Touching Rafflesia with hands will cause damage to the flower. Pix courtesy of Universiti Malaysia Kelantan.

KOTA BARU: Tour guide Bukhari Mat, who often escorts tourists to Lojing Highlands, said he had seen tourists causing damage to the Rafflesia.

Bukhari, 37, who has been in the business since 1996, said, however, none of his clients were involved as he had briefed them on the do’s and don’ts before visiting the Rafflesia sites.

“My real expertise is in bringing visitors to Gunong Stong (at the border of Jeli-Kuala Krai-Gua Musang) but I also  go to Lojing Highlands if there are requests.

“l have seen tourists brought by other agents touching the Rafflesia with their hands when they wanted to take pictures,” said Bukhari, who is popularly called  Bob.

He said he normally took between 10 and 15 visitors on each trip to Lojing Highlands.

The tour guide, who is also the vice-president of the Kelantan Licensed Tourist Guides Association, said the Rafflesia was a sensitive species and touching it would definitely cause damage to the flower.

“The bacteria on our hands may cause the flower to wilt or die. Therefore, tour guides should explain the do’s and don’ts to their clients before they enter the area,” said Bukhari, who operates Stong Outdoors and Adventures based in Gua Musang.

Another tour guide, known only as Kimi, said tourists should not harm the Rafflesia as it was a rare species.

“The flower is valuable to us. When the government decided to gazette the area for the Rafflesia, many of us, especially the tour guides, were happy.

“We felt that the decision should have been made a long time ago,” he said.

The 41-year-old part-time guide, who has been in the job for more than 10 years, said the tourism business was important as it boosted the state’s economy and brought more job opportunities for the people.