Thursday, October 15, 2009

Discovering Kinta Valley's Natural Treasures: Gopeng Rainforest Resort

Nestled in the mighty Kampar River watershed, surrounded by fruit orchards, rubber estates, oil palm plantations and undulating, thickly forested hills with the 2032m high Gunung Brinchang as the backdrop, Kampung Ulu Geruntum is the perfect place to begin my exploration into Kinta Valley's natural wonders.

The kampung (village) is home to a small Semai Orang Asli (aborigines) community. For generations, they have been practicing a conservation-centered lifestyle towards their forest resources and always pay high respects to the rainforest's denizens. As Sumatrans started setting a sultanate in Kinta, these villagers became involved with the settlers by exchanging forest products with rice from the alluvial plains. Fast forward to present day, ecotourism became the newest activity in the village. So far, only three resorts exists in the valley. Therefore, the serenity of the valley is still maintained. I've picked Gopeng Rainforest Resort as my base to jump start my adventure.

This resort is a collection of several types of kampung houses with architectural influences from the Malay stilt houses, the Minangkabau's distinctive "bull horn" roofed houses, Orang Asli Bamboo Huts and Borneo's longhouses. All these houses are scattered across a large, neatly kept durian orchard with two meandering streams. So, I was a bit surprised with what I could find in this highly-disturbed location.

I've followed the larger of the two streams along its banks. Being a moisture-loving creature, landsnails are sure to live around this water body. My search brings me to a leaf-littered area where I came face to face with my first find.

A large operculate, Cyclophorus malayanus (Benson 1852) is named after Malaya, the former name of Peninsula Malaysia.

Excitement abound, I prodded around trying to locate more of these elusive creatures. However, a whiff of tangy, ethanol-infused smell floating in the air attracted my attention. It was a bunch of ripened wild bananas hanging on the tree above me. I picked one and peeled to reveal the cream-coloured flesh with large black seeds.

Wild bananas, Musa sp. does smell and look good but it's likely not going to taste good with those large seeds and little flesh.

I've also came across some interesting local herbs.

Costus speciosus (J.G. Koenig), known locally as Setawar Hutan is closely related to ginger.

An unusual wild ginger, Kaempferia pulchra sheds its leaves during dry spells. Its roots are used as a traditional medicine.

Molineria latifolia (Dryand.) or Lumbah Rimba is a natural sweetener used by the Orang Asli. It is common in lowland and hill forests. It's white fruits when eaten, will produce a mild-sour tinge before mellowing into an extremely sweet aftertaste.

The brilliantly red flower of Etlingera megalocheilos (Griff.) A. D. Poulsen, found in the bushes upstream.

The Blue fruits of Pandanus sp(?) commonly found in disturbed areas near forests.

The strange flower of White Spider lily Tacca integrifolia (Ker Gawl.) found in forests behind the resort.

There are plenty of fungi and mushrooms on the rotting leaves and logs too.

A common orange mushroom on leaf litter.

Fungus on a log.

The unopened Cyathus striatus Bird's Nest Fungi. When fully matured, it will produce a cup with brown egg-like peridioles in it, resembling a bird's nest, hence its name.

Calocera viscosa sprout out from wood surfaces.

The Dictyophora duplicata Maiden's veil Fungus, an uncommon bizarre fungus.

The common Lepiola sp. found in the forests behind the resort.

Cup fungus Cookeina tricholoma are sought after both by photographers and naturalists.

As I reached the narrow strip of vegetation between the stream and an asphalt road (which is the only road winding across the valley), I was in for a surprise. I flipped some decomposing twigs and leaves and there they are. Among the grits of sand and saprophyte roots are microsnails of all kinds.

Geotrochus sp. is a rather common microsnail that can also occasionally be found in home gardens.

Macrochlamys sp. grazing on algae on limestone rock. This is a semi-slug (half snail, half slug).

Cyclotus rostellatus (Pfeiffer 1851) lives around the bases of trees, amongst roots and leaf litter.

The Star of the Day- Diplommatina ventriculus (Mollendorff 1891), an uncommon and beautiful find.

Along with these are some molluscan behavoiur that are equally interesting.

Microsnails on a dead twig, its typical habitat.

The pesky Achantina fulica (Bowdich 1822) involved in a fight for the best mate.

Yellow eggs capsules of the species above deposited in loose soil.

Juvenile snails eating up a dead snail's shell for calcium needed for building its shell. This process is known as "Shell Recycling".

The world's only bio-luminescence snail, Quantula striata (Gray 1834), displaying an elaborate defense technique of blowing slime bubbles to keep the predatory tractor millipede at bay.

This location is indeed loaded with a surprising variety of molluscan species. But, what about other wildlife?

Wild Boar Sus scrofa mud puddles can be seen in the forests. This could be their foraging grounds for food.

I'm fortunate to get a glimpse of the rare Forest Monitor Lizard Varanus rudicollis. This is a juvenile.

A flying lizard Draco sp. ready to spread its "wings" , which are actually highly modified ribs, when confronted by predators.

A Tree-hole Frog Metaphrynella sp. found hiding in a hole near the stream.

A juvenile Oriental Garden Lizard Calotes versicolor sunbathing.

According to the owner of the resort, nocturnal mammals such as Samba deer, Gaur or Kambing Gurun and even Slow Loris do emerge from the forests to look for food in the vicinity after sundown. Luck wasn't on my side though, but I did found plenty of interesting insects.

Mating pair of Tiger Moth Amata huebneri under a leaf. This is a wasp-mimicking, day-flying moth.

An unidentified beetle with metallic blue and white banded elytra (outer shell).

A hairy caterpillar.

The amazing plumose (feathery) antennae of a moth.

A katydid with red spots.

A praying mantis waiting for it's quarry prey near an insect attracting light source.

The famous Rajah Brooke Birdwing Trogonoptera brookiana feeding on mineral salts.

A swallowtail Papilio demolion joined the feast too.

The majestic Atlas moth Attacus atlas, one of the largest moth in the world. I'm truly fortunate to find one!

An egg laying moth.

A green cicada are the producers of omnipresent forest "music".

An unusual moth with spiky tail that will surely give a painful punch to any unfortunate person laying their hand on it.

An unidentified insect covered in lichen to conceal it's identity to potential predators. It's habitat is on tree trunks with lichen.

A weevil beetle on the leaves of an forest understorey plant.

So, that's all for now. The next post will take you to the heart of Kinta Valley's famed limestone hills. Adventures and discoveries aplenty and of course, snails to look for. Stay tuned!

For more information on Gopeng Rainforest Resort, visit their official website:

Khoo Salma Nasution & Abdur-Razzaq Lubis Kinta Valley: Pioneering Malaysia's Modern Development. Perak Academy, 2005


Raoul said...

Thanks JK for pointing out the species! I really didn't know how to identify it beyond buying a "field guide of Malaysian lizards"!

-that's if, the book exists!-

Googling the chap, apparently theis lizard has many different adult morphologies. Probably subspecies distributed by region...

One pic that looks quite like my lizard, although a bit more feminine- is

Thanks once again!

-PS- The little guy has been released into the wild :-)

JK said...

No problem, Raoul! Yes, that lizard does come in many different forms and colours.

I believe the one you've found is quite common in gardens and semi-urban areas as I've also encountered them quite frequently in regenerating bushlands in Kuala Lumpur.