MANY Penangites avail themselves to the local eco-sphere of rare plants, fragrant blooms and the gentle gurgling of streams in Penang Botanic Gardens, even on weekdays.
The spacious park of about 30ha is open with a limit of 200 people allowed in at a time, and guards use click counters to keep count of those entering and exiting.
When The Star dropped by to check the conditions recently, a police patrol car was seen making a circuit around the gardens in the morning to check on the conduct of visitors.
Happy visitor, Siti Khalisa, 31, was met taking a brisk walk with three friends, something she does almost every day.
“We made it a habit to wake up early and come to exercise.
“We can come every day as we own home businesses in food and beauty products so we can manage our time.
“The environment here is serene and refreshing which helps us to be calm before we start our hectic day,” she said.
Homemaker, Linda Goh, 47, is glad that she can get to the gardens for exercise like the ‘good old days’.
“Since years ago, I would come to jog in the mornings. Being able to do so again makes me feel very grateful,” she said.
The gardens was closed when the government initiated the movement control order 3.0 in June.
It was reopened after Penang entered Phase Two of the National Recovery Plan in August.
Staff of the garden could also be seen diligently tending to the plants and maintaining cleanliness in the morning.
They are from the four main maintenance, horticulture, landscape and decorative sections.
Biodiversity research officer Ooi Im Hin said the gardeners currently pay special attention to tree maintenance as the recently arrived inter-monsoon period tends to bring storms that can cause weak branches to break.
“We have around 45 workers on rotation to maintain the gardens at best.
“Last month, the gardeners had to clear three trees that fell during storms,” he said.
One of the gardens’ popular spot, the lily pond, was another focus, especially because visitors occasionally let go of tortoises and fish that are alien to the environment.
In recent months, many koi or Japanese carps were released into the pond. Koi is not an endemic species to Malaysia.
“The management cleans the pond once every three months and puts up a warning sign to prohibit anyone from leaving their aquatic pets in the pond.
“Visitors abandoning their pets only disrupt the life cycles of the water lilies from growing and blooming well,” he said.