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Issue #1617      November 6, 2013

Save the Belum-Temengor Rainforest

The Belum-Temengor rainforest, Malaysia is a place of amazing natural wonders. This 300,000 hectare tropical forest is over 130 million years of age and is home to a vast number of species of animals and plants, many of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. In fact, this pristine forest, which remains one of the largest untouched forest reserves in Peninsular Malaysia, is home to 14 threatened species and potentially could still provide for the discovery of even more new species.

Belum-Temengor is in the state of Perak, at the border of Peninsular Malaysia and Thailand. The stunning landscape of Belum-Temengor Rainforest houses over 3,000 species of flowering plants, including three species of the largest flower in the world – the Rafflesia. It is also the natural habitat of 64 species of ferns, 62 species of mosses, and has a lake that is home to 23 species of freshwater fish and 5 species of turtles.

The entire forest complex is approximately four times the size of Singapore, which also makes it the ideal place for magnificent large animals such as Malayan Tigers, Asian Elephants and Sumatran Rhinoceroses to roam free and breed. Other animals that also live here include Seladang (or Malayan Gaur, is a species of wild cattle), wild boars and numerous species of deer, pythons and cobras as well has over 300 bird species including the hornbill.

It is the only existing forest where you can spot all 10 species of hornbill that inhabit Malaysia consisting of the White-Crowned Hornbill, Bushy-crested Hornbill, Wrinkled Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, Plain-pouched Hornbill, Black hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Great Hornbill and Helmeted Hornbill.

The Belum-Temengor is the largest continuous forest in Peninsula Malaysia and is prime habitat for tigers. The Malayan Tiger is a rare sub-species of tiger that are only found on the Malay Peninsula and on the southern tip of Thailand. Until 2004, the Malayan Tiger was considered the same as the Indochinese Tiger, but DNA testing showed it was a separate sub-species of tiger. There are only an estimated 500 of this tiger subspecies still left in the wild. There are 5 other surviving subspecies of tiger, with only around 3,200 wild tigers remaining in the entire world today.

But this tropical paradise is under considerable threat from forest logging and other human activities that are causing habitat loss and fragmentation. With the recent construction of the East-West Highway, which gives more access for timber extraction and poaching from the jungle, new towns and industrial centres have also developed in the region. As well, there are plans to convert parts of the tropical rainforest into plantation forests along the route of East-West Highway.

A recent study carried out by WWF-Malaysia’s tiger conservation program estimated there were only 50 Malayan Tigers left in the Belum-Temengor forest and according to the lead scientist and tiger expert, a minimum viable population should be 80 in order to see maintenance of the species in the region. “This is why we have to secure the forests around the Belum-Temengor forest complex, by preventing further fragmentation to ensure there is enough space to support 80 tigers,” said Dr. Mark Rayan Darmaraj. The study also found evidence of poaching activities within the park, which poses a further direct danger for tigers and an indirect threat to their existence if tiger prey species are also being poached.

The WWF study indicates that tiger numbers in the BT forest are less than previously believed, which suggests that there could be only between 300-400 Malayan Tigers remaining in the wild.

The Belum-Temengor forest is one of the last refuges for several rare species and provides essential habitat not only for Malayan Tigers, Sumatran Rhinos, Asian Elephants and many other animals including the Malayan Tapir, Seladang, Malayan Sunbear, Sunda Pandolin and White-handed Gibbon. Stopping the deforestation of the Belum-Temengor rainforest habitat helps towards saving the Malayan Tiger and many other threatened species from extinction. Without vital intact, unfragmented areas of rainforest habitat these wild animals’ populations will continue to decline.

While some parts of the Belum-Temengor rainforest complex are protected, other sections are not. Environmental groups, such as the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) have proposed the preservation of the entire Belum-Temengor rainforest complex. So far, Royal Belum, which covers 117,500 hectares, is protected as a state park and conservation groups have been campaigned to extend this to include Temengor Forest Reserve, parts of which are being heavily logged. This deforestation results in loss of habitat, habitat fragmentation and destruction of wildlife corridors used by wild animals.

Dr Loh Chi Leong, from MNS pointed out that many endangered animals migrated freely across reserve borders, adding that logging could cut their access to their feeding or nesting grounds. As an example, Dr Loh mentioned the vulnerable Plain-pouch Hornbill, which tends to roost in Temengor forest, but feeds in Belum forest area. So, in order to achieve the long-term survival of the hornbill, it is necessary to not only protect Royal Belum alone, but other adjoining forest areas as well.

Please help to save the natural treasure that is Belum-Temengor. Make others aware of this situation by publicising the deforestation occurring in the region and the threat to the rainforest habitat and to its wildlife. Write to the Malaysian government or its embassies to express your concerns and urge Malaysia stop forest logging in the area and protect the Belum-Temengor rainforest and the Malayan Tigers and other precious endangered species that inhabit the forest.

Together with the various environmental groups campaigning to protect the entire rainforest complex our efforts may see the Belum-Temengor continue to be preserved as a pristine place untouched by human developments, where the wildlife will continue to survive and flourish.

Write to:
Dr Lian Kok Fei,
Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment,
Level 6, Wisma Sumber Asli,
No.25, Persiaran Perdana, Precint 4,
Putrajaya- 62574, Malaysia.

Or email:
drlian@nre.gov.my
liankokfei@yahoo.com.my

For more information contact: Facebook: Malaysian Nature Society.

Next article – Nauruan asylum seekers brought to Curtin detention centre

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