IPOH, Dec 8 — He may not have professional training, but mechanic Ching Boon Tat is doing all he can to help protect Kinta Valley’s limestone hills.
The 38-year-old said he started going into caves in 2018 after the 14th general election to try to find proof and record why these hills should be protected.
“When Pakatan Harapan became the government, it symbolised hope of better things to come. I wanted to do my part to help protect Kinta Valley’s limestone hills that had long been ignored.”
His biggest discovery was the fossil of a stegodon, an extinct elephant, that was uncovered in a limestone cave in Gopeng last year.
Recalling the fateful day, Ching, who started the Kinta Valley Watch group, said he tracked into the cave with some friends.
“Then suddenly I saw the fossil,” he said, adding he immediately took a photograph of the find and shared it with a Universiti Malaya researcher friend.
The fossil was later confirmed to belong to a stegodon, with a rough geological age of between 30,000 and 80,000 years.
Ching said since started going into caves, he has visited some 30 per cent of Kinta Valley’s limestone hills.
“Every time I enter the caves, it is more like an adventure for me rather than hoping to find historical artefacts.”
“But if I manage to find any artefacts, it will be like hitting the jackpot.”
Ching said as most of the limestone hills have owners, he would get their permission first before venturing into the caves.
“Normally the owners would not object as they know we mean no harm to them.”
Ching said the Kinta Valley Watch group served as an intermediary party with the experts.
“Whenever we find a fossil during our excursions, we will snap a photo of the find and forward it to them. Once they confirmed the find is of historical value, they will go to the site to extract the fossil themselves just like the stegodon fossil.”
The group, Ching said, is a loose grouping consisting of like-minded people wanting to protect the valley’s limestone hills.
“We do not want to be registered as an entity as we want to remain neutral,” he added.
One of Ching’s group members Lee Sok Yin said the limestone hills in Kinta Valley was actually a ready-made tourism product.
“And you need not go through a long journey just to visit the natural wonder,” said the 33-year-old part-time tour guide.
Lee, who started going into caves last year, said there is a feeling of excitement whenever she goes inside.
“And when you touch the rocks inside or see the different flora and fauna, the feeling is ecstatic,” she said.
Maggie Chan Poi Yee said she decided to explore the caves to learn more about it.
“We need not go overseas just to see beautiful caves. Ipoh has it too,” said the 35-year-old hawker.