IPOH, Nov 12 — Like many other lush tropical forests in Malaysia, Segari Melintang in Perak is full of valuable flora and fauna that is under frequent threat from human activities.
Since a decade ago, environmentalists have pushed the state to gazette the 3,000-hectare wide are covering Pantai Pasir Pandak-Pantai Tanjung Batu, the Segari Melintang Forest Reserve and the Tanjung Hantu Forest Reserve as a state park to keep poachers, anglers and reduce the human footprint within its borders to better protect and conserve the endemic wildlife there.
In July, the new state government under Pakatan Harapan announced that plans were underway for its gazettement as Perak’s fifth state park, after the Royal Belum Rainforest, the Kinta Nature Park, the Pulau Sembilan Marine Park and the latest, the Kinta Valley Geopark.
Malay Mail spoke with Sahabat Alam Malaysia field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman to find out what’s at stake if the gazettement is held off too long.
Turtles on the west coast
The Pantai Pasir Pandak-Pantai Tanjung Batu is categorised as an Environmentally Sensitive Area Rank 1 in the National Physical Plan because it is a major turtle landing area, especially for the green turtle, Meor Razak said.
It is all the more significant because there are so few turtle landing areas today in peninsular Malaysia, all which Meor Razak was able to count on one hand: one in Penang, Port Dickson, Melaka and the last one in Perak on the west coast.
“Turtles are sensitive to large scale human activities and if events like fishing competitions are continually held there, then the turtles would migrate to some other place. Moreover, fishing is dangerous to turtles as they may get hooked by fish hooks,” he said.
Meor Razak explained that anglers continue to flock to the beaches because the area is still considered state land, and therefore a public area, despite its environmental sensitivity ranking, resulting in outcries from environmentalists.
“Last month, a fishing competition was held at there despite Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu saying no to the event. These kind of things will only continue until the area is fully protected,” he said.
Only tree species in the world
The Segari Melintang Forest Reserve is also the only place in the whole wide world where Balau Putih, scientifically known as Shorea lumutensis is found. The rainforest tree species is already listed as critically endangered list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Meor Razak said.
“What we worry is that forest reserves can always be degazetted. As an example, two years ago the previous government had degazetted the forest reserve and it has been turned into a quarry.
“If the area is not gazetted as a state park, we believe more exploitation will occur and we won’t be able to protect the Balau Putih tree,” he said.
By turning Segari Melintang into a state park and not merely a forest reserve, such species will be accorded full protection and conservation.
Meor Razak said a gazetted state park will also draw more researchers to enter and study not just the Balau Putih, but also other flora endemic to the forest.
“It will also help us in preserving the trees and environment there,” he said.
The Tanjung Hantu Forest Reserve is also a rare type of forest with unique flora that Meor Razak believes would intrigue researchers as the vegetation there are markedly distinct from those that grow in a mangrove swamp.
“We called it beach forest as the trees are located near the water. It should not be mistaken with mangrove area. This is totally different as the trees are found on sandy soil,” he explained.
“The area should be conserved as it has some unique trees such as Balau Putih, Kelat Jambu Laut or Sea Apple and Ambung Ambung also known as Sea Lettuce Tree, which attract the turtles and we don’t have many beach forests left in the country. ,” he added.
According to Meor Razak, there are only two other beach forests in Malaysia: Pasir Panjang in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan and Pantai Timur Johor in Mersing.
It’s been nearly half a year and there have been no signs that the gazettement will happen any time soon.
Perak Tourism Committee chairman Tan Kar Hing said the state government has only conducted one meeting regarding the proposal to convert Segari Melintang into a state park.
“Lot of things we need to take into account before gazetting the area into a state park and so far we only conducted one meeting from our side,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.
“However, not to worry, the state government is aware of the conservation value of the area and will make sure the entire area is protected. We will expedite the gazetting process, but give us some time,” Tan added.