sign in a cave in Laos

15 September 2023

Gunung Kanthan cave monastery in danger from destruction 2023

It looks like the Dhamma Sakyamuni Caves Monastery at Gunung Kanthan, Perak is in danger again. The Court of Appeal’s recent decision means the likely forced eviction of the occupants of the monastery. The Court has made a unanimous decision in favour of Associated Pan Malayan Cement (APMC), a subsidiary of YTL, in a land dispute case under Order 89, against the Malaysia Dhamma Sakyamuni Monastery. APMC won its appeal after the company sought a High Court order in Ipoh in January 2022.

Once again there could be imminent destruction of the century-old monastery and also the Gunung Kanthan unique distinctive karst landscape, as well as the endemic flora and fauna.

On 13 Sept 2023, Badan Warisan issued a media statement about their concern on the Court of Appeal’s decision involving the forced eviction of the occupants of Dhamma Sakyamuni Monastery at Gunung Kanthan, north of Ipoh in Perak. See the statement.

There is also a petition "Save Sakyamuni Caves Monastery, Save Gunung Kanthan ", which needs as many signatures as possible.


Media reports :

FMT 8 Sept Cement company wins appeal to evict century-old Perak monastery

NST 9 Sept 100-year-old Buddhist monastery in Perak faces eviction after losing court battle

NST 12 Sept Preserved by a century old monastery, five-million-year-old limestone hill may now make way for cement factory

NST 12 Sept Abbot of century-old Buddhist monastery expresses disappointment over court eviction 

NST 15 Sept Abbot of century-old Perak Buddhist monastery not moving out, will continue fight

NST 16 Sept SAM disappointed over court decision to evict Buddhist monastery in Gunung Kanthan

FMT 17 Sept Perak govt sets up panel to study eviction of century-old monastery

NST 17 Sept Special committee to study Gunung Kanthan monastery issue

Astro Awani video on youtube 18 Sept Consider This: Gunung Kanthan — Perak’s Quarrying Dilemma

FMT 26 Sept We’re not budging from cave monastery, says abbot

14 June 2023

86,000-year-old human bone found in Laos cave

 News emerged in mid June 2023 about 86,000-year-old human bone found in Laos cave. The cave is Tam Pà Ling, or Cave of the Monkeys, located about 3,840 feet (1,170 m) above sea level at the top of Pa Ling mountain in northeastern Laos. See Wikipedia on Tam Pa Ling. 

Hominin fossils have been found by researchers since 2009 and there were more significant finds in 2013. Dating the bones  indicated a maximum age of 63,000 years, this would be the earliest skeletal evidence for the presence of Homo sapiens in mainland Southeast Asia.

The articles released in June 2023 reports fragments of a human shin bone and skull have been dated at 86,000 years. This pushes back the earliest known date of Homo sapiens in Southeast Asia. The study was reported in Nature Communications on June 13 "Early presence of Homo sapiens in Southeast Asia by 86–68 kyr at Tam Pà Ling, Northern Laos". 

See also an article in Live Science and another in New Scientist.

26 April 2023

Batu Caves now part of a new Geopark

 In March 2023 it was announced that the new Gombak-Hulu Langat Geopark had been established. This is in Selangor, Malaysia. The Geopark includes Batu Caves and Damai park, as well as Bukit Takun, and the Klang Gates quartz ridge.

The Gombak-Hulu Langat Geopark (GHL) was certified as a national geopark on 13 March. 

See article in The Star 23 April "Malaysia's new geopark is a geological wonder that's just an hour from KL". 

It is the 7th national geopark. Others with karst area are Langkawi, Kinta Valley and Lenggong.

26 March 2023

Tourist dies at Tiger Cave viewpoint, Krabi. Thailand

 In March 2023 an Australian tourist died at the viewpoint above Tiger Cave near Krabi. Thailand. 

Tiger Cave temple or Wat Tham Suea is a popular tourist attraction, just outside the town of Krabi. The cave is at ground level. It is a Buddhist meditation centre. There are other caves in the area.

Another attraction is climbing the stairs to the viewpoint at the top of the hill. When I was there in 1995, there were 1237 steps up a single stairway. But the stairs have been rebuilt and now there are 1260 steps to the top. At the top is a large golden statue of Buddha and Buddha's footprint.

The Australian man died at the top of the viewpoint.

The view in 1995 ! :

There are lots of macaques around the area

Signboard in the valley showing some of the other caves. The forested circular valley is a wang, with a sacred tree in the centre and the caves are around the cliff walls. 
The caves are : Miusua Cave, Loogtan Cave, Loop Cave, Pla Lai Cave, Lublare Cave, Chang Kheaw Cave, Snake Cave, Jaed Chan Cave, Theawada Cave.

See accident report in TheThaiger , and on MSN news.

See more on Tiger Cave in Wikipedia.

27 December 2022

Caribbean Union Island gecko

 Not related to southeast Asia, but interesting as it is about protecting an endangered gecko, and of course there are many endemic and some endangered geckos in Asian caves. 

BBC news on 26 Dec 2022 featured a tiny gecko that lives in just one part of an eastern Caribbean island. This is Union Island, part of the nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. 

"Army of islanders to protect gecko the size of a paperclip". The article says how the Union islanders are

"on a mission to protect one of the world's tiniest species - one so rare it exists in just 50 hectares (123 acres) in a remote corner of one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean.

The Union Island gecko is the size of a paperclip, critically endangered and facing an insidious enemy - poachers.

Following its official discovery in 2005, the unique creature quickly became a coveted curio by collectors enthralled by its gem-like markings, earning it the dubious distinction of the most trafficked reptile in the Eastern Caribbean."

Since 2017 the islanders have trained as wardens and now patrol the dense forests to look for intruders. As a result the gecko population has soared " from 10,000 in 2018 to around 18,000 now - outnumbering the island's human population six-fold".

International conservationists are involved including Fauna and Flora International (FFI). The gecko has been protected by international treaty CITES since 2019.

The gecko is very pretty and changes colour when brought into the light from dark brown to multi-coloured. Photo by FFI/J BOCK from BBC :

See more on the Union Island gecko.

The gecko has been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. 

8 September 2022

Stone Age limb amputation from Kalimantan cave

  On 7 Sept 2022 news in the media about a Stone Age limb amputation from a cave in Kalimantan, Borneo.

Sky News "Stone Age human skeleton in Borneo provides evidence of earliest known surgical limb amputation"

The article says this is the earliest known limb amputation found on a human skeleton. The foot was found to have been surgically removed when the patient was a child. The patient was known to be alive at the time and recovered.  This happened about 31,000 years ago. The skeleton is of a young person. It was found in Liang Tebo cave in East Kalimantan. This area also has some of the world's oldest known rock art.

The people at that time would have been foragers. It looks like they had medical knowledge including how to prevent infections. The surgeon had knowledge of anatomy and was able to prevent blood loss and serious infection. The wound healed and the child is thought to have lived another 6 to 9 years before dying and being buried in the cave. 

Until now, the oldest known complex operation was carried out on a Neolithic farmer from France about 7,000 years ago. His left forearm was surgically removed and then partially healed.

The research article was published in Nature on 7 Sept, "Surgical amputation of a limb 31,000 years ago in Borneo"

And a BBC report "Earliest evidence of amputation found in Indonesia cave".

30 September 2021

Human jaw bone found in Maros cave, Sulawesi

The rock art in the caves in Maros, south Sulawesi, have been widely documented over the years. Now we have news that a Pleistocene human jawbone has been found in Leang Bulu Bettue cave. This is the first indication of humans during that time period. The jawbone, complete with teeth, has been dated to between 25,000 and 16,000 years old. The Australian archaeologists haven't been able to determine the sex or age of the person. The results were published in PLoS One, Sept 29 2021

Additional news about another find - 

In August a different team announced the recovery of genetic material from a 7,000-year-old skeleton from Leang Panninge in Maros. The skeleton was found in 2015 and was the first relatively complete human burial from the "Toalean" society. It was deduced the skeleton was a 17–18-year-old female with a broadly Australo-Melanesian affinity. She was buried in a flexed position, probably 7300-7200 years BP . The extracted DNA shows the remains belonged to a woman who was 18 years old when she died during the Holocene. Article published in Nature, 25 August 2021.

So the jawbone is a lot older than the 7000 year old skeleton. Researchers will continue digging to try and find more bones. The new find pushes back Homo sapiens’ existence on Sulawesi by thousands of years.