Bukit Kiara is one of the few large green open spaces that can be found in urban Kuala Lumpur.
The century-old former rubber plantation is rich in biodiversity with several species of forest plants such as wild durian trees, coffee plants and bat lilies found sporadically along the trails.
Wildlife such as monkeys, birds, snakes and amphibians call Bukit Kiara their home.
An incredible number of invertebrate species can also be found here, including butterflies, bees, jungle cockroaches, crickets and fireflies.
The Perispherus cockroach, which can roll into a ball for defence, is one of the many unique invertebrates found here.
Friends of Bukit Kiara (FoBK) has a long history with Bukit Kiara. It was set up primarily to ensure that Bukit Kiara remains a pristine green lung and not subject to development.
Based on recent feedback from our partners –Forest Research Institute of Malaysia and Urban Biodiversity Initiative – regarding our firefly study, it has become apparent that Bukit Kiara can potentially function as a living library of plants and animals that can be used for forest restoration and increasing biodiversity in the city.
Bukit Kiara is an example of how a deforested former rubber plantation can be restored into a forest or recreational land for public use.
Populations of urban adapted wildlife that are found in Bukit Kiara can potentially be reintroduced to re-wild and restore ecological functions in other green lungs.
These exciting possibilities will be explored as part of our ongoing citizen science initiatives.
The Sungai Penchala river system also has its source in Bukit Kiara with several streams leading to mini waterfalls. These are still intact and undisturbed inside the jungle trail and a joy to behold, particularly after it rains. This is designated a Class I water body with a rich aquatic life like shrimps, otter and river crab which are good biological indicators of water quality.
This origin of Sungai Penchala was also declared the first river open classroom in 2001 and was launched by the National Landscape Department in 2005. It has learning stations to educate the public on river geomorphology and its quality, namely source of the river, voice of stream, meandering and water quality monitoring spots.
Bukit Kiara also attracts a large audience who come to walk the tarmac circuit, hike in the jungle trails and partake in mountain biking.
Bird watchers congregate most afternoons trying to spot the more unusual species of birds whereas the Hashers are on the trails in the evenings.
There are over a hundred trails in Bukit Kiara with apt names like Twin Peaks, Upper Carnival and Snakes & Ladders depicting different levels of challenge for hikers and bikers. There are, of course, numerous trails suited for beginners and intermediate hikers and mountain bikers.
Prior to the pandemic shutdown in March 2020, FoBK organised a series of trail walks on weekends offering immersive experiences of the green lung where our trail leaders not only guided the participants but also infused some history about Bukit Kiara and its surroundings.
We hope to continue with this trail walk programme to introduce the Bukit Kiara outdoor experience to the public when this is possible again.
Besides trail walks, FoBK has organised other activities such as talks, night trails and signature campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of keeping Bukit Kiara untouched and in its natural state.
We also need to grow the next generation of FoBK ambassadors who will be the future face of volunteers. Ambassadors will be groomed to be experts on the walking trails, have a deep understanding of the fireflies, the varied flora and fauna and will be infused with the importance of the pristine water bodies which originate here.
A pool of dedicated volunteers is the core of any non-profit organisation and we welcome wider public participation in this effort, so please do join us to make a difference.
In the past three years, there have been sightings of Lamprigera sp. the world’s largest female firefly along the trails, streams and even drains in Bukit Kiara. Due to the lack of information about this species, FoBK is embarking on a research project for which we will enlist volunteers to collect data about these unique creatures as well as other firefly species in the area.
This citizen science approach will leverage public participation and collaboration with the National Landscape Department to help drive scientific research by having more people share and contribute to data monitoring and collection programmes.
Stable populations of fireflies could be reintroduced in other parts of Kuala Lumpur after citizen science programmes help our team of experts understand their ecology.
Volunteers will also get first-hand experience of being part of an ecological study and perhaps even become ‘experts’ in fireflies themselves. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram if you would like to volunteer to be part of this exciting pioneer project.
Join us to explore the wonders of Bukit Kiara by signing up as a member at http://fobk.org/ and do your part to preserve Bukit Kiara for future generations.
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.