Caves are an important part of Malaysia’s natural heritage, providing the opportunity for all manner of flora and fauna to thrive. Conservation groups work on various initiatives with the support of local authorities to teach the public on the importance of cave biodiversity.
Malaysia has been blessed with some of the largest and longest caves in the world, each of which acts as a natural habitat to a variety of wildlife, and provides benefits to the environment.
The most striking examples of this natural formation – exemplifying the importance of the cave ecosystem – can be found in the state of Sarawak, particularly within the Mulu National Park.
The park has one of the largest limestone cave systems in the world, with breathtaking (not to mention record-breaking) caves such as the Gua Nasib Bagus (Good Luck Cave) which houses the largest known underground chamber in the world (Sarawak Chamber); the Clearwater Cave System which spans a passage of 110km, the largest interconnected cave system in the world by volume; and the famous Niah Caves which is known as a key archaeological site.
This, in fact, is just a sample of a long list of caves and cave systems located throughout Malaysia, offering a chance for environmental awareness and education.
The animals that live within these caves or karst formations, with bats being the most obvious examples, benefit the larger ecosystem by helping with pest control and pollination in surrounding areas.
Arguably the most-visited cave in Peninsular Malaysia is Batu Caves, where the Dark Cave is located. This cave is known to be one of the best-studied natural formations in the world and is enriched with cave fauna.
Being the longest cave on that limestone hill, it is home to the rarest spider in the world – the Trapdoor Spider or Liphistirus batuensis. The Dark Cave also provides shelter to a wildlife community of over 100 million years old.
To promote cave conservation and protection, the Malaysian Nature Society runs adventure and educational tours and programmes with their partners Cave Management Group Sdn Bhd to educate the public on the importance of caves.
Other cave conservationists like the Malaysian Karst Society study these formations to help with legislation on cave protection.
For example, the society works on preparing cave and karst databases to help proper management of these geological formations and natural wonders.
Research on these caves would help discover new species, which add value to the ecosystem.
Some of the species found in the Malaysian caves are endemic in nature, and require greater protection. Conservationists alongside scientific researchers often call for protection of caves against human activity such as quarrying.