sign in a cave in Laos

3 April 2020

Memorial issue to Tony Whitten

Tony Whitten tragically died in a road traffic accident in Dec 2017. In March 2020 the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology produced a memorial issue dedicated to Tony, Supplement No 35. See more on my website.

Tony was very actively involved with trying to protect Gunung Kanthan from quarrying, see this blog. The hill and caves are home to the endemic Liphiustius kanthan.

Some relevant articles in the RBZ special issue :

BROWNE, Stephen (2020) Foreward. RBZ, Supplement No. 35: pp v-vi.
This has an interesting piece about Tony and Liphistius kanthan.

LIEW, Thor-Seng &  CLEMENTS, Gopalasamy Reuben (2020) Whittenia, a new genus of land snails from Perak, Peninsular Malaysia (Gastropoda: Diplommatinidae). RBZ, Supplement No. 35: 143–148.
"This paper proposes a new genus, Whittenia, for a group of irregularly coiled land snail species hitherto placed in the genus Opisthostoma. Whittenia differs from congeners in Diplommatinidae based on both molecular phylogeny and shell morphology. We reassign two previously described species (Opisthostoma vermiculum and O. gittenbergeri) to Whittenia. Both species are endemic to the limestone karsts of Kinta Valley in Perak, Peninsular Malaysia."
This genus is named after Tony Whitten.

ANON (2020) The Tony Whitten conservation prize. RBZ, Supplement No. 35: pp 15–16.
One recipient of a prize was Junn Kitt Foon, for his work on conservation and taxonomy of land snails in Malaysia. Tony had a particular interest in snails.

FOON, Junn Kitt & MOHAMMAD Effendi Marzuki (2020) Two new species of land snails of the genus Rahula from Peninsular Malaysia (Gastropoda: Euconulidae). RBZ, Supplement No. 35: 137–142.
This paper describes 2 new snail species, one of which is named after Tony, Rahula tonywhitteni .

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Malaysian taxa named for Tony Whitten , RBZ, Supplement No. 35: p 9 :

Plectostoma whitteni Liew, Vermeulen, Marzuki, & Schilthuizen, 2014: 63 (a micro-landsnail from
Malaysia)

Rahula tonywhitteni Foon & Marzuki, 2020: 141 (a land snail from Malaysia)


Whittenia Liew & Clements, 2020: 144 (a land snail from Malaysia)

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See more on my website, on Archives 2020.


23 March 2020

Jeff's Cellar aka Tambun Hot Springs Cave, Perak

I don't seem to have blogged about Jeff's Cellar at Tambun, Perak. When I first knew about it, it was still a bit hush hush, but now it is openly publicised.

On my website under Uses of Caves, I have written "A cave in Tambun, Perak was taken over as a private wine cellar. Prior to conversion the resident bats were all killed and the natural entrances blocked and large air conditioners installed, so I would imagine the atmosphere inside has changed considerably. On 24 Jan 2010 The Star did a feature on one of the Tambun caves being used for relaxation and meditation as part of a luxury spa complex. This has since been well published in the media. The wine cellar cave became part of this complex. The wine cellar has since been expanded into a fine dining restaurant.

I first went to the cave in May 2003. I wrote in my diary "the cave is opposite the hot springs, on the corner of the hill. Duck under an arch then steps up to 2 chambers with bats. Nice stal in the larger chamber and a passage leading off. The entrance of the cave was covered with a bat net and had many dead bats in it." I collected a few of the bat skulls and they were identified as Eonycteris spelaea. I called it Tambun Hot Springs Cave, register No. Prk 38/04.

I went back in Aug 2003 and "the entrance steps had been cleared, and lighting installed inside with a switch box at the entrance. The net had gone. The bat chamber was completely empty of bats. The main chamber is roughly 200' long and one whole wall is stal, but dirty and black. Few bats at the end and I collected some collembola from he guano in the gour pools. The cave would be really nice if the stals were clean. I wonder if the net was there to trap the bats to get rid of them".

My next visit was Nov 2003, there had been no progress. A couple of bats in the bat chamber and fruit bats at the end.

I didn't return until Jan 2006. The site was gated and the cave called Jeff's Wine Cellar.

In Feb 2008 I was able to have an unofficial look inside the cave but could only take 1 photo. It was being used as a private wine cellar, Jeff is Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah, head of Sunway.



"Steps lead up to the wooden doors, there are toilets on the left and a pantry on the right and the Japanese torture chamber. There is a wood floor throughout and the place has air con. There is a karaoke room in the lower chamber. The passage turns right into the main chamber and is quite stunning as all the stal is gently lit and looked great. Several seating areas, a couch with mirror, and more seats directly over the hidden wine cellar. Some material "sails" covering the ceiling. Lots of empty wine bottles throughout, some concrete covering the walls and air con units hidden. 14 seater dining table. Main passage has the stal dividing the passage going out. Main bar here. This entrance, where the bat net was, is totally covered by glass,restricting the area. Balcony looks out. Went back and the stairs by the portraits led up to the main bar. A wishing well outside". I wondered if the air flow would be badly restricted.

I haven't been back since. The bar has been turned into a fine dining restaurant and there have been various press reports.. The Malay Mail 28 July 2018 “Fancy dining in a cave? Head on over to Tambun” is a detailed article with lots of photos. The Star 23 Jan 2019 "Silver state’s impressive tourism finds".

Liz in Malay Mail 2015 - repeat

In Oct 2015 there was an article about me in the Malay Mail, see my blog. I recently found that this has been reprinted on Emily's blog in Sept 2019. She mentioned the Malay Mail is now defunct, but it is still going!




1 December 2019

Sinkholes in Kuala Lumpur

At the end of Nov 2019 there were 3 sinkholes within 3 days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The first one was in Jalan Maharajalala and was 3 m wide and a car fell in. Photo from the NST


Sinkholes are not uncommon in limestone and much of KL is built on limestone, but apparently these 3 sinkholes occured in the Kenny Hill formation, which occurs over a large part of the city.
“This is quartzite and phyllite — very strong, hard rocks that have weathered over hundreds of million years."

The holes are thought to have been due to fast flowing water.

See more on NST on 30 Nov.

2 August 2019

Judi Dench visits Gomantong

In July 2019, ITV on English TV showed a 2 part documentary on Dame Judi Dench's visit to Borneo. I wrote about it on my webpage, "Judi Dench's wild Borneo Adventure". In the second part of the programme, there was a few minutes coverage of Judi's visit to Gomantong.

I took some screenshots :



The famous guano pile that every documentary covers

A photo taken from my Gomantong blog, showing the same guano pile



5 July 2019

Update on the writing in Gua Datuk, Gng Rapat

The Star on 27 April 2019 had an article about writing found in Gua Datuk, near Ipoh, in Perak, Malaysia. See my blog.

On 2 May The Star had a further article, "Japanese writings found on cave walls". There is an interesting photo of some of the writing with the translation.

"The cave, where the Japanese writings were discovered, is believed to have once housed a temple started by a Nichiren Shu priest.
Nichiren Shu is a Buddhist school in Japan, founded by Nichiren Daishonin, that teaches and practises the Lotus Sutra (Buddha’s teachings) more than 750 years ago.
Experts from the state Park Corporation, Tourism Perak, Minerals and Geoscience, Heritage and Museum departments visited the cave last Friday.
Penang Nichiren Shu Temple committee member and a researcher (for the temple) Alexandar Ang said that he and several members discovered the inscriptions in 2011 after an extensive nine-year search.
This had come about after a priest mentioned to them about an old temple located within a hot spring area in Ipoh.
Ang said the inscriptions were in kanji, a system of Japanese writing using Chinese characters.
There was an inscription stating the “second year of Taisho era in 1913”, which was a form of Japanese calendaring, he said.
“The temple was founded in 1913 by a priest referred to as Rev Baba from Kumamoto, Kyushu in Japan.
“It was named Ganryuzan Hokekyoji, and at a point in time the temple had 290 devotees comprising 80% local Chinese and Indians, 5% Japanese and 15% foreign nationals,” he said.
However, local experts and historians have yet to verify the writings.
There are currently three Nichiren Shu temples in the country – Klang, Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
Ang said the temple served as a place to learn and practise Shakyamuni Buddha’s Dharma.
Another committee member, William Tan, hoped that the writings would be preserved as a living heritage.
He said the cave was mainly used as a temple to propagate Buddhist teachings.
Last week, state Tourism, Arts and Culture Committee chairman Tan Kar Hing had spoken about the writings found in the cave.
The inscriptions, he said, were made before World War I.
He said the soldiers at the cave were probably intelligence troops then.
The cave is not open to the public for now."

1 July 2019

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River on Google doodle

On 30 June 2019 the Google doodle on the search page featured Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in the Philippines.


This is the text :

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park: Google Doodle Celebrates Puerto Princesa Underground River
By Hannah Barwell - June 30, 2019

Google celebrates the seventh anniversary of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance with an extraordinary doodle.

The doodle features the entrance of Puerto Princesa’s underground stream with a boat of travelers entering the world’s longest underground waterways at 8.2 kilometers which is also famous for its stalactite and stalagmite formation.

On this day in 2012, the Puerto Princesa Underground River became a protected site by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. It’s also a Philippines National Park .

“We are glad to showcase one of the country’s most treasured natural wonders through a special Doodle on the Puerto Princesa Underground River,” interim Country Manager for Google Philippines Ben King said.

He said it also serves as a nudge to travelers to help conserve the place.

“Aside from celebrating the destination, we hope that this effort serves as a reminder to do our part in conserving it.”

In 2012, Ramsar Convention, an international body created for the conservation of the important wetlands, tagged Puerto Princesa Underground River as “unique in the biogeographic region because it connects a range of important ecosystems from the mountain-to-the-sea, including a limestone karst landscape with a complex cave system, mangrove forests, lowland evergreen tropical rainforests, and freshwater swamps.”

An announcement discharged by Google says “We are glad to showcase one of the country’s most treasured natural wonders through a special Doodle on the Puerto Princesa Underground River,” interim Country Manager for Google Philippines Ben King said.

He said it also serves as a nudge to travelers to help conserve the place.

“Aside from celebrating the destination, we hope that this effort serves as a reminder to do our part in conserving it.”

In 2012, Ramsar Convention, an international body created for the conservation of the important wetlands, tagged Puerto Princesa Underground River as “unique in the biogeographic region because it connects a range of important ecosystems from the mountain-to-the-sea, including a limestone karst landscape with a complex cave system, mangrove forests, lowland evergreen tropical rainforests, and freshwater swamps.”.

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