Ramsar Sites | Wetlands of International Importance


THE RAMSAR CONVENTION

Adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, otherwise known as the Ramsar Convention provides the global framework international cooperation on wetland issues. As of October 2018, a total of 170 countries from around the world have become Contracting Parties to the Convention. The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.

The concept of “wise use”, which is defined as “the maintenance of the ecological character of wetlands, through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development” lies at the heart of the Convention. The concept alludes to the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and all the services that they provide, for the benefit of both people and nature. Contracting Parties are committed towards the wise use of wetlands in their respective territories via national policies, legislation, site management and public education.

Contracting Parties are encouraged to nominate wetland sites to be included on the List of Wetlands of International Importance, otherwise known as the Ramsar List. The nominated sites are assessed based on a set of criteria in order to determine whether they are of “international importance”. The inclusion of a site on the Ramsar List reflects a government’s commitment to ensure that its ecological character, functions and values are maintained for the benefit of future generations. As of October 2018, there are 2,306 Ramsar sites worldwide, which cover a combined area over 2.1 million square kilometers.


RAMSAR IN MALAYSIA

Malaysia became a Contracting Party to the Ramsar Convention on the 10th of March 1995. Since then, a number of policies, plans, programmes and projects have been initiated by the Government of Malaysia and NGOs, towards the conservation and wise use of its wetlands. The Ministry of Water, Land and Natural Resources (KATS) serves as the National Focal Point for the Ramsar Convention in Malaysia.

To date, seven wetlands in Malaysia have been designated as Ramsar sites:

  • Tasik Bera, Pahang (38,446 ha)
  • Tanjung Piai, Johor (526 ha)
  • Pulau Kukup, Johor (647 ha)
  • Sungai Pulai, Johor (9,126 ha)
  • Kuching Wetlands, Sarawak (6,610 ha)
  • Lower Kinabatangan-Segama, Sabah (78,803 ha)
  • Kota Kinabalu Wetlands, Sabah (4.2 ha)

RAMSAR SITES IN JOHOR

Johor is the custodian of three out of the seven Ramsar sites in Malaysia. The high proportion of Ramsar sites in Johor is a clear indication of the State’s rich natural heritage. Two of these Ramsar sites, Pulau Kukup Ramsar Site and Tanjung Piai Ramsar are managed by Johor National Parks Corporation (JNPC), whereas the Sungai Pulai Ramsar Site is managed by the Johor Forestry Department. Updated management plans have been prepared for all three sites.

JNPC has been conducting Communication, Education, Participation and Awareness (CEPA) programmes at Pulau Kukup and Tanjung Piai since 2003. The main objective of these programmes is to raise public awareness on wetlands; in particular, amongst school, college and university students. Feedback from the programmes have been positive, they are in demand by schools and other groups throughout the year.


Pulau Kukup

Ramsar site number: 1287
Ramsar site area: 647 ha
Ramsar site designation date: 31-01-2003
Legal designation:
1) Pulau Kukup Forest Reserve
2) Pulau Kukup (Johor) National Park

Justification for Ramsar site listing:

Criterion 1:
Contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region.

Criterion 2:
Supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.

Criterion 3:
Supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region.

Site summary
Pulau Kukup Ramsar Site encompasses an uninhabited mangrove island; one of the few intact islands of its kind left on Earth. Apart from supporting a number of globally threatened species, Pulau Kukup is important for flood control, physical protection and shoreline stabilization, as it shelters the mainland town from storm events. The narrow straits between Pulau Kukup and the mainland support a thriving industry of marine cage culture, whereas the surrounding mudflats are rich with shellfish that provide a source of food and income for locals. The tourism industry at Kukup town is flourishing, with Pulau Kukup being one of the main attractions. The site is well established for tourism and CEPA. Facilities include a visitor centre, boardwalks and platforms with interpretive signage, as well as a gallery at the park office.


Sungai Pulai

Ramsar site number: 1288
Ramsar site area: 9,126 ha
Ramsar site designation date: 31-01-2003
Legal designation: Sungai Pulai Forest Reserve

Justification for Ramsar site listing:

Criterion 1:
Contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region.

Criterion 2:
Supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.

Criterion 3:
Supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region.

Criterion 7:
Supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies, species or families, life-history stages, species interactions and/or populations that are representative of wetland benefits and/or values and thereby contributes to global biological diversity.

Criterion 8:
Important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depend.

Site summary
Sungai Pulai Ramsar Site encompasses the largest riverine mangrove system in Johor. With associated seagrass beds, intertidal mudflats and inland freshwater riverine forest, the site is one of the best examples of a lowland tropical river basin, and supports a rich and unique biodiversity. It is home to a rare Peninsular Malaysian endemic mangrove, Avicennia lanata and supports a number of globally threatened animals such as the flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) and smooth otter (Lutrogale perspicillata). Relatively undisturbed parts of the site, including the nipah (Nypa fructicans) lined banks may be nesting sites of the estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). The site also supports an indigenous local population from the Orang Seletar tribe, who occupy the Kampung Simpang Arang fishing village situated within the mangroves. The villagers depend on the estuary, which support a significant proportion of commercial fishes, for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, the site sits within the Iskandar economic growth region, and faces high development pressure. Recently, around 2,000-acres of mangroves at the southeastern section of the Ramsar site made way for a golf resort, which includes three 18-hole golf courses, a luxury hotel and low-density residential properties.


Tanjung Piai

Ramsar site number: 1289
Ramsar site area: 526 ha
Ramsar site designation date: 31-01-2003
Legal designation:
1) Tanjung Piai Forest Reserve
2) Tanjung Piai (Johor) National Park

Justification for Ramsar site listing:

Criterion 2:
Supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.

Criterion 8:
An important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depend.

Site summary
Tanjung Piai Ramsar Site consists of coastal mangroves and intertidal mudflats that fringe the southernmost tip of mainland Asia. The mangroves play a crucial role in protecting adjacent human settlements from coastal erosion, flooding and seawater intrusion. Tanjung Piai supports threatened and vulnerable wetland-dependent species such as the Mangrove Pitta, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher and Mangrove Whistler, as well as the globally threatened Lesser Adjutant. The four rivers that run through the site hold an abundance of commercially-valuable fish species. The site is an important tourism and CEPA destination. Facilities here include a visitor centre, hall, boardwalks, jetties, audio-visual gallery and a unique campsite within the mangrove forest. World Wetlands Day celebrations have been held here since 2003. Due to high sea traffic, the site has been affected by oil spills and coastal erosion, resulting in the loss of some of its mangrove forest. However, significant effort and resources has been given towards protecting the site from further erosion, and restoring the mangroves that were previously lost.

 

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