Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Laos snail Sinoennea lizae

On a caving expedition to Luang Nam Tha Province in northwest Laos, in January 2006, I collected some snails for identification. They were passed to Wim J.M.Maassen of the mollusc department in the National Museum of Natural History, at Leiden in The Netherlands.

Out of the snails I collected, he was able to describe 4 new species. And he named one of them after me! It is called Sinoennea lizae. The snail is very small, but it is still an honour for me! A big thank you to Wim for this, and also for his interest in identifying the snails.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The fate of Malaysian animals

Seladang skull
Saw these animals in the Bota Kanan turtle centre in Perak, and had the idea to start an album of the fate of some Malaysian fauna.

elephant skull

otter skin

pangolin etc
elephant feet

elephant trunk and feet


The next 3 photos were taken in the Orang Asli museum in Gombak, Selangor -
bamboo caltrops

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

Morne Mountain, Mauritius

Published on The Brunei Times (http://www.bt.com.bn/en)

Le Morne Mountain in Mauritius achieves World Heritage status

Mournful no more: Le Morne mountain which used to be seen as a place of suffering for runaway slaves has changed to a place of paradise with luxury resorts and spas sprawled around the mountain catering to international tourists. The imposing mountain nestled in Le Morne peninsula is also known as Le Morne Brabant Mountain. Picture: shutterbug.nu

Sunday, July 20, 2008

ON JULY 6, 2008 Unesco's World Heritage Committee added three new sites to its World Heritage List.

The three new entries bring the list to 854 sites in more than 140 countries around the world. One that particularly interested me was the Morne Mountain in Mauritius, once a former slave hideout (not to be confused with the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland!).

I remember seeing the 555 metre high mountain as its rugged shape is a prominent sight in the southwest corner of the island of Mauritius. The mountain juts into the Indian Ocean and was once used as a shelter by runaway slaves and Maroons, through the 18th and early years of the 19th centuries. Maroons are a group of black people descended from runaway slaves, now mostly living in the West Indies.

Protected by the mountain's isolated, wooded and almost inaccessible cliffs, the escaped slaves formed small settlements in the caves and on the summit of Le Morne. The cliffs were thought to be unclimbable, but the runaways managed to scale the peak.

Since those days the folklore connected with the Maroons have made the Morne Mountain a symbol of their fight for freedom, their suffering, and sacrifice.

Slaves came from many countries on the African mainland, Madagascar, India, and Southeast Asia. Mauritius was an important stopover in the eastern slave trade, and came to be known as the "Maroon republic" because of the large number of escaped slaves who lived in Le Morne.

One legend says how Malagasy slaves came there to look in the direction of Madagascar before killing themselves.

Another legend tells that in the early 19th century, the slaves hiding on the top of the mountain did not know that slavery had been abolished. When they saw a troop of soldiers coming up the cliffs, they panicked. Believing they were to be recaptured, the slaves flung themselves from the cliff tops. Hence the name, Le Morne, the mournful one. The mountain is certainly seen as a place of suffering.

The application for Le Morne Cultural Landscape as a World Heritage Site was submitted in July 2003. Also known as Le Morne Brabant Mountain, its summit covers an area of more than 30 acres.

Reminiscent of the Rock of Gibraltar, it is very imposing. Formed of granite and basalt rock, the sides of the mountain are very steep with overhanging rock shelters. The vegetation on the mountain includes indigenous and exotic plants.

Today the mountain is more a place of paradise with luxury resorts and spas sprawled around the mountain. One hotel has effectively taken over the whole Le Morne peninsula and charges an admission fee to non-residents. The peninsula resembles a hammerhead in shape and has fine, sandy beaches. Offshore from the peninsula are the islands Ilot Fourneau and Ile aux Bénitiers.

Inland from the peninsula, the Black River Gorges is an important biodiversity reserve which includes species of great ecological importance that are endemic to Mauritius. This National Park contains the highest peak in Mauritius, the 828m Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire. You can see the rare tambalacoque or dodo tree, the ebony trees, and many species of birds which perch in the trees.

Traveler's or fan palms are very common in Southeast Asia as ornamental trees, and is used as the logo for the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

The palm actually comes from Madagascar, which is west of Mauritius, and in both those countries I saw whole forests of these wonderful trees.

Today there are tour companies offering hiking, running and nature walks, and flora and fauna tours. The area has certainly changed since the days when the slaves used it as a hideout.The Brunei Times

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I don't particularly like pigeons, and I know a lot of people call them "flying rats". Unfortunately there are a few living on my condo building. When I moved into my apartment, to my horror I found a nest with a young chick hidden behind the aircon unit. I never use the aircon. I couldn't face evicting the chick until it could fly, but the smell from the nest was particularly bad. The moment the chick took its first flight and was steady on its wings, I removed the nest, cleaned the sill and made sure no pigeons returned.

young pigeon

mum or dad?

Any pigeons that land on any of my window sills usually get chased away. My adopted mynas are also quite defensive and chase off any pigeons that come near by. When I returned home from a 3 week trip this month, I found a new nest had been buit behind the airconditioner. I soon removed the nest, and shooed off the pigeon each time it tried to return.

On one occasion I heard a noise in one of my plants, and found a young pigeon had crash landed in it. I think it must have taken its first flight and crashed onto my window ledge. Soon after there was monsoon rain and I hadn't got the heart to chase away the pigeon as it obviously hadn't got the strength to fly. It stayed all night, huddled in a corner. In the morning I gently persuaded it to leave.

The other day a pair of white coloured pigeons landed on my window ledge and I managed to get some photos before they flew off. I don't know where they came from and I haven't seen them since.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

Sunday, July 13, 2008


A pair of myna birds have adopted me. They live one floor above me, and have built a cosy nest underneath an airconditioning unit which is never used. They visit me, treating my place as their restaurant and dining room and lounge. It is my fault for starting to feed them and now they expect to be fed regularly. They also seem to like company and spend much of the afternoon and evening on my window ledge.

They are Common Mynas, as opposed to the invasive Javan mynas, which are darker in colour. They are incredibly vocal, and drive me nuts sometimes with their incessant calls and chirps and croaks. If one is on my ledge it will call for its mate until it gets a reply. Even if they are together on my sill, they will chatter away to each other.


They get up before 7am, long before me (!) and I can hear their calls. They know I am not up as my windows are still closed. But they wait in the trees opposite my apartment and as soon as I appear and open the windows, they fly over and demand breakfast.

After breakfast they generally leave me for the morning, although sometimes they do sunbathe in the direct sun for a short while. During the day if I am home and I look out of the window, they fly over thinking they will get fed. So they don't go far during the day. Around mid afternoon they come back and spend a large part of the remainder of the day on my sill, dozing and resting and just watching the world go by. They have their own water bowl and often drink during the day - one drinks a lot compared to the other one.


wet after a bath
I don't know which is the male/female. One is much smaller but has a deformed foot, maybe it lost its large toe in an accident.

This one is more placid and lets me get closer to it than the other. But the big one is more cheeky, it perches on my open window frame looking into the room and it has learnt that if I go into the kitchen it might mean food.

Sometimes it hops onto the back of a chair which is higher than the window frame, so it gets a better view of me in the kitchen. It even comes in and looks for food when I am not in the room - I've discovered this by leaving some bread on a chair and watching from another room and I've seen the bird come and take the bread.

Depsite their noise, they are real characters and I really enjoy their company. I am learning a lot about the lives of mynas and am in the process of writing an article on my feathery friends.

sunbathing mynas

Update Aug 2010

I'm still amused by my mynas and enjoy their company, except when they are too vocal. The big one is definitely the dominant one and is a bully. It won't let the other feed, even when it is not hungy itself. When I feed them I put the food in 2 separate piles and sometimes try and keep the big one away for as long as possible giving the smaller one a chance to eat. If there is only a small amount of food, the smaller bird will submissively let the bigger one eat.

I much prefer the smaller of the two, as it is less scared of me, and it does chat to me and answer me when I talk to it, whereas the bigger one ignores me. So I tend to try and feed the small one when its mate is away.

They seem to have a love hate relationship. Sometimes they are really lovey dovey, and other times the big one attacks the small one for no apparent reason.

In June they were acting strangely. The smaller one spent a lot of time alone on my ledge, chatting and calling. And I noticed him/her sleeping all night on top of the air con unit whilst the other one was on the nest behind the unit. And they seemed to go to bed earlier than usual, by about 30-45 minutes, and get up slightly later in the morning.

By end of June I was noticing more and more mynas around my condo. Many are the immigrant Javan mynas. Often there are fights when large numbers get involved, and I assume its the common v the Java, but I don't know. Sometimes my pair will chase off any invaders, especially if they land in the tree right opposite my windows.

So one day I was surprised when a pair of Javan birds perched on top of the open window whilst my pair were on the ledge. My pair did nothing except look, whereas I expected them to chase the new arrivals off. This happened again in Aug. Having seen my pair defend their territory on other occasions, I know want to work out why some invaders are tolerated whilst others aren't.

One morning in Aug I was up before the birds, and saw the small one sleeping on the window ledge one floor below the nest. Maybe they had a domestic dispute the previous evening and was banished from the bedroom. However they both came immediately to my window when they got up (without going over to the trees) and waited for breakfast, then spent ages preening themselves. This lengthy preening process is a morning and evening ritual. They seem clean in that sense, but on the other hand they often poo where they are standing, even right next to where their food is.
See 2nd album on the mynas.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission