PETALING JAYA: Many throng Batu Caves for its religious sites and tourist appeal, but many do not know about the area’s scientific and eco-tourism values.
In the late 1970s, the Malaysian Nature Society found at least 28 species of moss, 38 species of ferns, 125 species of dicotyledons and 52 species of monocotyledons at Batu Caves. As for fauna, at least five species each of bats, frogs, lizards and snakes make the limestone hills their home.
However, it is hard to determine to what extent these creatures still survive there, but the flora and fauna of the hills have long suffered from climate change and isolation.
Botanist Dr Ruth Kiew has drawn up a list of vascular plants from Batu Caves, which include four species native to the caves.
Her list also reveals that there are three more local plant species that are only known to be in three places – Batu Caves, and the nearby Bukit Takun and Bukit Anak Takun.
“There are also very rare plant species found on one or two other limestone hills, such as impatiens ridleyi which is known to only exist in Batu Caves and Gunung Senyum in Pahang,” she said in her list.
Dr Kiew’s list also states other rare species of conservation importance that are known to originate from Batu Caves.
In spite of all these natural values, the Batu Caves and its biodiversity has come under attack since more than a hundred years ago, with the first threats from quarrying activities in 1896.
Acts of vandalism and theft of cave artifacts forced a temporary closure of the Dark Cave, which was later reopened with restricted access to preserve its ecology.
However, for as long as haphazard development is allowed to go on, Batu Caves will be facing a constant threat to its biodiversity and environment.