Malaysia names three new Ramsar sites in Johor State

11/06/2003

Three new Ramsar sites in southern Malaysia

The Ramsar Bureau is delighted to announce that Malaysia has designated three new Wetlands of International Importance, all in southern Johor State not far from Singapore. Particularly rich in mangroves and intertidal mudflats, these three island, coastal, and estuarine sites support a large number of species, notably vulnerable and threatened species, and provide both livelihoods and important functions for the local population. Malaysia now has four Ramsar sites -- these three and the famous Tasek Bera -- totaling 48,745 hectares, and the Convention has 1287 sites totaling just short of 110 million hectares. Here are brief descriptions by Ramsar's Liazzat Rabbiosi, based upon the Party's Ramsar Information Sheets.

Pulau Kukup. 31/01/03; Johor; 647 ha; 01°19'N 103°25'E. State Park. Uninhabited mangrove island located 1 km from the southwestern tip of the Malaysian peninsula, one of the few intact sites of this type left in southeast Asia. The wetland supports such species as the Flying Fox Pteropus vampyrus, Smooth Otter Lutra perspicillata, Bearded Pig Sus barbatus, Long-tailed Macaque Macaca fascicularis, all listed as threatened, vulnerable or near-threatened under the IUCN Red Book. Pulau Kukup has been identified as one of the Important Bird Areas (IBA) for Malaysia. Globally vulnerable Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus chooses this as a stop-over and breeding ground. Pulau Kukup is important for flood control, physical protection (e.g. as a wind-breaker), and shoreline stabilization as it shelters the mainland town from severe storm events. The coastal straits between Pulau Kukup and the mainland are a thriving industry for marine cage culture. The mudflats are rich with shellfish and provide food and income to local people. Tourism is another use of the island and the government has further plans to promote ecotourism. Ramsar site no. 1287.

Sungai Pulai. 31/01/03; Johor; 9,126 ha; 01°23'N 103°32'E. Forest Reserve. The largest riverine mangrove system in Johor State, located at the estuary of the Sungai Pulai river. With its associated seagrass beds, intertidal mudflats and inland freshwater riverine forest the site represents one of the best examples of a lowland tropical river basin, supporting a rich biodiversity dependent on mangrove. It is home for the rare and endemic small tree Avicennia lanata, animals such as near-threatened and vulnerable Long-tailed Macaque, Smooth Otter and rare Flat-headed Cat and threatened birds species as Mangrove Pitta and Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, all included in the IUCN Red List. Relatively undisturbed parts including the Nipah swamps may be nesting sites of the Estuarine Crocodile. The site fringes play a significant role in shoreline stabilization and severe flood prevention in the adjacent 38 villages. The local population depends on the estuary as its mudflats, an ideal feeding, spawning and fattening ground, support a significant proportion of fish species. Other mangrove uses include wood cutting, charcoal production, aquaculture activities and eco-tourism. The current construction of a new port at the river estuary may represent a direct impact on the mangrove ecosystem, causing coastal erosion and water pollution from associated dredging and reclamation works and traffic. The site is managed in line with Integrated Management Plan for the sustainable use of mangroves in Johor state. Ramsar site no. 1288.

Tanjung Piai. 31/01/03; Johor; 526 ha; 01°16'N 103°31'E. State Park. The site consists of coastal mangroves and intertidal mudflats located at the southernmost tip of continental Asia, especially important for protection from sea-water intrusion and coastal erosion. Tanjung Piai supports many threatened and vulnerable wetland-dependent species such as Pig-tailed Macaque and Long-tailed Macaque, birds like Mangrove Pitta, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Mangrove Whistler. Globally vulnerable Lesser Adjutant may be observed in the vicinity of the site. The Scaly Anteater, Common Porcupine, Smooth Otter and Bearded Pig are classified as vulnerable or near threatened listed in the IUCN Red Book 2000. Waters of the four main rivers traversing Tanjung Piai are abundant with commercially valuable species. The site enjoys the status of a State Park for eco-tourism -- a visitor centre with boardwalks near the southern tip of the park provides interpretive materials, guided walks, and overnight facilities, with a World Wetlands Day programme beginning in 2003. Due to increased sea traffic, the western side of Tanjung Piai has been affected by oil spills which caused natural erosion processes in nearly 70 ha of the mangrove forest. In addition, the new port being established in the estuary of Sungai Pulai will likely lead to increased wave energy reaching the east shore of Tanjung Piai, thus accelerating coastal erosion. Ramsar site no. 1289.

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