WWF-Malaysia Statement in reference to Recent News on Forest Clearance
WWF-Malaysia’s work in Fraser’s Hill and its surrounding areas are mainly focused on advocating for the establishment of a state park, as these forests function as important water catchment areas. It needs to be noted that the Pahang state government has gazetted most of the forests in and surrounding Frasers Hill as protection forests (i.e. Permanent Reserved Forests) for water catchment and soil protection purposes. There are small pockets of forests which are still state land forests (i.e. not legally protected as forest reserves), including Hulu Sempam.
Specifically in reference to Hulu Sempam and reports that durian plantations are destroying tiger habitats, WWF-Malaysia’s quote pertaining to the area being identified as an Expected Tiger Habitat, and the surrounding forests as a Confirmed Tiger Habitat is in reference to the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan for Malaysia (2008-2020), prepared in 2008. In this context, it is important to first understand the definition of an Expected and Confirmed Tiger Habitat according to the NTCAP:
Expected Tiger Habitat
These are forest blocks that are physically connected to confirmed tiger habitats but have yet to be adequately surveyed. Tigers are expected to occur in these habitats because of the physical connectivity. The conservation value of these areas can be raised once tiger presence is confirmed.
Confirmed Tiger Habitat
These habitats are either Protected Areas or Permanent Reserved Forests with evidence of tigers recorded between 1991 and 2003 by Department of Wildlife and National Parks.
As the National Tiger Survey is currently being conducted for the country, current information on tigers in the forests of Frasers Hill will only be derived once the survey has been completed. It may seem premature to conclude how the forest clearing affects tigers within this particular area, but in general, clearance of natural forest can cause wildlife habitats to be fragmented.
To add further, the clearance of natural forest for any sort of plantation in tiger habitats would not only fragment and reduce natural habitat, but also likely expose the area to higher poaching incidences. This is especially so since forests that were inaccessible before would now be accessible through roads that lead to such plantations (which in turn facilitates poaching).
The main tiger habitat in Peninsular Malaysia is within the Central Forest Spine (CFS), which comprises of four major forest complexes. Most of the forests in the CFS also provide vital ecosystem services such as water provisioning services and many of these areas are identified as environmentally sensitive areas. While some of the forests within the CFS are state land forest, it needs to be emphasised that most of the forests here are legally gazetted as Permanent Reserved Forests.
While some of the forest areas cleared may be small in comparison to the larger tiger habitat within the CFS, the cumulative effect of clearing small patches of forests could lead to habitat and biodiversity loss in the long-term. Thus, it is crucial that serious consideration and emphasis is given not just to tigers, but also biodiversity in general, and ecosystem functions of the area when determining suitable locations for any planned development, including monoculture plantations. In our opinion, natural forests (especially within the CFS) that are environmentally sensitive, have important ecosystem functions, harbor important biodiversity or function as important ecological linkages between two forest complexes should be retained.
In order to ensure the survival of our Malaysian wildlife and arrest biodiversity loss, it is crucial that natural forests and forest connectivity remains intact, particularly within the CFS of Peninsular Malaysia. In this regard, WWF-Malaysia works with the Federal Government and various state governments in Malaysia to protect our natural heritage and support the sustainable development vision of the nation.
Dr Henry Chan
Conservation Director, WWF-Malaysia
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For more information, please contact:
Communications Manager, Peninsular Malaysia Conservation Programme, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +603-7450 3773