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Raptor Watch Weekend: See Migrating Birds of Prey Up Close

PNB Ilham Resort, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia; March 12-13, 2011

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What is it? Raptor Watch Weekend is an annual ecotourism event held on the first weekend of March. The event celebrates the migration of raptors (birds of prey) flying back to their breeding grounds further north.

Is that all? Not if you're talking about thousands of birds migrating from their summer haunts in Sumatra, flying back to their usual hunting grounds in Japan, Korea, and as far north as Siberia.

Tanjung Tuan is an important rest stop for migratory raptors, a place where they can recharge for a night or so before continuing their long trek northward. Visitors to Tanjung Tuan can get a rare chance to see goshawks, honey-buzzards, sparrowhawks, and many other avian species in flight.

Who organized it? The event was organized by the Malaysian Nature Society and the Melaka State Government.

What's the history behind it? The Malaysian Nature Society organized the Raptor Watch Weekend partly to bring attention to the need to protect Tanjung Tuan from human encroachment.

Tanjung Tuan is ripe for development - sadly, it's also one of Negri Sembilan's last coastal forest areas. Once developers snap up the precious coastal areas to build resorts and hotels, migrating raptors will lose an important rest stop, and Malaysia's ecological diversity will take a big hit.

Save Tanjung Tuan, and the rest of the ecosystem benefits as well. "The conservation of Tanjung Tuan is important for its surrounding marine life and its forest growth," the official website tells us. "The trees in Tanjung Tuan acts a gene bank for tropical timber trees and the waters of Tanjung Tuan is rich with coral and sea-grass, both important for green turtles that lay eggs in secluded beaches."

What activities can I join? Raptor Watch Weekend's many events underscore the ecological diversity of the area, and are not simply limited to watching birds fly by. A series of games, talks, performances, and exhibitions have been lined up by the Malaysian Nature Society, with activities geared for both young and old.

From the PNB Ilham Resort, attendees can take short walks through the nearby coastal rainforest, or join the Lighthouse Run up the steps of the Tanjung Tuan lighthouse, or visit the Ma Da'erah Turtle Sanctuary next door. A photography contest is also planned for the event.

The light house is an attraction in itself - built by the British in the 1700s on the site of an older Portuguese light house. Despite its age, it's still active today, sweeping the Straits of Melaka from the highest point on the cape, and providing an attractive race route for Lighthouse Run racers.

Where's it going down, and how do I get there? Raptor Watch Weekend will take place at PNB Ilham Resort, a government-owned resort at the edge of Cape Rachado on the Straits of Melaka.

Ilham Resort and Training Centre
10 Mile, Tanjung Biru, Port Dickson,
71050 Negeri Sembilan Darul Khusus,
Malaysia

The official Raptor Watch website offers a detailed explanation of the route.

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