Before the 1900s, peninsular Malaysia did not have any protected area. The first protected area in peninsular Malaysia was established in 1903 when Chior Wildlife Reserve was gazetted under the Birds and Wildlife Protected Ordinance, followed by the gazettement of Bukit Nanas Wildlife Reserve in 1906. By the 1920s, increasing the number and extent of protected areas became necessary to prevent further loss of forest and wildlife habitat resulting from the large-scale rubber plantations in the country (Jomo et al. 2004). At the time about 405,000 ha of primary forests was cleared, and by 1921 the total area of rubber plantations was approximately 800,000 ha (Berger 1990). As a result, certain animal species, particularly large mammals, had suffered serious threat from this activity (Hubback 1923, 1924, 1929 cited in Aiken 1994). For example, the populations of seladang (Bos gaurus) and Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) were depleted (Aiken 1991/1992). Other factors also contributed to this loss, such as poaching, overexploitation of commercial hunting, and trapping (Aiken, 1994).
In 1922 more protected areas were established: three in the state of Selangor, namely Bukit Kutu Wildlife Reserve, Fraser’s Hill Wildlife Reserve, and Kuala Selangor Wildlife Reserve, and one each in the state of Perak (Sungkai Wildlife Reserve), the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur (KL Golf Course Bird Sanctuary), the state of Pahang (Krau Wildlife Reserve), and the state of Negeri Sembilan (Port Dickson Islands Reserve). Since then, the number increased gradually, and by the end of the 1930s the total number of protected areas in peninsular Malaysia was 18 (Fig. 12.2), which includes the gazettement of King George V National Park, now known as Taman Negara, in 1938-1939. However, the establishment of protected areas was halted during the 1940s, partly by World War II between 1942 and 1945. The effort then continued until 1956 when another four protected areas were established: two bird sanctuaries (Batu Gajah Bird Sanctuary and Four Island Reserve) and two wildlife reserves (Templer Wildlife Reserve and Pahang Tua Wildlife Reserve) (Fig. 12.2).
The total extent of protected areas increased significantly in the 1930s, mainly because of the establishment of Taman Negara in 1938-1939. Then, the total extent remained the same until 1957 (Fig. 12.3). At the same time, however, protected areas in peninsular Malaysia experienced degazettement and regazettement from pressure from land use and economic development. Thus, during the colonial period the total cumulative area was about 617,875 ha, or 756,716 ha if degazettement/regazettement is not taken into consideration (Fig. 12.3). In terms of number, the majority of protected areas were wildlife reserves, but national parks accounted for almost 70 % of the cumulative area (with degazettement/ regazettement) (Table 12.1).
This in situ conservation can be considered as the main approach to protect wildlife and its habitats during the colonial period. Nevertheless, almost all protected areas, particularly wildlife reserves and national parks, were established at the remote, hilly, and undulating terrain of the main range of peninsular
Fig. 12.3 Cumulative area of protected areas in peninsular Malaysia from 1900s to 2000s. Note: Area of several protected areas (Port Dickson Island BS, Four Island Reserve BS, Nine Island Reserve BS) not included because data are not available
Malaysia, the Titiwangsa Range. This area is relatively less favorable for in situ wildlife conservation compared to the lowland forests, which are considerably richer in wildlife species. Furthermore, only a small part covered the lowland forest, and the protected areas also suffered from insecurity of tenure as well as less representation of certain types of forests or ecosystems (Aiken 1994).