On Sept 28, 2010, a team of over 80 researchers and scientists from various Government institutions, universities and local NGOs set off on an expedition to Paya Maga. Also part of the expedition team were participants from Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia. It was jointly organised by the Forest Department of Sarawak and Sarawak Forestry Corporation, with funding and support mainly from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Malaysia and the Sarawak State Government.
The 14-day Paya Maga Scientific Expedition was organised to uncover the mysteries of the Paya Maga forest, and carried out as part of the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative. The group began their journey in the small town of Lawas, with Deputy Director of Forest, Haji Sapuan Ahmad and Expedition Team Leader, Professor Emeritus Datuk Haji Mohamed Abdul Majid releasing their convoy of 4×4 trucks and SUVs. They made their way to their base camp located 1,500 metres above sea level. To get there, the team had to travel on logging roads that took them past oil palm plantations and four other villages along the way to their first checkpoint at Gunung Doa. From there, they had to manoeuvre through muddy mountain trails, rough terrains and a damp mossy forest until they reach the second checkpoint at 1,200 metres above sea level. It took another three to four hours walk before they finally reach their base camp, from which they conducted all their research works.
Their team’s discoveries revealed a rich diversity of animals and insects as well as plantlife. Although it may seem like the numbers of plants and animals recorded are large, they were all discovered in a rather small area of the vast Paya Maga forest. Just 20 per cent of the total area in fact.
The Paya Maga forest boasts a variety of geological features, with most areas made up of cross-bedded sandstone facies. Scenic waterfalls and rapids can be found within the area, along with small streams and rivers. A hill dipterocarp forest dominates the foothills of the Paya Maga. The trees are large and tall while the rest of the plantlife consist of gingers, aroids, gesneriads and ferns. Further up, Paya Maga comprises sub-montane forest, mossy forest and peat forest – the latter being the highest of such forest in the highland areas in Sarawak.
As for its animals, Paya Maga has some very interesting species. The Barking Deer is one of them. This deer species produces a barkinglike sound when threatened, thus earning it the name Barking Deer. And then there is the Leopard Cat or Prionailurus Bengalensis, which looks like a much smaller version of the common leopard and a variety of bat species. The team also captured a number of elusive species of animals using the camera trapping method. They include Bearded Pig, Red Langur, Hose’s Langur, Pig-tailed Macaque, Long-tailed Giant Rat and Malayan Porcupine.
Other animal species recorded are different types of lizards and geckos, snakes, frogs and toads, colourful birds including parrots, thrusts, peckers and owls, an amazing array of moths and butterflies including the gigantic Atlas moth, beetles, stick insects and spiders. However only two species of fish had been recorded, namely Red Tailed Banded Loach and Ray Finned Fish.
These findings were published by the Forest Department Sarawak in a coffee table book titled ‘Heart of Borneo Series: Paya Maga, Sarawak’s Pristine Highland Forest’ in 2013. The book features over 150 full-coloured pages showcasing all of the team’s findings, complete with photos of the different species of flora and fauna as well as landscape of Paya Maga forest.