USM seeks Unesco reserve recognition for Penang Hill

Siti Azizah hopes to be able to get Penang Hill listed in the next two to three years. — Picture by K.E. Ooi
Siti Azizah hopes to be able to get Penang Hill listed in the next two to three years. — Picture by K.E. Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 5 — Researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) are aiming to get Penang Hill designated as a Unesco reserve, in a joint effort with an American biological expert and eco-tourism site, The Habitat.

USM’s Biology School senior lecturer Prof Dr Siti Azizah Mohd Nor, who is leading the team, said the 500ha hill range has a variety of unique flora and fauna that makes it suitable to be designated as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve.

"In two brief surveys we conducted, we have discovered a plant, an ant and a spider that are unique only to the hill range," she told the media after the opening of the First Penang Hill Biodiversity Study Symposium at USM today.

Siti Azizah pointed out that Penang Hill is made up of wide expanses of lush undisturbed forest that includes hill dipterocarp forest, submontane oak-laurel and coniferous trees.

She believes there are more unique species to be discovered on the hill if they conducted a long term research on it.

Siti Azizah hopes to be able to get Penang Hill listed in the next two to three years but the Unesco application will have to be submitted by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

Penang Hill Corporation, the Penang Forestry Department and award-winning American biologist Prof Dr Margaret D Lowman will also be assisting in the research, she added.

Siti Azizah said they hope to complete their research and showcase the results by next year.

"Our final report will also be used as part of the proposal to be submitted to Unesco," she said.

Earlier, in her keynote address, Lowman said it is important for Penang to study it's largely undiscovered tropical forests.

“Penang’s ecological canopies can provide incredible economic and ecological legacies for visitors and the local communities,” said the professor from California Academy of Sciences.

Malaysia currently only has two Unesco reserves in the country, Tasik Chini in Pahang and the Crocker Range, south of Mount Kinabalu in Sabah.

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