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Tuesday April 11, 2006

Logging threatens wildlife at Temenggor forest

ROYAL BEAUTY: The Rafflesia azlanii is among 3,000 species of flowering plants in the Belum- Temenggor forest.
GRIK: A species of Rafflesia named after Sultan Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak, hornbills which flock in the thousands, a habitat for 14 globally threatened mammals and a major water catchment for Perak – all these are at stake if the Temenggor Forest Reserve continues to be logged. 

Highlighting the detrimental effect of timber harvesting on wildlife, the Malaysia Nature Society (MNS) is urging a stop on logging there and for the forest to be protected and added to the Royal Belum State Park. 

Anthony Sebastian, chairman of the MNS science and conservation committee, said making Temenggor a part of Royal Belum would create a large and contiguous tract of forest that was vital for wildlife.  

“Royal Belum by itself is insufficient for long-term survival of large mammals such as the Asian elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros, Malayan tiger and Malayan tapir,” he told reporters during a site visit. 

The 117,500ha Royal Belum was declared a protected area in 2003 but the adjoining Temenggor forest remains a “production forest” for timber harvesting. 

Sebastian said allowing logging in Temenggor contradicted the National Physical Plan, which identified the Belum-Temenggor forest as an “environmentally sensitive area” where no development, agriculture and logging should be permitted.  

He said logging would silt up rivers and the lake, and hence threaten the viability of the Temenggor Dam as a source of water and hydropower. It would also affect the livelihood of the orang asli, who catch fish, collect jungle produce and grow rubber and fruit trees. 

Scientists believe that the Belum-Temenggor forest is some 130 million years old, making it older than the Amazon and Congo forests and hence, much more complex in biodiversity. The area hosts more than 3,000 species of flowering plants, including the Rafflesia azlanii, which was scientifically described only in 2003. 

MATURE TREE: The untouched Belum forest abounds with huge trees such as this one, enveloped by a strangling fig. The Royal Belum was declared a protected area in 2003 but the adjoining Temenggor forest remains a “production forest” for timber harvesting.
It harbours 274 bird species, including the globally threatened plain-pouched hornbill. MNS surveys found this species flies in flocks of over 2,000 – a phenomenon recorded nowhere else in the world – and roosts in the Temenggor forest. 

“This is the only place in the country where all 10 species of hornbills are found. Logging will deny hornbills of fig trees which they feed upon and the tall mature trees which they nest in,” said Sebastian. 

Scientific surveys of Belum-Temenggor have found 64 species of ferns, 62 of mosses, 100 of mammals, 168 of butterflies, 252 of moths, 25 of cicadas, 36 of aquatic bugs, 95 of leaf beetle, 51 of land snails, 24 of amphibians, 21 of lizards, 23 of snakes, 23 of freshwater fish and seven of turtles. 

Sebastian believes that the Temenggor forest, with its untouched wilderness and rich wildlife, has immense tourism potential that can be tapped to provide the state with revenue.  


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