Monday, November 22, 2010

New Snail Species from an Old Rainforest

Rolling hills of verdant rainforests as seen along the East-West Highway which divides the Belum-Temenggor Rainforest into two large, separate portions.

Time and again, we have been reminded of our surprisingly little understanding of and exploration into the natural world. New species kept spewing out from scientific expeditions and personal discoveries while chainsaws and heavy bulldozers raze kilometres of the world's remaining natural ecosystems.

This scenario is no stranger to the Belum-Temenggor Rainforest Complex, which ranges from lowland hill forests in the valleys to tropical montane rainforests up on the cloud-draped highlands. This time, the new species comes in the form of a snail, a not-your-average forest snail.

Morning mists roll up the tree-cloaked hill slopes in Belum-Temenggor's montane forests.

This precious 300 square kilometres (300000 hectares) block of rainforest houses a multitude of ecosystems that very much represents almost the entire cross section of Peninsular Malaysian biosphere save the coastal region. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the last representatives of the Malaysian megafauna seek refuge in its verdure including the highly endangered national icon, the Malayan Tiger (Phantera tigris jacksoni). The same can be said for almost every group of rainforest flora and fauna in the Peninsular. However, it is a cherry-sized snail that particularly surprised Reuben Clements, a researcher of Malaysia's mammals and molluscs, late last year.

Having spent most of his time working under humid tropical rainforest conditions while tracking the elusive Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus), encountering a snail was not something he had on his mind. But what an unusual encounter it was! Clements recalled his team were looking out for fresh elephant faeces when they chanced upon lumps of mud brown globes (their target). Breaking the freshly laid, cellulose-laden "cakes", he scooped and inserted a portion of it into clear plastic bags for analysis back in the team's laboratory. In the process, something gleaming on the surface of the pachyderm droppings caught his attention. It was a white object with a distinctive brown spiral embedded in the sticky brown lump. He instantly recognised it as a snail. A snail fragment, probably. After all, how could a tree snail end up deep in elephant dung if not for it having been through the gnawing of tree leaves and passing around the mighty pachyderm's digestive tract?

Either way, curiosity overcame speculation and Clements decided to remove the snail from the fecal matter for a closer look. It turned out not to be a shell fragment nor an Amphidromus snail (which is often the case for Malaysian tree snails)! In fact, this snail is so out-of-place as far as current malacology is concerned.

Featuring a blunt apex with a fairly tall and convex spire, a rather sharp kneel, a slight depression on the final whorl before the lip, a thick, angled and flared lip, as well as a covered umbilicus, this yet-to-be-named snail is hauntingly similar in many ways to its New Guinean Camaenidae snails (a.k.a. Camaenids). It has a porcelain white background and a yellow-brown periostracum. Furthermore, the narrow brown band that spirals at the periphery for the first 3 upper whorls and the thick maroon band that adorns the periphery of the base as well as a narrow pink inner banding further reinforce its similarity to its New Guinean counterparts.  Such distinct characteristics could hardly be of mainland Southeast Asian origins!

 A dorsal view of the new snail's shell. (Photos courtesy of Reuben Clements)

 A basal view of the new snail's shell. (Photos courtesy of Reuben Clements)

A side view of the shell showing the pronounced kneel and thick, flared lip. 
(photos courtesy of Reuben Clements)

The question now is (or rather, are): Where exactly does this snail fit into the general picture of mainland Southeast Asian's (or more accurately, Sundaland's) molluscan fauna? What is its origins? or if it is as speculated, how did it came to Belum from New Guinea? (or is it the other way around?) What about the assumed migration barrier called the Wallace Line? Are there any similar shells elsewhere in the region? etc. etc. An avalanche of questions began.

Clements suggest that it could be related to the family Acavidae, which stems from Gondwanan ancestors. Gondwana is an ancient supercontinent that split up some 167 million years ago in the mid-Jurassic into fragments that include South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, India and even parts of Thailand and Pulau Langkawi in north-western Peninsular Malaysia. Since the last two locations mentioned are within hours from Belum-Temenggor, this hypothesis does seem plausible. I believe it belongs to the family Camaenidae and its morphology has some resemblance to the genus Ganesella which resides throughout much of Sundaland's highland forests. or could it be a remnant population of a once widespread genus stretching to New Guinea? Perhaps it was stranded during the abrupt climate and sea level changes of the Holocene Epoch (12000 years ago)?

Either way, such specimen warrants attention by not just malacologists but nature lovers and conservationists as well. We are not only dealing with a new species but probably an entirely new genus or even an extension of New Guinean wildlife into mainland Southeast Asia! If one of these speculations turns out to be true, this little snail may be the one of the few (if any) molluscan evidence that links Malaysian flora and fauna to the ancient Gondwanan supercontinent; or place Belum as the only remaining forest holding Southeast Asia's ancient fauna; or bridges Sundaland's molluscs with the Sahul Continental Shelf (Australia and New Guinea).

In the meantime though, Clements is still working on mammals in the Malaysian rainforests. "We need to find a living snail in order to get to the bottom of this mystery," he remarked. Until then, questions will prevail and the snail's future will stumble along with the uncertainty of Belum-Temenggor's rainforests.

References and Further Reading:
1. Gerlach J., 2007. New Terrestrial Gastropoda (Mollusca) from Seychelles. (

2.Sathiamurthy E. and Voris H. K., 2006. Maps of Holocene Sea Level Transgression and Submerged Lakes on the Sunda Shelf. The Natural History Journal of Chulalongkorn University, Supp. 2:1-44, August 2006. (

3. Wade C. M., Mordan P. B., Clarke B., 2001. A Phylogeny of Land Snails (Gastropoda: Pulmonata). Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 2001 268, 413-422. (

4.Heads M., 2009. Vicariance. Buffalo Musuem of Science.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kuala Lumpur's Urban Rainforests

The tranquility of a rainforest as epitomised here in the Sungai Kanching Waterfall, Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve north of Kuala Lumpur.

Imagine stepping into the shadows of a thick green forest canopy, feeling the cool, damp air as it flows into your lungs and tuning in to the rhythms of the forest: the chirping of birds, the hisses of insects, the fluttering of wind-caressed leaves; And yes, the barely audible humming and honking from the traffic in distant roads. A faint reminder of us still within the urban zone. Welcome to Kuala Lumpur- minus the city!

Soft, warm beams of rays shines upon Bukit Kiara's secondary forests at sunset.

It is hard to imagine that the Malaysian capital, despite facing the onslaught of large scale crop estates, extensive mining operations and of course, the continuing urban sprawl, still has some rainforest tracts in its vicinity. These remaining green lungs of the metropolitan region have been of great aesthetic and scientific values in recent years. The exponentially growing support of many KL urbanites in retaining these valuable assets is a testimony to their importance. What is more surprising is to consider that just decades ago, these same people used to think of the rainforests as nothing more than a bane to the city, an obstacle that must be removed in the pursuit of modernisation. So what made KL's forests such an enviable feature of the city for the people?

 Some of the wildlife typical of KL's secondary forests include the native long tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) and introduced species such as the Eurasian Tree Sparrow ( Passer montanus) and Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) as seen here in Bukit Kiara.

Perhaps, it is because of the fact that they are located in one of the world's biodiversity hotspot and the sad irony of their imminent destruction by nondiscriminatory urban sprawl. Or is it because of the increasing appreciation brought by visiting foreigners? After all, it is no surprise to find that many KL visitors often quoted the uniqueness of this modern capital juxtaposed with evergreen hills of tropical rainforests. Or probably KL urbanites have come to terms with the importance of sustainable development which cares for the present and future generation economically, environmentally and socially?

A view of the majestic Bukit Tabur Quartz Ridge in Selangor State Park.

Either way, one thing is for sure: With "infrastructural development" high on the agenda of city planners and the die-hard old-school thinking of "environmental blitz" in the name of progress, these precious tracts of remnant forests are at the mercy of bulldozers and chainsaws. To add salt to the wound, urban sprawl has since spilled beyond the city's boundaries into the surroundings, resulting in a continuous tract of build-up area dotted with remnants of secondary rainforests and abandoned plantations.

Thus, it would be best for us to reflect on what is at stake in each of Kuala Lumpur's last bastions of tropical biodiversity:

Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve
Probably the only natural tropical rainforest in the heart of the city (literally!), this tiny 0.11 kilometres square (11 hectare) patch of vegetation holds a surprising number of large trees and some common forest wildlife including macaques and some forest birds. Fortunately, everlasting interest expressed by past city planners as well as today's tourists and locals have made it into an economic asset worthy for protection and thus, gazetted as a Forest Reserve in 1909. This forest might also be of great scientific value as it provides a perfect field for studying the effects of urbanisation around an isolated  patch of tropical rainforest.

Bukit Tunku-Taman Tasik Perdana-Bukit Persekutuan
The region bounded by this three hill areas has plenty of old secondary forest that are very photogenic and unique to Kuala Lumpur. It is the only area in the city centre where rainforest vegetation fringe the highways and is aesthetically pleasing to the passerby and local residents too. Hence, the highly sought-after residences within the area and is probably one of the factors that explains why there has not been plans to clear the forests for high density development to date. Although fragmented in nature, these forests have served as the only available habitat for native wildlife for miles in the metropolitan area. The headquarters of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) is located here and has an educational forest trail for visitors to experience the highly accessible rainforest.

Gombak Region Forested Hills
Hills such as these are often left forested as their steep slopes are deemed unfit for urban development. Although some of them are orchards or rubber estates many years ago, continuous succession of the forest structure has made them indistinguishable from old secondary or even primary rainforests. Recent reports have shown that they are important stopover points for migrating bird life and this has attracted many birdwatchers to the hill peaks especially during months of northern hemispheric autumn (mid September to November) and spring (mid February to April). Unfortunately, at the same time, proposals to destroy the forest for high density residential development have emerged, enraging growing circles of local residents in support of the hills' protection. Here is the official webpage of the petition to save one of the hills, Bukit Melawati:

Batu Caves
Literally an ecological island in a sea of buildings, this is the only limestone outcrop that is surrounded by the city. It is one of the important assets of KL covering cultural values (it being the location of the famous Batu Caves Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple), recreational values (Batu Caves is the prime location for rock climbing, caving and other speleological activities in Kuala Lumpur) and scientific values (with a dozen endemic species of flora and fauna including snails and cave insects as well as the rare Kambing Gurun or the Sumatran Serow, Capricornis sumatraensis. The geological massif is threatened by limestone quarries and pollution effects due to its proximity to build-up areas.

Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve and Kanching Forest Reserve 
This large tract of semi-continuous low altitude hill forests contains two of the three limestone outcrops of Klang Valley, Bukit Takun and Anak Bukit Takun (the other being Batu Caves), and has potential of harbouring many endemic species as is the case for most karstic formations. Nearby, a multi-tiered waterfall in the Kanching Forest Reserve receives high visiting numbers by locals and foreigners alike while Bukit Lagong is home to the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM). Some endemic species found so far includes the reintroduced endangered plant Begonia aequilateralis in FRIM, diterocarp tree Hopea subalata in Kanching Forest Reserve and Lipthistius batuensis in Gunung Anak Takun.


Sungai Buloh Forest Reserve (currently RRIM and Kota Damansara Community Forest),
Bukit Lanjan and Bukit Kiara (from left to right)
Sungai Buloh Forest Reserve, being established in 1898, is the oldest forest reserve in Malaysia. Unfortunately, much of the 16.18 km square (1618 hectares) of rainforests have dwindled to a mere 3.47 km squares (347 hectares). The large block of greenery on the left of this image is a monoculture of para rubber trees operated by the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia (RRIM) and thus, not really of significant biodiversity importance. The sole remnant secondary forest is Kota Damansara Community Forest on the centre-left of this picture. This is piece of forest is the focal point of forest stewardship in the city. For the past decade, residents of this region have formed committees and societies to garner support for the protection of the remaining secondary forest. The gazetting of Kota Damansara's forest as a community-managed forest conservation and education park as well as its endorsement by international agency- Global Environment Facility (GEF), is the hallmark of success in the Malaysian public's awareness of the country's biodiversity importance. Here's Kota Damansara Community Forest' official website: (

Bukit Lanjan
An indigenous reserve, it is among the few remaining wildlife refuge in the northern Petaling district. It has an economic potential to be developed as an educational and research field by the indigenous (mostly Temuan tribe) residents to attract locals and tourists and guarantee a steady flow of income and social benefits to these  low-income communities. Sadly, the forest are threatened by hill slope development as lowlands have already been occupied by buildings.

Bukit Kiara
Bukit Kiara, meanwhile, has been enjoying very high visitor numbers by local and expatriate residents on a daily basis for its well-developed forest park concept and facilities provision. It is also a well-known venue for mountain biking too, as reflected by the many regional and national biking competitions held within the park's forest trails. In terms of forest structure, it is a rubber estate-turned-secondary forest. Surprisingly, it still holds many native flora and even a resident troop of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis). Unfortunately, the entire park is set to be cleared for landscape and development into an artificailly constructed large garden park (;
 while the southern portion of the hill has been cleared to make way for a golf course.

Rimba Ilmu, Univerity Malaya
This is geographically a southern extension of Bukit Kiara. It is within the grounds of University Malaya and is an educational forest set up for public use and university research purposes, thus safely protected from any urban development so far. It also houses the university's herbarium which contains 1600 species of tropical flora. It is popular among locals and tourists who wanted to get a quick glimpse of the rainforest and its floral wealth. Here's the website of Rimba Ilmu: (

Bukit Gasing
Another green lung that has captured the interest and enthusiasm of the local population, this regenerating secondary forest serves not just as a wildlife refuge but also a recreational area that has experienced increased popularity beyond the surrounding communities and even among foreigners. As in the case of its northern neighbours, Bukit Kiara and Bukit Lanjan, this cherished piece of greenery is disappearing fast due to development of apartments on its eastern portion (which is under Kuala Lumpur's jurisdiction). The only hope left is the western portion of the hill which is declared a protected educational forest for the community by the state government of Selangor. This blog features the environmentalism movement of the Bukit Gasing Community: (

Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve
Yet another forest that faces the same scenario as those above, Ayer Hitam is unique in its crucial role for forest-based research conducted by the nearby Univerity Putra Malaysia. It is also one of the largest remaining forest completely surrounded by urban functions, thus it houses a great deal of wildlife and plantlife representative of the Klang Valley's extremely rare lowland forests. Furthermore, a study has indicated that there is 33 endemic and 30 new records out of 319 species of trees surveyed in just a 5 hectares plot. Mammals that are reported to inhabit this 12.48 km square (1248 hectares) rainforest includes rats, squirrels, rarely seen moonrats (Echinosorex gymnurus) and the charismatic Slow Loris (Nycticedus coucang). The Orang Asli (Indigeneous people) of the Temuan tribe frequents the forest for its natural products while local residents often conduct hiking trips there as well. The biggest threat facing this forest is the rapid deforestation for residential zone expansion although it is unlikely that the entire forest will be destroyed anytime soon as the forest has been leased to the univeristy for the next 64 years.

Saujana Utama-Bukit Cahaya, Shah Alam
These forests are important water-shed areas but seemed to have experienced extensive urban and agricultural developments in recent years that are encroaching towards the reservoirs within the forests. This is particularly pronounced in the southern portion belonging to Bukit Cahaya and the north-eastern portion. Ironically, Bukit Cahaya is home to the Malaysian Agricultural Park and has parts of it featuring the forest itself. However, there is only a small pool of local residents who voiced out their concerns and enthusiasm about the forest, rendering it harder to conserve the region's shrinking forests.

Cheras Region Forested Hills
The Cheras geography is characterised by majestic green hills and a large, unbroken chain of forested
mountains in its backdrop. This area has been, like most other rainforests in KL, the weekend haunts of many local residents. Hills such as Bukit Permai and Bukit Putih (Apek Hill) features several very popular waterfalls and trekking trails and has attracted hoards of people from all across Kuala Lumpur. However, foreign tourists have not frequented the area to date. Although no research has been conducted in its forest so far, it definitely holds some mammalian megafauna such as wild boars and macaques as anecdotal and photographic evidence have provided for years. Again, the disregard of local residents as important stakeholders when developing the hills have resulted in conflict and concerns for the safety of the hill slopes.

Ampang Region Forested Hills
Another region of similar geography as Cheras, this area also features some waterfalls and are as popular as those in Cheras. But the most important feature of this part of the city is the frequent occurence of landslides ranging from minor to fatal. Perhaps the two most well known are the Bukit Antarabangsa 1999 landslide and the Taman Bukit Mewah landslide.
(Link to a satellite picture comparison of the landslide of 2008:
They are grim reminders of the disasters caused by inconsiderate development on geologically unstable hills.

Central section of Selangor State Park. Note the linear Bukit Tabur Quartz Ridge and the Klang Gates Reservoir visible at the bottom left corner of this image.
Selangor State Park
One of the most distinctive feature that dominates the landscape of eastern Kuala Lumpur, The Bukit Tabur Quartz Ridge is located within this new state park. This ridge is made entirely of quartz crystals and is said to be the longest of its kind in the world. Hence, efforts have been made to include it as a UNESCO World Heritage Zone. Along with the intact forests that dominates behind the ridge, forming the catchment area of the Klang Gates Reservoir, this park serves as the source of KL's drinking water and is home to many rare and endemic flora especially along the ridge. Given its proximity from the capital, effort has been taken to attract tourists. It is currently a favourite weekend haunt for locals particularly along the Quartz Ridge and the various waterfalls. Sadly, there is a danger that parts of the ridge may collapse as hill cutting and deforestation on its slopes continues unabated. Moreover, ad hoc plans to destroy parts of the ridge to make way for roads and buildings often surfaces to the anger of the public. Here is the link to their official blog: (

The above list of forest are but the tip of an iceberg of significant areas worthy of preservation in KL and its surroundings. There are many more smaller but equally interesting tracts of forest remnants scattered across the city. All these forests faces the same issue of encroachment and destruction and ought to be saved in view of its economic, social and even political benefits that could be gained from such a move.

The rare and relatively unknown ground dwelling plant, Thismia sp.,  is usually described as habitat specific and sensitive to disturbance, hence only found in primary rainforests. However, the surprising discovery of it living in the Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve have shown that Kuala Lumpur's rainforests, however small and isolated, are important reserves for tropical species including rare and endemic ones.

Already, modern cities across the world are setting aside and creating tracts of important habitats as wildlife refuges and for recreational and educational purposes. Some examples include  Australia's Adelaide's Urban Forest Programme, Brazil's Sao Paulo City Greebelt Biosphere Reserve and Canada's Ottawa Greenbelt. (Check out this link for more information: It is almost an unstated rule of thumb that cities should integrate with its environment and not the other way around.

Of course, this must also be accompanied by responsibly planned urban development that seeks to control urban sprawl if the forest were to remain untouched by developers. 

Malaysia and it's capital's economy are largely build upon by the natural bounty of the land. Kuala Lumpur will not be as modern and developed as in the vision and hopes of the Malaysian people if little or no acknowlegment of the importance of biodiversity is given in the form of the provision of wildlife refugia. 

"I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority." 
~Elwyn Brooks White, Essays of E.B. White, 1977.

Some Further Reading:
1. Mak K.W., 2004. A River Gone to Waste, The Star Metro, 14 September 2004. (

2.Tsai L.M., Nazim Yaacob T. M., Jeyaraj K., 2000. Importance of Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve in Klang Valley and the Multimedia Super Corridor, Pertanika J. Trap. Agric. Sci. 23(1): 57 - 61 (2000) (

3. Abd. Ghani A. N., Bawon. P., Hj. Othman M. S., S. Mohamed R. M., Faridah Hanum I., Zakaria Husin M., 1999. Direct Uses of Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve, Puchong, Selangor. Pertanika J. Trap. Agric. Sci. 22(2): 203 - 206 (1999) (,_Puchong,_Selangor.pdf)

4. Jusoff K., 2010.  Individual Species Crown Mapping in Taman Rimba Ilmu, University Malaya
Using Airborne Hyperspectral Imaging. American Journal of Applied Sciences 7 (4): 493-499, 2010 (

5. Faridah Hanum I., Philip L., Awang Noor A.G., 2008. Sampling Species Diversity In a Malaysian Rainforest: The Case of a Logged-over Forest. Pak. J. Bot., 40(4): 1729-1733, 2008. (

6. Zakaria M., Silang S., Mudin R., 2001. Species Composition of Small Mammals at the Ayer Hitam
Forest Reserve, Puchong, Selangor. Pertanika J. Trap. Agric. Sci. 24(1): 19 - 22 (2001) (

7. Khalid S., 2008. Efforts Being Made to Preserve Bukit Persekutuan. The Star Metro, 28 January 2008. (

8. Loh D., 2003. Developer Rapes Cheras Forest Reserve. The New Straits Times, 23 June 2003. (

9. Adams L.W., 2005. Urban Wildlife Ecology and Conservation: A Brief History of the Discipline. Urban Ecosystems, 8:139-156, 2005. (

10.Radzi Abas M., Ahmad-Shah A., Nor Awang M., 1992. Fluxes of Ions in Precipitation, Throughfall and Streamflow in an Urban Forest in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Environmental Pollution,Vol. 75, Iss. 2., p209-213, 1992. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

FRIM: More Than Just A Tree Plantation

The mature Meranti trees found on the slopes of Bukit Lagong, in FRIM.

"These hill slopes used to be the domain of terraced vegetable plots and those ponds down there are relics of the tin mining industry of the colonial era," chirps our guide while he moves his finger across the verdant hill slopes to the landscaped pond gardens at the foothills. 80 years since the establishment of the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), much of the denuded hills that was so common in the old days have all but disappeared under the experimental forestry works of FRIM. The green hills, however, are not in any way, boring mono-culture forests (as would be expected from the infamous rubber and oil palm plantations), In fact, my visit to the site revealed a surprisingly diverse range of wildlife and plants, some are even considered rare!

Sun light penetrating the verdant forest canopy along the Rover Track in the heart of FRIM.

The mention of FRIM as an ecologically haven worth exploring may amuse many Kuala Lumpur urbanites. I also have doubts that these secondary and anthropogenically-altered forests of such close proximity to the bustling urban landscape of Kuala Lumpur would support much wildlife at all. That notion seems to be challenged in FRIM's case, though. Perhaps it is because FRIM is one of the few remnant forested environments in Kuala Lumpur? Or the fact that it has grown to mimic a natural secondary forest structure after all these years has influenced the reclamation of past forest wildlife? Or probably some other yet unidentified reasons?

Pockets of the disturbed forest seen here as a long abandoned durian orchard are exposed to sunlight and results in the presence of thick undergrowth characterised by easily adaptable species including exotic (introduced) flora.

One of these exotics is Parrot's Beak Heliconia, Heliconia psittacorum from the Amazon.

Much of the human activities in FRIM are concentrated in the developed portion of landscaped gardens, research centres, settlements and museums in the lowlands. Visitors to FRIM are often here to have outdoor workout sessions, to enjoy panoramic views up on FRIM's signature forest canopy walkway in the hills or to have a bit of splashing around in the Sungai Kroh waterfall.  For many, the most part of FRIM that lies within the thickly forested granite range of Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve is dismissed as just another part of the scenery.

A rare rainforest phenomenon known as "crown shyness" displayed by Kapur, Dryobalanops aromatica, which is found only in a handful of locations, where one of them is in FRIM.

For nature appreciators, however, it is the rainforest that is the center-stage of FRIM. To gain the best insights into the biodiversity of this forest, it is best to get onto the trails that crosses many parts of the hill area between Sungai Kroh waterfall, the canopy walkway and the Rover Track (an unpaved road). (Click here for a link to the mud map of the aforementioned areas)

Clumps of characteristic brick red seed pods of Kelumpang, Steculia sp. high on the canopy of FRIM.

A good tip is to maximise your search by scanning the forest high and low for any flora or fauna of interest, big or small. Do be aware that many critters are experts in camouflage and looking for them require some skills but it will be a well well worth search if you do finally found them! Another useful suggestion is to visit the trails after rains as many rainforest organisms love the humidity and soaked environment. However, just be prepared to donate some of your blood to water-loving leeches! (They are not in any way harmful but if you have Bedellophobia or fear of leches, a pinch of table salt on them will effectively remove them off your skin)

Personally, I liked the route that begins at the Sungai Kroh waterfall and picnic area and then trek my way uphill to the canopy walkway (crossing the widely-spaced Rover Track in between the journey) on the top of the hill and get a breath of fresh air, soak up the forest's sounds before going downhill again to the Rover Track. Here, it is a leisure walk further downhill and to the main metalled road (near the canteen). Here's a photo essay of my discoveries:

One of the multi-tiered waterfalls along Sungai Kroh (literally meaning murky river or stream, but actually the water is really clear!).

One of the beautiful rapids channeling crystal clear freshwater along Sungai Kroh.

The occassional overflowing of Sungai Kroh after heavy downpours washes large quantities of forest leaf litter from the banks, resulting in this maze of tree roots and large, rounded boulders.

Another timeless scene of the fast flowing water of Sungai Kroh in the upstream area.

One of the hardy ferns, Antrophyum callifolium, eking out a living by clinging precariously on a moss-covered rock face overlooking the thundering waters of Sungai Kroh.

An uncommon find-the horticulturally-popular Begonia, Begonia sp.

A related species of the commercial pepper-Tiger's Betel, Piper porphyrophyllum, found on the forest floor. It is currently being researched for potential medicinal uses.

Another forest creeper of an unidentified but common species.

A palm tree, Arenga westerhoutii, fruiting profusely near the highest point of the hill trail (informally known as Bukit FRIM or FRIM Hill).

The famous Malaysian anesthetic- Tongkat Ali, Eurycoma longifolia, said to be a cure-all. The medicinal value of it is still under intense research currently and is debatable. 

A grass-like but significantly larger-sized plant called Bemban, Donax grandis,  found along the upper parts of the trail.

A peculiar fig, Ficus fistulosa that bears fruits through protruding branches along its trunk.

The eyecatching inflorescence (clumps of flowers arranged along a stalk) possibly of a species of the genus Schefflera.

A wild Jasmine, Jasminum sp., found beside the swift waters of Sungai Kroh.

The common fern-like herb Selanginella willdenowii with its characteristic bluish-green tinged leaves. Note the flower petal and a huntsman spider on its side.

The common yet fascinating flower of Black Lily or Keladi Murai, Tacca integrifolia, which is rather common as a forest understory plant. It is widely used as a herb to treat rashes, rheumatism, aching limbs and various other illnesses.

One of the must-see plants when visitors are in FRIM is this gnarled vines of the Liana plant, Bauhinia sp. In certain parts of the peninsular as well as other Southeast Asian regions, this plant is the primary host of the world's largest flower-the Rafflesia.

One of the largest Yam or Taro plant- Keladi gajah (meaning: Elephant Yam), Alocasia macrorhiza, found at the forest edge in FRIM. Some Orang Asli (Indigeneous people) use the leaves of this plant as an umbrella during downpours.

A closeup view of the Elephant Yam's equally large flowers.

These graceful red flowers belongs to Putat, Barringtonia macrostachya. They were found detached from the plant, on the forest floor.

The dried latex of a tree known as Jelutong, Dyera costulata, which is a local species that produces a leathery, rubber-like substance. It was once commercially harvested and used in many products before the introduction of the Brasillian Para Rubber Tree, Hevea brasiliensis.

An unidentified fungi growing on the thin soils of the forest floor.

A fungi of the genus Cymatoderma that grows on forest litter and plays a crucial role in breaking the organic matter down into nutrients for the plants.

Another species of fungi cluster on the surface of decaying tree logs.

Another common wood-inhabiting fungi, Stereum sp, with a beautiful "polished-wood" appearance.

These fungi sometimes houses a large colony of mature beetles and larvae. Shown here are a colony of Spotted Fungi Beetles, Eumorphus marginatus, found feeding on the spores of the underside of a large  fungi, Ganoderma tropicum. 

An oddity among the insect world-the bio-luminescent firefly, Pteroptyx valida, resting on a leaf of a forest shrub.

The molting cast of a cicada found on the stalks of an Elephant Yam Plant. Cicada casks are used in traditional Chinese medicine to cure minor respiratory ailments.

Finally, after hearing the omnipresent chattering and ringing in the forest for the last few hours, I've chanced upon one of the makers of this distinct rainforest cacophony-the cricket, Nisitrus vittatus.

Another cricket, Gryllus sp also on a shrub leaf. (Does forest crickets have a tendency to stay on leaves during the mornings?)

Another insect having the same habits of the crickets-the Shorthorn Grasshopper, Erucius sp.

A striking group of spiny caterpillars on the stalk of a forest undergrowth plant.

An unidentified pair of spiders seeking refuge near the Sungai Kroh waterfall by folding a leaf using their strong silk webs.

The Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura sp., is another critter that favours the surfaces of leaves probably as its hunting grounds.

A Huntsman Spider of the family Sparassidae on a flower petal. 

An unidentified Orb weaver Spider with striking iridescent green and red stripes on its abdomen.

A striking Orb Weaver Spider, Agiope aemula, in its typical "X" shaped pose and bands of zig-zagging silk web structure.

The delicate stabilimentum (the patterned silk structure) of another Orb Weaver Spider, Argiope sp.  makes it an eyecatching find despite being rather small in comparison with other spiders.

Of all the forest spiders, the Golden Orb Weaver, Nephila pilipes, is among the largest and most "fearsome-looking" of them all.  This giant female easily measures 15cm from the tip of its leg to another and has just netted an unfortunate moth. 

Upon closer inspection, there was a tiny red male (of the same species) hitching on its back, probably trying to mate with the giant female.

Another view of the female with its prey. Note the width of the web which can be up to a metre or more, thus enabling the spider to weave in between tree branches even high up in the canopy.

Gigantism is not confined only to spiders, but can also be found among ants as this Giant Forest Ant, Camponotus gigas, exemplifies. This worker ant of the species measures almost 3 cm from its head to its abdomen.

On the other end of the size spectrum, tiny forest termites, Hospitalitermes sp. , can be found on the tree roots and branches scraping microscopic bits of lichen, which is their primary food.

Of course, a forest without animals would not be a forest. So here are some encounters with them:

An unusual and amazing bird by all accounts, the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, possesses a pair of racket-like ends that dangles from its tail ends.

Another creature perfectly adapted to forest life is the peculiar Black-bearded Flying Lizard, Draco melanopogon. It has modified ribs that can be expanded to form two wide-curving membranes for gliding from tree to tree when escaping from predators. These ribs can be seen folded on the sides of its body in this picture.

This shy Spotted Forest Skink, Sphenomorphus scotophilus, can be found scurrying on moss covered rocks particularly in the shaded areas of the forest.

Another relatively common reptile- the Common Green Agamid Lizard, Calotes cristatellus, on a palm leaf.

While many associate rainforests with megafauna (large mammals species), it is very rare that people will ever encounter them in reality. Their presence in the forest is usually only identified via footprints and droppings. Seen here is a hoof-print left by the Common Wild Boar, Sus scrofa.

The forest is not devoid of snails too, as evident from these pictures:

A long dead Cyclophorus Snail, Cyclophorus perdix tuba, eroded by the acidic soils of the forest and encrusted with green algae.

Another rather common snail-Hemiplecta densa aestivating (similar to hibernating) on a leaf.

The Kinta Dyakiid Snail, Dyakia kintana. Snails of the genus Dyakia are usually sinistral coiling (coiling to the left) as oppose to most snails, which coils to the right (see the Cyclophorus and Hemiplecta snails above). The name of this snail genus came from the generic term for the Indigenous people of Borneo-the Dayaks while its species is named after Kinta Valley in Perak, Peninsular Malaysia.

FRIM is indeed a surprisingly diverse tree plantation. 80 years of intensive afforestation since the 1920s has finally bear fruit to an almost rainforest-like environment. The continuous existence of commercially useful native trees and the fauna component of it makes it even more sustainable. As one of the ardent FRIM forest hikers told me, "In the time where a soccer field of rainforest is disappearing every minute due to unsustainable agriculture and land clearing, perhaps it is time for those responsible to look towards FRIM's approach in striking a balance between maintaining biodiversity and creating commercial crops?"