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Friday, July 11. 2014
Preserve all of Gunung Kanthan
New flora and fauna species found
The Star - Saturday February 8, 2014
by Tan Cheng Li and Isabelle Lai
PETALING JAYA: Botanists have discovered two new plant species and a new species of gecko within an undisturbed portion of limestone forest on Gunung Kanthan that many fear will be quarried in the near future.
Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) plant taxonomist Dr Ruth Kiew said the new discoveries were further proof that the area, known as Zone C of Gunung Kanthan, near Ipoh, has critical conservation value.
Kiew said they had found a diminutive herb with purple flowers (Gymnostachyum nov) from the Acanthaceae family, and a tree (Vatica nov) from the Dipterocarpaceae family.
“In addition to these two new species, Zone C is also home to nine species on Malaysia’s Red List of Endangered Plants. They are in danger of extinction,” she told The Star.
Kiew said the find was made during one of several plant surveys last year in Zones C and D at the southern portion of Gunung Kanthan to compile a complete record of all plant species there.
Botanists also suspect that the critically endangered Paraboea vulpina of the African Violet family had gone extinct on Gunung Kanthan due to quarrying in the northern portion of the mountain.
The plant was recorded there by the Malaysian Nature Society in its 1991 study, and with its extinction at Kanthan, only two other population sites on other limestone hills remain.
American herpetologist Dr Lee Grismer, who had led a group of local and foreign biologists in surveys of the area last July, has also discovered a new species of gecko there.
Named the Gua Kanthan bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus guakanthanensis), the 7cm-long lizard bears five dark bands on its body and seeks refuge in cracks on the limestone walls.
Grismer said the species appeared to be restricted to the hill, as it was not seen in nearby limestone hills. This makes it the second endemic fauna species in the area, besides the trapdoor spider Liphistius kanthan.
Perak hills open to destruction, say experts
The Star - Saturday February 8, 2014
PETALING JAYA: Currently, none of the hills in Perak have been gazetted for protection although conservation of the state’s limestone hills has been incorporated into the Ipoh Local Draft Plan 2020 and the Perak Structure Plan 2020.
“We strongly support Ipoh Mayor Datuk Roshidi Hashim who called for 16 prominent hills to be preserved and protected in May last year. The first is Gunung Kanthan,” said Forest Research Institute of Malaysia botanist Dr Ruth Kiew
Dr Lee Grismer, renowned in the scientific fraternity for his discovery of several species of frogs, lizards and snakes in Malaysia, said the hills should not be quarried so as to protect the newly-discovered species.
“These findings add to our other work in limestone areas throughout Malaysia; that these regions, overlooked by terrestrial biologists, are areas of high biodiversity,” said the biologist from La Sierra University in California.
“As with plants and invertebrates, limestone forests are proving to be significant areas of high herpetological endemism and should be afforded special conservation status rather than turned into cement.
“We have only explored approximately 2% of these formations and their associated forests, and anticipate that tens of additional new species will eventually be discovered as exploration continues,” wrote the scientists when publishing their gecko finding in the journal Zootaxa, where Grismer also jointly described a new species of rock gecko that is found only on Pulau Bidong, Terengganu, named Cnemaspis bidongensis.
Lafarge Malaysia Bhd, which is currently extracting limestone from Zones A and B for cement production, is conducting its own studies in the area, with its Kanthan plant manager Sekar Kaliannan saying last year that initial studies of Zone C indicated it “does not contain sensitive biodiversity”.
The Lafarge-commissioned a biodiversity study of Zones C and D, which was done by a team from Universiti Malaya’s Institute of Biological Sciences led by Prof Dr Rosli Hashim, together with Lafarge’s International Bio-diversity Panel (IBP).
Sekar said the results of the study were expected to be made known to the public by March.
“The findings will be presented to our top management in France and to Lafarge’s IBP, before it is shared with the Perak state government, media and other stakeholders,” he said.
Conserve rest of Gunung Kanthan
The Star - Sunday February 9, 2014
by Isabelle Lai, Julia Khaw and Audrey Lye
PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) is lobbying for the entire southern portion of Gunung Kanthan in Ipoh to be conserved as a unit, said president Prof Dr Maketab Mohamad.
Following the discovery of new flora and fauna species there, he said it was clear that Lafarge Malaysia Berhad should not extend its limestone quarrying activities into Zones C and D.
“The whole area must be preserved. Lafarge may divide the areas for administrative purposes but they are interconnected ecosystem- wise,” he said when contacted.
Dr Maketab said that MNS had no issue with Lafarge’s Kanthan cement plant nor its existing quarrying activities.
“But it must source limestone from other locations once the resources are finished, which will not be for many years. Zones C and D cannot be touched,” he added.
Dr Maketab said MNS would propose to Lafarge that it could help run Zones C and D as a conservation area and visitors centre, so people could go in and understand the karst system in the Kinta Valley.
Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) plant taxonomist Dr Ruth Kiew, whose team discovered two new flora species on Zone C, described the area as containing “extremely sensitive biodiversity”.
“It is critical to conserve the entire ecosystem intact, in particular the unique limestone forest that is a refuge for plants and animals because Gunung Kanthan is already an island surrounded by inhospitable farms and plantations,” she said.
They found a herb with purple flowers (Gymnostachyum sp. nov.) of the Acanthaceae family and a tree (Vatica sp. nov.) of the Dipterocarpaceae family in one of several plant surveys there last year.
A new species of gecko, named the Gua Kanthan bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus guakanthanensis), was discovered in Zone D by American herpetologist Dr Lee Grismer and his team in July last year.
This discovery marks the second endemic fauna species found in the area, with the first being the Liphistius Kanthan trapdoor spider.
When contacted, the Malaysian Karst Society urged Lafarge to allow visitors and scientists into the caves so they could experience the beauty of limestone caves for themselves.
“We used to organise trips into the caves but have been restricted recently as the property is now private,” said a spokesman who declined to be named.
Lafarge is expected to announce the results of its biodiversity study of the area by March.
The study was done by a team from Universiti Malaya’s Institute of Biological Sciences together with Lafarge’s International Biodiversity Panel.
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