It was on Deepavali morning that I agreed to go frogging at Bukit Gasing with Hurnain, Lillian and gang that night.
I informed Lillian that I would be at the SPCA animal shelter in Ampang all afternoon until after 7.00 p.m., as I had volunteered to stay back to feed the animals and clean up so that the Hindu staff could knock off a little earlier. The gang agreed to wait for me.
When I first informed Raj and our other friends during the Deepavali lunch that I would be going frogging at night and invited them to come along, they were incredulous.
"Frogs? What, to eat?" they exclaimed in surprise and curiosity.
Hey, just because I am of Chinese ethnicity doesn't mean that I eat everything with four legs except a table!
Frogs and toads are fascinating, and are good indicators of the environmental health of an area. Since amphibians are particularly susceptible to contaminants and are very sensitive to the changes in their environment, a decline in the amphibian population is a warning to us humans that an area may not remain safe for human occupation for very long.
The MNS Herpetofauna Special Interest Group , under the leadership of Hurnain and Lillian, has been conducting nocturnal frogging excursions in Bukit Gasing, Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) and other secondary forests in the City for years, for the purposes of data collection and research, and to inculcate greater appreciation for nature and indigenous reptiles and amphibians among city-dwellers.
The Bukit Gasing Forest Reserve is special in that it straddles the border of Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. It is a secondary forest and green lung covering over 100 hectares. It is worth noting that 36 hectares of secondary forest in the Petaling Jaya side were gazetted as a greenbelt in 1961, while the Kuala Lumpur side remains unprotected. I hope that the Ministry of Federal Territories accords this issue with the importance that it deserves and takes steps to gazette this green buffer zone in the City.
The last time I conducted a Green Living - Eco Kids Day Camp here was in 2007. The beneficiaries were the able-bodied children from the Taman Megah Home For Handicapped Children.
Happy faces after our Day Camp in 2007. The children received their certificates after making their Green Living pledges. I had initiated the Camp and was, and still am, very grateful for the support of my key volunteers: Yanty, Serina, Mariam, Hui-Min, Christine and Mohala.
Tonight, there would only be a handful of us. I pulled up at the entrance of the trail and joined Nain and Lil, pockets bulging with flashlights and mosquito repellent.
The local authorities must have thought it was a good idea to put these rock gabions here and create an embankment for our little stream. Perhaps their intention is to reduce or control soil erosion, but it has created siltation and reduction of flow in the stream and affected fauna that relies on the natural foliage growing on the riverbanks for shelter and food.
We heard Hurnain hissing to us from 10 metres away and squelched up the stream to see what he was so excited about. It was worth the hurry! Hurnain had spotted a Dogania Subplana! What luck! It hasn't been spotted in Bukit Gasing in ages!
The Dogania perceived us to be a threat and tried to get away by burrowing under the sandy stream bed. There was a plastic bag in the way and I offered to remove it. Hurnain and Teck Wyn cautioned that the Dogania would attack, and that it has a very painful bite.
I was adamant that the plastic bag be removed, and was not worried about being bitten. After all, I get bitten at the SPCA by new arrivals and nervous animals at least once every six months. I tugged gently at the plastic bag until it came loose and we collected other plastic litter from the stream.
L-R: Hurnain, me and Lillian with a message for joggers, picnickers and hashers: Please do not leave your litter behind. Littering is a poor return for the enjoyment you have derived from our natural spaces.
We saw another Dogania a little further upstream. This really is a serendipitous night for us to have spotted two in the same hour. This is a good sign that the water quality is good enough to create liveable conditions for wildlife.
While we were photographing another Bufo Parvus, I spotted another frog, sitting very still, next to it. It took a while for us to realise that it wasn't another Bufo Parvus but a frog which we have never seen before and could not identify. We proceeded to take photos of it from all angles to help in its identification.
Little Cerys was exhausted from her long day of Deepavali visiting and trekking, and so we made the decision to pack up for the night. We brought the litter we collected out with us, congratulated each other on a productive night of nature observation, and promised to come back again soon.
Our Deepavali wish would be to see green spaces given due protection against unnecessary development. There are enormous environmental and economic costs associated with the destruction of forests, such as an increase in the incidence of landslides and flash floods and the rise in tropical diseases. Similarly, there are enormous benefits to be gained from the preservation of rainforests and their ecosystem services such as carbon capture and as water catchment zones. A well-cared for green lung or forest reserve will also have great tourism potential and will be an asset to any state!
May we all tread gently upon the good Earth and show love and respect to other beings that share our Planet!