From tin mine to for­est re­serve

New Straits Times - - Jom! -

This body of wa­ter is the last re­minder of Ke­pong’s tin mines; A squir­rel peeks from the cover of angsana leaves.

LOOK­ING at the For­est Re­search In­sti­tute of Malaysia’s cur­rent land­scape, it is hard to imag­ine that a 100 years ago, the area was just an old tin mine, stripped of for­est cover, or turned into farm­land by res­i­dents in and around old Ke­pong.

In 1926, af­ter con­sent given by the Se­lan­gor Re­gent for a for­est re­search in­sti­tute to be set up, a re­search nurs­ery and ex­per­i­men­tal sta­tion was es­tab­lished by Dr F.W. Fox­wor­thy, the first for­est re­search of­fi­cer. Fox­wor­thy’s name now lives in one of the roads in this pop­u­lar park.

The wa­ter let­tuce-filled pond is one of the min­ing pools from FRIM’s past. It is lo­cated near the ad­min­is­tra­tive block. Look­ing at the well-land­scaped gar­den sur­round­ing the pond, and the wooden foot bridge across the up­per por­tion, one would never think that tin min­ing had had any­thing to do with this place.

In fact, my at­ten­tion was drawn to it by the sight of vis­i­tors who were clap­ping at the lower end of the pond. They were call­ing out to some­thing in the wa­ters and only when I asked did I learn what the ex­cite­ment was all about.

Be­neath the calm wa­ters are three gi­ant ara­paimas. These gi­ants, na­tive to the Ama­zo­nian jun­gle, would sur­face from time to time to show­ing them­selves to the lucky few who knew how to coax them from their lair.

A Ja­panese tor­toise tak­ing in the sun amidst the wa­ter let­tuce; Week­enders check­ing out one of the trails. The Sun­gai Kroh pic­nic area fea­tures a swim­ming pool from ford­ing the river. There is also a restau­rant ad­ja­cent to the pic­nic ground.

Ac­cord­ing to a FRIM staff, dur­ing feed­ing time, park staff clap their hands to sum­mon the fish. Once the gen­tle gi­ants sur­face, they would throw them their meal. By Pavlo­vian con­di­tion­ing, these gen­tle gi­ants now sur­face when­ever they de­tect clap­ping sounds.

That day, I briefly caught sight of one, about 1.5 me­tres long, which lin­gered a while near the feed­ing plat­form as it re­sponded to vis­i­tors’ claps. There were sev­eral golden carp, each about a me­tre­long, mak­ing their rounds just be­low the green­ish wa­ter.

A squir­rel was busy munch­ing away in the angsana tree over­head, not at all both­ered by hu­man pres­ence. FRIM is a very pop­u­lar get­away for city folk. There are well-paved roads here that lead to var­i­ous at­trac­tions within its un­du­lat­ing for­est con­ser­va­tory.

These places in­clude the ar­boreta, a canopy walk, camp­ing grounds, a small wa­ter­fall and even a pic­nic area be­side an eatery. There are also na­ture trails, a re­search cen­tre, a mu­seum-cum-re­search gallery and a li­brary.

FRIM charges a nom­i­nal en­trance fee per per­son, at RM1.05. If you are driv­ing in alone, the charges are RM5.30.

It’s RM1.05 more for any ad­di­tional pas­sen­gers. On work­days, ve­hi­cles are only al­lowed in af­ter 8.30am. The roads here are a lit­tle nar­row, so please drive care­fully and watch out for cy­clists.

Cy­clists should be alert for jog­gers and trekkers. If you do not like in­sects, es­pe­cially mos­qui­toes, get a re­pel­lent.

For those who would like to stay for a night or two, there is a guest­house, and camp­ing grounds are avail­able for rental. Call 03-6279-7000.

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