THE Ulu Muda forest (pic) in north-east Kedah has for a long time served the important function of harvesting rain for three dams – Muda, Pedu and Ahning.
It is the last remaining forest of over 160,000ha in peninsular Malaysia that is rich in flora and fauna. The wildlife there includes many large and rare mammalian species, reptiles, birds, and etc.
The forest in Ulu Muda is part of the contiguous forest extending into south Thailand and supports the trans-boundary movement of some of the large animals in the area.
It therefore provides opportunities for locals and poachers from neighbouring countries. This was highlighted in the study by WildCRU (Wildlife Conservation Research) from Oxford University as reported in “Ulu Muda wildlife under threat” (The Star, May 8).
Members of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and nature lovers from other environmental conservation groups have over many years discovered evidence of illegal poaching activities in the salt licks while venturing into the eco-tourist chalets inside Ulu Muda via the Muda Dam.
We ourselves have found some old hides on trees near the salt licks. We have also seen many spent bullet shells in this area. On one occasion, MNS members saw a recently-severed head of wild boar while hiking near Cave Labua. These are clear evidence of illegal hunting in the area.
On another occasion, MNS members encountered a bird trapper with six white-tailed sharma (burong murai batu) from Camp Lasor. The white-tailed sharma is a highly-priced songbird in Malaysia and our neighbouring countries. On the same occasion, we saw locals carrying generators to Sungai Muda to catch fish by electrocution.
The long-term preservation of the Ulu Muda forest for the water supply needs of people in Kedah, Perlis and Penang and of our natural heritage must be undertaken based on the following aspects:
1. Logging must be limited and only allowed in areas far away from the watershed of the rivers to preserve rainwater harvesting capacity and the rich flora and fauna;
2. Illegal logging must be checked and illegal loggers arrested; and
3. Increase the enforcement of wildlife protection by increasing the number of staff at the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).
The Ulu Muda forest has numerous and still unexplored potential, including plants that can be explored for pharmaceutical properties, eco-tourism and scientific research and expeditions.
We feel that the best protection for the Ulu Muda forest is to turn it into a national park. A well-planned and managed park will not only preserve the forest’s flora and fauna but also ensure the survival of humans by providing a sustainable supply of water for the generations to come.
LT COL (R) HUSAMUDIN YAACOB
Chairman, Malaysian Nature Society Kedah Branch
PHANG FATT KHOW
Secretary, Malaysian Nature Society Kedah Branch