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.
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.
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.
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.
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.