Sungkai Sambar Deer and Pheasant Wildlife Reserve
~ Perak Malaysia
Honestly? Well, if I were just a traveller wanting to kill time, I wouldn't make the extra effort to visit Sungkai Wildlife Reserve. On the other hand, if I were a birding enthusiast...well then, it's a different matter.
It's a bit of a problem getting to the reserve centre without a car or a bike. It's some distance from Sungkai Village, about 15kms or so through a narrow, dusty road. The road snakes through some lovely old rubber plantations. Most of the way, old rubber trees bend over, stretching to provide a canopy for travellers as the road spears deeper into the heart of Perak. The dangers one must look out for are : logging trucks screeching round corners and the occasional underaged rider wheeling down from the neighbouring orang asli settlement.
A sign ends the slow drive. As you make a turn into the dirt road, there are high fences on both sides housing an area for the Sambar Deers and small herds of Timor Deers. In another enclosure, a tiny herd of mousedeers rest under the shade, away from the midday heat.
This dirt track ends at the car park of a relatively new nest of buildings. Welcome to the reserve's centre, (a rather lavish building just for research and education!). The main building has a large hall, an amphitheater and the rangers' office. If there's no one in sight, just walk right in.
The crested argus pheasant - all alone. Known also as kuang gunung in Malay
Around and to the back of the main building, there's a large compound where cages of all sizes line the paths. An ongoing research is conducted on the various species of pheasants and other ground dwelling birds housed in these cages. But the purpose of this center is to create a sustainable gene pool of the endangered species kept here, in hope that there will be enough breeding stock to release back into the wild. With this, it is the centre's objective that the species be reintroduced into their natural habitat to increase population in the wild
All very noble in an ideal situation. However, with the loss of habitat due to intensive logging and also through hunting, breeding success may not be the answer to a specie's survival.
The sambar deer - way out in the middle of the enclosure, under the rainforest trees at noon and away from humans. The less interaction with people, the easier for release back into their natural habitat.
This wildlife reserve covers an area of about 2,450 hectares of the Tapah Forest Reserve at Sungkai and was gazetted in 1921. The breeding centre is home to Sambar Deers, Timor Deers, mousedeers, pheasants especially the Malaysian Great Argus Pheasant, the endangered Crested Argus Pheasant, the Crested Fireback, the Crested Peacock Pheasant, the Crestless Peacock, the Green Peafowl and the highly endangered Mountain or Rothchild's Peacock. There are also several cages of hornbills, pigeons and cuckoo-doves. We were told that a breeding pair of Green Peafowls was sent from Sumatra to the center sometime back. The wildlife department was concerned for some time, rangers had not spotted green peafowls in the wild during their patrols and asked for help from the Indonesian wildlife department.
Another worrying factor is that there is only one remaining crested argus at the center after its mate died a couple of years ago. The site ranger is very concerned that there may not be many out in the wild to replace its mate and are desperate to secure a few breeding pairs. These birds are not easy to breed in captivity. Several species including the Mountain peacock produce only one egg per breeding session.
An incredibly friendly and noisy crested fireback, looking for attention.
The Orang Asli or indigenous tribe living in the area are fond of hunting these birds for food and for their beautiful plumage. The Orang Asli are allowed to hunt within the reserve as this is their ancestral hunting grounds but poaching is still rampant. The Orang Asli settlement is a distance from the center - up a steep, winding slope which double up as a logging trail all the way up to the ridges of the Titiwangsa Range. This Jernang Orang Asli settlement has a population of some 1,500people, living in timber houses perched along the ridges. A 4WD is needed to climb up this very steep side of the ridge and shouldn't be attempted during the rainy seasons, which unfortunately even our own meterological department can't tell us anymore when our rains will ome or go or stay....
The walk round the reserve centre can take around an hour or two. If the ranger suggests that you take a look at the seladang or Malayan Gaur paddock, be ready for disappointment. The enclosure is very,very big and the undergrowth is very,very thick.
So, chances of catching a glimpse of the adult male and female with its calf, is pretty slim. If you're really interested to see the Malayan Gaur, perhaps it'll be more rewarding to visit the Jenderak Seladang Sanctuary in Pahang. The current breeding pair at Sungkai were actually sent from Jenderak. This is done so as to have pockets of breeding herds in other centres to reduce any possibility of disease wipeouts of these species in captivity.
Honestly? I love birds and I would visit if I ever went by that way again. Just that, I'd only wish that they had more materials there to show their progress in research and even a hint of the methodology adopted. I guess, I'll have to wait for the next time when their permanent exhibits return from a temporary exhibition?!
Article posted: 7th November 2003I
If there is a group, it could be worthwhile staying at the centre itself. They supposedly have basic accommodation at the centre. For more information,
Opening hours : 8.00am – 5.00pm (Monday-friday)
Admission fee : Free
Tel : 05-438 9482