Monday, February 26, 2007

Highlands warming

Highland warming
Monday February 26, 2007

Petaling Jaya: Temperatures in Malaysia’s highland areas including the three major hill resorts – Cameron Highlands, Genting Highlands and Fraser’s Hill – are rising and over-development has been blamed for this.

Global Environment Centre (GEC) director Faizal Parish said the maximum temperature in the highlands had climbed between 2°C and 3°C in the last 25 years due to the clearing of forests and over-development.

A check with the Meteorological Services Department confirmed this.

(GEC is a non-profit organisation which was established in 1998 to work on environmental issues of global importance, undertaking strategic projects particularly in developing countries.)

In 1984, the annual maximum temperature in Cameron Highlands was 24.6°C and over the years, it has gradually increased, hitting 27.9°C in 1998.

In 2005, it registered 26.7°C and last year 25.9°C.

Even the annual minimum temperature has gone up – in 1984, it was 12°C, 1989 (10°C), 1995 (13.2°C) and last year 12.9°C.

Faizal said: “If you clear trees, it results in what we call a microclimate change, which means a change of the climate within that area.

“While 1°C or 2°C does not sound like much, these small changes can cause major changes in the rainfall and weather patterns, which in turn, can affect crops.

“So far, the ones which have been more badly affected are Genting and Cameron Highlands.”

In Cameron Highlands, residents and visitors are saying that it is no longer as cold as before.

Now, lowland birds are being seen there while highlands species are “moving out” – an indication of a warmer climate.

Genting Highlands is not faring any better. Residents there remember having to start up a coal stove in their rooms before leaving for work in the morning to keep the room warm when they get home. There is no need to do that now.

In Fraser's Hill, back in the 1970s, one only needed to immerse a bottle of soft drink in the water at the waterfall to chill it.

Faizal explained that trees cooled the air around them, adding: “One big tree is the equivalent to 10 air conditioners”.

He said the climbing temperature in the highlands could also cause chaos to the ecosystem.

“As the lowland species of insects, plants and birds start to move to the highlands, it can lead to the extinction of certain highland species as they have nowhere to go,” he said. -- The Star.

Signs in bird migration

Signs in bird migration
Monday February 26, 2007

Ipoh: Birdwatchers at Cameron Highlands are noticing lowland birds that have never been seen in the highlands area “moving in” while indigenous birds have flown elsewhere, presumably to colder climates.

This is a clear sign that the area was warming up, according to Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach) president R. Ramakrishnan.

He said that in the past one or two years, birdwatchers had spotted the fire-tufted barbet, rhino hornbill, mountain imperial pigeon, black eagle, mountain bulbul, black-crested bulbul, grey wagtail and Asian brown flycatcher.

“These are species that have never been spotted in the Cameron Highlands area before. The mynah bird, another species you don’t see there, are found in huge numbers now,” he said in an interview.

Ramakrishnan, 42, noted that birdwatchers were reporting the absence of indigenous species that used to frequent the jungle trails of Cameron Highlands.

“Plant species that used to inhabit the trails are also dying. All of this may be also due to local development, not just the warmer climate,” he said.

Another worrying problem, he said, was that the hotter weather might aggravate the water shortage currently faced by Cameron Highlands residents and tourists.

Ramakrishnan said Cameron Highlands, with a population of some 33,000 people, already faced a shortage of some four million litres each day. -- The Star.

No more need for stove

No more need for stove
Monday February 26, 2007

Genting Highlands: Low Siau Kien remembers having to start up a coal stove in her room here before leaving for work in the morning to keep the room warm when she gets home.

“It would be freezing without the stove,” said the manager who works with Highland Mushroom (M) Sdn Bhd.

However, that is a thing of the past.

The weather, she said, is warmer now and her family had not used the coal stove for the last five to six years.

Another resident here, Lam Chee Wah, 55, said the indoor temperature used to be 16°C back in the 1970s.

“It would also get misty almost every day,” said Lam.

“Once, I remember that the temperature even went down to 9°C,” said Lam.

“Now, I can walk around indoors at night without a shirt,” he said.

Source: The Star

Sunday, February 25, 2007

New booster system to ensure water supply at Camerons

New booster system to ensure water supply at Camerons
Sunday February 25, 2007
By Hah Foong Lian / The Star.

Cameron Highlands: Water cuts during periods of high demand when tourists jam up this popular hill resort may be a thing of the past by next month.

This is because the new booster system at the Kuala Terlah water treatment plant here will begin operating to overcome the water supply shortage.

Pahang Water Supply Department director Datuk Ismail Mohd Noor said his department was aware of problems faced by residents living in high places at Tanah Rata and Brinchang here.

“Whenever there are too many people in Cameron Highlands, it can be a problem. But I am confident that the water shortage will be resolved by March with the commissioning of the booster system at the Kuala Terlah plant,” he said.

Ismail added that the department was keen to resolve the water woes here because it was Visit Malaysia 2007.

Greenhill Resort resident of seven years Khoo Kheng-Hor said he had been experiencing water supply disruption since Monday.

The author said the disruption had caused a lot of inconvenience and what was worse was that they were not informed when the supply would resume.

A hotelier who declined to be named said some of the guests hadchecked out earlier because there was no water supply.

“This is a perennial problem and it is not good for a place like this because this is a tourist destination.”

He added that it would help if there was more than one tanker to deliver water to those who needed it. -- The Star

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rare orchid found in Malaysia

Rare orchid found in Malaysia
Wednesday February 21, 2007

IPOH: The mysterious orchid picked up by two environmentalists deep in the jungles of Cameron Highlands has turned out to be the rare Monomeria barbata – a first for Malaysia.

Embi Abdullah, 59, who stumbled across the orchid with his friend while trekking in the Ruil mountains last year, said the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) and the French Orchid Society had recently confirmed the genus and species.

Exciting find: Embi examining the orchid, which has been confirmed as ‘Monomeria barbata’.
Exciting find: Embi examining the orchid, which has been confirmed as ‘Monomeria barbata’.

The Monomeria barbata, first discovered 200 years ago in Nepal and the Eastern Himalayas, grew only in cool weather on treetops some 1,600m to 2,000m above sea level, he said.

“This is an exciting breakthrough for Malaysia because this genus of orchid – the Monomeria – has never been found here before.

“The plant has been recorded in Nepal, north-eastern India, Vietnam and Myanmar, but never in Malaysia,” he added.

“This canopy orchid is also rarely found in the wild even in its countries of origin because of ongoing development now,” said Embi, who has studied orchids for over 15 years.

According to a scientist from FRIM, Embi and his friend N. Madi were not the first to discover the orchid as another Malaysian had brought it back for identification about two or three years ago.

However, this has not damped Embi's excitement as he has been asked by the French Orchid Society to submit a paper describing the Malaysian variant of the flower.

Although the flower is now widely available among orchid enthusiasts in Europe, the Monomeria barbata found in the Cameron Highlands might be unique to Malaysia alone.

“There is a difference between our plant and those in Europe. The colour on the surface of the lip is yellow on theirs, while ours is brown.

“In Europe, the plant is also described as small and miniature but ours is medium-sized,” said Embi. - The Star.

Farmer drops veggies for roses

Farmer drops veggies for roses
By Chan Li Leen
Wednesday February 21, 2007

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: A rose is a rose to most people.

A trip to the Rose Centre here, however, might just change one’s mind for this tranquil little garden grows over 100 different types of roses.

According to the centre’s director Chai Keok Chew, few people realise that roses not only came in different colours but also in varying shapes and sizes.

“Some roses have fragrance but even that differs from plant to plant,” said Chai, 55, who loves the sweet-smelling American Rose.

A thing of beauty: Chai admiring one of the many types of roses grown at his centre in Kea Farm, Cameron Highlands recently.
A thing of beauty: Chai admiring one of the many types of roses grown at his centre in Kea Farm, Cameron Highlands recently.

Formerly a vegetable farmer, Chai opened the centre in Kea Farm here some 14 years ago.

“I eventually gave up farming to concentrate on the centre.

“Over the years, I’ve managed to plant more than 100 varieties of roses and over 1,000 types of cacti,” he noted.

Some of the cacti, which he has kept for almost 20 years, have grown beyond the centre’s ceiling.

Although this place is a rose centre, it is filled with other flowers such as the Bird of Paradise, begonia, hibiscus and lavender.

There are a few, such as the Lady’s Shoe and the Jade Vine, which Chai also called the Japanese Blue Butterfly, that are uncommon but extremely special.

Unusual species: Also at Kea Farm is the Lady's Shoe, named so for obvious reasons. —Lew Yong Kan / The Star
Unusual species: Also at Kea Farm is the Lady's Shoe, named so for obvious reasons. —Lew Yong Kan / The Star

“I’m not too sure what is the native country of the Japanese Blue Butterfly but a friend from Australia gave it to me some years back.

“Many rare flowers at the centre were gifts but I also bring them from my overseas trips to cultivate them here,” he added. - The Star.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hopeful of discovering new orchids

Hopeful of discovering new orchids
Tuesday February 20, 2007

Common but precious: Dr Jaap Vermeulen with wild orchids found at many roadsides in Cameron Highlands.Common but precious: Dr Jaap Vermeulen with wild orchids found at many roadsides in Cameron Highlands.

IN 2002, Dr Jaap Vermeulen purchased an orchid plant from a nursery in Cameron Highlands because he knew it could well be a species new to science. He later described the plant and named it Bulbophyllum ochthodes.

In a recent collection trip with researchers from the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (Frim), the orchidologist could hardly believe his luck when he came across the same species perched on a mossy branch in the montane jungle.

“That was the first time I saw it in the wild,” says the expert in the orchid genus Bulbophyllum. He has described more than a third of the 3,000-odd Bulbophyllum in the world.

“If we find a single plant and are not sure if it’s rare, we take a little for description purposes and leave enough for it to grow in the wild. We’re rather careful with that,” he explains.

The lanky Dutch is one of many plant scientists engaged under the Flora of Peninsular Malaysia project to share his expertise and guide the pool of young botanists. He has also conducted an illustration workshop for Frim staff. Illustration of plants is an important component in documenting them for scientific publications.

Vermeulen is the orchid curator with the National Herbarium of Netherlands in Leiden that has a wide collection of plant specimens from this region and a long-running collaborative arrangement with Frim.

As if to further sweeten his memory of Cameron Highlands, Vermeulen left for Leiden hopeful that he has stumbled upon yet another new species. He has left the budding plant at Frim and is eagerly waiting for the flower to bloom so that he could ascertain its status. - The Star.

Treasure trove of rare species

Treasure Trove of Rare Species
Tuesday February 20, 2007

Serious business: Dr Saw Leng Guan (right), head of the Flora of Peninsular Malaysia project, scrutinising the wild pitcher plants collected by nursery operator Tai Teck Boon.

Serious business: Dr Saw Leng Guan (right), head of the Flora of Peninsular Malaysia project, scrutinising the wild pitcher plants collected by nursery operator Tai Teck Boon.

WHEN Tai Teck Boon was a young boy growing up in Cameron Highlands, he witnessed constant deforestation for vegetable farms and other development projects. He saw huge ancient trees brought down together with many wild, epiphytic plants such as orchids.

Valuable specimen: This flowering rhododendron is collected to enrich the Kepong Herbarium.Valuable specimen: This flowering rhododendron is collected to enrich the Kepong Herbarium.

“It was such a pity to let the orchids die just like that. So, I took them back and grew them,” recalls the 60-year-old from Brinchang. His hobby later turned into a business and he has been running a nursery for 40 years selling mainly montane plants.

Unwittingly, Tai has rescued many plants from possible extinction, such as the one that Dutch orchidologist Dr Jaap Vermeulen described as Bulbophyllum ochthodes.

Over the years, Tai’s wild collections have grown into a treasure trove of rare and endangered species that attract researchers and enthusiasts, locals as well as foreign. He readily allows scientists like those working on the Flora of Peninsular Malaysia project access to his collections.

Little green wonder: Mosses found in a ditch next to a vegetable plot in Cameron Highlands.Little green wonder: Mosses found in a ditch next to a vegetable plot in Cameron Highlands.

Project director Dr Saw Leng Guan admits that collaborating with nursery operators can be a “tricky” undertaking as a bona fide scientist would not want to be seen as endorsing such commercial activity. However, given the difficulties in obtaining certain rare plants, he says researchers have to work with private collectors.

Tai insists that he is not breaking any laws because he merely picked up ”discards”. His nursery was previously raided by Department of Forestry staff when word about his huge collection of wild plants got around but the enforcers did not find any incriminating evidence.

Saw says enforcement is hampered by the absence of laws. “Unlike the Protection of Wildlife Act that protects fauna species, our flora species are largely unprotected. Until we get our act together, the loophole will be exploited.”

Forest beauty: A herbaceous plant that thrives in the understorey of tropical forests and on slopes in the montane jungle of our highlands.Forest beauty: A herbaceous plant that thrives in the understorey of tropical forests and on slopes in the montane jungle of our highlands.

Clearing of forests requires a licence from state forestry departments but it is silent on non-timber products extracted from the concession. There is indication that illegal collections do occur in Cameron Highlands for high value species such as orchids, either for personal collections or nurseries that cater to overseas collectors.

Tai, however, might be a different sort of collector – he does not to hide his collection and is willing to share them. Given his vast experience in dealing with plants, he is assisting in the setting up of the Montane Flora Conservatory under the Cameron Highlands Montane Park project – a collaboration between Forest Research Institute of Malaysia and Pahang Forestry Department.

The conservatory at Brinchang aims to be the central depository for montane species in an effort to preserve them for conservation, research and education. It houses collections from Frasers Hill, Gunung Jerai and Cameron Highlands and will soon be opened to the public.
- The Star.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Metered Taxis allowed to tourist destination like Cameron Highlands soon

Taxis can ply in tourist areas soon
Wednesday February 14, 2007

PUTRAJAYA: Metered taxis operating in the Klang Valley will soon be allowed to ferry passengers to, as well as pick them up from, tourist attractions in Malacca, Port Dickson, Genting Highlands and the Cameron Highlands.

The Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) said yesterday that this was decided during a meeting on Jan 4.

It was also decided that Malacca taxis would be allowed to ferry passengers to and from the Klang Valley.

CVLB chairman Datuk Markiman Kobiran said the decision would come into effect on Friday.

“The relevant enforcement agencies, state governments and taxi operators and associations have been notified.

“The decision is made to ensure that passengers, especially tourists, can travel to these tourist attractions without hassle.

“However, the taxis ferrying passengers to and from the areas must issue receipts to the passengers,” he said in a statement.

Markiman said the areas designated as being under the Klang Valley in this context are Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, the whole of Selangor (except Kuala Langat and Sabak Bernam) and Seremban.

Markiman said the board had also decided that from tomorrow, taxis operating in Penang could send passengers to the Bayan Lepas International Airport but would not be allowed to pick up passengers from there.

Markiman said the board agreed that a surcharge of RM7 be imposed on passengers travelling to Penang airport.

“The surcharge is a form of incentive to the taxi drivers, who will have to leave the airport without any passengers,” he said. - The Star.

Monday, February 12, 2007

How about strawberries this Valentine’s Day?

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Forget chocolates and roses, juicy strawberries grown here will definitely put a smile on the face of your girlfriend or wife this Valentine’s Day.

Juicy fruit: Yeep tasting a freshly plucked strawberry at his family farm. - The Star.

Juicy fruit: Yeep tasting a freshly plucked strawberry at his family farm. - The Star.

Strawberries as red as rubies could be a refreshing alternative.

It would definitely be kinder on your wallet too, costing RM7 to RM20 per box.

Strawberry grower Yeep Kah Soon said the fruits were plucked daily as they ripened.

“The fruits are commonly the size of a quail’s egg but sometimes we get them as big as Grade C chicken eggs.

“The first two fruits in the first batch are usually jumbo-sized,” Yeep said at his family’s farm, Kea Farm, here.

Giving some tips on how to pick the best strawberries, the 20-year-old said: “The redder the colour, the sweeter it is.”

However, he said the size and taste of strawberries were ultimately determined by the weather.

“They grow best when there is more sunlight and less rain.”

Besides being sold at the various tourist stops in the area, Cameron Highlands strawberries are also distributed to other parts of the country.

Source: The Star

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Wonderful time touring Malaysia

Wonderful time touring Malaysia
Saturday February 10, 2007

I am writing to applaud Malaysia for giving us a fantastic holiday. We have stayed in the country for three weeks and are leaving tomorrow. We have stayed in Kuala Lumpur but have travelled to Cameron Highlands, Genting Highlands, Penang and Taman Negara.

Our favourite experience by far was in Taman Negara.

The locals of Kuala Tahan made us feel welcomed and we were really impressed that they had made an effort to learn the English names of the insects and animals so that we could benefit fully from the tours they provided.

The atmosphere at the floating restaurants was great too and we had a wonderful time chatting with the locals.

One disappointment though was a tendency of people in some places to charge tourists higher prices. Taxi drivers are the obvious culprits but all the ones we met were friendly.

We congratulate the folk in Taman Negara, Kuala Tahan and Cameron Highlands for not overcharging.

We would like to warn all tourists to avoid public toilets at all costs because even the ones you must pay to use are poorly maintained and lack toilet paper.

Malaysians are lovely and Malaysia is a great country. We will recommend friends visit the country.

Townsville, Queensland, Australia.

Source: Star

Monday, February 05, 2007

Frenchman outshines renowned climbers for victory

Triumphant: Anthony Charteau rejoices after winning Stage 3 yesterday.CAMERON HIGHLANDS: The money was on the more renowned climbers to conquer the Third Stage, the ride up Cameroon Highlands yesterday.

But it was Credit Agricole’s Anthony Charteau who unexpectedly hit the jackpot to become the first Frenchman to wrest the yellow jersey in the Tour of Langkawi (LTdL).

Charteau was supposed to have set the pace for his team-mate and main rider, Francesco Bellotti. But he was so strong going up Cameron Highlands that he made it to the peak with more than three minutes to spare.

Among the other better-known climbers Charteau surprised were Jose Rujano (Unibet), defending champion David George (South Africa) and Jose Serpa (Selle Italia).

The 28-year-old Charteau completed the 133km stage, which was flagged off in Kuala Kangsar, in 3’40:45 – 3:54 ahead of Walter Pedraza of Selle Italia Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni.

Charteau takes over the leader’s jersey from Maximiliano Richeze of Ceramiche Panaria.

“At the end of the day, it’s a very good result for the Credit Agricole team,” said Charteau.

“My initial plan was to accompany the breakaway riders and wait for the team leader (Bellotti) at the top of the first climb.

“But I reached it with such a huge gap that it was out of the question for me to wait. I had to go for it.”

Charteau was among five riders who broke away at the 28km mark.

But as they reached the foothills of Cameron Highlands, Slipstream’s Mike Creed dropped off, leaving Charteau with Koji Fukushima, Lee Win Jae and Yukiya Arashiro.

Charteau then stormed away just before the halfway point and went on to claim the stage.

“With so many riders well placed in the general classification, it’s going to be easier for us to control the situation,” said Charteau.

“I'm not worried about the flat stages because that is something we know how to do at Credit Agricole.

“With the advantage I have now, I have to think about the overall win but if I can’t make it in Genting Highlands, Bellotti will be there. The gradients suit him well.”

Credit Agricole’s success was later met with some disappointment when they learnt that Bellotti, second overall last year, and team-mate William Bonnet had been penalised for sheltering behind a vehicle.

Both were fined 33 Swiss francs and penalised 40 seconds. Bonnet and Bellotti finished sixth and seventh respectively but after the penalty, they were relegated to 25th and 26th positions in the stage results.

Bellotti, suffering from a bout of diarrhoea, had apparently stopped some time during the race to ease himself, and was trying to catch up with the rest of the riders when he was adjudged to have infringed the rules.

The 178km Fourth Stage today starts in Gua Musang and ends in Kota Baru.

Source: The Star

related post:
Tour De Langkawi at Cameron Highlands