Malaysia: Batu Caves of great importance for conservation

TAN YI LIANG The Star 12 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has identified Batu Caves as an area of great importance for conservation.

"Batu Caves is of great importance to all of us because of its biodiversity, cultural, scientific, recreational and aesthetic values. However, the limestone hill remains poorly protected and the management is fragmented," said MNS honorary member Datuk Henry S. Barlow in his speech in conjunction with MNS' 76th anniversary on Friday.

He added that Batu Caves is a repository of geological and natural history knowledge as there are endemic plants and animals. The Temple Cave is a major religious site while the Dark Caves is an important conservation and nature tourism site.

"It continues to face numerous threats including illegal quarrying, invasive animal and plant species, fires, urbanisation, and inappropriate infrastructure development. The recent fires on the limestone hill underscores the need for better protection of its natural resources," said Barlow, who served as MNS' honorary treasure for 25 years.

He added that the society has been involved in many efforts over the years to protect Batu Caves, including the successful campaign to stop quarrying in the early 1980s.

"MNS continues to be involved in the conservation efforts there and has been entrusted by the Selangor government to manage the Dark Caves," said Barlow at the event at a hotel here, which was attended by Selangor Ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

Barlow said that a long-term solution for the protection of Batu Caves would be increased legal protection and an effective management framework, adding that this could be achieved by forming a Batu Caves conservation trust.

He said that such a trust would involve the Selangor state government and the various parties that are managing different parts of the limestone hill.

"A management plan needs to be formulated and implemented. Ultimately, better management of Batu Caves will improve its chances of getting a Unesco World Heritage Status," said Barlow.

He added that combining Batu Caves with other limestone sites in Selangor such as Bukit Takun and Anak Buas as well as the Klang Gates Ridge as a serial site is an option that should be explored further as it may improve the chances of success.

On the previous successes of MNS, Barlow said that one key success of the society was the protection of Endau-Rompin, when in 1977 MNS gave its voice to the call to stop extensive logging there and caused the termination of logging concessions.

"After leading the historic Malaysian Heritage and Scientific Expedition there, Endau-Rompin was eventually gazetted as state park in 1993. A similar year-long expedition took place in 1993 to Belum in northern Perak, leading to the eventual establishment there of a state park," he said.

He added that in 1987, the society took the first step into environmental education by accepting the management of what is now known as the Kuala Selangor Nature Park, and two years later, the Boh Field Study Centre in Cameron Highlands was set up, thanks to the generosity of Datuk T.B. Russell.

"Today, with the opening last year of the Vale Eco Centre in Teluk Batik, Lumut, Perak, we manage eight such centres in eight differing places each with its own particular purpose and appeal," said Barlow.

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