and journey of discovery mother-nature have to offer, escape them for reasons I am trying to understand. After all it is not exactly deep jungle exploration but just a mere 2 km walk through well worn jungle paths half the way and slightly more challenging tracks towards the end. By all means, it can be considered a fun and healthy activity for the family.

The “Burmese pool”, a popular recreation area for locals being located along the journey helps drastically to ease some physical discomfort as this part of the trail is well established starting with tar roads and progressing to cemented pathways. The walk started off at a comfortable pace, with cemented paths getting narrower as you go along, ending with seldom used jungle trails. As each minute passes, you can actually sense that you are leaving civilisation, the environment becomes quieter and cleaner with less evidence of human intrusion being seen.

The end of "civilization" and begining of leech country.

As the more “civilized” path ended and the more challenging one started, all of us started encountering leeches. These blood suckers although posing no real threats to us are really an unavoidable irritating nuisance in all jungle excursions. They come in various sizes, some so small that it is difficult to see. In actual fact, mosquitoes are considered the dangerous blood suckers as it can spread diseases while leeches do not and their bites are harmless. It is really bad if you are squeamish about them and my wife and daughters definitely are. I myself attracted at least 15 leeches with more than 4 managing to make a good meal of my type “O” RH +, I even managed to unknowingly bring one home, nicely fed and dozing off inside my shoe. Their known medicinal capability of producing an anti-clotting enzyme of blood while feeding is real, one of the bites is still bleeding after more than 3 hours. It was interesting to find out that there are only 3 species of leeches in Malaysia and I will like to add it is one too many. But it has been reported, the presence of leeches is a good indicator of a pollution free environment, I take that to mean rain forest without leeches is not worth visiting?
No, it's not big foot but rather my leech bitten foot.

It is also for this reason that prevented me to stop and take photos of some nice scenery along the trail, the unpleasant reality is once you stop moving, many very desperate hungry looking leeches sensing movement and heat starts moving towards your direction, not exactly an inviting situation to be in. But all this can be solved by wearing specially made leech socks laced with tobacco extract in which we did not have access to at that point of time, although that will not stop leeches on tree branches free falling onto you, but at least you got half the situation in control.

Along the trail, we saw a few small huts and jungle streams with crystal clear water teemed with Soro Brook Carps – Neolissochelus Soroides swimming in it and the air was as fresh as can be.
Soro Brooks Carps

We finally reach our destination, a shed where it must have been a base camp set up originally for the now defunct rubber plantation. The landowner, Mr.Ho then took us further down a trail to a spot where his friend Alan has set up camp next to a stream and was waiting, it was here than Allan narrated an interesting brief history of the place.

Alan (left) and Mr.Ho

It appears that during the Japanese occupation, there were remnants of the British Forces under the Northern Command that choose to ignore the order to surrender and this was one of the spots where they have decided to hide and sit out the war. Allan further pointed out that we can see some rocks that are square in shape that was used to made walls by stacking them up, we were still able to see one of the man made structure beside a stream. He believes there are tunnels dug out there which he has not succeeded in locating yet, porcelain pieces and other items of that era was also found, regrettably he has given the items to another friend and we did not have the privilege of seeing these items. Being a decent law abiding man, he was worried about breaking some laws of the local Antiquities Act, he obviously is not a strong advocate of the saying “finders keepers”.

Man made structure seen beside stream.
Although I am unable to find any documented reports describing the past activities in this area as told by Allan, it is not an impossible scenario to imagine, with a bit of ingenuity and perseverance a person can live off the jungle for a long time, if sitting out the war as a POW is not preferable, the tranquil environment found here certainly offers an acceptable alternative (if you don’t mind the leeches).

Old machinery used for rubber sheet processing.

It would have been ideal if there was more time available for me to gather my thoughts and ask more questions but it started to rain and with a nephew that has just sprained his leg, waiting for us amongst other things we decided to make our move back home.

We left with an invitation from Mr.Ho and his friend, Allan, two well read and travelled gentlemen, to come visit again and in his own words “to leech country” to further explore the jungles surroundings. A tempting invitation being currently considered, I think by only one member of the family, namely me.
But it is all right, my sanity has been put into question more than once..........