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An Orang Asli child in the Royal Belum Rainforest being taught the 3Rs in a kindergarten sponsored by the Pulau Banding Foundation.

A quick tour of the city will show us some beautiful buildings, built with much care and love. Building and furnishing them cost a lot of money, too.

The designers must have spent countless hours and perhaps, weeks, to come up with such beautiful architecture. Top architects competed to come up with these designs. Today, many of these city landmarks make us proud. Some of these landmarks have stood the test of time. They have remained major attractions to locals and tourists.

Some have also been classified as national heritage buildings and cannot be demolished. They are national treasures. Two of the most famous buildings in the city are the Keretapi Tanah Melayu headquarters that was built in 1910; and the Sultan Abdul Samad building that was built even earlier, in 1897.

Of course, there are other iconic landmarks, such as Petronas Twin Towers, Merdeka Stadium and the Parliament building. We are very aware of the importance of these buildings to the nation’s history and everything would be done to ensure their continued presence in the national landscape.

Now, let’s turn to another part of our heritage. Skip to another part of the country — the jungle!

This country is blessed with so much green that we have all taken it for granted. We have almost 120,000ha of natural rainforest that is said to be older than the Amazon and the Congo.

We are talking about a natural forest that is believed to be about 130 million years old — The Royal Belum Rainforest.

This is a vast reservoir of natural resources that researchers would love to get their feet dirty in.

The Royal Belum is divided into two areas — Upper Belum, which is a state park and Lower Belum, which is the Temenggor Forest Reserve. Every single nature lover should make his way to Royal Belum at least once to appreciate the diversity that is so enriching.

It’s not a long drive to the Royal Belum. Take the northbound route at the North-South Expressway, exit Kuala Kangsar and then just follow the signage towards Grik. You will pass small interesting villages, each with a history of its own.

Make a pit stop at the famous Tasek Raban’s medan ikan bakar for some grilled fish and a variety of ulam. There are easily 30 to 40 dishes on display to satisfy your taste buds. Try the grilled tilapia and tenggalan.

You won’t be disappointed.

Accommodation is not a problem at all. Choose between a boathouse, budget chalets and campsites, and the Belum Rainforest Resort.

An Orang Asli homestay is
also available if you want to rough it out in the wild.

Consider these initiatives that have excited world researchers: there are 316 bird species in the Royal Belum forest, with 10 species of hornbills already recorded.

There are 23 main species of freshwater fish and five species of turtles.

It is noteworthy to remember that the Malaysian Nature Society is pursuing a hornbill conservation and monitoring programme in the Royal Belum, while WWF-Malaysia is undertaking a tiger conservation project, which is part of the National Tiger Action Plan. The Pulau Banding Foundation itself is working with Japan’s Kyoto University on another subject — the tapir.

Mind you, all the three studies involve endangered species. What’s our role in all this, you may ask?

We should participate in an international conference on conservation and sustainable use of tropical rainforests, to be held in the Royal Belum in October this year.

The idea is to bring together world experts and practitioners of tropical forest management to the Royal Belum to exchange views and find the best possible way to protect and promote our green heritage.

Sharing is caring, as they say. What better way to show we care for our environment and Mother Earth than by banding together and sharing ideas and experiences. Only good will come of it.

Visit www.belumrainforestsummit2016.com for more details.

Bring along your camera to record and appreciate a 130 million-year-old rainforest, a legacy that you and I have a responsibility to look after for our future generation.

Life needs a balance. Between the concrete jungle and our pursuit of worldly comforts, the Royal Belum Rainforest helps provide sanity for all of us. Jom!

Twitter: @aatpahitmanis

Ahmad A Talib is chairman of Yayasan Salam Malaysia

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