Citizen science approach to green lung preservation, biodiversity conservation of Bukit Kiara gets UN nod

It is staggering to note that just three per cent of the world’s land remains ecologically intact, with human activity, without a doubt, dramatically impacting our biodiversity, when one notes that some 200 species go extinct every single day.

Rubber was British Malaya’s most important agricultural produce in the first half of the twentieth century.

The rubber boom started around 1900, and from 1915 to 1941, rubber accounted for 80 per cent of the volume of Malaya’s agricultural produce, and Bukit Kiara Estate was a thriving example of this.

It is worth remembering that Bukit Kiara was converted into a rubber plantation during this period. Due to the Malay Reservation Enactment Act of 2013, part of this area (today North Kiara and Sungai Penchala) was left intact as a Malay reserve land, with only limited conversions to rubber smallholdings.

Taking a leap forward 30 years, Bukit Kiara estate was subject to a compulsory acquisition, soon after Kuala Lumpur was made a Federal Territory on Feb 1, 1974.

The history of the present Bukit Kiara clearly begins in 1982 when the estate workers were moved to the present longhouse, located next to Taman Rimba Kiara. This signalled the end of the functioning rubber estate.

With the passage of time, and over a period of 45 years, the rubber trees have slowly given way to a secondary forest, most likely starting at pockets of the land which had been left untouched in the Malay reserves of North Kiara and Sungai Penchala.

This would have been points of refuge for small animals and birds, helping Bukit Kiara regenerate.

This was accelerated with a focused programme of the planting of climax species in February 2009, through the Hutan Kita programme, which is managed by a loose coalition, comprising Landskap Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur City Hall, with the National Landscape Department getting involved after August 2010.

According to the National Landscape Department, about 34,000 trees of nine to 10 different species have been planted in the intervening years.

Our experts attest that after 45 years, this has led to an incredible biodiversity, and as the flora has developed, so too, has the fauna.

While the value of urban areas to wildlife conservation remains contentious, there is a growing recognition that green lungs in cities can play a part in the future of conservation as the human footprint expands relentlessly around the globe.

Today, more than half of the world’s human population live in urban areas, and this is expected to rise to 70 per cent by 2050. Bukit Kiara represents one such gem in our urban landscape, and the need to protect it for generations to come, goes without saying.

City green lungs can also serve as stopover sites where migrating birds can rest and refuel. Bukit Kiara is no exception.

This has already been documented, and together with Taman Rimba Kiara in the southern tip of Bukit Kiara, over 70 species of resident and migratory birds have been recorded. Bukit Kiara is also home to one of the largest female species of fireflies in the world.

Recently, Friends of Bukit Kiara (FoBK) was awarded the United Nations (UN) Development Programme Global Environment Facility Small Grants, and is supported by the National Landscape Department to undertake a Citizen Science project, aptly named ‘Magical Mysteries at Bukit Kiara’, which aims to achieve the following:

  • Provide localised, evidence-based data on the firefly community and its habitat
  • Strengthen community, government and private sector collaboration
  • Build capacity and empower stakeholders to carry out evidence-based management of biodiversity.

There is high public and stakeholder interest in the firefly colonies and their habitat. Building on such an interest, this project will showcase the fireflies as the flagship species for the purpose of raising public and stakeholder awareness as to the importance of conservation in Bukit Kiara.

The concept of citizen scientists focuses on engaging the community at large to assist in collecting data by creating an avenue for the general public to be part of an important study. Besides becoming more knowledgeable, the establishment of the citizen science protocol will equip the volunteers with the capacity to conduct sound, evidence-based citizen science assessment and monitoring.

This project addresses the objective to document the unique habitat and biodiversity of Bukit Kiara, by using a scientific base for its conservation and protection. The call-up for volunteers is well underway and those interested to find out more, can check the FoBK website.

The outcome of this project will enable us to better understand the biodiversity of Bukit Kiara, with particular reference to the fireflies, in line with Malaysia’s hope of achieving our target UN sustainability goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all UN member states in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

The 17 sustainable development goals are integrated, recognising that action in one area would affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Awareness of global issues, such as climate change, biodiversity and land degradation, are crucial for success in achieving these goals.

With two-thirds of the Bukit Kiara Federal Park gazetted and the remainder scheduled for 2027, FoBK has now evolved to championing and building long-term appreciation of the conservation and biodiversity value of Bukit Kiara.

This is to ensure the pathway for full gazettement is upheld, as well as to protect Bukit Kiara from future regressive steps, such as possible de-gazettement driven by development pressures. In this context, FoBK has identified the discovery of fireflies within Bukit Kiara as an asset to highlight and build awareness of the conservation value of Bukit Kiara as a green lung and biodiversity resource.

Interpretative materials will be developed, and the findings will be promoted to the public during the Earth Day 2022 events.

FoBK is a community action group that aims to build awareness about environmental conservation and the biodiversity value of Bukit Kiara while finding ways to contribute to the management of Bukit Kiara.

Join us to explore the wonders of Bukit Kiara by signing up as a member 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.

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