PONTIAN: To the locals, Pulau Kukup is precious.
“There are not many tourist attractions in Pontian,” said seafood restaurant owner Rohaidah Wahab, 43.
The island, she said, helped to attract Malaysian and foreign visitors.
The Tourism Johor website adds a magical touch to Pulau Kukup, stating that it is “an island shrouded in legends of princesses and curses, or so the folklore says”.
It also pointed out that Pulau Kukup is “one of the largest uninhabited mangrove forests in the world” and that it is home to an abundance of flora and fauna.
Monkeys and mudskippers can be spotted from the boardwalk.
According to Rohaidah, any move to de-gazette the place would become a “huge issue”.
The state government, she said, should give some consideration to the people here.
Fruit seller Lee Aik Sang, 58, said the national park status for Pulau Kukup had brought positive changes to the community nearby.
“In the old days, there were just wooden jetties and wooden houses with only a few boats and fishermen staying here. But now, people can enjoy staying in a hotel.
“Why disturb something that has been giving benefits to the people here? ” she added.
Boat operator Liew Siew Chong, 53, was thankful that the royal family had stepped in to fix the situation.
“There is no other mangrove forest like this in the world,” he said.
A couple from Finland, who identified themselves as Mattiy, 58, and Eija, 49, said they were concerned about the island’s future.
Visiting Johor for the first time, Mattiy said: “The island has been in the news recently, so we decided to check it out. It turns out that Pulau Kukup has one of the best mangrove forests that we have been to.”
Losing its status as a national park would be a huge threat to its surroundings, he said, adding: “What will happen to all the monkeys and birds in this place?”
Pulau Kukup to keep national park status