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Corwin’s Carnival of Creatures
Also known as Black-Nest and Edible-Nest (or White-Nest)
(Aerodramus maximus and Aerodramus fuciphagus)

Order: Apodiformes
Family: Apodidae

• The swiftlet is a cave-dwelling bird.
• It is dull brown or gray in color, and paler on the rump and underpart. Swiftlets grow to be 3 1/2 to 6 inches long (the size of a sparrow), and weigh about half an ounce.
• Swiftlets fly lower, more slowly and more erratically than most swifts. They are small swifts, a family superficially similar to swallows, but with longer, more slender, scythe-like wings.
• Swiftlets inhabit Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
• The live mostly in mountain or coastal caves, and sometimes open areas and towns.
• Swiftlets eat flying insects, which they catch in midair.
• Colonies may contain up to a million birds.
• Swiftlets breed in caves.
• During breeding season, a swiftlet’s salivary glands enlarge enormously, enabling the bird to produce the saliva that binds the nest, which takes approximately two months to construct and usually holds one egg.
• Cave-dwelling swiftlets are the only birds to use sonar in maneuvering through darkness. Its sonar consists of clicking sounds at frequencies of 1,500 to 5,500 hertz — audible to the human ear. The sounds are emitted at the rate of about six per second. (Swiftlets are the only true avian troglodytes — cave dwellers.) Not only can they navigate in total darkness, but they can find their own individual nest among hundreds of others.
• A swiftlet nest resembles a small bracket, sometimes containing bits of fern or bark. The male regurgitates a long, thin gelatinous strand from salivary glands under its tongue, which is then wound into a half-cup nest and bonds like quick-drying cement to the inside of a cave wall.
• Guano deposited by swiftlets (and many species of bats) gives rise to a whole community of insects that draw energy from the guano and the corpses of the flying animals.
• The rising price and demand for swiftlet nests for “bird’s nest soup” has resulted in a decline in the swiftlet population. In most nest-producing countries, swiftlet colonies are dwindling. It is argued that if harvesting continues at its current rate, the species may die out in five to 10 years. Since 1934, an ordinance in Sarawak permits the nests to be harvested only every 75 days. Similarly, in Sabah, only two harvests per year of the white-nest swiftlets are allowed.
• The edible-nest swiftlet is also known as the white-nest swiftlet and the brown-rumped swiftlet. Its whitish-yellow nest is bound almost exclusively by saliva.
• The black-nest swiftlet is larger than its 2-inch-deep, “half-saucer”-shaped nest — when it sits in the nest, it faces the cave wall, while its tail and long, folded wings stick out into the air. Its nest is made with saliva and feathers.

Add comment May 23rd, 2006

Bird’s Nest — A Chinese Delicacy at the Niah Caves

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By Wah Heng

Like many Malaysians of Chinese descent, I tasted the bird nest soup at a tender age. This is a Chinese delicacy that cuts across all provincial, national, geographical and other divides separating the two billion Chinese found on Planet Earth. In the 1950s, most Chinese wedding dinners (worthy of its name) in then Malaya and Singapore come with a nine-course meal, of which bird nest soup is de rigueur. Nine, of course, is an auspicious number in Chinese numerology as it is a pun on a similarly sounding word which means longevity. In those days, demand for bird nests was not as explosive as life was a hard and bitter struggle for many overseas Chinese people in South East Asia. Hong Kong and Taiwan, too, were flooded with refugees fleeing from the Chinese Civil War.

Mainland China was much impoverished with the failure of Mao Ze-dong’s draconian collectivization of farms and setting up of communes which virtually broke up the family unit as an institution under the grandiose Great Leap Forward Policy from 1958 to 1960. This economic disaster resulted in the death of some 30 million Chinese due to starvation.

Starting from the 1970s, the price of bird nests thus rose dramatically with the new found wealth among the Chinese people from South East Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. With the burgeoning middle class in China since the early 1990s, demand for Chinese luxury food such as shark fins and bird nests shot literally through the ceiling. Nowadays, good quality processed bird nest costs US Dollars 500 to 1000 per kilogram.
As an impressionable pre-teenager, my mother told me that most of the bird nests were (and still are) harvested from limestone caves in a faraway land known as Por Law Chau (Wade-Giles for Borneo) across a mighty sea (South China Sea) from where we lived, that is, Kuala Lumpur. Indeed Borneo was, in the 1950s, a distant dreamland to me as it took a week for one to travel from Port Swettenham (renamed Port Klang) Kuala Lumpur’s port to Kuching on one of those freighters named Rajah Brooke 1, 2 or 3 operated by British owned Straits Steamship. At that time, the age of commercial passenger airliners have not yet arrived to this part of the world.

Why is Bird Nests So Popular?

Bird nests are congealed saliva (many would say “yucks”) of a few species of swiftlets which have a pair of glands below their tongue. The males regurgitate these glutinous substances in fine strands to make their nests. The saliva, upon setting, forms a cup whose external surface sticks like cement onto the ceilings and walls of caves. It has been a long held Chinese belief that bird nests promotes cell growth and tissue repair as well as strengthens the body’s systems and provide resistance to diseases. For centuries, many take bird nest soup for healing diseases connected with the respiratory system and rheumatism. Historical records showed that bird nests were first reserved for the Tang Emperors starting from about 700 AD. Initially, the bird nests were presented to the emperors by the traders who had traveled to Nanyang or South Seas their lingo for South East Asia. Despite the widely held beliefs about the Chinese that the bird nest soup is healthy, studies by scientists have not proven the health benefits of the bird nest soup.

Getting There

Therefore, when I was in Miri, Sarawak I decided that I must evoke memories of yester years by visiting the Niah Caves, which together with Sabah’s Gomantong Caves, are two of Malaysia’s most well-known source of bird nests. Getting to the Niah Caves, which is located within the 3102-hectare (7756 acres) Niah Caves National Park is a breeze. Just wait in front of Miri’s Visitor Information Center in downtown Miri for one of the regular public buses plying the Miri-Batu Niah route. At the same spot, there are many private taxis which you can either charter exclusively and shoot off without a moment of hesitation or share with others — for which you may have to wait with bated breath.

For most of the journey, you will travel southwest along the main Miri-Bintulu road until at the 102-kilometer milestone the vehicle will take the right turn-off and continue for some 12 kilometers to arrive at the small town of Batu Niah. From the bus drop-off point you need to travel another 3.5 kilometers to reach the Park Headquarters at Pangkalan Lubang (Cave Pier). Taxis from Miri will take you directly to the Park Headquarters at a turn-off just before reaching the Batu Niah town center. You can also take a longboat ride along Sungei Niah from Batu Niah town center to reach the Park Headquarters which is located on the west bank of the river. If you are traveling from Bintulu town, it is just as easy to visit the Niah Caves as you will be heading in a northeasterly direction along the Bintulu-Miri road and exiting at the same turn-off. The distance is slightly longer that is 132 kilometers and time taken is about two hours as against one and three-quarter hours from Miri.

Accommodation and Facilities

It is most convenient to stay at the Park Headquarters in view of easy access to the caves and the two trekking trails. One is known as the Bukit Kasut/Gunung Subis trail which leads through kerangkas (heath lands) to the Bukit Kasut hill and the cave-ridden Gunung Subis (elevation 394 meters), the highest mountain along the limestone massif in the Park. The Madu (Honey) trail takes a loop through peatlands close to the Park headquarters and terminates at Batu Niah town traversing along Sungei Niah and its tributary, Sungei Subis. At the Park, you will have a choice of one of the four hostels with four-bed dorms equipped with fans, or four-bed room chalets or air-conditioned two-bed VIP chalets.

There are three Chinese-run hotels in Batu Niah, namely Niah Cave Hotel, Niah Cave Inn and Park View Hotel. The advantage of staying in town is that there is a rich choice of food including fresh river prawns and fishes and locally-grown vegetables and forest ferns and plants. There are a few shops selling raw but processed bird nests. Processing bird nests means soaking the nests for a few hours before using tweezers to laboriously remove the feathers and plant and other foreign materials.

One of the things which my friend and I did was to wander around the open-air local produce market. We bought live fresh water prawns and got one of the restaurants to cook them for us. In the Park Headquarters, there is a canteen which serves good Western and Malaysian dishes. The canteen operator is an Iban lady, who pampered us with an excellent bird nest soup brewed with chicken and Chinese herbs over a slow charcoal fire. Another popular way is to boil the bird nests with rock sugar. Her other half is a local bird nest trader and he has a whole armory of interesting tales and death-defying and sometimes horrifying anecdotes on bird nest collection to tell Park visitors who bother to ask him and are patient enough to listen.

Why Visit the Niah Caves?

Many attractions are found in two of the caves, namely the Great Cave and the Painted Cave. To get to the two caves take a boat to cross over the east bank of Sungei Niah. Do not attempt to wade or swim across the shallow and narrow river no matter how tempting the crystal-clear bubbling waters are as crocodiles lurk in the waters. The jetty is behind the Park Office and the Information Center. At the opposite bank you can rent a torch from the Guano Collectors Cooperative Store which also sells light snacks and drinks. You will walk pass the Forestry staff quarters along a raised plank walkway and soon you will see a museum housed in an elegant single-storey modern building.

The boardwalk takes you all the way through undisturbed forests to the Trader’s Cave which is a little more than an overhanging of limestone. It was given this name as many years ago it was the meeting place for guano and bird nest traders to do business with the collectors. Just after leaving the Trader’s Cave, you have to climb up a steep flight of stairs to reach the West Mouth of the Great Cave which offers you a mind boggling sight of the cave. You would have walked 3.5 kilometers taking about an hour to reach your destination.

Try to wear a hat before entering the Great Cave lest natural substance of avian and chiroptera origins may add jell to your hair. The Great Cave stands at 60 meters high and its width measures some 250 meters. The first thing you would observe as you walk along the earthen trail at the cave entrance is an excavation site parallel to it but separated by a wire mesh fence. The site covered with a roof was the exact spot where Tom Harrison, then Curator of the Sarawak Museum, discovered fragments of a 40,000 year-old skull of a prehistoric man in 1958. He had to dig into some 2.4 meters of guano to unearth the homo sapien specimen. Because of the tough working conditions he and his assistants had to endure to make his epoch-making discovery which was as remarkable as the discovery of the Java Man the site was nicknamed Hell Trench.

Right behind Hell Trench and extending into the cave wall and further inside the cave is an uncovered excavation site given the name The Cemetery. This was where Tom Harrison and his wife Barbara unearthed some of the 166 burial sites of prehistoric men of which 38 had been carbon-dated to the Mesolithic (4000 to 20000 BC) period and the rest to the Neolithic (2000 to 4000 BC) era. The Harrisons had worked on the Niah Caves from 1954 to 1962. At the other end of the West Mouth is a short row of wooden houses which was the site of what was once the office and temporary home of Tom Harrison but which had been razed by a fire some time ago and rebuilt to resemble the original design.

The sun-lit part of the Great Cave looks surreal as the boulders emit a green glow which comes from fungus growth. Hanging from the ceiling of the cave are several belian or ironwood poles which reach down to my shoulder height. These poles are joined together without the use of nails. The poles are wedged to the ceiling of the cave and they enable the Penans to climb up the cave and use a long bamboo pole with a scraper at one end to dislodge the nests of the swiftlets. The collector or Tukang Juloh is assisted by helpers or Tukang Pungut who are responsible for finding and gathering the nests as they fall on the floor often in pitch darkness.

You may also make personal encounters with collectors of bird and bat guano which is of two types. Fresh guano (tahi sapu) is gathered from all parts of the cave by sweeping. Long standing guano accumulated over the years (tahi timbang) is collected by digging but this activity has been much curtailed in recent years because of the possibility of destroying archeological sites and creating holes which could endanger the lives of visitors, collectors and gatherers.

Just before the cave turns into impenetrable darkness, the plankway resumes. From here the walkway leads further into the cave and runs through passages in a loop (around a central pillar) of about one kilometer in length. The walkway leads the way to the back of the cave and you would be able to exit and enjoy a bout of fresh air and brilliant sunshine again through Right Cave Passage (Lubang Gua Kira) in the south east passing on the way two caves Burnt Cave (Lubang Hangus) and Moon Cave (Lubang Bulan). This is indeed a great relief as the ammoniac odor from the guano can over-whelm one’s nasal senses. From here you will walk gingerly in a gorge between cliffs along a rock-strewn trail taking about 20 minutes to reach the Painted Cave (Gua Kain Hitam or Black Cloth Cave).

During your walk inside the deep chambers of the Great Cave you will hear a series of short but penetrating clicks which sound like stones shaken together in the hand. These sounds are made by the swiftlets which do not use their eyes to move about in pitch darkness but echolocation similar to the radar. Bats too in the Niah Caves used echolocation to navigate. However in the brighter areas of the cave you can hear the shrill cries of swiftlets and these are their normal social communication.

The Painted Cave was so-named because Tom Harrison discovered red hematite paintings on the cave wall sprawled over some 30 meters. They depict paintings of spread-eagled humans in dance poses and apparently performing funerary rituals. There are also paintings of ships which are believed to represent boat-shaped coffins or death ships. Tom Harrison also found a few such boat-coffins in the Painted Cave with human bones. He also chanced-upon other artifacts including shell ornaments, ancient pottery and glass beads. These objects were carbon-dated to a period between 1 AD to 780 AD.

The human bones and most of the boat-coffins had been relocated to the Sarawak Museum in Kuching. You should in the Painted Cave be able to see one boat-coffin perched on an incline and it resembles a beached vessel abandoned after traveling through a journey afterlife. The paintings are hardly discernible because of age and it is difficult to see them as the part of the cave with the paintings and artifacts is protected by a few layers of razor-wire fencing. They are believed to be the only prehistoric cave paintings in the island of Borneo.

Species of Swiftlets and Bats

Out of five species of swiftlets found in Borneo three are residents of caves in the Niah National Park. The three swiftlet species are the Black-nest swiftlets (Aerodramus maximus), Mossy-nest swiftlets (Aerodramus salangus) and the White-bellied swiftlets (Collocalia esculenta) which are unable to navigate using echolocation and hence live in the brighter cave areas. Only the nests from the Black-nest swiftlets can be commercially harvested as their nests consist of a high proportion of congealed saliva. The nests of the other two species contain mainly plant and other foreign materials. There are eight species of bats in the Niah Caves and all except one are insectivorous and the remaining one feeds on fruits. The most common bats found are the Cantor’s round leaf bats (Hipposideros galeritus), Naked bats (Cheiromeles torquatus), Lesser bent-winged bats (Miniopterus australis) and the Cave nectar bats (Eonycteris spelaea).

Changing of Guards

When dusk falls over the Great Cave watch out for the “changing of guards” phenomenon. This phenomenon takes place when the hungry bats fly out of the Cave’s mouth in unison while the swiftlets stream in after a day of foraging for food. Keep your eyes glued for the bat hawks which make a meal of the bats.

Things to Do Before Visiting the Caves

It is recommended that you visit the Information Center and the Museum before visiting the caves. The Center provides information on the history of the caves, bird nest and guano collection. There are exhibits of the three different types of bird nests and the implements used in bird nest collection.. The Museum exhibits fragments of the skull of the 40,000-year-old homo sapien as well as prehistoric bones of pigs, monkeys and specie of giant pangolin which had long gone extinct. Also on display are Paleolithic shells of oysters, crabs and tortoises as well as flake stone tools, ornaments, ancient pottery, glass beads and other artifacts.

Getting In or Out by Longboat

We were told that we would miss some excitement and adventure if we do not take the longboat in or out of the Park Headquarters. We therefore left the Park by longboat after our sleepy heads were roused by the melodious singing of the magpie robins and White-rumped shamas. We enjoyed the boat trip as we saw a bit of the true face of the life in rural Sarawak shaped by rivers and forests. Our boat passed by riverine native longhouses with many ramshackle huts perched on high ground. We observed natives bathing along the river banks and washing their laundry. Their children appeared to have a whale of a time cavorting in the waters. They lead simple and uncomplicated lives eking out a hand-to-mouth subsistence living. The branches and leaves of the forest trees embrace the river banks and we enjoyed the sight of birds darting across the river. The river is still teeming with fishes and fresh water prawns but we do not know for how long. But to the natives, life goes on.

Why Visit the Niah Caves

Anyone fascinated with bird nests harvesting or with an interest in caves and cave paintings is recommended to visit the Niah Caves. The Great Cave is simply awesome in view of its size. The sight of the height to which the grove-less ironwood poles reach out to the far ceiling of the Great Cave and that of wiry but no longer loin-clothed Penans carrying out their harvesting chores nonchalantly is an unforgettable spectacle.

Add comment May 22nd, 2006

Bisnis Bergengsi dari Rumah Model Kuno
Bisnis ”air liur” Burung Walet bukan sembarang bisnis. Konon pada pertengahan abad XIX ketika pertamakalinya Burung Walet dibuatkan rumah, hanya para ulama yang menyediakan rumahnya untuk tempat tinggal Burung Walet.

Sekalipun Burung Walet ini termasuk burung liar dan lebih memilih tinggal di goa-goa di pantai Selatan , tetapi para ulama di Sidayu mampu menyediakan tempat tinggal. Dari hasil penjualan sarang Burung Walet ini, mereka tidak memungut biaya kepada para santri yang belajar mengaji.

“Para ulama sudah merasa mendapatkan penghasilan yang melimpah dari air liur Burung Walet. Penghasilan ini diyakini merupakan rezeki dari Tuhan,” kata pendiri Asosiasi Peternak dan Pengusaha Sarang Wal;et Indonesia, Drs H.A.Khoiruz Zaman, MM yang juga pengurus Yayasan Kanjeng Sepuh, Sidayu, kepada Pembaruan belum lama ini.

Mitos lama menyebut-kan hanya para ulama yang mampu berbisnis Sarang Burung Walet. Tetapi belakangan, pemilik modal berhasil mematahkan mitos itu. Dengan pendekatan pengalaman, teknologi, serta rekayasa konstruksi serta dukungan modal, menggeluti bisnis yang penuh gengsi dan menjanjikan.

Ada lagi semacam mitos yang berkembang di kalangan petani dan pedagang sarang burung walet, jika seseorang ingin sukses budidaya SBW, salah satu syaratnya pernah memakannya.

Tetapi para pembudidaya di Sidayu, menurut Khoiruz Zaman lebih memilih menjual hasil panennya kepada para tengkulak atau pengepul. ”Sesekali saja kami mengkonsumsinya, tetapi lebih banyak menjualnya, karena harganya yang sangat mahal,”katanya.

Sekalipun sudah menjadi makanan mewah dan komiditas penting sejak zaman Dinasti Ming (1368-1644), namun SBW baru dipetik pertamakali pada tahun 1720 oleh seorang Lurah Desa Karang Bolong, Kebumen, Jateng, Sadrana.

Lantas sejak kapan burung walet mulai memasuki migrasi ke rumah? Menurut H Fatikh Marzuki, seorang pakar perwaletan, burung itu mulai dipelihara dan dibudidayakan di rumah sejak tahun 1880 oleh pedagang besar H Tohir Suratama yang menemukan SBW di rumahnya di Sidayu. Sejak itu pemeliharaannya tidak hanya di Sidayu Gresik, tetapi juga di kota-kota pantai utara lainnya seperti Tuban, Semarang, Tegal.

Pembangunan rumah untuk Burung Walet harus dirancang khusus. Fondasi harus kokoh agar tidak terpengaruh getaran jika terjadi gempa bumi, guna menghindari migrasi. Bagian penting yang perlu diperhatikan dalam rumah walet adalah tata letak sirip , jarak antar sirip, lebar sirip dan ketebalan sirip. Karena sirip ini menjadi tempat Burung Walet mengeluarkan air liurnya.

Rumah-rumah baru yang dibangun oleh pemilik modal belakangan ini cenderung kurang memperhatikan estetika. Rumah dengan tiga lantai sampai lima lantai berbentuk kotak menjulang keatas. Memberi kesan seperti benteng sehingga mengurangi keindahan suatu kawasan .

Khoiruz Zaman yang merupakan keturunan dari H.Tohir Suratama, bersama-sama keluarganya telah menyelesaikan pembangunan gedung berlantai lima dengan arsitektur seperti halnya rumah-rumah tingkat tempat tinggal. Gedung ini dibangun di bekas rumah tempat tinggal Burung Walet yang pertama di Sidayu.

”Kami ingin memberi contoh membangun rumah Burung Walet dengan arsitektur sebagaimana rumah tempat tinggal,” katanya.

Rumah dengan bentuk segi tiga ini membuat kapasitas sirip di lantai paling atas menjadi lebih sedikit dibandingkan dengan lantai-lantai dibawahnya.

”Fasilitas didalam bangunan rumah menjadi daya tarik bagi Burung Walet untuk bertempat tinggal, mulai kualitas sirip, kelembanan ruangan, serta lubang-lubang pengatur untuk manuver didalam gedung,”kata Khoiruz Zaman. (029)

Add comment May 19th, 2006

By: Iverda Yunanto, ST

Superorder : Apomorphae
Order : Apodiformes
Family : Apodidae
Sub Family : Apodenae
Tribes : Collacaliini
Genera : Collacalia
Species :seriti = Collocalia esculanta; walet = Collacalia fuciphaga


Dari beberapa jenis burung walet yang ada, hanya terdapat 4 jenis walet yang sarangnya bisa dikonsumsi dan laku dijual yaitu: Aerodramus fushipagus (walet sarang putih/Yen-ou), Aerodramus maxima (walet sarang hitam/Mo-yen), Collocalia esculanta (seriti), dan Collocalia vanikorensis (seriti lumut).

Setiap mahluk hidup pada dasarnya memilih tempat berkembangbiak yang aman dan nyaman. Begitu pula walet. Sehingga walet memilih tempat yang memenuhi syarat :

• Aman yaitu aman dari gangguan, terlindung dari terpaan angin, terik matahari, hujan dan cahaya yang terang.

• Nyaman yaitu tempat sesuai habitatnya. Tempat yang sesuai dengan habitat walet adalah bersuhu 26-29 C, berkelembaban 80-90 dan dekat dengan tempat ia mencari makan.

Sehingga walet memilih gua-gua alam dan bangunan tertentu sebagai tempat pengembangan populasinya. Semakin aman dan nyaman tempatnya maka semakin bertambah pula jumlah populasinya.

Oleh sebab itu diperlukan suatu perlakuan khusus untuk memancing walet atau menjaga dan mengembangkan populasi walet pada bangunan yang sudah dimasuki walet. Perlakuan khusus itu pada dasarnya adalah membuat bangunan yang sesuai dengan habitat walet. Secara teori, perlakuan khusus itu seperti: ukuran bangunan, bak tampung air, lubang ventilasi, ukuran lubang, pemberian tanah merah, bau-bauan, hujan buatan, pemberian serangga dari makanan yang dibusukkan, suara walet dan lainnya. Semua teori itu adalah benar untuk memancing atau menjaga dan mengembangkan populasi walet karena memang bertujuan untuk membuat bangunan agar sesuai dengan habitat walet.

Namun bila kita perhatikan, terutama pada usaha orang untuk memancing seriti/walet dan rumah yang telah didiami seriti/walet.

◦ Mengapa si’A’ yang bangunannya kecil berhasil memancing seriti/walet, sedang si’B’ yang bangunannya besar tidak berhasil? Mengapa sudah diberi bak tampung air, diberi serangga dari makanan yang dibusukkan, dan lainnya tapi bangunan hanya dimasuki saja oleh seriti/walet (tidak mau menginap kalaupun menginap hanya sebentar)? Mengapa rumah kayu bisa menjadi rumah seriti? Mengapa susah menjadikan rumah seriti menjadi rumah walet kalaupun bisa hanya sedikit?

Orang akan mengatakan itu adalah faktor keberuntungan saja.

◦ Mengapa rumah walet yang telah berproduksi, produksinya tetap atau malah berkurang padahal kelihatannya tidak ada gangguan? Mengapa meskipun bangunan sudah diperluas tapi walet tidak mau menyebar ke bangunan yang baru? Mengapa sarang yang dihasilkan kecil? Mengapa sarang yang dihasilkan lembek atau malah mudah patah? Apakah bisa telur ditetaskan pada saat kemarau? Bagaimana caranya agar produksi mampu meningkat? Bagaimana caranya agar jumlah populasi walet meningkat? Dan akan timbul pertanyaan lainnya.

Kalau kita kaji lebih dalam semua itu disebabkan oleh karena adanya faktor alam yang tidak memungkinkan seriti/walet untuk mengembangkan populasinya. Salah satu faktor alam yang terpenting dan sulit dikendalikan (seringkali pula tidak kita sadari) adalah suhu dan kelembaban. Semua teori di atas (seperti ukuran bangunan, bak tampung air, lubang ventilasi, pemberian tanah merah dan hujan buatan) pada dasarnya adalah untuk mengendalikan suhu dan kelembaban rumah seriti/walet. Kita tidak mungkin mengontrol suhu dan kelembaban secara manual. Bagaimana caranya mengontrol suhu dan kelembaban agar semaksimal mungkin mendekati habitat yang disukai dari populasi walet? Bagaimana mungkin kita mengontrolnya tiap detik? Bagaimana mungkin mengontrol suhu dan kelembaban yang juga dipengaruhi oleh cuaca luar bangunan?

Seringkali kita tidak menyadari akan pentingnya kelembaban dan suhu bagi seriti/walet. Bila kita perhatikan ukuran bangunan, bak tampung air, lubang ventilasi, dan pemberian tanah merah pada dasarnya adalah untuk menjaga kelembaban dan suhu agar sesuai dengan habitat seriti/walet. Banyak teori yang mengajarkan kepada kita tentang menghitung berapa luas bangunan, berapa luas bak tampung air, berapa banyak lubang ventilasi agar kelembaban dan suhu ruangan mendekati yang disukai seriti/walet. Semua teori itu adalah mendekati ‘benar’ karena telah mengalami penelitian dan berdasar pengalaman. Namun hal itu tidak sepenuhnya benar karena tidak mungkin kita dapat membuat ruangan yang mempunyai kelembaban dan suhu sesuai dengan yang disukai habitat seriti/walet tanpa kita mengukur berapa kelembaban dan suhu ruangan tersebut dan mengaturnya. Untuk mengukur kelembaban dan suhu kita dapat menggunakan thermohygrometer (sebatas mengukur saja), tapi akankah kita senantiasa mengukur dan mengaturnya secara manual (di dalam ruangan) dan setiap detik pula padahal seriti/walet butuh ketenangan dalam ruangan. Kalaupun bisa paling dengan jalan diambil jalan tengahnya misalnya pemberian pengembun dalam ruangan untuk membantu meningkatkan kelembaban dan suhu dengan cara dihidupkan saat-saat cuaca kering dan panas. Namun hal itu tidaklah pasti.

Sedangkan kelembaban dan suhu dipengaruhi juga oleh banyak faktor yang seringkali tidak disadari seperti cuaca di luar bangunan yang selalu berubah, angin dan lainnya. Sehingga bagi mereka yang ingin memancing seriti/walet kadang ada yang berhasil dan kadang ada pula yang tidak. Bagi yang berhasil memancing seriti/walet adalah sangat ditentukan oleh faktor keberuntungan saja (mungkin saat itu kelembaban dan suhu ruangan mendekati kelembaban dan suhu yang disukai habitat seriti/walet sehingga seriti/walet mau menetap). Dan selama kelembaban dan suhu ruangan tersebut masih dalam toleransi habitat seriti/walet maka

seriti/walet akan berkembang tapi perlu diingat bahwa kelembaban dan suhu ruangan tak selamanya konstan sehingga jumlah populasi kadang menurun (perkembangan jumlah populasinyapun tak meksimal) seperti pada musim kemarau dan lainnya. Kelembaban dan suhu juga sangat berpengaruh pada insting seriti/walet untuk kawin, produksi sarang, kwalitas sarang, penetasan telur dan perkembangan kesehatan seriti/walet itu sendiri.

Add comment May 19th, 2006

Perusahaan Menternak Burung Layang-layang (Walit)
Penuaian sarang burung walit dari gua secara komersial telah bermula lebih daripada 100 tahun yang lalu. Di Gua niah, Sarawak perusahaan ini bermula pada tahun 1878 dan diikuti oleh penuaian di Gua Mulu. Di Semenanjug Malaysia penuaian secara komersial dijalankan di lapan buah gua di Pulau Redang, Terengganu.
Terdapat 13 specis walit di Malaysia. Hanya dua spesis sahaja yang menghasilkan sarang burung yang boleh dimakan ia itu Aerodramus Fuciphagas (Edible Nest Swiftlet) dan Aerodramus Maximus (Black Nest Swiftlet) dari family Apodidae.Burung ini berada dalam order Apodiformus bermaksud tidak berkaki ia itu tidak berupaya berpijak di tanah. Burung ini mempunyai kuku yang mampu mencengkam dengan kuat.. Sais burung ini antara 7.5 cm hingga 23 cm. Burung walit hidup berkawan dalam kelompok besar serta mampu terbang dalam gelap menggunakan ekolokasi.

Aeradramus Fuciphagas (Edible Nest Swiftlet) mempunyai bulu hitam berkilat. Dibahagian atasnya bewarna hitam coklat sementara di punggungnya bewarna keputihan.. bersayap pendek 110 hingga 125 cm tapi mempunyai daya kepakan yang tinggi dan dapat meluncur di udara. Habitat asalnya di kepulauan di tengah lautan dan mencari makanan di daratan iaitu di atas kawasan paya bakau.

Aerodramus Maximus (Black Nest Swiftlet) sukar dibezakan dengan Aerodramus Fuciphagas (Edible Nest Swiftlet) tetapi saiznya lebih besar.dengan bewarna kelabu kehitaman. Sayapnya berukuran antara 122 hingga 126 cm. Sarangnya bewarna hitam dan mengandungi banyak bulu. Habitat asalnya di pulau persisiran pantai dan mencari makanan di daratan iaitu di katas kawasan paya bakau dan hutan.

Selain daripada 2 spesis di atatas, collacalia esculante (sariti) dan collacalia vanikarensis (seriti lumut) dapat mengeluarkan sarang yang boleh dimakan, namun seriti jarang dijumpai di Malaysia. Burung ini dikenali oleh penduduk tempatan sebagai walit bisu kerana mempunyai suara yang perlahan. Makanan asas burung ini ialah serangga yang ditangkap semasa berterbangan di udara. Burung ini bersifat aerial dan meluncur dengan pantas.
Perladangan Walit
Pengubahsuaian Premis Pernigaan Dan Kediaman
Bermula sedekat yang lalu apabila burung walit berhijrah dari gua ke bandar menjadikan bangunan lama yang mempunyai suasana hampir sama dengan keadaan dalam gua sebagai habitat barunya Akibat mempunyai nilai pasaran yang tinggi banyak premis dalam kawasan bandar telah diubahsuai untuk perladangan walit.

Pengubahsuaian premis asasnya ialah menjadikan suasana dalamannya sama dengan gua. terutamanya gelap dan lembab. Antara ubahsuai utama dilakukan ia lah :-
• Penutupan pintu dan tingkap
• Pembinaan lubang pengudaraan
• Penyediaan pintu masuk
• Penyusunan bluti di siling sebagai tempat pembiakan
• Sistem irigasi dalam dan luar bangunan bagi mengawal suhu
• Memasang sistem audio

Suasana persekitaran yang diperlukan dalam rumah burung ialah suhu yang setabil antara 25 hingga 28 darjah celsius, kelembapan antara 80 hingga 90 peratus dan kegelapan kurang dari 1 lux. Bumbung bangunan hendaklah dibuat daripada bahan-bahan yang dapat menahan kepanasan matahari.Pembinaan persekitaran yang sesuai telah menyebabkan burung walit sesuai dengan habitat barunya dan memberi pulangan yang tinggi kepada pemiliknya.

Pembinaan Rumah Walit

Mengikut buku Amalan Baik Untuk Perladangan Burung Walit Aerodramus dan Perumahannya” terbitan Jabatan Perkhidmatan Haiwan, premis hendaklah dibina di atas tanah pertanian atau perusahaan pada jarak minima 100 meter dari kawasan kediaman. Disamping itu kelulusan daripada Pihakberkuasa Tempatan perlu diperolihi.
Reka bentuk bangunan perlulah berdasarkan kepada kehendak dan keperluan burung bagi menjamin burung walit akan menetap dan terus menetap. Rumah walit perlu disediakan roving room kerana semasa memasuki bangunan burung walit akam berputar-putar dulu mengikut putaran jam sebelum menuju ke sarangnya. Resting room perlu disediakan sebagai tempat burung walit beristerehat dan membina sarang. Lubang keluar masuk burung sesuai diletakan di bahagian atas bangunan dengan arah bertentangan daripada matahari naik atau jatuh bagi menjaga kegelapan dalam bangunan. Antara ciri-ciri lain rumah walit yang perlu diambil kira dalam pembinaannya ialah ;-
• Sistem ventilasi bagi mengawal suhu
• Bahagian dalam terlindung dari cahaya matahari
• Ketinggian ideal melebihi 15 kaki dengan keluasan melebihi 20 kaki persegi
• Penyediaan beluti untuk burung bersarang
• Kalis tikus, ular, biawak dan pemangsa.
• Pemasangan sistem audio
• Notis amaran di lokasi sesuai.

Keluasan minima 20 X 30 kaki. Lebih ekonomik jika dibina bertingkat. Ketinggian dari lantai ke bumbung antara 6 hingga 15 kaki. Bahagian dalam bangunan diplaster dengan campuran pasir, kapur dan simen. Bahagian luar dengan campuran pasir dan simen sahaja.

Tempat burung layang-layang berehat dan membuat sarang dibuat petak-petak daripada papan yang kuat serta dilekatkan di bahagian siling bangunan.

Sistem paip jaringan (sprinkle) diletakan pada bahagian bumbung dan dalam bangunan. Bila cuaca panas paip dipasang bagi menjamin suhu sentiasa rendah dan kelembapan tinggi.

Pintu keluar masuk burung berukuran 20 X 20 cm dibina dibahagian atas bangunan.

Pemasangan Sistem Audio

Sistem audio dipasang bagi dimainkan suara burung pada waktu tertentu bertujuan bagi memanggil burung masuk kedalam bangunan , membuat sarang dan seterusnya meningkatkan pengeluaran. CD dengan suara burung yang berlainan digunakan untuk memanggil burung , membuat sarang dan meningkatkan pengeluaran.

Pada pintu masuk dipasang minima 2 buah tweeter dan dimainkan pada awal pagi dan petang bertujuan memandu burung masuk kedalam bangunan. Bagi bangunan berukuran 20 X 30 kaki, minima 10 buah tweeter dipasang pada bahagian siling bangunan secara tersebar bertujuan untuk mengundang burung bersarang dalam bangunan.

Jika audio sistem dipasang secara yang betul mengikut nasihat perunding, kemungkinan burung akan masuk kedalam rumah walit dalam jangka masa dua hingga tiga bulan adalah tinggi. Audio sistem sebenarnya berfungsi untuk menarik perhatian walit menuju kearah sumber suara.

Musuh dan Penyakit

Mengawal bangunan daripada tikus, semut, cicak , biawak, burung hantu dan helang yang samada akan merosakan atau menakutkan burung untuk terus tinggal dalam bangunan.

Memungut Hasil

Cara rampasan iaitu sarang yang telah siap dibina tetapi belum sempat burung layang-layang bertelur diambil. Cara ini akan menyebabkan kepupusan burung walit kerana tidak dapat membiak.
Cara buang telur iaitu setelah burung layang-layang bertelur, sarangnya diambil sementara telurnya dipindah kesarang seriti atau incubator untuk penetasan. Kadar penetasan yang rendah dan kadar kehidupan yang rendah juga tidak menjamin perkembangan jumlah burung walit. Cara ini diamal di Indonesia kerana jumlah seriti banyak disana tetapi jarang kedapatan di Malaysia.

Cara penetasan iaitu sarang diambil setelah telurnya menetas dan anak burung layang-layang terbang.Ini merupakan cara yang terbaik menjamin populasi burung walit terus meningkat dan industri ini akan terus berkembang.

Add comment May 18th, 2006

About Swiftlet
Benefits Of Bird’s Nest Usage

Bird’s nest is a Chinese delicacy that has been claimed to be an effective health giving tonic. The nest itself is made by swifts’ rich gel nourishment secretion which modern research has revealed to contain a number of health promoting qualities.

It is good for the skin, lungs, digestion and it helps to prevent overall dryness while boosting the immune system. No wonder, ladies consider bird’s nest one of the best beauty aids. They believe the protein and vitamins in the nest rejuvenate the complexion, smoothes the skin and keeps them looking young.


A group of swiftles which is widely distributed in the tropical Indo-Pacific region, mainly on islands, is responsible for the production of edible nests of commerce. Their habitats include rock shelters, caves and other cave-like situations including buildings, culverts and tunnels. The distribution of the swiftlets ranges from the Seychelles Islands in the west Indian Ocean to the east on Marquesas Island in the Pacific. They extend northwards from Himachal Pradesh, India to Szechuan, China and southwards on the Mauritius Island, to Queensland, Australia and New Caledonia.

Five species of swiftlets occur in Borneo and all of them are found in Sarawak. Of these, three species of the genus Aerodramus have the capacity to echolocate and navigate in darkness, while the other two genera (Hydrochous and Collocalia) lack this faculty. The giant swiftlets (H. gigas) is the largest of the swiftlets and constructs nest of plant material with little soft salivary cement. C. esculenta is the smallest of the swiftlets, and it typically builds plant nests under bridges and roof spaces of homes.

The mossy-nest swiftlets (A. vanikorensis) builds mossy nest with little cement. A. maximus is the only commercial black edible-nest builder. Its lower leg has a row of small feathers on the outer and inner side. The white edible-nest build by A. fuciphagus is found in caves and cliffs of offshore islands of Satang Besar, Pulau Lakei and in inland caves in Suai and Baram in Sarawak. It is also found in the Bay of Bengal, Haiphong (Vietnam), South East Palawan (Philippines) and the Lesser Sunda Islands (Indonesia).

The salivary cement of Aerodramus swiftlets’ nest constitute the basis of the famous Chinese cuisine since the sixteen century. Bird’s nest caves in Sarawak are mostly licensed to the families of their original owners although there are some sale of ownerships. The system of nest harvesting differs at different locations. The Sarawak Museum is charged with the licensing of the ownership and management of the bird’s nest caves. Population census of the swiftlets are carried out regularly to determine the level of nest production.

Bird’s Nest Caves

In Sarawak Bird’s nest caves are found throughout Sarawak. However most of the edible white-nests are found in caves in the coastal islands, Suai and Baram. The black-nest swiftlets on the other hand nest in limestone caves in Lundu, Bau, Lingga, Klingkang, Tatau, Tinjar, Dulit Range, Similajau, Niah, Subis, Mulu and Merapok. Most of the bird’s nest cave has a grant to the right of collecting bird’s nest as a form of licence since the early days. Today, birds’ nest licences are issued by the Sarawak Museum and Forest Department to the rightful owners.


Most swiftlets have dull dark grey-brown to black plumage with variable areas of grey to white on the underparts or at the base of the tail. All swiftlets construct their nests with a glutinous nest-cement produced by a pair of large, lobed salivary glands under the tongue. It is this nest-cement that constitutes the raw material of birds’ nest soup and renders the nest of A. fuciphagus and A. maximus of commercial importance.

A. maximus is large, with a wing length of 13 centimetres and weighs about 28 grams. Its lower leg bears a row of small feathers. A. fuciphagus is generally smaller than A. maximus and weighs about 15 to 18 gram. This swiftlets has a band of brownish grey feathers across the rump. The clutch size of A. maximus is a single white A. fuciphagus has two white eggs.

In the Baram caves, A. fuciphagus produces the best quality white-nests in appearance and cleanness. A. maximus produces black-nests which can be the red legged or white-legged form. The grading of nests of the black-nest swiftlets is based on the proportion of nest-cement. Low grades are stained (red-legged) or softened bases. Good quality nests are distinguished by the firm, white basal attachments (white-legged) and a comparatively large proportion of nest-cement with few feathers in the nest-cup. Low grade black-nests are produced mainly during the breeding season from April through August each year. (Source: Charles M. U. Leh B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc., Ph.D. (Malaya) – A guide to birds’ nest caves and birds’ nest of Sarawak.)

Add comment May 18th, 2006

Pengenalan Burung Swiftlet(aerodramus fuciphagus)

Burung Layang-layang (Aerodramus Fuciphagus), yang dikenali juga sebagai burung walit terdapat di dalam empat jenis iaitu Aerodramus, Hydrochous, Schoutedenapus dan yang tinggal ialah spesis collocalia. Di Indonesia burung walit (Aerodramus Fuciphagus) dikenali sebagai Walet. Spesis ini juga dikenali sebagai Collocalia. Spesis ini tinggal di kawasan pesisir Tropika. Aerodramus Fuciphagus mempunyai sayap yang kecil dan panjang untuk membolehkan ia terbang dengan pantas, dan mempunyai paruh yang kecil yang dikelilingi bulu-bulu pendek untuk menangkap serangga yang berterbangan.
    Satu fakta yang menarik mengenai burung ini, mengapa ia harus diperolehi kerana mempunyai air liur yang mahal. Sarangnya yang dihasilkan daripada air liur ini mempunyai khasiat yang tinggi dan merupakan satu makanan kesihatan yang teragung di dunia.  Sup sarang burung yang dihasilkan adalah merupakan sup yang termahal di dunia.

Sarang Burung Swiftlet
Di dalam masyarakat cina mereka beranggapan sarang burung merupakan tonik kesihatan yang efektif. Sarang ini dihasilkan oleh burung walit yang mengeluarkan hasil dalam bentuk gel yang kaya dengan tenaga. Para penyelidik moden telah mendapati ianya mengandungi kualiti kesihatan. Sarang burung ialah datang dari lelangit burung walit, yang mengandungi makanan penyubur yang tinggi di mana masyarakat cina memanggilnya sebagai “kesan keremajaan”. Para saintis moden telah membantu golongan tua untuk mempercayai bahawa sarang burung mengandungi protein (penting dalam hidup), vitamin dan pelbagai kandungan mineral.
    Kajian mendapati sarang burung mengandungi faktor pertumbuhan epidermal. Dengan ini menjelaskan kepada kita, pengamal herba cina selalu memilih sarang burung untuk mengubati penyakit tumbesaran terbantut dan tidak subur.
    Kajian penyelidik makmal juga mendapati sarang burung mengandungi glyco-protein dan penyerapan untuk sistem immunisasi. Penemuan kini menyokong dan menguatkan lagi bahawa sarang burung menggalakkan pertumbuhan dan pembaikan tisu badan. Bukan itu sahaja, sarang burung menguatkan lagi antibodi untuk melawan penyakit.

Khasiat Sarang Burung
Masyarakat Cina mempercayai bahawa setiap kepingan air liur begitu kaya dengan protein dan vitamin. Kaum perempuan beranggapan sarang burung adalah salah satu ramuan kecantikan. Mereka juga percaya bahawa kandungan protein dan vitamin yang terdapat pada sarang burung boleh membantu melicinkan kulit dan awet muda. Sarang Burung juga baik untuk paru-paru, penghadaman dan membantu melindungi kekeringan menyeluruh semasa menjana sistem imunisasi.

Ciri-Ciri Aerodramus Fuciphagus
Bentuk badan dan sayap.
Aerodramus Fugiphagus mempunyai badan yang ringan dan slim serta mempunyai sayap yang panjang kira-kira 24 cm. Keadaan ini membolehkan burung walit terbang di udara tanpa perlu rehat untuk sepanjang hari.

Warna bulu burung.
Kelabu gelap, manakala di bawah dada burung ini berwarna kelabu cerah.

Ia mempunyai mata yang bulat dan mempunyai pandangan yang sangat tajam bagi membolehkan ia melihat mangsa (serangga terbang yang kecil) dari jauh dan boleh melihat ruang masuk ke tempat tinggalnya dengan tepat.

Burung walit memiliki deria bau yang mana manusia tidak memilikinya.

Ia juga mampu terbang dengan pantas di dalam gelap.

Burung walit memiliki kaki yang sangat kecil dan lemah yang menyebabkan ianya tidak boleh berjalan.

Habitat Pemakanan
Tabiat pemakanan burung walit adalah :

Seawal jam 5 pagi, burung walit akan meninggalkan rumahnya dan terbang untuk mencari makanan. Pada waktu ini, burung-burung ini hanya berterbangan di kawasan yang berdekatan dengan tempat tinggal mereka sahaja. Mereka akan terbang di kawasan tanah lapang seperti sawah padi dan juga tempat-tempat lain yang berdekatan. Lebih kurang jam 6 pagi sesetengah daripada mereka akan pulang ke tempat tinggal untuk mengeram dan menjaga anak yang baru menetas.

Lebih kurang jam 7 – 9 pagi, burung-burung ini akan terbang semula mencari makanan di kawasan pertanian ataupun di taman-taman untuk menangkap serangga kecil yang berterbangan. Mereka akan pulang semula ke kediaman mereka kerana selepas waktu itu tidak terdapat banyak makanan di kawasan berkenaan.

Selepas itu, spesis ini pergi ke kawasan pedalaman berair untuk mencari makanan. Kira-kira jam 3-5 petang, mereka akan ke padang semula dan akhirnya pulang ke tempat tinggal mereka.

Pengurusan Rumah Aerodramus

Membina tempat tinggal burung.

Faktor-faktor yang harus diambilkira di dalam membina tempat tinggal burung walit adalah :

Mengambilkira kriteria persekitaran dalaman iaitu:
     • kadar suhu yang stabil, 25˚C – 35˚C
     • tahap kelembapan yang tinggi, di antara 80%-95%.
     • keadaan kegelapan tidak melebihi 1 lux.

Untuk membina kediaman yang digemari oleh burung walit ianya haruslah memenuhi ciri-ciri berikut :
     •keadaan bumbung yang dibuat daripada bahan pejal      •yang boleh memberi reflek kepada bahang matahari.
     •sistem pengudaraan yang baik.
     •kawasan yang gelap menjadi kegemaran kepada        burung layang-layang untuk dijadikan tempat tinggal        mereka.

Supaya membolehkan spesis ini memasuki tempat tinggal, lubang segiempat yang berwarna hitam haruslah digunakan sebagai pintu masuk dan keluar. Ia juga dikenali sebagai “kotak sabun”.


Pengurusan tempat tinggal burung.

Proses menguruskan tempat tinggal burung walit terbahagi kepada empat peringkat :

1.Pengubahsuaian bangunan kepada tempat tinggal burung     mengikut peraturan di bawah akta pembangunan dan     perumahan tempatan.
2.Penggunaan peralatan moden untuk mengawal tahap     kelembapan dan juga untuk mengawal tahap kelembapan     udara yang tinggi dan keadaan yang lain supaya     bersesuaian dengan spesis ini.
3. Memahami tabiat burung walit
4.Haruslah mengetahui masa yang sesuai untuk memungut     sarang burung dan memastikan tahap kebersihan tempat     tinggal burung yang akan menghasilkan sarang burung     yang berkualiti.


Add comment May 17th, 2006

Recipe: Peanut Butter Bird’s Nests, Chocolate Egg Nests, Butterscotch Nests
Peanut Butter Bird’s Nests
Each batch makes approximately 14 nests

1 bag Reeses peanut butter chips (10 oz. )
1 TBSP. solid shortening (Crisco)
1 large can (5oz.) LaChoy thin chow mein noodles
1 bag pastel colored M&M peanut candy

Melt entire bag of chips and 1 tbsp. of shortening slowly in microwave or in double boiler on stove top. If using microwave, heat full power in intervals of 30 seconds at a time and then less as chips begin to melt. You want
the chips and shortening to be well blended and creamy and hot. DO NOT OVERCOOK!!!

Immediately pour the can of chow mien noodles into the peanut butter mixture and toss lightly to coat noodles.
Avoid crunching noodles. Using a spatula can help. Do this quickly, making sure the noodles are evenly coated.
Drop by spoonfuls onto WAX PAPER and gently form into the shape of a nest, leaving a hollowed area in the center in which you immediately place three M&M peanut candies or jelly beans for the “birds eggs”.



Melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly. Mix the
chow mein noodles into chocolate carefully so not to break them into smaller pieces. When the chocolate is cooled sufficiently to handle, mold this mixture into small bird shaped nests. Before the mixture has time to harden, place the jelly beans or small candy easter eggs in the bowl of the nest. They will stay put when mixture cools. Easy and fun to make.Useyour imagination as to items you could place in the nests.


6 ounces butterscotch morsels
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 ounce can chow mein noodles
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Melt morsels and marshmallows together. Stir in
peanut butter. Add noodles until thoroughly coated.
Shape into nests with hands. May need to reshape as
cooling. Chill until set. Fill with robin egg malted balls.

Add comment May 16th, 2006

Taste for Swiftlet’s Edible Nest Is Lowering Its Numbers
by Jagdeep S. Chhokar and Satish A. Pande
Three birders from Pune in the state of Maharashtra in western India were putting together an illustrated book entitled Birds of the Kokan and the Western Ghats. Satish A. Pande, Vishwas Katdare, and Ram Mone decided to visit Vengurla Rocks, located seven miles off the south coast of Maharashtra in the Arabian Sea, to collect information on the status of terns and edible-nest swiftlets.

The Indian edible-nest swiftlet is a slender, sparrow-size, brown bird with a slightly forked tail. The male produces a long, gelatinous strand of condensed saliva from the sublingual salivary glands, which is then wound into a half-cup nest, bonded to a The relatively tasteless nests are sometimes prepared in soup mixed with chicken, spices, and other flavors as an aphrodisiac, which makes them a much sought-after property. Analysis of bird-nest soup, however, has not revealed any special medicinal value.

Currently, Hong Kong is believed to be the largest consumer of bird nests, importing about a hundred tons every year, at a price of about U.S. $25 million. The major suppliers are Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, southern parts of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. The value of nests has increased substantially in recent years due to restricted supplies. Poachers no longer wait for the chicks to fledge before collecting the nests, which has dramatically decreased the swiftlets’ population. Naturalists are concerned that this species may become extinct in five to ten years if the current rates of exploitation are not checked.

At dawn on April 8, 2001, after an hour-long boat ride from the fishing hamlet of Niwati-Medha, the birders landed at the Old Lighthouse Island. On the underside of a lighthouse dome, they discovered about 30 swiftlet nests. This was an exciting discovery, since this nesting site had not been previously recorded. They then moved on to the easternmost Burnt Island, known to be an active nesting site.

As they walked toward the caves, they saw a large number of swiftlets sweeping through the sky above them. On reaching the top of a cliff, they saw birds disappearing into the ground. Closer investigation revealed an opening to a large cave. Inside the dimly lit cavern they were amazed to see bamboo scaffolding built along its wall, a sign that poachers had discovered this remote haven.

They could not negotiate the 22-yard (20-meter) vertical cliff face at the entrance of the cave, so one of the birders swam around the island to another entrance, negotiating the barnacle-studded, sea-urchin-covered sharp rocks, lacerating his hands and feet in the process. When he reached the entrance, he saw thousands of edible-nest swiftlets nesting in the cave’s dark recesses.

Nests were constructed from about three feet (one meter) from the ground all the way to the roof. The nest density varied from 20 per square yard to 40 per square yard, resulting in a conservative estimate of 3,000 nests. All the nests were attended by swiftlets that frequently entered and exited the cave, navigating by echolocation and occasionally dashing against the birders. The nests were pearly white, shiny, sticky, and spongy. From the near-complete state of the nests, the birders concluded that eggs would be laid in just a few days.

As the birders made their way back to Niwati-Medha for the night, they were extremely concerned about nest poaching and the destruction of eggs and chicks.

They invited the villagers to view a video they had made of the day’s discovery. The villagers were surprised by the scaffolding and said that it was probably the work of visitors from the southern part of India who claimed they came to collect pigeon droppings from the cave for medicinal purposes every April and September, just before and after the monsoon season. The villagers could not explain why scaffolding was required to collect bird droppings from the floor of the cave, and they were not aware of the swiftlets and their unique saliva nests. They seemed shocked to learn about the trade in the swiftlet nests for culinary and aphrodisiac purposes in the Far East.

As soon as the birders returned to Pune on April 10th, they contacted the officials of the Forest Department responsible for the protection of wildlife. They also contacted and wrote letters to Forest Department officials urging that the scaffolding be removed and the entrance and two skylights be blocked with iron grids that would permit free access to birds but not to humans. Immediate action was necessary because the poachers were expected to return any time. They also phoned the Conservator of Forests. He was unaware of the situation but offered assurance that Forest Department officials would visit the island on Monday, April 16th, since the next days were public holidays.

Not satisfied with this response, one of the birders contacted the Deputy Conservator of Forests in whose jurisdiction the islands were located. He, too, said that the earliest he could send someone would be Monday. The birders felt frustrated, as their sense of urgency did not seem to be fully shared.
Ultimately, they felt that their case needed public support, and they persuaded a local newspaper to publish the news in its editions for the state of Maharashtra on April 15th. When Monday evening came, the birders discovered that the forest authorities still had not left for the island. In the meantime, they received a phone call from a Niwati-Medha fisherman informing them that a gang of about ten poachers had landed on the rocks that afternoon. The fisherman had watched the video in the village and decided to make the phone call on his own initiative. The newspaper had further convinced him of the urgency of the birders’ efforts.

Alarmed, the birders contacted the Deputy Conservator of Forests again—mercifully he was still in his office at 9 p.m. He promised to dispatch a couple of men to the rocks the next day. He wasdvised that since there were about ten poachers, a larger group of armed forest guards would be necessary. Early the next morning, the birders also contacted the Coast Guard in Bombay, who agreed to send a helicopter and a boat if necessary.

On April 17 at 6 a.m., 15 range forest officers arrived at the rocks. They caught five poachers, equipped with modern rappelling gear, in possession of six bags of bird nests.

Subsequently, they removed the scaffolding and initiated the process of declaring the rocks a protected area and the family to which the swiftlets belong—Apodidae—as protected.

It was learned during the investigation that the poachers were mere collectors. Based on their information, a key operator was arrested in Trichy in south India about 932 miles from the location of the caves. He was reported to have said that there was no market for the bird nests in India and that these were collected by agents from the Far East. This gives an indication of how widespread the nexus of poachers and exploiters of nature and wildlife is, and what those involved in conservation have to contend with.

This incident shows that it is possible for amateur birders and active concerned citizens to make significant contributions to the cause of conservation. The fact that a fisherman from the small hamlet decided to inform the birders of the arrival of poachers attests to the importance of spreading environmental awareness among local people. Perhaps by working together, we can save the Indian edible-nest swiftlets for future generations.

Jagdeep S. Chhokar, Ph.D., is a member of the Indian Bird Conservation Network, a life member of the Bombay Natural History Society, and professor and dean at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, India. Satish A. Pande, M.D., has published a number of books and articles on birds and ecology-related issues. Vishwas Katdare and Ram Mone are active members of Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra, a conservation organization.

Add comment May 16th, 2006

Sarang Burung Wallet

Siapa sih yang belum pernah mendengar sarang burung walet? Seperti yang sudah kita ketahui, sarang burung walet yang asli harganya mahal banget. Dan yang sampe sekarang kita ketahui juga kalo harga sarang burung walet itu mahal karena (katanya sih..) burung walet itu suka membuat sarang di gunung – gunung yang tinggi (bahkan di puncak dan ujung tebing..wuih..). Dan untuk mengambil sarang burung walet harus menggunakan pendaki – pendaki yang sudah sangat berpengalaman.

Dan mungkin aja sarang burung walet ini merupakan sarang burung yang paling mahal di dunia (sejauh yang kita ketahui). Bayangin aja de..1 ons sarang burung walet yang kurang lebih terdiri dari 10 buah sarang dengan kualitas baik bisa dijual dengan harga 1,4 juta rupiah!! Dan katanya si..orang – orang rela membayar mahal sebab sarang burung walet ini dipercayai mempunyai khasiat mampu menyembuhkan berbagai penyakit, mulai dari kelas ringan sampai kelas berat.

Umumnya, sarang burung walet disajikan dalam bentuk sup. Dan dapat kita temukan di restoran – restoran Cina. Sebenarnya, pengkonsumsian sarang burung walet ini bukanlah hal yang baru. Malah, sudah sejak abad 14, sarang burung ini dimanfaatkan sebagai makanan. Di Cina, sup sarang burung walet (birdnest soup) merupakan makanan favorit para raja dan bangsawan. Dan menurut cerita yang masih beredar sampe sekarang (mitos kali..) kaisar Ming sangat menggemari sup yang satu ini. Mungkin karena cerita atau mitosnya itulah, maka sup sarang burung walet dijadikan simbol makanan yang mewah dan bergengsi dan sangat mahal harganya.

Tetapi, pengkonsumsian sarang burung walet di Indonesia bisa dikatakan tergolong rendah, hampir 90% sarang burung walet diekspor ke luar negri. Pengkonsumsian sarang burung walet inipun masih ada bedanya. Kalo di Singapore dan Malaysia, lebih menyukai sarang burung yang mengandung lumut (moss nest), yang biasanya diambil dari gua – gua karang di tepi pantai. Sehingga warnanya pun tidak sebersih sarang burung walet yang dibudidayakan di atap – atap rumah. Katanya si, rasanya lebih kenyal dan tidak cepat pecah saat dimasak. Sedangkan Cina dan Indonesia lebih menyukai sarang burung yang putih bersih.

Untuk menentukan kualitas dari sarang burung walet, ada syarat – syarat tertentu yang harus dipenuhi, misalnya ketebalan sarang. Seperti yang kita ketahui, sarang burung itu dibuat dari air liur burung walet tersebut. Setiap hari, sepasang walet betina dan jantan bergantian membuat sehelai sarang dengan cara mengoleskan air liur mereka ke dinding gua, dinding tebing, ataupun atap rumah. Ingat..Satu satu hari hanya mengoleskan satu helai sarang aja. Jadi jangan heran, untuk membuat sarang saja dibutuhkan waktu sekitar 33-41 hari. Malah, pada saat musim kemarau, pembuatan sarang bisa lebih lama, sekitar 80 hari.

Kualitas itulah yang menetukan harga atau nilai dari sarang burung walet tersebut. Sarang burung dengan kualitas sempurna yaitu memiliki bentuk seperti mangkuk, dindingnya tebal, kuat dengan tinggi kira – kira 5 cm, serta bersih tidak tercemar kotoran, bisa dijual dengan harga yang cukup tinggi. Sebaliknya, sarang burung yang kualitasnya rendah, yaitu yang serat – seratnya tidak utuh, kotor, serta bentuknya cacat, hanya bisa dijual dengan harga murah.

Terdapat dua jenis sarang burung bila dilihat dari warnanya. Ada sarang burung putih yang seluruhnya terbuat dari air liur burung walet, dan sarang burung hitam, yang terbuat dari campuran air liur dan bulu – bulu burung. Sarang burung walet yang berwarna putih lebih mahal harganya. Sarang burung yang putih bersih, harganya bisa mencapai 14 juta rupiah/kg, sedang yang hitam paling hanya sekitar 1 atau 2 juta/kg. Ada juga, sarang burung yang memiliki serat – serat merah di sarangnya seperti darah. Itu harganya jauh lebih mahal lagi, yaitu sekitar 17 juta/kg.

Nah, udah tau kan seluk beluk mengenai sarang burung walet ini..?? Gimana? Ada yang berniat untuk mencoba?

Add comment May 15th, 2006

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