It is staggering to note that just 3% of the world’s land remains ecologically intact, with human activity without a doubt dramatically affecting 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 20th Century. The rubber boom started in around 1900, and from 1915 to 1941, rubber accounted for 80% of the volume of Malaya’s agricultural produce. Bukit Kiara Estate was a thriving example of this.
Bukit Kiara was converted into a monoculture, ie rubber plantation, during this period. Due to the Malay Reservation Enactment Act of 2013, part of this area (today’s North Kiara and Penchala) was left intact as Malay reserve land, with only limited conversions to rubber smallholdings.
Leap forward 30 years, Bukit Kiara Estate was subject to a compulsory acquisition soon after Kuala Lumpur was made a federal territory on 1 February 1974. The history of the present Bukit Kiara clearly begins in 1982, when the estate workers were moved to the present longhouse location next to Taman Rimba Kiara, signalling the abandonment of the functioning rubber estate.
With the passage of time, ie over 45 years, the rubber trees have slowly given way to a secondary forest, most likely starting at pockets of the land which were untouched in the Malay reserves of North Kiara and Pencala. This would have become points of refuge for small animals and birds, helping Kiara to regenerate.
This was accelerated with a focused programme of planting of climax species in February 2009, through the “Hutan Kita Bukit Kiara” (Bukit Kiara, our forest) programme, which is managed by a loose coalition between the Malaysian Landscape Architects Institute (ILAM) and Kuala Lumpur City Hall, with the National Landscape Department (JLN) getting involved after August 2010. According to the department, about 34,000 trees of about 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, over half the world’s human population live in urban areas, and the figure is expected to rise to 70% 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, and 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, the Friends of Bukit Kiara (FoBK) was selected, under the Global Environment Facility small grants programme of the United Nations Development Programme, to undertake a citizen science project aptly named #Magical Mysteries at Bukit Kiara, which aims to:
- 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 interest, this project will showcase the fireflies as the flagship species to raise public and stakeholder awareness of the importance of conservation in Bukit Kiara.
The concept of ‘citizen scientist’ focuses on engaging the community at large to help collect data by creating an avenue for the public to be part of an important study. The establishment of the Citizen Science protocol, besides making volunteers more knowledgeable, will equip them with the capacity to conduct sound, evidence-based citizen science assessment and monitoring.
This project addresses the objective of documenting the unique habitat and biodiversity of Bukit Kiara to achieve a scientific base for its conservation and protection. The call-up for volunteers is well underway, and those interested in finding out more can check the Friends of Bukit Kiara 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 targeted 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 goals are integrated, recognising that action in one area will 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 issues is crucial for achieving these goals.
Two-thirds of the federal park has now been gazetted and the remainder is scheduled for 2027. The Friends of Bukit Kiara 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 gazetting is upheld, as well as to protect Bukit Kiara from future regressive steps. such as possible de-gazetting driven by development pressures.
In this context, Friends of Bukit Kiara has identified the discovery of fireflies within the area 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. – Twentytwo13.my
Friends of Bukit Kiara 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.
Ir Dr Kribanandan G Naidu, the president of the Friends of Bukit Kiara, is passionate about sustainability, the protection of the environment and the rights of communities. He runs an engineering consultancy in Kuala Lumpur