flock of birds glided below me as I peered down from the wicker basket of a drifting hot air balloon above the Malaysian city of Putrajaya. The creatures gracefully flapped their grey wings as they passed the city’s nest of skyscrapers en route to their nearby habitat at the Putrajaya wetlands park the largest man-made freshwater wetlands in Malaysia.
Nearly 100 bird species reside in this 200-hectare oasis of marshes, ponds and forest, and it’s a valuable habitat for 1,800 species of insects, 16 types of amphibians, 22 species of reptiles and 16 types of mammals. It’s hard to believe that this serene sanctuary home to macaques, flamingos, otters, boars and civets is just 2km north of the mint-green Islamic dome that decorates perdana putra the colossal office of the prime minister of Malaysia. This sprawling eco-haven was part of the bold vision of the man who long occupied Perdana Putra: Mahathir Mohamad.