KUALA LUMPUR: The overharvesting of pitcher plants in a particular habitat will be disastrous to the species, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) research fellow in ecology and biodiversity Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Mohamad said.
He said although no study had been conducted on pitcher plants population in the country, over-harvesting might have already devastated the species.
“If the species is harvested for its pitchers only, the species may recover. (But) what if the collectors ripped off the entire plant to obtain the aerial and ground pitchers... ?”
Latiff had previously expressed concern on the recent wide- spread harvest of tropical pitcher plants to make lemang periuk kera (pitcher plant glutinous rice) for Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
He called on the Forestry Department to gazette all 13 pitcher plant species that were available in Peninsular Malaysia and place them under the list of preserved and conserved plants.
It was reported that a group of men in Segamat, Johor, who are members of Kumpulan Pencari Periuk Kera, spent their time during the fasting month inside forests searching for pitcher plants due to a high demand from customers.
It, however, has raised concern among nature lovers who are afraid that overharvesting might lead to the extinction of the plant species.
In Malaysia, there are more than 40 species of pitcher plants, with most of them found in East Malaysia.
Pitcher plants that are used to make lemang usually come from the Nepenthes ampullaria species.
It is said that the pitcher cup gives the lemang a soft creamy texture and a different taste compared with those prepared in bamboo casings.
Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) Agrobiodiversity Resources, Conservation and Sustainable Utilisation Programme director and head of research programme Dr Rosliza Jajuli said pitcher plants were used widely for lemang now, but might end up being used for cupcakes and other delicacies, too.
She said it was best to stick to the traditional way of making lemang with bamboo.
It was reported that state Forestry directors were instructed to monitor and take action against those who trespassed on forest reserves to collect forestry products, including pitcher plants.
Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia director-general Datuk Borhanudin Arshad said individuals must apply for a permit from the department before entering any state forest reserve.
Entering forest reserves without a permit falls under Section 47 of the National Forestry Act 1984, which carries a maximum three years’ jail or a fine of up to RM10,000.
Commenting on calls to gazette pitcher plants species, he said the department had taken note of the suggestion and would bring the matter to the senior management level.
Recently, actress Maya Karin, who is the River of Life ambassador, had urged traders to stop selling lemang periuk kera to maintain the sustainability and the ecosystem of the forests.
Maya said pitcher plants were hard to come by and could only be found in forests.