19 August 2007
KOTA TINGGI: Environmentalists on a river clean-up exercise at the Gunung Panti Bird Sanctuary stumbled on a rare find - the world's largest dragonfly. An environmentalist from the Malaysian Nature Society Johor branch (MNSJ) photographed the insect whose wing span at 18cm is as large as that of the common sparrow.
The dragonfly is just one of the many sights that can greet visitors to the world-renowned sanctuary known as Bunker Trail.
The sanctuary is due to be officially launched by the state government this month.
Among the 300 colourful birds found at the sanctuary are a variety of hornbills - Malaysian honey guide, storm's stork, trogons, pittas and great argus pheasant (Kuang Raya). MNSJ research head Vincent Chow said it was truly amazing watching the giant dragonfly, identified as Tetragynacantha plagiata from the family Aeshinidae, in flight.
"In the air, it resembles a bird and its wings make a whirring sound.
"I've seen the insect in the sanctuary before but I am lucky to have had the rare chance to photograph the female of the species laying eggs on a tree branch."
Chow said the giant insects, which are voracious eaters, feed on insects and even their own kind.
They move about individually or in pairs.
He said the elusive giant dragonfly was a true forest species. It frequents undisturbed forest streams usually in the early mornings and late evenings.
"This dragonfly also has the unique habit of laying its eggs on dead branches by the streams, unlike normal dragonflies that deposit their eggs in the water."
Chow said the 1,200ha bird sanctuary area, riddled with streams and rivers, was an ideal habitat for many species of dragonflies and damsel flies, some of which are endemic to the area.
Five species of monkeys, the tapir, clouded leopard, otter, elephants, civet cats, spotted leopards, deer and wild pigs, including the giant bearded pig, were also spotted in the area.
Chow said MNSJ was now building a database on the unique biodiversity of the Gunung Panti area.
The clean-up exercise along the rivers and streams and forest area was conducted jointly by the state Forestry Department, MNSJ, staff and management of French company Lafarge Cement Malaysia and students from Sekolah Kebangsaan Pasir Putih and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Pasir Gudang.