Continued development of forest may cause extinction and conflict, warn experts

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 25 Sep 2014

KUALA ROMPIN: Environmentalists are warning that continued logging and development of Lesong may lead to a substantial decline in animals and plants already on the list of threatened species.

Some years ago, tigers and elephants roamed freely in the area just above the wildlife-rich Endau-Rompin National Park, home to much of Malaysia’s flora and fauna.

With the logging, the animals have been forced further into unlogged areas, getting squeezed into ever smaller habitats.

There are now only about 300 tigers in peninsular Malaysia – in Belum-Temenggor, Taman Negara and the Endau-Rompin Complex, which includes Lesong. Any decline in numbers would lead to a real threat of extinction.

Environmental consultant Dylan Jefri Ong said the large-scale uniform logging – also known as clearcutting – that was going on now would have a destructive effect on the forest ecosystem.

“Some of these would be loss and fragmentation of wildlife habitats, leading to displaced animal populations, as well as the loss of rare or endangered plant life,” he said.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, 686 plants and 225 animals in Malaysia are at risk of extinction.

The main cause of this decline is loss of habitats and poaching, according to the organisation.

Ong said the warning was clear: “Stop the logging or these endangered species will lose their habitats.”

He said the logging was exposing more and more of the forest areas to what is known as the “edge effect”.

That is when the edges of the forest where logging has laid the land bare get exposed to wind and sunlight, which forces animals like tigers away, shrinking their habitat.

Elephants, however, were attracted to such areas, said elephant expert Associate Prof Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz of Nottingham University Malaysia.

He said they were drawn to the fresh shoots in these areas.

“If these areas were to become plantations later, such as if timber latex clones were planted there, it could result in human-wildlife conflicts,” he said.

Timber latex clones are rubber trees that provide both latex and rubber wood for furniture.

The Star team saw elephant tracks and dung along some of the logging roads and Prof Campos-Arceiz said there was a danger that the logging sites scattered across the Lesong landscape would grow in size, affecting the elephant habitats.

He was also worried that the logging roads would also make it easier for poachers to get into the forest.

“Once you have something like this, it will start growing. It’s a big mistake,” he said.

Forest researcher Lim Teck Wyn was sceptical about the Pahang Forestry Department’s claim that the loggers were only clearing degraded parts of the forest.

“They have not provided evidence that it is a degraded forest. A heavily degraded area means there would be very few logs to salvage,” he said.

Pertubuhan Perlindungan Kha­zanah Alam (Association for the Protection of Natural Heritage of Malaysia or Peka) president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said there was no telling what might happen to Lesong’s ecosystem in the long run.

She said although the state government had the right to do whatever it pleased with its forests, such actions were “morally wrong”.

Related stories:
Jungle the size of Cyberjaya logged
Dept: Poor timber quality the reason for forest clearing

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