Mark 18 June 2009 / Pictures: Shirley
We need a Langkawi Institute of Natural History !
In his hugely interesting, very motivated speech at a LADA auditorium, before about 60 people attending,
Prof. Bernard d'Abrera, explained, that the equilibrium between nature and habitat, the point between the ecological use of this island and it’s misuse, has now been reached.
If Langkawi continues to go along the same path it has taken in the last years, in regard to forest clearing for buildings and roads, we will have a considerably big impact in the direction of the destruction of the nature of the whole Island within the next two years, which will NOT be reversible.
This sounds like an alarming statement out of the blue. Why? What’s going on?
To understand this we have to consider two facts:
No 1: The Rain Forest creates it’s own weather
Each big tree of the Rain Forest sucks out tons of waters out of the ground daily, transports it into his leaves and transpires it through the non-shiny underside of his leaves into the air.
This humidity in the air condenses to clouds and comes down as rain. That’s why Langkawi has so much, and so predictable rainfall.
Once this mechanism stops working, because the cri tical mass of trees left to sustain it has been ‘over cleared’, the whole rain forest will start to suffer and go into decline.
No 2: The rainforest – once going into decline, can not recreate itself, because the Butterflies will be missing
Here we have to know two things: Langkawi has such a big number of species of Butterflies (340) because his rain forest has such a huge number of different plants and trees. Each specie of butterfly is dependent upon a certain kind of plant or a certain kind of tree and in return helps this plant or tree to fertilize its seeds.
Once a species of Butterfly is extinct, because there were no more trees of a certain kind to sustain it, the seeds of the remaining trees of this specie will not be fertilized anymore: a downward spiral.
Simply counting the species of Butterflies immediately shows if a forest is untouched and in good shape (with many kinds of trees), or if it has already declined to a near mono culture of only a few species of trees left.
That’s why the Butterflies are so important, because Butterflies (and the Moths) are the ones who fertilize the seeds of the trees in the flowers on the top of the crown. This is not done by Bees or Wasps or any other insects, it’s done by the Butterflies.
No Forest Scientists or Ministry in the Geopark
Prof. d'Abrera explained, that “In planning the conservation of the Rain Forest, we have to think in a time frame of 500 years”. The changes in the forest can not be seen by a three week tourist or a land developer who only thinks in the range of a few years.
He then went on to explain what an incredible Jewel of Nature Langkawi really is, and that it can only be compared to it’s nearest neighbor island, Koh Tarutao, on the southern border of Thailand.
"Langkawi lives mainly from one thing: From the Rain forest. Without rain forest no tourists anymore…" But there is no ministry representing the scientific care for the rain forest on Langkawi. We do not care about the most important asset of the Island. We just take it for granted and are not even aware of its complex life cycles…
Prof. D'Abrera did lecture before the top people of the Langkawi Tourism Action Council. Its General Manager, Mr. Shaharudin Hjitam and the Manager Suziana W. Othman were present. At the end of the speech, in the question and answer session, Mr. Shaharudin showed that he had indeed understood the importance of the subject.
The d'Abrera initiative for launching the Langkawi Institute of Natural History
Do it now!
To work against the above deficit of forest scientists, DBRERA STRONGLY suggests, that Langkawi creates it’s own Institute of Natural History.
This, he said, for example, could be done in the remains of the Book village.
He himself, Prof. d'Abrera, would help to put the institute up, to create its rules and internal structure, organise the collection and exhibition of the samples and put together the scientific library. And: he would also be willing to teach there. He promised to bring in scientists from abroad (with funding) who would come and study their topics in the middle of where the objects of their studies live, instead of having to send samples to London, New York or Berlin…This Institute would be the first big world institute of Natural History being put IN THE FIELD and could within a short time be the center of research into classification and conservation procedures for the living species of Langkawi and all of Asia.
It would - at the same time - be a Museum and Tourist attraction, and the whole of Langkawi could benefit from it.
These are no shallow words, considering that Prof. d'Abrera, who has written more than 30 books about Butterflies, is regarded as THE international authority on Butterflies and Moths today and his books are the standard references on this subject.
Prof. d'Abrera will have talks with some ministers on the mainland next week and we can only hope, that his idea is the beginning of a new chapter of nature conservation in Langkawi.
The event in LADA was organized by the new branch of the Malaysia Nature Society, headed by Ms. Fadzilah (016 93 47760), who is establishing the office of the Langkawi Branch of the MNS in the Frangipani Resort.