ON the 10th Anniversary of the Royal Belum State Park in Upper Perak and the inaugural visit there by His Royal Highness Prince Charles earlier this month, a set of principles to preserve the forests here were set out in The Royal Belum Declaration.

The Declaration commemorated the vision of His Royal Highness the late Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak, who conferred royal status on the Park. It also recognised Prince Charles’ passion for conservation.

Royal Belum is a 130-million-year-old rainforest, containing one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems. It is home to many rare and threatened species of flora and fauna.

It is the natural habitat of large mammals like the Seladang, Asian elephant, and of course, the Malayan tiger, a treasured national symbol of Malaysia.

“On conferring royal status on the Park, His Royal Highness Sultan Azlan Shah reminded us of the need to be faithful stewards of this priceless natural heritage,” said Dato’ Seri DiRaja Zambry Abd Kadir, the Mentri Besar of Perak, as he read out the Declaration.

HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah or Perak (left) and HRH Prince Charles of Britain visiting the Royal Belum Rainforest Resort in early Nov. – Bernama

He went on to set out five principles “on behalf of the Government and the people of Perak” to conserve Royal Belum.

1. To secure it as a nationally important priority site for tiger conservation. To ensure the long-term survival of these national treasures, Royal Belum will be connected via a network of protected areas, forest reserves/corridors to the greater Taman Negara area.

2. At least three enforcement personnel will be deployed per 10,000 hectares to ensure that Royal Belum and the surrounding forests are “sustainably managed for tiger conservation”.  This is in line with the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA/TS) accreditation for the Park.

3. To achieve “zero poaching” in Belum by 2020 by establishing a well-equipped Rapid Response Team.

A tigers leg injured by a poachers snare at the Belum-Temengor forest. – Filepic

4. To assist in raising a total of RM100mil by 2025 for tiger conservation in Malaysia.

5. To work closely with all entities including the private sector, civil society, concerned Malaysian citizens, together with foreign governments, organisations and conservationists around the world, to turn our aspirations into reality.

Zambry supported the statement made by Prince Charles that the most difficult work is about turning commitments made at a very high level into action on the ground.

“There is not a moment to lose if we are to save species whose loss will not only diminish us all, but also expose their abandoned habitat to ever greater risk of destruction, with dire consequences for humanity,” said Prince Charles.

Our national treasures

Zambry, continued in reading the The Royal Belum Declaration: “1, His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Shah, shares this sentiment and strongly believes that by safeguarding the tigers and all endangered species, the entire ecosystem and all the inhabitants of the Royal Belum State Park will prosper. We pledge to support this vision.”

The occasion was doubly meaningful as Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak is the Royal Patron of WWF-Malaysia (and also the son of the late Sultan Azlan Shah) while Prince Charles is the President of WWF-United Kingdom. 2017 is also the 45th Anniversary of WWF-Malaysia.

Elephants are found in the Belum-Temengor rainforests. – MEME

Zambry concluded the Declaration by saying, “We seek his (Prince Charles’) support and assistance to protect our natural heritage, advance our conservation goals, and carry forward the vision of Their Royal Highnesses Sultan Azlan Shah and Sultan Nazrin Shah.”

In the 1950s, Malaya was thought to have as many as 3,000 tigers. By 2003, that number was down to 500. Now, as few as 250 Malayan tigers may be left in our jungles according to current estimates.

In June 2015, the Malayan tiger was moved from the “Endangered” to “Critically Endangered” category in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Poaching and the loss of their forest habitat have been major factors in this huge decline.

In addition, all ten species of Malaysian hornbills can be found here, but in recent years, it has been reported that their numbers are declining. Other animals found here include clouded leopards and Malayan sun bears.

Commenting on the outcome of the summit, Datuk Dr Dionysius SK Sharma, CEO Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia, said that conserving our natural heritage can only be possible if all parties continue to work together towards a common goal.

“It is encouraging to see that government agencies, financial institutions, managing authorities and NGOs alike are playing a crucial role in conservation,” he said.

Hikers relaxing at Sungai Ruok waterfalls deep inside the Royal Belum State Park. – Filepic

The Belum-Temengor Forest Complex is located in northern Perak and spans about 3,000sqkm (or 300,000ha) – an area of about four times the size of Singapore. It has been identified as one of three priority sites for tigers in the country under the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan.

However, currently only the 117,500ha of the Royal Belum State Park is totally protected while logging is still allowed in the Temengor forests.

This mean that only about one third of the whole Belum-Temengor Forest Complex (BTFC) is totally free from logging. Even inside Royal Belum, encroachment by poachers is an ongoing issue.

Conservationists believe all of the BTFC should be protected and linked up via a “Central Forest Spine” to other forests along the Main Titiwangsa Mountain Range of Malaysia to provide the best chance of conserving tigers and other living national treasures.