sign in a cave in Laos

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. 


24 September 2021

Cave swiftlets found dead in Phattalung caves

 An article in The Thaiger 22 Sept 2021 "5 billion baht loss as birds’ nest producing swiftlets found dead".

Apparently over 1 million birds have been found dead, in 107 caves in Phattalung's 7 islands.

The article says :

"Phatthalung authorities have requested help from the Department of Special Investigation to investigate the death of birds. These were no ordinary birds though; they were swiftlets, the birds that produce the saliva that make birds’ nest, prized as a health delicacy. And it wasn’t a few birds, it was over a million birds found dead in caves where Siamnest company has the authority to collect their birds’ nest.

And the financial loss of these birds and the birds’ nests they produce has been estimated at about 5 billion baht.

The company has permission to access 107 caves in Phatthalung’s seven islands and they sent their collection teams to gather the birds’ nest between September 9 to September 17. When they arrived to the last cave, they discovered the remains of more than 1 million birds instead of the nests they were tasked with collecting.

The team found the remains of a fire and various trash strewn about including shoes and plastic bottles. After Siamnest involved the Phatthalung authorities, the Royal Thai Police joined the investigation of the mass death of the swiftlet birds.

Unlike most birds that make nests out of twigs or similar materials, swiftlets make theirs completely out of their unique saliva which solidifies to form the nest. These saliva nests are considered a delicacy, especially in Asian regions, for it’s believed healing powers. Birds’ nest soup is often made by steaming and soaking the saliva nests.

The nests are said to help with kidney health, phlegm reduction and are desired as an aphrodisiac as well. Harvesting companies have become big businesses due to the high price the unique birds’ nest can fetch, with companies like Siamnest getting exclusive access to areas the swiftlets nest or even creating artificial sanctuaries for swiftlets to nest.

Of note, disgraced police officer Pol Col Thitisan “Jo Ferrari” Utthanaphon, whose shocking wealth was revealed upon his arrest for suffocating a suspect in custody, was said to have made part of his fortune by trading birds’ nest.


The source of the above Thaiger article is The Nation , which has lots of photos:

Horrifying Phatthalung bird massacre costs Siamnest THB5-bn in lost revenue

A Royal Thai Police (RTP) team visited Phatthalung province on Monday to investigate the case of missing birds’ nests and the mass killing of swiftlets.

Siamnest company, which has the concession for collecting bird’s nests from the 107 caves in Phatthalung’s seven islands, sent its teams off to collect nests from September 9 to 17.

However, when the collectors arrived at the last cave, they found no nests but instead, the carcasses of more than a million birds, the remains of a fire and trash including plastic bottles and shoes.

The damage from this bird massacre has been estimated at about 5 billion baht.

Phatthalung authorities, meanwhile, have contacted the Department of Special Investigation to see if they will consider taking on the case.


I've been to several caves in Phattalung province mainland, but not islands -  see labels on the right.

27 April 2021

Gunung Kanthan media updates 2021

 This is an ongoing list of media reports about the quarrying of Gunung Kanthan in Perak, Malaysia. The earlier blogs are 2013 2014 , 2015 , and 2016-2020.

Gunung Kanthan is being quarried by Lafarge Msia, who changed its name to Malayan Cement in 2019. And YTL acquired Lafarge Msia stake. But YTL still calls Kanthan the Associated Pan Malaysia Cement (APMC) Kanthan Quarry.

Reports from 2021 :

Ipoh Echo , 12 Jan 
Appeal to Preserve Monastery in Gunung Kanthan [this was removed by the 14th]

Perak China Press , 13 Jan
Hundred-year "Sakyamuni Sacred Rock" hopes that the government approves it to stay in the original site

Perak China Press , 14 Jan
There is a potential risk of falling rocks in the Gongqiaoshan [Arch Bridge Mountain]
This included a media statement from Pan Malaysia Cement in English entitled “A tragedy waiting to happen – monastery built on volatile structure prone to limestone fall”.

Flora & Fauna International , 25 Jan
Mention of Kanthan trapdoor spider.

Sinar Harian , 5 Feb
Wartakan kawasan hutan batu kapur (Gazette the limestone forest area)
Gua Khantan, Chemor, has a spider habitat, namely Liphistius khantan, which is placed on the red list when the species is not found anywhere in the world.

Several videos on Youtube , 25 Apr
Published by the  Sakyamuni Caves Monastery :

Gunung Kanthan: Saving Sacred Gunung Kanthan, Beauty with Treasure
Gunung Kanthan expedition
Gunung Kanthan: 100 Years History of Sakyamuni Caves Monastery
Gunung Kanthan: Save 100-Year Sakyamuni Caves Monastery

YTL/APMC took the Sakyamuni Caves Monastery to court on 1 Apr but as the monks didn't have a lawyer, they were granted an extension until 17 May. It seems that area C will be blasted, leaving just area D, where Gua Kanthan is -

Bernama , 26 May 2021
Perak state authorities urged to conserve two Kinta geosites

The Star , 27 May 2021
"NGOs urge Perak govt to fully commit towards preservation of two geoparks in Kinta Valley"

The Sun . 27 May 2021
"Perak state authorities urged to conserve two Kinta Geosites"

The Vibes , 31 May 2021
Century-old Sakyamuni Cave Monastery faces eviction.
This is a particularly good article as it details court orders and some history of past eviction notices etc.

The Vibes , 1 June 2021
"Money over heritage: Sakyamuni eviction threatens natural treasure, says preservationist!

The Vibes , 2 June 2021
"Sakyamuni reveals one-of-a-kind golden Buddha statue as it faces eviction"

Malaysiakini , 5 June 2021
Kuari Gunung Kanthan: Tiada syarikat dapat kontrak baru - Exco Perak (Gunung Kanthan Quarry: No company gets new contract - Perak Exco)

The Star , 5 June 2021
More tourism activities planned for geoparks in Perak, says state govt

The Vibes , 5 June 2021
Perak exco rubbishes claim on new Gunung Kanthan quarrying contracts

The Vibes , 5 June 2021
YTL subsidiary assures Gua Kanthan protection, says awarded lease in 1960

Bernama , 5 June 2021
No new contract for quarry activities at Gunung Kanthan - Perak Exco 

The Sun , 5 June 2021
"More tourism activities planned for geoparks in Perak, says state govt"

The Sun , 6 June 2021
"Move to boost tourism at geoparks in Kinta district"

Bernama , 6 June 2021
Perak planning various tourism programmes for Kinta Valley Geopark

The Vibes , 8 June 2021
More quarrying will wipe out Gunung Kanthan’s endangered species, cry green groups

The Vibes , 14 June 2021
Quarrying fears at Gunung Kanthan geopark fuel anxiety at yet another cultural site

Getaran , 14 June 2021
Gunung Kanthan, Kenapa Sambung Kontrak Sebelum Dapatkan Ulasan Teknikal? - Gunung Kanthan, why continue the contract before getting technical reviews?

Save Sakyamuni Caves Monastery, Save Gunung Kanthan
An online petition to save the monastery

The Vibes , 22 June 2021
For or against temples on limestone hills? It’s delicate environmental issue, say experts.

Sin Chew , 28 June 2021

Oriental Daily , 28 June 2021
The government is urged to intervene in the forced relocation of the Sakyamuni Buddha Temple in Gunung Kanthan

Mongabay , 30 June 2021
Monks and wildlife come under pressure from Malaysian cement company

The Star , 5 July 2021
Cave monastery near Chemor fears eviction

The Malaysian Insight , 6 July 2021
Perak’s Gunung Kanthan in danger of being reduced to rubble

Malay Mail , 14 July 2021
Perak MB promises to look into calls to preserve century-old cave temple , monastery on Gunung Kanthan 

The Star , 14 July 2021
Make cave monastery a heritage site, authorities told

The Star , 16 July 2021
MB wants to settle Kanthan cave monastery matter amicably

The Vibes , 19 July 2021
Gunung Kanthan monastery eviction case slowed by NRP restrictions.

The Vibes , 12 Aug 2021
Gunung Kanthan needs govt protection to prevent its exploitation: CAP.

The Star , 13 Aug 2021
Good reasons to preserve Gunung Kanthan (letter)

Malay Mail , 15 Aug 2021
In Kinta Valley National Geopark, century-old cave monastery fighting for its survival as quarrying activities encroach

Sinar Harian , 4 Sept 2021
'Teliti semula kelulusan kegiatan kuari di Perak' (Review the approval of quarry activities in Perak) 

The Star , 4 Sept 2021
Environmental activists want Perak govt not to extend land leases for quarries, mining sites in geoparks

Descent , June/July 2021, 280:19.
Peninsular Malaysia. Quarrying away Gunung Kanthan. 
[Descent is a caving magazine published in the UK]

China Press , 6 Sept 2021
The Neolithic murals in Gua Kanthan are estimated to be 2500 to 4000 years old

Harian Metro , 6 Sept 2021
Lukisan dipercayai beribu tahun ditemukan di Gua Kanthan (Paintings believed to be thousands of years old found in Gua Kanthan)

Berita Harian , 7 Sept 2021
Lukisan gua dianggar berusia 4,000 tahun ditemui

Oriental Daily , 7 Sept 2021
Ancient rock paintings discovered in Gua Kanthan, but most of them are destroyed by modern graffiti

Sin Chew , 7 Sept 2021
Cave paintings - Gua Kanthan, thousand year old beautiful paintings, about 2500 to 4000 years of history , Sept 2021
Gunung Kanthan 2500 years to 4000 years Rock Art Found - Sept 2021

The Star , 15 Sept 2021
Studies needed on Gua Kanthan drawings to determine origin

The Star , 10 Nov 2021
Ipoh High Court suggests cement company, cave temple settle eviction out of court


I will add to this blog as new reports are published.

27 February 2021

Perak Man has a face

End of February 2021 there was lots in the media that Perak Man now has a face. This is thanks to 3D modelling.

Perak Man, the most complete skeleton found in Southeast Asia, was uncovered at Gua Gunung Runtuh by a team of archaeologists led by Prof Datuk Dr Zuraina Majid in 1990. The excavation revealed a 10,000–11,000-year-old primary burial site of an adult human buried in the foetal position.

News reports :

FMT 24 Feb "10,000-year-old Perak Man has a face now"

Bernama 25 Feb “11,000-year-old Perak Man finally has a face”

Borneo Post 25 Feb “11,000-year-old Perak man finally has a face”

The Star 25 Feb “Perak Man now has a face, thanks to 3D modelling”.
“Perak Man – the oldest human skeleton discovered in Malaysia in 1991 – now has a face. A team at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) used virtual 3D modelling techniques to produce a facial representation of the centuries-old Perak Man. The team used 21st-century technologies to determine the cognitive capabilities of the 11,000-year-old Perak Man. It also determined that he had type A2 brachymesophalangia, a medical term which literally means “short fingers”. NST 26 Feb “The 11,000-year-old Perak Man gets a face”; this article shows a A 3D virtual reconstruction of Perak Man’s facial features. 

Perak Man, the 11,000-year-old skeletal remains found 30 years ago in the Lenggong Valley, Perak, finally has a face. A team of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) researchers and 3D graphics expert from Brazil, Cicero Moraes, had used the 3D virtual reconstruction method to reconstruct the Perak Man’s facial features. A copy of the original skull was made using computed tomography (CT) and  3D printing.

FMT image

And a YouTube video from Bernama, "INILAH WAJAH PERAK MAN" [this is the face of Perak Man]

A scientific paper: Abdullah JY, Saidin M, Rajion ZA, Hadi H, Mohamad N, Moraes C, Abdullah JM. Using 21st-century technologies to determine the cognitive capabilities of a 11,000-year-old Perak Man who had brachymesophalangia type A2. Malays J Med Sci. 2021;28(1):1–8.  Link here .


See my other blogs on Perak Man, listed under the labels column.


Noel makes a good comment (see comments below) that the paper title claims to "Determine the Cognitive Capabilities" of the Perak Man, which of course it doesn't.