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Published on : Thursday, June 2, 2016
Guests of Four Seasons Resort Langkawi are just a short boat ride from Kilim Karst Geoforest Park – an ancient maze of tiny tributaries and towering limestone karst formations, home to eagles and otters, swimming lizards and “walking” fish.One of the world’s most accessible mangrove forests, Kilim Karst is as fragile as it is phenomenal; at risk from the many tourists who visit to marvel at its natural wonders.
The Resort’s three resident naturalists run regular Mangrove & Eagles Safari by boat into the Park’s brackish lakes and winding channels. But with mangroves relying on the delicate balance of their tidal ecosystem for their survival, it is essential that each trip is conducted with extreme care.
“Mangrove forests are one of Earth’s most productive, biologically complex and undervalued ecosystems, yet few people who venture into them understand how sensitive they are to even the smallest external impact,” explains Aidi Abdullah, the Resort’s Head Naturalist.
He singles out the tiny fiddler crabs as one such example: “The fiddler crabs emerge from their mud flat homes during low tide. They digest the fallen leaves and expel the mud that the mangrove roots then bind together to create land. Unnatural tides caused by speeding or overloaded tourist boats can wash these crabs away. Without the crabs to create the mud, or their tunnels to oxygenate the mangroves, the ecosystem would fall apart, leaving coastlines exposed to erosion, fish without safe havens for their young, and humans without many medicines, timbers and food.”
Aidi works with Langkawi Development Authority to help train local boatmen and guides. He is also a member of Friends of Langkawi Geopark , a non-governmental organisation that helps to set rules for the preservation of the Geopark and overall conservation. In addition, Aidi is a member of the Consultative Council for Conservation established by LADA and the Prime Minister’s Department and regularly collaborates with the Wildlife Department and Forestry Department.
Aidi and his team have drawn up a simple five-point plan that the Resort shares with its guests on every safari to help educate – and spread awareness of – safe mangrove practices. In addition, The Forestry Department has also shared recommendations on safe mangrove practices to the local boat operators and recently started charging a levy for use of the Geopark sites in Langkawi and the funds raised will allow the patrol boats to be deployed by the end of this year.