Taman Negara is one of Malaysia’s oldest and largest protected areas. First established in 1938-1939 as King George V National Park, the National Park covers a total area of 4,343 square kilometers. It straddles the states of Pahang (57 per cent), Kelantan (24 per cent), and Terengganu (19 per cent) and was established under similar but separate Enactments for each section. The Park is managed by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks which comes under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE).
“The Park is hereby dedicated, set aside and reserved in perpetuity in trust for the purpose of the propagation, protection and preservation of the indigenous fauna and flora of Malaysia, and the presentation of objects and places of aesthetic, historical or scientific interest”.
GATEWAYS TO THE PARK
There are four gateways to Taman Negara NP, the most developed is the Kuala Tahan entrance which about 300 km from Kuala Lumpur. It is a small but vibrant tourism-based township. Mutiara Resort is the only accommodation within the Park, aside from the basic facilities that are managed by the Park authorities.
The Sungai Relau entrance is approximately 7 km from the small town of Merapoh which is located off the main road to Kota Bharu. There is also a train service from Kuala Lumpur. The Tanjung Mentong entrance may be accessed from Tasik Kenyir where boats are available for charter; the Kuala Koh entrance is about 290 km from Kuala Lumpur. The latter two gateways are popular with the angling community.
Taman Negara, Malaysia’s first National Park is considered one of the best protected and one of the finest in Asia. For this, Malaysians and the world owe much to a far-sighted man named Theodore Hubback, the first Chief Game Warden of the (then) Federated Malay States who lobbied a reluctant colonial government for 15 years and all successive state and federal governments. Consisting entirely of land under natural forests, Taman Negara ranges from 300 m to Gunung Tahan at 2,187 m which is Peninsular Malaysia’s highest peak.
The rainforest here is reputed to have been in existence for 130 million years – over which time a diversity of habitats, plants and animals, and biotic relationships have evolved. The lush moist lowland dipterocarp forest with its tall trees of 30 – 50 meters that emerge high above the canopy is where species diversity is richest. This type of forest covers almost 60 per cent of the Park. An estimated 14,000 species of plants. Meranti (Shorea spp.), Keruing (Dipterocarpus spp.) and the Tualang (Koompassia excelsa) tower above the different storeys of the forest foliage which also features an abundance of herbaceous and woody species, epiphytes, orchids, lianas, rattans, ferns, and wild gingers. The Park is a centre of endemism and it is likely that many new discoveries stand to be found as parts of the park have hardly been explored. The Tahan massif is the only known home of Livistonia tahanensis, an elegant small fan-palm.Many wild fruit trees are found here – seasonally find varieties of langsat, durian, terap, petai, rambutan, manggo, mangosteen, to name just a few.
Taman Negara may well contain all of the inland forest bird species that occur in the Peninsula. More than 300 have been counted, of which 292 are known to be dependent on forest for their survival. Another 54 bird species are restricted in Taman Negara to highland forest, including two large rarities, the mountain peacock pheasant and the crested argus pheasant.
Taman Negara is tremendously rich in wildlife species including many large mammal species. The large expanse of forests within the park is habitat an estimated 200 species of mammals. Of the large animals, the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) ranges through this area, while other large mammals include the wild pig (Sus scrofa), the Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus), barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak), sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), mouse deer (Tragulus spp.) and seladang (Bos gaurus) are some species that are relatively frequently seen in the wild.
The ungulates visit the salt licks in the park and in the wee hours it may be possible to spot them them from a safe distance from the various wildlife hides at the Park. There are seven wildlife hides at Taman Negara Kuala Tahan and one that can be accessed from Kuala Koh. The Malayan wild dog (Cuon alpinus), sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), white-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar) and yellow-throated marten (Marten flavigula) are other species known to occur here. The Park also supports a population of critically endangered Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni).
The clear rivers such of the Tembeling river system are known for their fish diversity. As many as 53 species have been recorded including the highly prized Malaysian Mahseer or Kelah (Tor tombroides), a species which favours clear fast-flowing rivers and streams.