Words and images by Lim Kim Chye
The talk on “Swiftlets of Malaysia, wild and domesticated” by Lord Cranbrook on 25 September 09 was a full-house affair, with some 35 members and friends present. One member remarked that it’s been a long time since there was such a crowd at Nature’s Lodge.
The audience was not disappointed, as this eminent zoologist and author, still sprightly at 70+ years, kept the crowd’s attention, despite some scientific parts, with interesting anecdotes drawn from his many years studying wildlife in the region.
The presentation, accompanied by slides, began with an introduction to the resident Collocalia and Aerodramus swiftlets and the Waterfall Swift and discussed their current S. E. Asian distribution and relationship with each other. Cranbrook then followed this with a detailed coverage of his current research, the White-nest Swiftlet and the birds’nest industry, from its early history up to the present times, where now these birds are widely farmed in so-called “swift hotels”. Drawing from his intimate knowledge of the White-nest swiftlet and the industry, Cranbrook then spoke about its life history, including the food, breeding and behaviour.
The talk ended with Cranbrook suggesting the “white gold” industry should fund research to ensure its sustainability and to investigate its impact on the environment.