‘Instinct for survival keeps wildlife safe’

A cat being saved by a villager in flood-hit Yong Peng, Batu Pahat. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

FLOODING in Johor will not have a serious impact on wild animals as instinct will tell them to move to higher ground to avoid floodwaters.

Malaysian Nature Society president Vincent Chow said that unlike humans, wild animals including wild birds were blessed with the ability to sense impending natural disasters.

“Wildlife are able to survive the flooding situation in Johor,” he said when contacted.

He said that unlike domesticated animals such as cats, dogs, cows and poultry which needed to be rescued during floods, wild animals were independent.

He highlighted that based on previous information regarding floods in Johor, wildlife would start moving to higher ground from the lowland areas several days before.

Chow said there were not many wild animals that drowned in the major flood which hit the Kota Tinggi district in 2006 to 2007.

“How do they know about it (the flood)?

“We humans are still not sure and do not have an answer to that,” he said and cited for instance, ants in jungles that would start climbing the trees from their nests on low-lying areas to avoid floodwaters.

He said animals such as elephants and tigers seeking shelter during floods, would not cross each other’s path and would be confined to their habitats.

“Their movements on hilly ground is limited and they do their best to avoid conflict with each other,” said Chow.

He said elephants would only forage on jungle plants within their territories while smaller mammals like mousedeer and wild boars were food for tigers.

Monkeys feed on wild fruits in trees, so they would not go hungry, he added.

Safe Johor River founder Poh Pai Yik said mangrove forests along riverbanks in Johor that had been damaged by floodwaters would have a major impact on inland fishermen.

He explained that mangrove forests were breeding grounds for certain types of fish, freshwater prawns, mangrove crabs and edible snails.

Chow said the mixing of muddy water (due to floods) and seawater, in areas downstream, could mean a slow death for mangrove trees.

“It takes at least three years for mangrove trees to grow again, and replanting them will not help much as they grow better naturally,” said Poh.

He urged the Johor government to take proactive measures to replant jungle trees to prevent soil erosion along riverbanks.

On another matter, he pointed out the presence of illegal factories, vegetable farming, animal husbandry, poultry breeding and squatter settlements within the 50m buffer zone along riverbanks, which should be free from economic activities.

He stressed that the buffer zones should be free from any human invasion.

Johor was flooded on March 1 following heavy rain on Feb 28.

Ten districts – Batu Pahat, Johor Baru, Kulai, Kluang, Kota Tinggi, Mersing, Muar, Pontian, Segamat and Tangkak – were severely affected.

At the height of the floods, more than 44,000 people were displaced and seeking shelter at over 200 temporary relief centres statewide.

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