Malaysia: Have laws to protect threatened plants, government urged

New Straits Times 3 Aug 13;

THE Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) has urged the government to legislate an act to protect threatened plant species in the country.

Its Forest Biodiversity division director Dr Saw Leng Guan said the government should come up with a legal framework.

"The government and the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry need to revisit the legal framework concerning wild plants and initiate a legal provision pertaining to wild plants conservation to protect the endangered species," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

He said habitat loss was the primary factor endangering the wild plants. These included human activities, such as land-clearing and logging.

"The threatened plants need to be protected in their natural habitats, as opposed to replanting the species elsewhere. The plants are inter-dependant on the ecosystem, environment and other species. We may not be able to save a species by merely plucking them out and replanting it elsewhere."

Saw suggested practising the 'in-situ' (in position) method of having a plant grown in its natural position and habitat.

"Ex-situ (off-site conservation of protecting an endangered species of plant outside its natural habitat) may lead to its extinction."

Saw also stressed on the need for a conservation programme in collaboration with the ministry to share information on the affected species.

"There must be a mechanism with the government on how to deal with threatened plants in a comprehensive manner," he said, adding that an adequate monitoring system was required to identify the threatened species and their habitats.

230 plant species face extinction
Tharanya Arumugam New Straits Times 3 Aug 13;

RED LIST: Initiatives must be taken to prevent this, says institute

KUALA LUMPUR: NO fewer than 230 plant species are on the verge of extinction in Peninsular Malaysia.

This is the sobering figure provided by the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) based on its latest 'Malaysia Plant Red List' research.

FRIM Forest Biodiversity division director Dr Saw Leng Guan, who is behind the list, to date had identified over 8,300 plant species in the peninsula, out of more than 20,000 species in the country.

Saw pointed out that of the 8,300 species, 975 plants were selected for conservation status assessment last year, out of which, 411 plants (42.2 per cent) were classified under the "threatened category".

Based on the assessment, 97 species (10 per cent) were listed as "critically endangered", of which 33 of them were plants threatened with extinction; while 133 (13.6 per cent) were classified as "endangered", 148 (15.2 per cent) as "vulnerable" and 29 (three per cent) as "rare".

Among the critically endangered species are the Dipterocarpus coriaceus (keruing paya), Dipterocarpus semivestitus (keruing padi), Parashorea globosa (meranti pasir daun besar), Hopea bilitonesis and Vatica flavida (resak padi), all of which can be only found in Perak.

The Dipterocarpus sarawakensis (keruing layang) are found in Terengganu, Hopea subalata (merawan kanching) in Selangor, and Hopea auriculata in Johor, Pahang and Perak.

Meanwhile, 182 (18.7 per cent) of the species were classified as "near threatened", 327 (33.5 per cent) were labelled as "least concern" and 55 (5.6 per cent) were listed as "data deficient" (insufficient information for a proper assessment of conservation status to be made).

"The percentage of species in each of the conservation status category has been consistent for almost two decades now," Saw said, adding that initiatives must be taken to prevent the critically endangered species from extinction.

To date, four plant species have been officially declared as extinct in Malaysia. They are the the Oreogrammitis crispatula Parris and Oreogrammitis kunstleri Parris from the Grammitidaceae family, the Begonia eiromischa (woolly-stalked Begonia) from the Begoniaceae family and the Shorea kuantanensis, endemic to Malaysia from the Dipterocarpaceae family.

The four species were officially declared extinct in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List 2010.

'Set up body for endangered flora'
Tharanya Arumugam New Straits Times 4 Aug 13;

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Malaysian Nature Society alarmed at number of plant species on verge of extinction

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Malaysian Nature Society has called for the setting up of a national coalition to conserve endangered plant species and their habitats.

"We need a professional coordinating body, whereby if there is a possibility of species becoming extinct in an area, proposed development on the land should be halted until the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) conducts studies on the species.

"If development is deemed unavoidable, the endangered plant should be transferred to another location similar to its natural habitat," said MNS president Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed.

He suggested the National Resources and Environment Ministry (NRE) set up a secretariat or council overseeing all flora and fauna species facing extinction.

While he lauded FRIM's suggestion for an act to protect threatened plant species, he said this would take time to be formulated.

"The government should initiate the creation of the Endangered Flora and Fauna Council first and the law can be promulgated at the same time," he told the New Sunday Times.

He said the council's role would be to ensure a complete inventory of all endangered species, carry out studies and research, and acquire land for conserving the species.

He said state governments should also be more committed to protecting endangered plant species, especially plants that grow on land earmarked for development.

"Human-induced activities are the primary reason behind the worrying number of threatened species in the country," he added.

The New Straits Times had on Saturday reported that 230 plant species were at risk of extinction, according to a study undertaken by FRIM to examine the state of flora in the peninsula.

Of the 975 plant species randomly selected for FRIM's red list conservation status assessment, 42.2 per cent (411) were deemed threatened with extinction.

The study revealed that 23.6 per cent of species were on the verge on extinction, while 15.2 per cent are vulnerable and three per cent were rare species found in Malaysia.

Many more plants were classified as near threatened (182 species, 18.7 per cent).

"Species' habitats are rapidly disappearing because of agriculture activities, unplanned development, and other human activities.

"The State governments should play an active role in conserving the habitat of these endangered species."

He said the main stumbling block to the endangered tree species' conservation was the state governments' reluctance and smugness.

Citing the example of the keruing paya tree in Perak, he said the state should have made a collaborative decision on de-gazetting Bikam forest with the NRE, the Forestry Department, FRIM, and the Wildlife Department (Perhilitan).

"But, instead, the state made use of the Federal Constitution, which gives it absolute power over land, forests and water matters and ignored collaboration with departments."

"Perhaps the government should look into amending this provision in the constitution."

He also pointed out that besides climate change, extinction might occur naturally without human interference.