Carps, terrapins a threat to Penang Botanic Gardens

GEORGE TOWN - First it was turtles, then the American bullfrog. Now, carps and terrapins are becoming a threat to the Penang Botanic Gardens.

Friends of the Penang Botanic Gardens Society (FOPBGS) president Datuk Tengku Idaura Tengku Ibrahim said a gardener recently discovered some 30 carps and two terrapins dumped in the lily ponds at the entrance to the gardens.

"In the last two months, I was told by the gardener that besides the terrapins, he has also found 10 small carps and 20 larger ones there.

"It's not easy to scoop the fish out because they hide among the roots and algae you will need at least two hours to drain the ponds and remove the fish.

"Those who dumped the fish here may think that they are doing us a favour by preventing mosquitos from breeding but in actual fact, they are killing the Victoria amazonica water lilies the carps will devour the roots," she said.

Tengku Idaura, who was the gardens' former chief controller, said carps and terrapins were not the only things being dumped into the ponds.

Bottles and food wrappers are among the other "treasures".

She said a gardener nearly cut his foot on broken glass while wading in the ponds to pull out weeds.

"Botanic Gardens has been a dumping ground for unwanted pets and garbage for a long time but now, with the landscaped lily ponds being an open area at the entrance, the problem has become very obvious," she said.

"Introducing alien species and exotic animals into the waters here can have an adverse effect on the ecology," she added.

On Aug 10 last year, The Star had reported that the Victoria amazonica water lilies in the ponds, which are world's largest water lilies, were shrinking and the lotus plants were dying.

Gardeners who cleaned the ponds found three turtles and garbage deep in the mud.

Malaysian Nature Society member Mohd Abdul Muin Md Akil, an expert on reptiles and amphibians, warned the public against releasing turtles into the water lily ponds at the Penang Botanic Gardens as they would eat the aquatic plants.

He said turtles made lake revegetation efforts very difficult since they might devour transplanted plants as fast as the plants can grow.

About a week later, he said a Universiti Sains Malaysia post-doctorate student spotted a 15cm bullfrog at the garden.

Mohd Abdul was concerned that the American bullfrog, which he claimed had been released into the gardens, may decimate local frog species as most scientists had claimed that the bullfrog was the main carrier of the deadly disease chytrid fungus.

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