Archives 2020

Some items from the 2020 press relating to caves

Contents :

Gunung Pulai, Baling, may be quarried
Langkawi Geopark status revalidated
Lenggong news
Gunung Pulai prehistoric artefacts found
Mulu Caves 2020 expedition
Studies on Perak caves and hills, Gua Mat Surat,
Niah bones have returned home
Tasik Cermin
Tony Whitten memorial issue
Land clearing around Batu Caves
Mulu search and rescue team
New book on Batu Caves
Fossil of extinct elephant found in Gopeng cave
Rockfall at limestone hill at Merapoh
Tambun Banjaran landslide kills 2
Perak limestone hillslopes to be monitored
Gunung Kanthan and YTL quarry
Underground mining of limestone hills

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Gunung Pulai may be quarried

A double page spread in the NST 5 Jan about Gunung Pulai, at Baling, Kedah, which is being quarried. “Landmark faces existential threat”, which includes an 8 minute video. The article is also on PressReader. Quarrying was first approved in 1996 but to date hasn’t actually started, as the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has lapsed twice. Now a new EIA is being carried out. Yiked Holdings Sdn Bhd, a company under the Kedah Islamic Foundation was given the rights to do the quarrying, over a projected 78 years. The hill has some important archaeological caves. See more on Archives 2019.
The nearby Bukit Baling has already been quarried. In 2016 there was a fire on Gunung Pulai and a big fire on Bukit Baling in 2019.

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Langkawi Geopark status revalidated

The status of Langkawi as a UNESCO Geopark was revalidated, from 1 Jan 2020 until the end of Dec 2023. See more on my blog.

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Lenggong news

In early January there were adverts for 2 positions at Lenggong : a heritage site assistant manager and a heritage site officer at the Lenggong Valley Archaeological Park. See more on SEAArch. And The Star, 25 Jan, reported that “The Perak State Parks Corporation (PTNPk) will oversee the management of the Lenggong Valley archaeological site”.
There was talk of Lenggong becoming a Geopark. Harian Metro (from Bernama) 29 May “Geopark kedua di Perak”. The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources intends to create a National Geopark of more than 1,762 square kilometers in Lenggong in the 12th Malaysia Plan (RMK12) because it has various natural attractions. If realized, the development of Geopark Lenggong will be the second in Perak after the first, namely Geopark Lembah Kinta near Ipoh was created in 2018. 8 Sept Bernama had an article, reprinted in this blog “‘Lenggong Geopark development will not affect world heritage site’. It is hoped that Lenggong will be recognised as a National Geopark by mid-2021 and globally as Lenggong Geopark by 2025. 
In Dec 2019 it was suggested that Lenggong Valley was in danger of losing its World Heritage status. It is acknowledged that there is a lack of expertise in heritage management so there is talk to try and change this.

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Gunung Pulai prehistoric artefacts found

After the news in early January that Gunung Pulai in Kedah might be quarried, there were then several news articles about archaeological artefacts that had been found in caves in Gunung Pulai in 2019.
Over 100 prehistoric Paleolithic artifacts dating to 17,000 years were found in caves in Gunung Pulai, Baling. Artefacts include stone tools, fragments of pottery and river snails. The caves are Gua Kelambu, Gua Tembus dan Gua Akar. Some artefacts were sent to Singapore for analysis. If the dates are correct, this would make the settlement older than the Sungai Batu Archeological Site, Merbok.
Bernama 21 Jan “Artifak berusia 17,000 tahun ditemui di gua Gunung Pulai, Baling”; Malaysiakini 21 Jan “Artifak 17,000 tahun ditemui di Gunung Pulai, Baling”; The SUN 21 Jan “17,000 year old artifacts unearthed in Gunung Pulai, Baling”; Bernama 22 Jan “Tourism potential for Gunung Pulai with artifacts discovery – Mukhriz”; SinarHarian   23 Jan “Artifak berusia 17,000 tahun ditemui di gua Gunung Pulai, Baling”.
The Rakyat Post 12 Feb “Kedah’s Gunung Pulai is a prehistoric wonder that’s now under threat”.

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Mulu Caves 2020 expedition

The 2020 Mulu Caves expedition started in late Dec 2019. The expedition spent 2 weeks at Gunung Benarat but realised it was hard to find new cave passage under Benarat. See the preliminary report.

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Studies on Perak caves and hills

The Star 12 Feb “Study to decide on lease for Perak cave temples”. Perak cave temples might get official recognition and perhaps be given a lease.
The Malay Mail 11 Feb “Oldest limestone cave in Ipoh at risk of destruction from trespassers, says Perak rep” talks about Gua Mat Surat near Gunung Lang. I have no idea why they say is is the oldest cave there! Apparently people have taken idols into the cave and burned papers and incense. There were also 2 shipping containers outside the cave used as cabins. The cave is on State land. A further article in Malay Mail on 17 Feb “Perak to conduct study of limestone hills and caves after Gua Mat Surat vandalised”. The article says how The Perak government will conduct an in-depth study of the state’s limestone hills and caves to preserve their heritage, history, archaeology and geological values. A similar article in Perak Today, 17 Feb “Pencerobohan gua: Perak bakal kaji penggunaan gua dan gunung batu kapur (Cave invasion: Perak will review the use of caves and limestone hills). The Star 28 Feb “Cave temples operating at own risk”.

In July there was more in The Star about Gua Mat Surat, 26 July “Buffaloes and buffoons threaten to ruin one of Ipoh’s oldest limestone caves” and 27 July “Ancient cave under threat”. 13 Aug“Perak exco member: Efforts under way to preserve Gua Matsurat”.

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Niah bones have returned home

A total of 122 pieces of bone from Niah Cave returned to Sarawak in early March. They have been in the University of Florida, and previously the University of Nevada, in the USA. NST 3 Feb “Sarawak to bring back 40,000 years old skeletons from US”; The Star 2 Feb “Sarawak to bring ancient Niah Cave skeletons back from the US”; The SUN 3 Feb “Sarawak to bring human skeletons excavated in Niah Caves back from US”.  The Borneo Post 5 Mar “Bone fragments unearthed at Niah Caves to return home to S’wak tomorrow”. The Star 5 Mar “Prehistoric Niah skeletal collections returning home from US”; The Star 6 Mar “Niah caves skeletal remains at home”. The Daily Express 7 Mar “Niah caves ancient skeletons coming home from US”; Malay Mail 7 Mar “40,000-year-old Niah Caves human bones arrive ‘home’ from the US”; NST 7 Mar “40,000-year-old Gua Niah human bones arrive ‘home’ “; The SUN 7 Mar “Safe return for 40,000-year-old bones of Niah cavemen”.
The collection will be housed in the new RM300 million Sarawak Musuem Complex. This should be open by the end of the year, see also Archives 2019.
See more on the return of the bones on Archives 2019.
Findings from Traders Cave at Niah show that human activities existed there 65,000 years ago. Although this was ealier stated as 100,000 years, see Archives 2019.

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Tasik Cermin

Some new underwater caves were discovered in Tasik Cermin, at Gunung Rapat, Perak, in January. The Star 31 Jan “Tourism potential of Tasik Cermin’s underwater caves discovered”. Some 10 underwater caves were discovered by divers on 5 Jan. “Most were about 3m wide while another was about 10m in depth ”. Within less than 2 weeks the site was declared as high risk by the Perak Fire and Rescue Department, although it is not officially recognised as a tourist destination. The raft is not safe and there is no safety equipment. Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge was also declared high risk. The Star 11 Feb “Tasik Cermin among three new high-risk tourist hotspots identified in Perak”; 12 Mar “Tasik Cermin closed to visitors for now “. “The public are not encouraged to go there”.

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Tony Whitten memorial issue

Dr Tony Whitten tragically died in a road accident in Dec 2017. On 31 March 2020 The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology issued a supplement dedicated to him. ANTHONY J. WHITTEN (1953–2017) MEMORIAL ISSUE. Edited by: Maurice Kottelat, Louis Deharveng & Peter K. L. Ng. Supplement No. 35.

And of 4 July 2020 Whitten Day will be held in Cambridge. “The event will be a celebration of Tony’s life, and an opportunity to discuss both why he was so unusually effective (can we aspire to emulate?), and what to do next. The Cambridge zoology department now has Whitten Students pursuing graduate studies in Asian biology/ ecology, and a Whitten initiative in marine biology. The Cambridge Conservation Initiative and FFI have also set up Tony Whitten Conservation Prizes for young scientists in Asia.”
A RIMBA blog about land snails and species named after Tony Whitten.
And a tribute to Tony in the Cambridge Independent from Dec 2019.

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Land clearing around Batu Caves

Land around the foothills of Batu Caves is being cleared for development yet again. This time it is for a spiritual centre near the Sri Muruga statue. Malaysiakini report on 6 July 
“Batu Caves under threat as land clearing begins in ‘no development’ zone” and a follow up letter on 10 July. The SUN 6 July “Batu Caves under threat”. There is supposed to be a 500 m buffer zone around the hill but this is generally ignored. The Star 13 July “Need to conserve Batu Caves”.

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Mulu search and rescue team

After the drowning in Mulu in 2019, a search and rescue team has been set up and was launched in July. The Mulu National Park Mount Cave Search and Rescue is known as Mocsar. Borneo Post 12 July “Mulu National Park Mount Cave Search and Rescue team launched today”; Malay Mail 12 July “Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department launches mountain cave search and rescue team at Mulu National Park”, 12 July New Sarawak Tribune “Mulu search and rescue team formed”.

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New book on Batu Caves

A book on Batu Caves based on research by the Malaysian Cave and Karst Conservation Association (MCKC). See more on Sinar Harian 20 Sept 2020.

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Fossil of extinct elephant found in Gopeng cave

The Star 9 Oct and 10 Oct reported that the fossil of a Stegadon, an extinct elephant, was found in a Gopeng cave in July. It doesn’t say how much of the fossil has been found, the photo shows a tooth. It has “a rough geological age of between 30,000 and 80,000 years”. Cave sediments surrounding the fossil have been sent to Taiwan for dating, and the tooth was identified by international experts.  Also in Bernama 9 Oct. And the Raykat Post 9 Oct. Daily Express 12 Oct “Stegodon fossil estimated between 30,000-80,000 years old discovered”.
A paper was published in Warta Geologi in Dec 2020.

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Rockfall at limestone hill at Merapoh

There was a rockfall at a disused quarry at Kampung Kubang Rusa, Merapoh. NST 10 Nov “Rockfall incident at Lipis limestone cave due to mining, weather”. Quarrying stopped more than seven years ago. Harian Metro 8 Nov “Gua batu kapur runtuh” [limestone cave rockfall]

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Tambun Banjaran landslide

A landslide early on 10 Nov at the Banjaran Hot Springs Resort at Tambun buried a villa and unfortunately the two people inside were killed. The landslide occured from a height of about 100 m (Star) .Banjaran is surrounded by limestone hills. It was caused by heavy rain. There were many media reports, such as this one in The Star 10 Nov “Bodies of two victims buried in Tambun landslide found” and the Malay Mail 10 Nov “Perak authorities recover two bodies from landslide at Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat in Tambun”. NST then had this more informative report “Limestone valleys prone to rocks collapsing”. There are many more reports about the landslide throughout the media. The Star 11 Nov “Six limestone blocks at risk of falling near Tambun resort, says Perak MB”.
Just a few days before, there was a rockfall at a disused limestone quarry near Merapoh, see above.

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Perak limestone hillslopes to be monitored

Following the rockfall at Banjaran resort, Tambun a few days ago, 
The Star 12 Nov “Perak govt to monitor limestone hillslopes for rockfall risks”. “The Perak state government will check and monitor all limestone hillslopes for any risk of rockfalls following a landslide that killed two people. Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu said he had ordered all relevant agencies, including the Minerals and Geoscience Department and the Fire and Rescue Department, to conduct the checks immediately. “I have ordered for all limestone hillslopes in the state to be monitored immediately, ” he told reporters yesterday.” I’m not sure how they are going to assess all limestone hills in Perak given the large number and I wonder if the authorities have the real know how to do this. The Malay Mail 11 Nov “Perak orders monitoring of limestone hills throughout state, closure of Tambun resort until further notice”.

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Gunung Kanthan and YTL quarry

In 2019 YTL acquired LafargeHolcim’s entire 51% stake in Lafarge Malaysia Bhd and LafargeHolcim exited the Malaysian market. On looking at the YTL website, I found this feature story dated 20 Oct 2020 “Kanthan Biodiversity Initiatives”. It says “YTL Cement continues to play its role in the biodiversity conservation by developing rehabilitation plans at the Associated Pan Malaysia Cement (APMC) Kanthan Quarry site located in Chemor, Perak.” However it seems that quarrying is still taking place and more of the hill is disappearing.

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Underground mining of limestone hills

Once again the subject of underground mining for limestone hills has been raised. The Star 29 Dec “Conservation group suggest underground mining to preserve Perak’s hills”. Kinta Valley Watch has called on the government to consider underground mining to preserve the hills. The article shows a photo of the underground limestone mining operation in Malim Nawar, Kampar. Although strictly speaking, this is not underground, but subsurface.

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