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Author/Editor: N. Sivasothi
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore.

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05 Jul 2007 - Raffles Museum News has shifted to http://news.rafflesmuseum.net

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Fri 15 Jul 2005

"Wallace in Sarawak - 150 years later"

Category : meetings

An international conference on biogeography and biodiversity: Wallace in Sarawak - 150 years later. 13-15 July 2005, Sarawak Tourism Complex, Kuching, Sarawak.

To celebrate 150 years of Wallace's exploits in Sarawak, the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation and the Faculty of Resource Science and Technology, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, in partnership with Sarawak Development Institute, jointly organised the International Conference on Biogeography and Biodiversity, with the theme "Wallace in Sarawak - 150 years later".

The conference saw a gathering of scientists, managers, academics and historians in the field of natural history, evolution, speciation, biogeography, ecology, biodiversity and conservation. The setting was the picturesque Kuching, Sarawak's capital city, not far from Gunung Santubong where Wallace penned his theory on speciation and biogeography. Amongst the participants was the great grand nephew of Wallace, Dr John Wilson.

The major themes of the conference included a)Wallace in context, b)Biogeography and c) Biodiversity. The internal adviser for the conference was Vice Chancellor of Unimas and the international adviser was the Earl of Cranbrook.

Raffles Museum's director, A/P Peter KL Ng, was one of four invited speakers, and presented the paper, "Taxonomy and conservation: a perspective from freshwater crabs."

Left photo (L-R): Mrs Wilson, Dr John Wilson, Dr Indraneil Das and A/P Peter Ng. Right photo (L-R): Earl of Cranbrook, Dr John Wilson and Dr Susan Lim.

Thanks to Wang Luan Keng for the write up and photos!

More on Alfred Russel Wallace

"An inordinate fondness for beetles."
By Paul Spencer Sochaczewski. Royal Geographical Society-Geographical, May 2000. Singapore proves a Coleoptera paradise for Victorian explorer Alfred Russel Wallace; new creatures still emerge.

Alfred Russel Wallace webpage.
Maintained by Charles H. Smith of the Western Kentucky University, USA.

"Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters and Reminiscences." By James Marchant, 1916. Volume 1 & Volume 2 (these links are html mirror sites). These e-books were produced by Digital & Multimedia Center, Michigan State University Libraries., Marilynda Fraser-Cunliffe, Josephine Paolucci, Joshua Hutchinson and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team and released by Project Gutenberg, 7th June 2005. [Text versions can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg: Vol 1, Vol 2]

News report from the conference: "Sarawak Committed To Biodiversity Conservation, Says Taib." Bernama.com, 13th July 2005.

"KUCHING, July 13 (Bernama) -- Sarawak is committed to conserving its rich biodiversity to enable the state government to formulate effective conservation policies, especially in the build-up to the development of bio-technology.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said Wednesday the state government would continue to play a positive role and encourage the endeavour by providing research facilities and grants to local institutions, including Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

"I am therefore happy to see that the collaborative promotion of research in the discipline of biogeography and biodiversity by Unimas on Wallace sites in Sarawak and Wallace collections in the United Kingdom is important as part of our cultural and scientific heritage and worthy of support," he said when opening an international conference on "Biogeography and Biodiversity : Wallace in Sarawak 150 Years Later" here.

About 80 local and international participants are attending the three-day conference jointly organised by Unimas' Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation and the Sarawak Development Institute (SDI) in recognition of the immense contribution and impact that naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace had on scientific knowledge and discovery through his writings and natural history collections from Sarawak.

Wallace, who arrived in Sarawak at the invitation of Rajah Sir James Brooke on Nov 1 1854, spent the next 15 months exploring and collecting an enormous 25,000 specimens, including 2,000 beetle species, 1,500 moth species and 1,500 other insect orders along the Sarawak River valley from Santubong to Bau as well as the peat swamps of Simunjan.

The collections, which he sold to private collectors and institutions in the United Kingdom to finance his travels in the region, are now kept at the Natural History Museum in London and Tring.

In January-February 1955, Wallace also wrote his first major paper on evolution, which became known as "The Sarawak Law" at Santubong, followed by another major publication on the Orangutan in Simunjan the following year.

However, recognising the danger that such specimens might be in great demand as collectors' items, the Rajah Brooke Birdwing, for which Wallace was more widely known, had been declared a protected species under the Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance, Abdul Taib said.

The state government had also set aside about one million hectares of its forest as totally protected areas at the Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary to protect the endangered orang utan and other wildlife species, he said.

Rehabilitation and release programmes were continuing at the Matang Wildlife Centre and Semengoh Wldlife Rehabilitation Centre near here, he added.

Abdul Taib also suggested that the sites Wallace had worked on in Sarawak, like the "Wallace Point" at Santubong, be preserved as historical, educational and scientific heritage as Wallace had brought the state to the height of international acclaim through his writings and collections.

"The old government bungalow on the hill overlooking the mouth of Santubong River, the exact spot where Wallace wrote his Sarawak Law, can be renovated to provide a one-stop centre for the study of natural history for schools, universities and researchers," he said.

Speaking to reporters later, he said Unimas could take the initiative to set up a Wallace centre at Santubong, with the government's support, to inspire young scientists and promote academic discourses on issues relevant to the state.

He was confident that one of the immediate spin-offs from the conference, which was also attended by Wallace's great grand-nephew, John Wilson, and the Earl of Cranbrook, would be ecotourism."

Posted at 4:23PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,