Tuesday March 23, 2004

Taman Melawati - Rich in flora and fauna

IN TERMS of natural features and unique biological resources and areas that are worth protecting in the proposed Selangor state park, Dr Wong Khoon Meng, associate professor of the Institute of Biological Sciences in Universiti Malaya, has identified four key zones: 

  • The Hulu Selangor-Fraser’s Hill-Bukit Kutu region,  
  • The Bukit Lagong-Kanching-Klang Gates region, 
  • The Hulu Gombak-Batang Kali-Genting Highlands region,  
  • The Hutan Simpan Ampang-Hulu Langat-Sungai Lalang region.
The proposed Selangor state park comprises key areas that are home to a myriad of bird species. Above is the black-browed barbet.

Here is a description of some of the unique features in each zone. 

Hulu Selangor-Fraser’s Hill-Bukit Kutu region 

This region leading up to Fraser’s Hill and the Bukit Kutu Forest Reserve features species-rich hill forests with many new species awaiting to be discovered. Some of the notable species in this area include the ibul (Orania sylvicola) and hill serdang (Livistona speciosa) palms on the hill ridges, and the giant fishtail palm (Caryota maxima) and giant rattan (Plectocomia griffithii) in the lower montane forests. 

The Bukit Kutu Wildlife Reserve and the Bukit Fraser Bird Sanctuary are also located in this region, reflecting the richness of the fauna here. The gazetted areas are home to the flying lemur, slow loris, three species of gibbon and no less than six species of hornbills, among other wildlife. 

Bukit Lagong-Kanching-Klang Gates region 

The Kanching area is one of Malaysia’s oldest forest recreation areas, and adjoins the Commonwealth Forest Park which has good potential for eco-tourism and reforestation. The Kanching area also borders the Batu Caves limestone complex which features several rare and endemic plants.  

The unique feature of this region is probably the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, which has been recognised as an important site by geologists and botanists. Besides being the longest quartz ridge in the world, its bio-diversity is also unique. The area features an unusual vegetation type that has adapted to the harsh infertile conditions of the quartzite rocks and there are at least five different types of plants found here that occurs nowhere else in the world.  

“From a botanist’s point of view, there are some endemic plants on the quartz ridge that are so rare that they are fully dependent on the ecosystem of the site,” says Wong. “The vegetation on the infertile rock ridge is quite different from those in normal tropical lowland forests.” 

Because these species have adapted to the environment and are narrowly distributed, disturbing the habitat could lead to extinction. A case in point would be the shrubby endemic Aleisanthia rupestris, which though common among the endemic plants on the ridge, is vulnerable to disturbances. 

The quartz ridge is also gazetted as the Klang Gates Wildlife Reserve. It is home to the serow, a mountain goat, as well as more than 30 species of frogs, or a third of the peninsula’s herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles). 

The Hulu Gombak-Batang Kali-Genting Highlands region 

The vegetation ranges from lowland forests to sub-mountain and mountain sites. Among the unique trees are the seraya (Shorea curtisii) which can be found in dense forests on some of the ridges. These giant trees which are characteristic of the two areas are less commonly found now because of disturbances to the hills and lowland forests. Nevertheless, clusters of the seraya can be seen along major roads feeding these two areas. 

The seraya form the basis for classifying the “hill dipterocarp” forest type which is unique to peninsular Malaysia. Although the species occurs elsewhere too, such as in Borneo, the trees are not found in dense stands on hill ridges, and thus do not show clusters of their greyish broccoli-like crowns that stand out from a distance. 

The Gombak Valley is the most accessible site with a proliferation of flora and fauna. According to a report by Wong, as many as 93 mammal species – out of the 200 that can be found in the peninsula – have been sighted in the Hulu Gombak forests, along with 63 species of retiles and over 360 species of butterflies. To add to that, about 250 species of birds – including the rare Bamboo Woodpecker – have been sighted in the Gombak forest, making this one of the best sites for bird-watching. 

Hutan Simpan Ampang-Hulu Langat-Sungai Lalang region 

Three of the four species of shuttlecock palms or daun payung in the world can be found in the Sungai Lalang and Hulu Langat areas in Selangor. They are the two rarer Johannesteijsmannia lanceolata and J. Magnifica, as well as the common J. altifrons. The palms are among the rarest and most beautiful in the world. Their enormous leaves are held together in a diamond-shaped formation, resembling a huge shuttlecock. 

“Here, we have three of the best examples among the palm family at our doorstep,” says Wong. “The palms’ big diamond-shaped fronds form rosettes in the understorey, and many foreign tourists would just love to walk among palm populations like that because of their immense beauty. Past efforts to plant the palms in urban sites met with little success because their main habitat is the forest understorey which provides them with sufficient moisture and shade.” – By Michael Cheang

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