Malaysia: Litterbugs force closure of exotic Mossy Forest

AMANDA YEAP The Star 2 oct 15;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: The age-old Mossy Forest in Gunung Brinchang, famed for its exotic flora and lush mossy carpets, has been closed for a lengthy period due to excessive littering.

No activity is allowed at the boardwalk and inside the forest, including hiking up Gunung Irau, during the closure which will be in place until mid-2016.

The closure, effective yesterday, was announced by the Pahang Forestry Department on its Facebook page.

Its director Datuk Mohd Paiz Kamaruzaman described the need to clean up rubbish in the forest as “desperate”.

He said more bins would be placed to help reduce littering, especially at the boardwalk area.

“Signboards urging the public to conserve the Mossy Forest will be increased. Maintenance work will be carried out during the closure.

“The closure will also allow the regeneration and rehabilitation of mossy undergrowth, which is the special feature of the site,” he said, adding that the department would conduct regular patrols during holiday seasons and weekends.

Mohd Paiz said a dialogue with tour operators and NGOs would be held soon to seek their views on ways to conserve the forest.

The move to close the forest did not go down well with some tour guides.

One guide, who wanted to be known only as Bob, 37, blamed local tourists for it.

“There has to be enforcement to prevent people from destroying the site. Offenders should be fined,” he said. “What are we going to promote if the forest is closed?”

Fellow tour guide K. Subramaniam, 65, said the Malaysians destroyed plants by plucking them.

“They don’t listen to us but European and Middle-Eastern tourists do,” he said. “Sometimes, the foreigners even help clear out the trash.”

Another tour guide S. Thiru, 48, wanted to see the forest restored to its natural glory.

“Our Mossy Forest is one of its kind. Many people liken it to the fantastic forest scenes in The Lord of the Rings and Avatar. Our local film Puteri Gunung Ledang was also filmed there,” he added.

Visitors trespass into Mossy area
AMANDA YEAP The Star 4 Oct 15;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Three days after the closure of the popular Mossy Forest in Gunung Brinchang here, tourists are still keen on trespassing into the boardwalk despite the entrance being fenced up by zinc panels.

A check by The Star at 11.30am found that the panels, previously held together by metal wiring only, had been pried open.

“It was already like that when we got here,” said a tour guide, who wished to be known only as Boi, 26.

He said so far, no work had started in the forest yet, and tourists could still walk around to explore.

“The tourists I’m bringing are mostly senior citizens. It is impossible for them to trek the jungle using the natural trail because it’s dangerous for them.

“The best way for them to get their money’s worth for their trip up here is still through the boardwalk,” he said at the site yesterday.

Asked if he knew of the closure prior to the journey up here, Boi said he was not informed.

It was reported in The Star that the Mossy Forest had been closed, effective Oct 1 until mid-2016, due to excessive littering.

The Pahang Forestry Department announced on its Facebook page that no activity would be allowed, and that included hiking up Gunung Irau, during the closure.

Notices of the closure were also put up in front of the boardwalk and at the entry to the road up to Gunung Brinchang, but only in Bahasa Malaysia.

A couple from the Netherlands were spotted near the entrance, as they had made an arduous journey uphill from Brinchang town.

Student Ellen Boon, 24, said they did not hear or know anything about the closure from the locals.

“The signs are not in English, so we couldn’t understand them. It would be disappointing if we spent two and a half hours hiking our way up here for nothing.

“We’ll go in just to have a look. Our tour guide told us not to simply step on the moss, and we intend to listen to him,” said Boon, who had spent the last two months backpacking across Asia with her boyfriend Kevin Beijers, 21.

Kuala Lumpur-based fund manager Sean Yap, 30, had also just reached the entrance of the boardwalk with his family when he learned of the closure.

“This is pretty disappointing. I wanted to show my son around the Mossy Forest, but it looks like we’ll just have to come back another time.

“This place is a tourist attraction spot. I hope they will reopen it as soon as possible,” he said.

Tourists are not the only ones who were dismayed by the closure of the forest, as some tour guides continue to voice out their disagreement with the department’s decision.

Tour guide R. Ronald, 41, said the closure was particularly difficult for many tour operators because many foreign tourists had booked for the trip two to six months ahead.

“For a freelance tour guide like myself, I only get to earn more when I can guide my customers up into the Mossy Forest,” he said.

Ronald stressed that the authorities who built the boardwalk should be in charge of looking after this famous tourist spot.

“What’s the point of spending thousands on a place like this and they don’t look after it?

“If they can’t afford to do so, at least privatise it.

“Now that it is closed, they only put up a sign that is not even in English. How are the foreign tourists who hike up here on their own going to understand?” he said.

Ronald also urged the department to allow the boardwalk to remain open, and station rangers here to monitor the site to prevent litterbugs from throwing their trash indiscriminately.

On the other hand, tour guide M. Nathan, 40, said the closure was a decision many tour guides were forced to accept.

“It’s important to look toward its long-term benefits for tourism. Once it reopens, hopefully, there’ll be better amenities like toilets. Currently there are none,” he said.

Pahang Forestry Department director Datuk Mohd Paiz Kamaruzaman could not be reached for comments.

It was learnt that the tentative date for the department to meet with tour operators regarding the closure is Oct 13.