Spectacular Rafflesia flowers and Rajah Brooke Birdwing butterflies are among the highlights of a Semai nature reserve in Perak State, Malaysia, that has faced the threat of logging for years. Last week, the state government issued a stop-work order to prevent any more logging, at least temporarily, in the vicinity of the Bukit Kinta Forest Reserve.
The efforts of the local Semai community of Ulu Geroh to promote the Rafflesia blossoms—the world’s largest flower—as a major tourist attraction were highlighted in the Malaysian newspaper The Star in January 2005 and in December 2006, so another article in the same source this last week was not surprising.
The equally spectacular Rajah Brooke Birdwing butterflies, the national butterfly of Malaysia, also attract tourists to the reserve. It is one of the best spots in Southeast Asia to see them. The local Semai have been trained to act as tour guides, since they know which salt licks particularly attract the butterflies, and they can show concentrations in the hundreds to tourists.
For years, the Malaysian Nature Society has been assisting the Semai community in their efforts to preserve their forest and its nature tourism. The society has received many grants from Malaysian and international sources to support their work with the Semai and the nature preserve, amounting, over six years, to an estimated one million ringgit (U.S. $308,000). Needless to say, the MNS applauds the decision of the government to halt the logging.