Are tourists killing the Rafflesia?

All parties are important in ensuring sustainable tourism is successful – the local community (Orang Asli), tour operators, tourists, planning authorities (Kelantan Forestry Department) and NGOs (in this case Universiti Malaysia Kelantan).

Planning Authority’s view:

Kelantan Forestry Department director Datuk Zahari Ibrahim said the department had received information on the threat posed by visitors who stopped by while on their way to Cameron Highlands, or enroute to Pulau Perhentian in Terengganu, especially at Pos Jedik, which was part of the Lojing Permanent Forest Reserve.

“Some tourists step on the buds and host plants without realising the damage.

“It should not happen in the first place because the Rafflesia Kerri is among the state’s tourism products, and all parties, including travel agents, must play their role in keeping the flower safe,” he said.

Zahari said to protect the plant under the High Conservation Value Forests (HCVF) management plan for the Rafflesia kerri species, the state government had decided to fence 18 plots on a 50ha land at the forest reserve, from which visitors would be barred from entering.

University’s view

The dean of UMK’s  Natural Resources and Sustainability Science department, Zulhazman Hamzah, said the university was aware of the threats and had taken necessary measures to help the authorities.

“The tourism sector is a likely contributor to the destruction of the Rafflesia’s habitat,” he said.

He said the university also started awareness campaigns to educate the Orang Asli and other communities in the state about the preservation of the flower.

“We have been promoting the Rafflesia as a tourist attraction in Lojing Highlands for some time now.

“This provides the Orang Asli more job opportunities as they can work as tour guides.

“We also give talks and share our knowledge with state government departments, local agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the flower’s recovery and its potential to help the people through eco-tourism activities.”

Source: New Straits Times

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