Saturday 23 March 2013

The Under Appreciated Mangroves

Kuala Gula (Perak), Umbai Baru (Malacca), Pasir Penambang (Selangor) – These are some of the popular places where Malaysians travel to for a taste of fresh and scrumptious seafood delicacies. My parents are among those food enthusiasts who are willing to travel far and wide for food.  Me? As long as crabs and shrimps are around, I am all set!

By megawatts86 (originally posted to Flickr as More Chilli Crab) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

No matter where you go - Perak, Johor or even Sabah –the restaurants are mostly located by the shores, some even ‘float’! As you enjoy your hand-picked crabs, shrimps, clams and fishes, you can see fishermen maneuvering their boats- some are heading back to shore, while others are heading out to the vast sea. The one thing that these places have in common (other than the freshly caught fishes) is the mangrove.

Even for nature aficionados, the mangrove is the quite under-appreciated. Most of us, myself including, are biased to things that are beautiful and postcard-perfect – such as scenes of sunset at the beach, soaring mountain peaks, lush rainforests, and fields of flowers. Although I have been to the less photogenic mangrove forests a few times, the mangrove never caught my eyes – being just rather plain blanket of trees and roots anchored on wetlands.

By kakna's world ( [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

At HotScience, Petrosains’ bustling area in its lobby that communicates current and relevant science, I was quite surprised to see the variety of products developed by researchers from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) that are made from mangrove trees. Apparently, the most ‘utilized’ mangrove tree is Nypa fruticans or simply known as Nipah. The leaflets are woven onto hats, mats and rooftops, while the sap collected from the flower stalk is made into drinks, ice-cream, soft candy and pudding. In addition to that, mangrove barks make the best quality charcoal and most cosmetic companies from Japan and South Korea import mangrove-based charcoal to be developed into cosmetic products such as facial wash. 

Mangroves, due to its muddy and swampy nature, at times can be quite stinky and unpleasant looking, and home to some fearful crocodiles and snakes, which do not help gather much support for mangrove preservation.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations claims that mangrove extinction is at an incredibly high rate, with Malaysia having lost approximately 16% of its total mangrove forest between 1980 until 2005. Mangroves are important breeding grounds for many animals such as crabs, shrimps, and fishes, but in Malaysia, mangroves are mostly being cleared away to make way for man-made shrimp farms.
If this major loss of mangrove continues, soon enough, we might not be able to enjoy our seafood as much as we have today – and as a crab fan, I would be happier to have the crustaceans abundant in Malaysian shores.

Fiddler crab burrows under mangrove roots.
 Yes, it is difficult (for some) to care or nurture some kind of feelings towards mangrove (or plants in general). They do not show facial expressions as other mammals or even respond to you when you talk to them, but they are called living creatures for a reason. So, let us be more appreciative towards mangroves and nurture ourselves into loving them!

Join Petrosains in “Our Earth, Our Home” Weekend Special on 23rd -  24th March 2013. Join us for fun activities throughout the science centre. Our artistic face-painters  and energetic science buskers will be around to ensure that you have great fun too!

On 23rd March 2013 there will be a special performance entitled, “Inspirasi Haiwan” at 11.30am and 2.30pm. This performance is about dance movement inspired by animals which will incorporate beautiful music and choreography as interpreted by ASWARA (National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage).

Shared by Iman, Communications Intern at Petrosains

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