Taman Negara Merapoh or also called Taman Negara Sungai Relau is one of the entry points into Taman Negara and another route to climb Gunung Tahan. Recently, I was there with a group of volunteers who were monitoring the wildlife and land-use activity in the nearby Sungai Yu Forest Reserve. Note – Sungai is Malay for River.

Sungai Yu Forest Reserve (SYFR) is a large forest reserve under the Permanent Forest Estate (PFE) of Peninsular Malaysia that is a mixture of secondary and primary forest, and is largely intact for the moment, although there are many logging roads and illegal hunting activities going on there, as I found out myself.

The railway track to Kota Bahru dissects the forest, and further in there is a network of dirt logging tracks that unfortunately serves as gateways for hunters to poach the wildlife. In spite of all these activities though, the forest is still valuable habitat, and has many large game animals like elephants, tapir, barking deer, and sambar deer. While I was there, I also spotted a flying squirrel “flying” from one tall tree to a lower one. Hornbills of various kinds (such as Southern Pied and Black Hornbills) could also be seen and heard frequently.

Railway bridge over Yu river

Railway bridge over the Yu river.

Railway track to Kota Bahru

Railway track stretching all the way to Kota Bahru.

Landscape around Merapoh

Landscape around Merapoh. A mix of shrub-land, plantations, secondary forest, clearings, limestone hills, and primary forest. The forest in the far distance is possibly that of Taman Negara.

Sungai Yu forest reserve

Sungai Yu forest reserve with large clearance going on, probably for roads and plantations, in the foreground – further fragmenting the forest. A limestone hill is to the right. Limestone hills are common here.

During our walk, we found numerous evidence for illegal hunting and trapping being carried out by the local populace, and unfortunately, there is no way to stop these activities short of educating people and hoping they will choose the right way. One of the troubling activities we spotted was some large scale land clearing going on smack in the middle of the forest up on some hill slopes. The forest was just stripped bare!

It seems that right now, the price of rubber is high, and people often will just chop down a “small” portion of forest at the boundary and “move” the boundary further in, especially if they can get away with it. Often, illegal vegetable farming sprouts up in the middle of forest “reserves.” Encroaching plantations is an ubiquitous problem for ALL forest reserves and protected areas all around the world.

Logging tracks in Sungai Yu forest

Logging tracks in Sungai Yu forest. The forest is a patchwork of virgin and logged forest. Note the bamboo, which thrives in disturbed areas.

A medium sized tualang tree

A medium sized tualang tree in Sg Yu. These trees can grow to large size.

Dead giant tree

Dead giant tree, almost 50 meters tall. In the past 10 years, I’ve noticed many large trees dying off.

Bateq or Negrito shelter

Bateq or Negrito shelter which our team came across in the shrub-land area of SYFR. It may not have been built by the Bateq, but the style is similar.

Huge bracket fungi

Huge bracket fungi found growing on a fallen log.

Elephant footprint

Elephant footprint found on the logging track.

Teysmania palm

A variety of Teysmania palm?! Possibly a rare species? Turns out not to be.

It is important to note that the integrity of SYFR needs to be maintained, as it serves as a corridor that connects the large forests of the Main Range (Titiwangsa Range) with the Taman Negara area. Also, the geology of SYFR is interesting in that it contrasts with that of Taman Negara Merapoh. Basically, SYFR has granite/sandstone bedrock while Taman Negara Merapoh has limestone bedrock. This can be clearly seen in both their rivers – Sungai Yu and Sungai Relau.

Sungai Yu or the Yu River.

Sungai Yu or the Yu River, which is quite clear, with nice rock formations in places. It would be even clearer had there not been logging up in the hills beyond.

Forest on limestone bedrock is normally low stature, even if it is lowland forest, because the soil is just not rich enough to support vigorous tree growth. The tall trees in Taman Negara Merapoh were mostly 30-40 m height, but I did notice some tall trees in SYFR (that somehow escaped the axe) that were between 45 m to 50 m in height.

Another recurring troubling theme I would like to point out is the presence of many dead or dying big trees that may indicate changes in the rays of the sun? If you follow astronomy sites, it seems our solar system (and the sun) is undergoing “changes.” Time will certainly tell.

Dipterocarp forest of Sungai Yu

The still beautiful forest of Sungai Yu Forest Reserve needs to be protected from all the threats it faces – Logging, hunting and land clearance are big threats.

Overall, it was an educational and fun trip, although a little hectic, because it was so brief (only 2 days), but I certainly hope to go back there again and let Mother Earth’s calming balms sooth my senses again – if only for a short while.

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2 Comments to “Taman Negara and Sungai Yu Forest Reserve”

  1. Pilou says:

    Regarding the picture with the subtitle “A variety of Teysmania palm. Possibly a rare species?”, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s not picture of johannesteijsmannia (Teysmania)… It’s just young plant as we can see everywhere in Malaysia…

  2. JungleBoy says:

    Tesymania palms do exist in that general area, for example, along the Tanum river inside Taman Negara, once past Kuala Juram. However, you are right, this is not a variety of Teysmania palm.

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