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Archives 2016

Some items from the press relating to caves

Contents :
Batu Caves cable car
Thaipusam Batu Caves
Fire on Batu Caves hill
Tambun Cave
Vital to conserve Batu Caves
Conviction Cave, Mulu
Gua Tempurung reopens
Pasoh Cave, Negeri Sembilan
Batu Tulug Agop burial caves
Tambun vandalised again
Batu Caves flora & fauna
Batu Caves construction & 4th staircase
Australian tourist missing in Mulu
Romance movie to be filmed in Mulu & Niah
Gunung Kanthan & Lafarge
Tambun Cave again
Death of Stauffer & Tjia


Batu Caves cable car

In Jan the Star reported that the Batu Caves cable car project is on again. In 2014 the cable car project was scrapped, see Archives 2014. However this new report below doesn't mention the 2014 findings that the project was potentially unsafe. The Star, 25 Jan :

Subra: Govt to go ahead with cable car project at Batu Caves
The Government will proceed with the stalled cable car project at Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Batu Caves, says MIC president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam. He said the public transport facility was essential to allow senior citizens, members of the disabled community and tourists to visit the highest cave in Batu Caves without having to climb the 272 steps. “We want to build the cable car but there had been some constraints in getting approval from the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS). “We accept MPS’ decision in regard to the ecosystem and environment. “But at the same time, we will continue to discuss with the council and the relevant parties,” he said after launching the Thaipusam celebrations here yesterday. In 2011, an agreement of understanding was signed between the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple management and Damodar Ropeways and Constructions Pty Ltd to build the 250m cable car facility. Construction of the RM10mil project was to have been completed in 2014 but MPS halted it on June 6 that year after finding that some structures were built in the area without planning approval.


Thaipusam at Batu Caves

This report is a continuation of the article above on the cable car, from The Star, 25 Jan :

On the Thaipusam celebrations this year, Dr Subramaniam said it was the 126th to be held at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, which is among the major venues where devotees congregate annually. In the last 10 days, about 1.4 million Hindu devotees had come to the temple to perform their religious obligations, he said. Dr Subramaniam also thanked the police for the good job in ensuring everyone’s safety throughout the celebrations. [Thaipusam was 24th Jan]


Fire on Batu Caves hill

At the end of February there was a fire on Batu Caves hill. Headlines from Bernama, Feb 26 "Fire at Batu Caves limestone hill forest contained"; Feb 27 "Fire-fighting operation at limestone hill expected to end tomorrow". The Star, Batu Caves fire still burning 27 Feb.


Tambun Cave

More talk about protecting the paintings at Gua Tambun near Ipoh in Perak. The Star, 8 March, Working to save Tambun Cave.


Vital to conserve Batu Caves hill

Two pieces in The Star on conserving Batu Caves. 16 March Vital to conserve Batu Caves and 12 March MNS Batu Caves of great importance for conservation.


Conviction Cave, Mulu

In 2015 a new cave was found in Mulu, called Conviction Cave. The Borneo Post Jan 20 said no decision had been made on developing the cave. But then on Mar 24 it was reported the cave would be open to the public in a year. This all seems a bit crazy, especially considering there is a 100 m vertical entrance shaft to the cave.


Gua Tempurung reopens

Gua Tempurung is again open to the public having been closed for some time for maintenance. According to the New Straits Times 30 March, the show cave will be reopened on 1 April, having been closed since Aug 13 last year.


Pasoh Cave, Negeri Sembilan

Last year there was news of archaeological finds at caves at Pasoh, see Archives 2015. The New Straits Times 30 March featured an article which included a visit to Pasoh Cave. This is an extract of the article relating to the cave:
The Pasoh Cave has been the locals’ best kept secret until recent excavation works carried out by a group of archaeology students from the Centre for Global Archaeological Research, University Sains Malaysia (USM) in April 2015. “Pasoh Cave is indeed special. It’s the first of its kind in Negri Sembilan, a paleolithic site that has evidence of human adaptation, with stone tools and prehistoric shells dating back to 14,000 years ago,” says Rasydan Muhammad, a first-year Masters student in archaeology and who was part of the archeological team last year. His excitement is palpable as he leads us into the small opening of the cave where we see the plots carefully dug up by the students. The cave system could be a significant archaeological site, Azhar concurs. “We’re happy that the local community and other stakeholders are actively involved in this expedition. However it will take time to figure out a way to turn it into a viable and accessible ecotourism draw. From a tourism perspective, there’s definitely a market out there of people who will travel the world to see these types of caves. It’s important that we capitalise on that.”


Batu Tulug Agop, Sabah

The Batu Tulug Agop Archaeological Site is on the list of tourist spots in Sabah to be gazetted as a National Heritage site. The area used to be a burial site where communities in the past used log coffins to bury the dead. It was believed there were over 2,000 coffins in the caves of the Kinabatangan Valley. See New Straits Times 30 March.

Tambun Cave vandalised again

The rock art at Tambun has had no protection over the years. Despite the Perak authorities saying they would try and protect the site in March, see above, in October it was reported that the site had been badly vandalised with graffiti. This report in The Star, 14 Oct, "Tambun Cave continues to suffer damage inflicted by vandals as site lies undeveloped". Looking at the photo, it seems to be music symbols (a clef) that have been painted amongst other things. It seems this archaeological site is fated to be unprotected.

Batu Caves flora and fauna under threat

The Star, 19 Oct, had this piece on flora and fauna at Batu Caves.

Flora and fauna treasures under threat.

Many throng Batu Caves for its religious sites and tourist appeal, but many do not know about the area’s scientific and eco-tourism values.
In the late 1970s, the Malaysian Nature Society found at least 28 species of moss, 38 species of ferns, 125 species of dicotyledons and 52 species of monocotyledons at Batu Caves. As for fauna, at least five species each of bats, frogs, lizards and snakes make the limestone hills their home.
However, it is hard to determine to what extent these creatures still survive there, but the flora and fauna of the hills have long suffered from climate change and isolation.
Botanist Dr Ruth Kiew has drawn up a list of vascular plants from Batu Caves, which include four species native to the caves.
Her list also reveals that there are three more local plant species that are only known to be in three places – Batu Caves, and the nearby Bukit Takun and Bukit Anak Takun.
“There are also very rare plant species found on one or two other limestone hills, such as impatiens ridleyi which is known to only exist in Batu Caves and Gunung Senyum in Pahang,” she said in her list.
Dr Kiew’s list also states other rare species of conservation importance that are known to originate from Batu Caves.
In spite of all these natural values, the Batu Caves and its biodiversity has come under attack since more than a hundred years ago, with the first threats from quarrying activities in 1896.
Acts of vandalism and theft of cave artifacts forced a temporary closure of the Dark Cave, which was later reopened with restricted access to preserve its ecology.
However, for as long as haphazard development is allowed to go on, Batu Caves will be facing a constant threat to its biodiversity and environment.

Another article published on the same day, Batu Caves makeover hits snag talks about a problem with permission for the make over before Thaipusam. It seems there is a lot of construction taking place, including the construction of another set of stairs up to the temple cave. And a 3rd article on 19 Oct, The council was notified, says temple committee. There is a photo of the 4th staircase in The Malaysian Times 20th Oct. And FreeMalaysia also had an article with a photo of the staircase, which is being built where the old 'railway' used to be.


Australian tourist missing in Mulu

An Australian tourist went missing in Mulu 20th Oct but no one knew where he was. An extensive search and rescue operation took place, scouring caves, rivers, forest and mountains. The man was finally found after 11 days on 1 Nov at Camp 1, Hidden Valley. There was a lot of coverage in Malaysian and Australian media.


Romance movie to be filmed in Mulu & Niah

A China-Sarawak film will be shot in Sarawak, and will include filming in Mulu and Niah. Called Blue Tears, the movie will be the first film jointly produced by China and Sarawak. See The Star 31 Oct 'Tourism boost for Sarawak' and 19 Nov, 'Romance movie to start filming in Miri next week'.

Gunung Kanthan & Lafarge

There has been no news on Gunung Kanthan this year. On 14 Nov The Star had an article "Budget 2017 brings cheer to Lafarge Malaysia" which suggests that Lafarge will have lots of demand for cement in 2017. An earlier article on 1 June wrote: "KENANGA opined that the positive capacity expansion contribution from Rawang (from second quarter of 2016) and Kanthan (from end third quarter of 2016) will be negated by intense price competition and capacity expansion of other cement players in the industry". So I don't know if this means the quarry at Gunung Kanthan will expand at the end of 2016.
Lafarge merged with Holcim in 2015, see LafargeHolcim. Following this, Lafarge wasn't doing so well financially, The Star 24 May, "Lafarge facing stiff competition and higher costs, says Maybank IB Research".


Tambun Cave again

The rock art at Gua Tambun wase vandalised (again) in Oct, see above. On 1 Nov The Star had an article "Lots more to do before 2017". It was referring to the fact that Perak was ranked number nine on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017 list and that a lot of work is necessary to tidy up many of the attractions. This was said about Gua Tambun :

"Citing the prehistoric Tambun Cave as an example, Arvind said it is sad to see that not much action has been taken by the state government, especially the tourism organisations, to maintain the ancient cave drawings there.
The place remains badly vandalised and there is graffiti on the cave wall.
It tarnishes the reputation of the cave and in a way, it also affects the reputation of the state government because nothing is being done to combat this problem.
Even though they have mentioned that they will improve the place, they haven’t done much yet and this is quite disappointing especially since we’re going all out to promote Perak as the place to visit in Malaysia next year,” he said, adding that the Tambun Cave can be part of the “Ipoh experience.”

On 22 Nov The Star had this brief report, which is a bit ambiguous :

"To a supplementary question by Wong Kah Woh (DAP-Canning) on the condition of Tambun Cave, Nolee said the National Heritage Department has upgraded facilities there to prevent further vandalism.
“We also plan to open up another route to the cave, one near the hillslopes by the side of the Tambun Turf Club,” she said.
“Preservation works to protect the cave drawings are costly. We are trying to get an allocation from the National Heritage Department,” she added."

I wonder why they want to open another route. Apart from the cost, no one seems able to maintain the current route, so why have a new one?


Death of Stauffer and Tjia

The death of two geologists was reported in 2016. Peter H. Stauffer was an American who taught in Malaysia from 1965-1983 and wrote a few limestone related papers. H.D. Tjia was an Indonesian geologist who moved to KL in 1968 and stayed in Malaysia until his death in June 1986. I met him at the Asian Trans-Disciplinary Karst Conference in Yogyakarta in 2011.

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© Liz Price 2016-2017