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Unstoppable Sutari
Part 1 | Part 2 | Jungle Camp Cook Sutari shares tips

Birding Buddies
Just like Nature, that meeting of needs was the start of a symbiotic, mutually rewarding and enduring relationship. Dr Ho Hua Chew, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kim Seng and Subaraj took me under their wing.' I ended up being their guide... and camp cook.

Today, after countless field trips both near and far, Sutari counts these birding veterans among his best buddies. From them he learned to recognise birds, their calls, their life cycle, habits and habitat. And, as he learned about birds, the hitherto heedless adventurer began to see Nature in quite a different light.

It dawned on him, as he saw the loggers and developers decimate the forests and fill in the wetlands, that the birds—indeed all creatures and tribal peoples—were losing their homes and facing extinction.

It hit home most painfully right in Singapore as he saw the nature places of his scouting days disappear, one by one. The heedless adventurer had finally turned ardent conservationist.

Who knows: as bird species disappear, we may have to rely on the cassette tapes that Sutari has been making of bird calls. Or only admire the beauty of the White-bellied Woodpecker, Beach Thick-knee, Malaysian Plover, Great-billed Heron and Ruddy Kingfisher in the realistic drawings of birds Sutari the artist has rendered. He is also resident artist of the Singapore AVIFAUNA newsletter of the NSS Bird Group.

But the feather in the cap of this adventurer-turned-conservationist has to be the bird book he worked on for 13 months with Clive Briffett Sutari beams as he shows the book, The Birds of Singapore he illustrated and shares top billing as co-author!

Another feather in his cap—and this time he shares the credits with Dr Ho Hua Chew—is their discovery of the Plain-pouched Hornbill colony in Upper Perak, close to the border it shares with Thailand. The pair had gone up to this untouched rainforest to verify a report that this rare hornbill had a colony there. Naturally they were thrilled to confirm the sighting and have written a report on it. (This tract of dense jungle had been untouched only because it was a communist hideout and the curfew had been lifted only 10 years ago).

Sutari is eager to talk about his relatively new other passion. From looking down to see where to put his feet as he hikes up a steep cliff-face to peering into tree tops in search of some rare bird, the unstoppable Sutari is nowadays often seen looking heavenwards—into the night sky, seeing stars. So keen is Sutari on astronomy that four years ago, he helped three other members of The Astronomical Society of Singapore (of which he has been a member since 1992) build a 40.6 cm handmade Dobsonian—Malaysia's largest telescope four years ago... He had put his draughtsmanship to new use and he and his team were warmly congratulated by the Director-General of Malaysia's Space Science Studies Division.

Champions of the 1994 Fraser's
Hill Bird Race, Sutari flanked by
team-mates Shamla and Subaraj

Sutari with his gang of
birdwatchers in Upper Pierce

Sutari's bird illustrations for
"Birds of Singapore"
a book with co-author
and friend Clive Briffett

Sutari, with reverence,
counting the number of
Plain-pouched Hornbills
flying overhead
Photo by Jimmy Chew

With friends by their homemade
40.6 cm Dobsonian
Astronomy telescope

A passion for the stars is not so strange. Many a nature lover, having found fun, joy, peace and kinship as they explore forests and rivers, wetlands and oceans in the light of day, would when night falls, invariably turn their eyes towards a sky full of stars unobscured by city smog and lights. And they begin—like Sutari—to wonder and ponder if our kinship with all of Nature begins and ends with the Stars.

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