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Case Study Series: Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre (ERKC)

A front view of Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre (ERKC)

The Tropical Rainforest Conservation & Research Centre (TRCRC) operates the Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre (ERKC) in the City of Elmina of Sime Darby Properties. Together with the Endangered, Rare and Threatened (ERT) Native Tree Nursery, ERKC is located within the 300-acre Central Park in the City of Elmina and is connected to the 2,700-acre Subang Lake Dam Forest Reserve.

From its city base, ERKC aims to connect communities within and beyond the City of Elmina to Malaysia’s natural heritage. The centre is to be used for environmental education, conservation, research and development, eco-tourism and other nature-related activities. There will be workshops and hands-on interactive classes for residents, students and the public to learn about tropical rainforests, wildlife and tree planting.   

Meanwhile, the ERT Tree Nursery aims to nurture up to 100,000 tree species listed as ‘threatened’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The nursery is a living collection of native trees. The trees are grown from seeds sourced from various forest reserves and private lands. The entire process of sourcing and rearing trees is part of the nursery’s conservation and reforestation endeavours, beginning with seed collection. The ground team (also known as G-team) of TRCRC will look for suitable locations with mature trees to secure the seed source. As the trees flower and fruit, the team collects seeds and bring them to the nursery. The seeds are then germinated and kept as seedlings in TRCRC’s living collection nurseries. Seedlings are categorised, sorted and labelled.  

Behind the signboard and oil palms are young trees of endangered species
Seedling labels include name, conservation status, location and date of collection.

Since TRCRC focuses on conservation of dipterocarp species (one of the main tree species group that makes up Malaysia’s lowland rainforests), there are many dipterocarp trees and seedlings in the nursery. One of the examples is the keruing bulu (Dipterocarpus baudii) which is currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ in the wild. Besides the dipterocarps, there are other native endangered species such as merbau (Intsia bijuga). Some species are endemic, that is, their populations are solely confined to a specific region or a certain type of environment. Many of these trees lose their habitats when forests are cleared. Some of these trees are rescued and preserved, eventually to be replanted in their place of origin to restore their populations and reconnect forest fragments.

Seedlings of merbau (Intsia bijuga). The seed coat of this tree is hard and needs to go through a process of scarification to promote germination.

The nursery not only houses endangered trees but also fast-growing pioneer tree species. These fast-growing trees help to create a nursing canopy in areas earmarked for reforestation. The existence of a canopy enables other trees to establish, especially those that require shade when they are young. There are also wild fruit trees such as wild durian (Durio sp.), malay apple (Syzygium malaccense) and Terengganu cherry (Lepisanthes alata). These trees provide food for animals in the forest.

Seedlings of Terengganu cherry, which is also known as Rambai istana
Seedlings of wild durian

The trees in the nursery will eventually be used for forest restoration. The selection of species for restoration depends on land conditions, existing species and the availability of tree stocks. A preliminary study of the reforestation site is carried out to create a planting plan. Replanting effort involves a wide range of stakeholders including government agencies, other environmental NGOs, private sectors and local communities. One of TRCRC’s ongoing projects is Nestle Malaysia’s Project RELeaf — a reforestation initiative that aims to plant three million trees in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia in the next three years.

A collection of wild fruit trees and fast-growing seedlings in the nursery

With TRCRC’s knowledge, expertise and experience, ERKC will be a great place to learn about the dipterocarp trees in Malaysia’s tropical rainforests, and most importantly, ways to protect and conserve them.  

By ShangMing

A plant lover. I like small, medium, gigantic, ordinary, exotic, local, foreign plants. Just because they thrive to stand out.