BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – In a bid to strengthen birdwatching tourism in the sultanate, the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) will be organising Brunei’s first national birdwatching competition, Brunei Bird Race Series 2019.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Tourism Development Department officer Mohd Jeffrey Hj Mohd Sunny Lai, said the competition will span all four districts, with the three other editions scheduled throughout this year.

Kicking off with the Bandar Seri Begawan edition on April 14, the race will start at Tasek Lama Recreational Park as early as 6am and will end at the Tourism Information Centre, Royal Wharf Building around 10am.

Meanwhile, the Tutong edition of the Bird Race Series 2019 will be held in July, Belait edition is scheduled for September and Temburong in December.

Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) Abdul Halidi (R), and Tourism officer of the Tourism Development Department Mohd Jeffrey (L) speaking at the Brunei Bird Race Series 2019 press conference. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

With more than 680 species of birds living in Borneo — 54 of which are endemic to Brunei Darussalam — the main objective of the competition is to strengthen the capacity of Bruneian birdwatchers or birders to better develop birdwatching facilities and activities as an emerging tourism product.

The ministry hopes to use participants’ bird sightings and photographs to improve the database on bird species available in Brunei, hoping to grow the event into an international bird race by 2021.

Looking to examples like the United States who generated about US$32 billion from over 65 million birdwatchers in 2010, Mohd Jeffrey said birdwatching tourism has the potential to contribute to the country’s economy and unemployment as bird guides often earn more than regular guides.

“Bird watchers are mostly mature and experienced travelers, the only thing that they would need are bird guides, those who know when and where to find [certain species of birds], like the Spectacled Flowerpecker which has been sighted in Labi.”

With over half a million bird watchers registered under different birders association all across Asia, the tourism officer believed that these networks can be fostered to attract more birders coming into the country.

Opened for all individuals aged 12 and above, a winner will be chosen for each district edition. In each district, the participant with the highest number of birds species sighted — verified via photographs — within the given time limit and area will be named champion.

From the four district’s winners, the one with the overall highest number of birds species sighted for all four birdwatching races will be crowned the Overall Brunei Bird Race Series 2019 Champion. Participation fees per individual for each bird race edition is $30.