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Perak authorities deny firefly dens harmed, but groups urge safeguards

Shamsul Anuar, a boat operator in Kampung Dew showing the mangrove trees that has been marked to be cut down. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Shamsul Anuar, a boat operator in Kampung Dew showing the mangrove trees that has been marked to be cut down. — Picture by Farhan Najib

IPOH, Jan 14 — The Perak Forestry Department has rejected allegations that berembang mangrove trees, which are home to fireflies, were cut down along the Sepetang River in Kampung Dew.

Following claims by local fisherman that the near-century old trees were removed, the department’s director Datuk Mohamed Zin Yusop said the berembang trees, or scientifically known as sonneratia caseolaris, were only trimmed.

“Based on our check, we found out that only the branches were cut down. In fact, only four new cuts in the tree branches were spotted.

“We believe the branches were cut down by the boats that use the river to transport timbers as the branches stretches until the river,” he said.

Mohamed Zin was responding to the statement by Kampung Dew Fireflies Tourism Association secretary Shukor Ishak, who claimed that nine more berembang mangrove trees in the area, estimated to be over 80 years old, were cut down.

Separately, Sahabat Alam Malaysia field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman urged the authority to expedite gazetting the area in order to afford greater protection for the trees and wildlife there.

“The only way to save the place from being encroached upon again is by gazetting it as a protected area.

“The announcement of gazetting was made by the state government in 2013, and as a matter of fact, the place was also to be named Fireflies Forest Reserve.

“However, nothing has been done by the authority to gazette the area,” he said.

Meor Razak said the reason given by the State Land and Mines Office (PTG) for the delay in the gazetting process was due to the ownership of land.

He said the agency previously said the land was owned by several private entities, which complicated the process.

“However, I believe the authority can take action under Section 9 of the Forestry Act 1967 which outlines the acquisition of land to be constituted as a permanent reserved forest,” Meor said.

According to Mohamed Zin, his agency was working with the Kerian Land and District Office and Department of Survey and Mapping Perak to establish it actual size of the area.

“Once we have finished the process, we will move to gazette the area as a permanent forest reserve,” said Mohamed Zin.

Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said that the government should impose a heavy penalty on all “nature criminals”.

“Malaysian mentality in saving nature are still backwards.The Forestry Department needs to be more alert in preventing this destruction.

“If everyone plays their duty in taking care of their constituency this kind of crime will never happen,” she said.

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