DECADES ago in Bukit Chandik and Busut Baru in Selangor’s Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR), pools of water would form near the Temuan Orang Asli settlements during the monsoon. The pools would recede but not dry up during the arid season.
All the residents knew that there lived in the water a fighting fish species they called the “picat”. It was red and green and common in the area at the time.
These days, it is known that the fish has another name, Betta livida. But the water from the monsoon rains now remains for only a short period before the floor of the peat forest dries up. That’s because drains have been built around the forest. Meanwhile, the areas surrounding the KLNFR have been developed, disrupting the natural hydrologic system of the forest and destroying the habitats of the fish.
In Sungai Panjang north of Selangor, 971ha of peat forest is being cleared for agriculture. Completion of work will mean that 90% of the 2.5 million hectares of peatland in Malaysia have been logged or degraded.
The Betta livida, also known as the Selangor red betta, is endemic to the state it is named after and in the south Perak peat forest. The fish is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list for endangered species. – October 19, 2021.