Deforestation in Malaysia

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Malaysia has rich rainforests with a diverse range of animal and plant species, making up 20% of the world’s animal species. However, due to deforestation caused by logging, agriculture and mining, these forests are disappearing rapidly. Deforestation is often associated with economic development, but it is causing problems such as floods, mudslides, and loss of wildlife and marine life. Many endangered species, such as Sumatran Rhinoceros and tigers, are at risk of extinction due to deforestation and illegal hunting. The government of Malaysia is taking steps to improve forest management and conserve different species of wildlife, but 14% of Malaysia’s tropical rainforest is still under threat of deforestation.

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Malaysia has a diverse number of animal and plant species in its rainforests. 20% of the world’s animal species are found here. These forests cover two-thirds of the Malaysian land. It has about 250 species of reptiles, 150 species of snakes and a thousand species of insects. There are around 14,500 species of flowering plants and trees. Besides the rainforests, Malaysia has 1, 425 sq km of mangroves. However, with the current rate of deforestation, it is believed that these forests will disappear by 2020.

Deforestation can be defined as the cutting down of trees and forests through different methods of logging or burning of trees, for the purpose of agriculture, mining, housing etc. Deforestation is usually associated with development. This means that the less number of trees there are, more land for agriculture, housing and other important services are available, leading to economic growth. Since the 1970s, Malaysia has grown tremendously in terms of economic growth. Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing an average 6. per cent annually from 1957 to 2005. In 2010 the GDP (PPP) was $414,400 billion, the 3rd largest economy in ASEAN and 29th largest in the world. Hence, it is proven that deforestation is synonymous with economic development. However, because of deforestation, Malaysia’s rainforests are fast disappearing. 80% of Sarawak’s rainforest has already been cleared. Absence of trees is worsening the impact of floods. There have been frequent floods and mudslides. It is also one of the major reasons for the loss of wildlife and marine life.

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Deforestation causes loss of habitat which forces the animal to move away or it just dies, either due to less source of food or being a source of food. Illegal hunting and poaching has further increased the rate at which animal species are disappearing. About 18% of Malaysia’s endemic species are listed as “endangered”. Some of the endangered species of Malaysian tropical forest are: * Sumatran Rhinoceros with an estimated number of 30 individuals left, in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. * Tigers have narrowed down to approx. 90 individuals. Found in lowland dipterocarp forests of Malaysia. * Elephants are estimated to be less than 1500 in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo * There has been a substantial decrease in the numbers of leatherback turtles since the 1950s. * Orang-utans, estimated to be 12,300 in Sawarak and Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Steps are being taken to improve forest management and conserve different species of wildlife in Malaysia. Selective cutting has been restricted to only a few trees and clear felling is not allowed.

The government is spending money on Taman Negara National Park and other protected forest areas. 14% of Malaysia’s tropical rainforest are being protected from cutting of trees. Any form of ‘development’ in this region is not allowed.

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Deforestation in Malaysia. (2017, Jan 22). Retrieved from

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