(The Star) Racing to save our rainforest

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Mass effort: Participants in the process of planting more than 500 saplings at the Bukit Tinggi forest reserve at Bentong.

MORE than 1,000 participants woke up very early last Saturday to travel all the way from Kuala Lumpur to Bentong, Pahang with a green mission on their minds.

Their task was none other than to plant at least 500 trees in a patch of degraded forest in the Bukit Tinggi forest reserve.

The event, organised by the Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam (Peka), is intended to raise awareness of the importance of saving our rainforest for future generations, as well as to raise funds for future awareness campaigns and educational programmes.

Peka is a green movement that is known for spearheading forest replanting efforts.

Since its establishment two years ago, it had successfully planted more than 4,000 saplings in various spots in Pahang.

Dubbed Save Our Rainforest Race 2013, Saturday’s event is Peka’s first major event for the year.

The organising committee had initially targeted 500 teams (two persons in each team), but when applications closed, close to 530 teams signed up.

The Malaysian armed forces turned out to be the largest group of participants by sending nearly 200 boys.

The race took place over a 5km route stretching from the Chamang Falls all the way to the top of a denuded small hill that forms the 1.8ha plot earmarked for replanting.

Each team carried their own saplings while passing by five checkpoints that will test their knowledge about rainforests.

By completing the race, each participant would have covered 10km along a path that largely follows the Perting river.

“It is called a ‘race’ as a symbolic meaning that we Malaysians must race to save our rainforest,” said Peka honorary treasurer Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil.

“SORR 2013 is an educational initiative to educate the public on the importance of protecting and conserving the rainforests.

“If we lose our rainforests, we will lose water and oxygen.

“Once we lose these, we lose life. So to stop this loss of life, we need to conserve and preserve our rainforests,” said Shariffa, who happens to be the owner of the eco-based Tanah Aina resort chain in Pahang and Johor.

Peka president Tunku Syazwan Kaiyisah Tunku Kamil-Ikram said her organisation will continue to push for the greening of degraded forests by working closely with the relevant state authorities.

“We are overwhelmed by the turnout, which showed that Malaysians do care about the environment.”

The race’s success is giving Peka an impetus to spread its message nationwide.

“Peka’s plans for the future include seeing this adventure race included in the Tourism Malaysia calendar of events, especially for Visit Malaysia Year 2014. We will like to bring this activity to other states,” added Shariffa.

The Concorde Hotels and Resorts Malaysia, together with the Saloma Theatre Restaurant, sponsored the 1,000 saplings consisting of meranti, cengal and merawan.

Other supporting partners of the event are Hard Rock Café Kuala Lumpur, Tourism Pahang, the Malaysian Armed Forces, Gaya Travel magazine, True Fitness, RockCorps Malaysia, Tanah Aina Resorts, Glenmarie Properties, Standard Chartered, and the Sri Cempaka International School.

Other supporters included non-governmental organisations such as the Malaysia Nature Society, Sahabat Alam Malaysia as well as the Women’s Sports & Fitness Foundation.

For details, visit www.pekamalaysia.org