*Shedding a tear of hope for Taman Negara

There are many National Parks in Malaysia but mention The National Park, the one which is associataed with Kuala Tembeling, Kuala Tahan and Pahang come to mind.

My heart bleeds every time I visit Taman Negara(TN) as it is fondly referred to. Will it be sustainable? as a national park?

I am afraid it is becoming more of a theme park, where quantity of visitors is the measure of sustainability. Apply that formula to a national park, and you know you have a recipe for disaster. I am afraid TN is inching towards that unless the state government, the Wildlife Department and the MInistry of Tourism come to thier senses.

mat jinjang doing the monkey walk 

Geographically it is ideally located, far enough from the maddening urban crowd. THe construction of a highway right to the doorstep of TN at Kuala Tahan although providing convenience, took away the exclusiveness of the classical longboat ride and the exclusiveness of Taman Negara. Busloads of tourists create a traffic jam of sort in this one lane brasillia. They are unfortunately not the right kind of tourist.

I call them the mat and minah jinjang, the theme park tourists. My canopy walk was spoilt by the presence of a large crowd of mat n minah jinjang who obviously thought that the walk is the very experience they were after. THe noise they generated made monkeys out of them. I called it the monkey walk. I could not sight a single wildlife. Each brought along a whistle as if to referee a bird race. The birds just refuse to race.

The rangers did nothing.

I did not see many rangers around. The only one I saw was at Kuala Tembeling. He was the only one in uniform distributing the camera permits. Impressive uniform but where are the rest. Can the wildlife department Manage TN? I doubt it. What about the forests, the rivers and the aborigines that make up a national park? I do not think that the wildlife department has the clout and is up to it.

In this respect I commend the Johor state government for setting up the Johor National Park Corporation that manage and promote all national Park in Johor. As land and forests matters are under the jurisdiction of the MB, it make sense to have it under the MBs office. Kudos to JOhor and the MB for the intellectual leadership. Can you expect the Jerantut district office to be able to match that kind of intellectual leadership?

The longboat kapcai  and the river 

THe TEmbeling river serves as the natural boundary to the TN. So you have an exposed prestine jungle on one river bank and the other one being plundered and serve as a natural base for plundering of the TN. THe result is a murky river.

The long boat ride has always been a joyous and unique experience. On your left is the TN and on your right is what remains of the rainforests. At best it could be called a secondary rainforest. To save the TN a buffer zone has to be gazetted. I saw a skinny wildboar on the river bank oblivious to the sound of the long boat. I saw a herd of Seladang, easy targets as they are no longer in protected territory. Not an impressive record of sighting .

Arriving at Kuala Tahan you see a mini Manaus, the famous river mouth town of the Amazon. The Boatman and his long boat remind me of the Mat kapcai, the cub bikers in KL. With its high pitch two strokes racing against each other and the cowboy town of Kuala Tahan providing the backdrop. I saw improvements. At least there were no more satay sellers on the river banks and ugly shacks selling trinkets.

The rangers have to enforce. If I were the DG of the TN, I would impose a total ban on mineral water bottles, polystyrene food containers, plastic bags, and other disposables. The disposable indisposable tourists are unfortunately on the rise in affluent Malaysia. Unless controlled, every maggie mee visitor will generate half a bag of non biodegradeable garbage per day weighing about 0.5 kilo. Interpolate… The instant maggie campers can do instant co-lateral damage.

the bikers and the plunderers 

I saw a group of big bikers at Kuala Tahan. These are of the Harleys kind. I doubt if these bikers dare to leave their big machine behind and allow them to appreciate nature. Why are they here, I wonder.

I also met a foursome loading chainsaws and grass cutters and bagfuls of unknowns. When I asked they claimed to be on a fishing trip. I later found out these are the "gaharu" hunters. The smaller-time plunderer were seen collecting bagfuls of TN pebbles, I guess to adorn the terrace house rock garden.

Not a comforting piece of reporting. How I wish the quality of visitors be upgraded. It sounds elitist but there must be better ways of managing sustainability.

Notwithstanding the above observation, I have already planned for an upriver expedition to Kampong Mat Deling, another 3 hours ride. My dream expedition is to go across the Titiwangsa to Dungun.

One Response to *Shedding a tear of hope for Taman Negara

  1. pezze says:

    I would have to admit, though we had a good weekend trip to Taman Negara, I was severely disappointed. Disppointed in a sense that:

    1. As you said in your blog, the place is becoming more like a theme park, and we were like a bunch of tourist in the theme park.

    2. I had in my imagination a pristine place, just like in the pictures of the tourism advertisements on Taman Negara. Reality: there had been so many what I mentioned to Fareh as “pokok plastik”, where you can see plastic bits hanging on trees by the riverside.

    3. The river, my heart broke when we got to Kuala Tahan & the campsite. What, this far upriver and the water is still “teh susu”? What happen to the crystal clear stream?

    4. The river again, I felt like crying when I jumped into the river and it was warm!!

    5. The wildlife, where were they? Save for the 2 hornbills and a few leaches, where were they? Where were the fishes? Hafiz, what happened to your fishing rod? Did someone step over/across it and it became suwey? I heard stories where people went to Taman Negara for fishing and got many many tasty freshwater fishes. Thanks to our Pak Wan the boatman, we got to savour some which he netted in his “jala”.

    6. Thrash, rubbish. This is my pet peeve. It breaks my heart everytime that I go to places like this and I see plastic wrappers, styrofoam cups etc. Man, leave all that at McDonalds!! Plastics, as good and as essential it is in our modern life, I curse those who bring and leave them in these places. Man, even the Batiks have started to use plastic covers on their huts!!

    7. Lunch, thanks for asking the kakak at the kedai makan to get us some “Ikan Patin” for our last lunch. It was sad, in Taman Negara, we had “ayam masak kicap” and mixed vege for lunch. Sad, really sad.

    As soon as the next trip (to Kg Mt Daling) was mooted, I quickly jumped at the opportunity. I want to savor what is “kampung Melayu”, what is “pristine jungle” etc. I don’t want to see the “commercialised” Taman Negara anymore. It pains me, truly.

    If it’s just canopy walk, I can do that in FRIM. What I want is to see animals, appreciate their beauty, appreciate God’s power and grace in creating them, that was what I expected in Taman Negara. If I want brown river, we have one just next to our office, I see it every day from my office’s window, I want crystal clear river which I can drink the water from, tasting sweet. Interestingly, I get a replacement nearby, in Ulu Langat (love the place!!). If I want a clear jungle track, again, I can go to FRIM, give us some adventure please!! I appreciate so much visiting the batik though, and the cave was a nice touch.

    Anyway, I know I shouldn’t expect much. It was our maiden adventure as a group. It was more like a “feeler” trip, in order to prepare for more interesting and adventures in the future. We had novice adventurer, bringing combs, shavers, mirrors and talcum powders of all things!! HaHaHa!

    We had good fun as a group though and one thing we achieved is that we brought the company’s citizens closer. I have yet to hear a CEO cooking in the jungle or see a VP putting up a tent for their staffs, or a junior staff taking the mickey at senior bosses until this trip. And those songs, they are just great fun!

    I hope we did whet some appetite for more adventure for those who went. And on the next trip, all the backpacks have to get my stamp of approval, the contents I mean.

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