INSTEAD of planting new mangrove saplings in unprotected areas, the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) wants the state to first concentrate on protecting existing mangrove swamps.
One such critical area is the north Seberang Prai coastal belt, spanning about 2km to 2.5km long from Teluk Air Tawar to near Kuala Muda, said MNS Penang branch advisor D. Kanda Kumar.
He said the coastal swamp should be gazetted as a protected area.
“The mangrove trees have been there for a very long time. The size of the swamp varies from only a few strands to about 10m wide at some parts, and more than 100m wide at other parts.
“Natural reclamation and erosion have also occurred at certain places, and some of the trees have also been cut,” he said.
Kanda Kumar said the coastal mangrove was quite rich in terms of animal biodiversity, especially during the migrant bird season between September and March.
“At least four species of globally threatened migrant birds can be found there — the Asian Dowitcher, Chinese Egret, Nordmann’s Green-shank and Lesser Adjutant.
“It also has slightly more than 1% of the global population of Chinese Pond Herons, and 1% of the world population of Common Redshank,” he said.
He added that the coastal swamp in north Seberang Prai was globally recognised as an important bird area by Birdlife International and classified as an important wetlands area by Wetlands International.
He also said there were other mammals not commonly seen in Penang at the coastal swamp, such as mongooses and otters.
Kanda Kumar was speaking in light of the felling of six young mangrove trees of about 2m tall near the Gurney Drive roundabout, said to have been planted by the state on Aug 31.
He had said that it was a waste of time and money to plant the trees at Gurney Drive if it was not gazetted as a protected area.
Kanda Kumar said that in Penang, there were two known large protected mangrove forests — at the southern part of the National Park near the Pantai Acheh Village on the island and at the Byram forest reserve near the Pulau Burung landfill on the mainland.
He said: “Unprotected mangrove areas included the Gurney Drive, Tanjong Tokong and Bayan Bay areas, and there used to be other protected mangrove areas in Balik Pulau that had since been de-gazetted for aquaculture.”