Malaysia’s Terrenganu state government announced today that it has designated 25,664 acres of land formerly slated for logging as a new protected area for wildlife. This new Lawit-Cenana State Park in the Kenyir region of Terrenganu is phase one of a much larger conservation project that will encompass nearly 250,000 acres that lie within a globally important Tiger Conservation Landscape and critical wildlife corridor.
The creation and management of this new protected area is a collaborative effort involving the Terengganu state government and the local nonprofit organization Rimba, in partnership with Rainforest Trust and Panthera.
“This new protected area not only brings more key wildlife habitat under protection, but also protects vital forested watersheds that provide important ecosystem services to the people of Terengganu,” said Dr. Sheema Abdul Aziz, President of Rimba.
Estimated at more than 130 million years old, the dipterocarp forest in the Lawit-Cenana State Park is now permanently protected from logging and secured from further development. Over a dozen Critically Endangered Malayan Tigers have been recorded in the area, while the global population is established at fewer than 250 mature individuals in the wild.
“The importance of this area simply cannot be underestimated,” said Rainforest Trust Chief Executive Officer Dr. Paul Salaman. “The creation of the new park is a rare and unparalleled opportunity to protect a spectacular and imperiled tropical forest harboring what is certainly one of the planet’s most awe-inspiring predators – the Malayan Tiger.”
The forests of the new park contain some of the highest biodiversity in Asia and are home to 18 highly threatened mammal species, including the Asian Elephant, Sunda Pangolin, Malay Tapir, Dhole and White-handed Gibbon. Six of Malaysia’s eight wild cat species prowl these forests.
“These apex predators face tremendous pressure from poaching, fuelled by the illegal trade in their body parts for traditional Chinese medicine,” said Dr. Gopalasamy Reuben Clements, lead investigator of Rimba’s Project Harimau Selamanya and Associate Professor at Sunway University.
More than 290 bird species have been documented in this area, 66 of which are considered threatened or near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This includes nine hornbill species, making this area one of the richest places in Southeast Asia for these magnificent birds.
Future phases will expand on the new state park and connect the previously unprotected forests to the 1,073,280 Taman Negara National Park, creating a vast protected landscape for the wide-ranging tigers. The project will also create a vast network of protected forests as recommended in the Malaysian Central Forest Spine Master Plan for Ecological Linkages, with the 1,073,280-acre Taman Negara National Park at the core and the new Lawit-Cenana State Park as a vital corridor.
The next steps will involve the establishment of ranger teams to patrol the state park and the development of sustainable funding mechanisms such as ecotourism and payments for ecosystem services to help support wildlife protection efforts.
With the support of our generous friends around the world, our partner Rimba and the SAVES Challenge, this project is a success. A special thank you to Geoffrey Chen and Angela Huang, Joan Hero and William Baumgardt, Katherine Hansen, Panthera, Stanley Watt, Tapir Apps GmbH, and Whitney and Elise DeCamp for their leadership support.