Malaysia: Tourists messing up Mossy Forest, says NGO

FERNANDO FONG Straits Times 4 Jul 16;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: An environmental non-governmental organisation has hit out at the Pahang Forestry Department and tour operators for ruining Cameron Highlands’s Mossy Forest, which is famed for its Lord of the Rings-like scenery.

Regional Environmental Awareness of Cameron Highlands president Ramakrishnan Ramasamy claimed that the department and tour operators had become out of touch with the natural environment, which theypurportedly protected, as the forest was going bald.

He said the department and tour operators had become irrelevant as they failed to protect Mossy Forest, located in Gunung Brinchang.

He said the forest continued to degrade as a result of tourists stepping on the moss there.

Ramasamy said moss was particularly sensitive, and damage caused by footprints could take a very long time to “heal”.

“They (state Forestry Department and tour operators) are setting a bad example when it comes to protecting Cameron Highlands’s fragile nature “Instead of guiding tourists to walk on the boardwalk, they allow tourists to trample on the sensitive moss in Mossy Forest.

“Some tourists even climb trees in the forest, when they should stay on the boardwalk,” he told the New Straits Times.

He said tour operators made things worse by opening up new trails in Mossy Forest. Ramasamy urged people to respect nature, reminding them that walking off-trail and illegally intruding into forests were unacceptable.

The state Forestry Department and tour operators have also come under fire from the environmentalist for allowing tourists to litter in Mossy Forest.

“They should ensure that tourists take the litter with them when they leave.”

A recent visit by the NST confirmed Ramasamy’s claims.

A tour guide, who declined to be named, said Mossy Forest was a rare treasure and some people might not realise its true value.

“We try to be strict with our guests, but more public awareness is needed. This will take time.

“Perhaps, the state Forestry Department can impose an entry fee on guests.

“The money can be used to maintain Mossy Forest,” said the tour guide, who is from Tanah Rata.

The department could not be reached for comment at press time.

Last year, the department closed Mossy Forest for six months in what has been viewed as an unsuccessful attempt to allow the moss there to recover.

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