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COMMENT | A surprising aspect of Kuala Lumpur is that it still remains home to one last forest, hidden in plain sight. As the remnants of the city’s wilderness is gradually transformed into a dense net of skyscrapers, it becomes difficult to remember how rural much of the Klang Valley once was.

Ampang was the distant terminus of the defunct railway to Jalan Sultan, a half-urban area that has now joined the sprawl. Close to the city centre, the old forests at Kampung Attap have largely been stripped away. But for the moment, 74 hectares of government-owned land remain in place at the heart of the city.

Bukit Persekutuan (Federal Hill), named to commemorate the Federation of Malaya, stands isolated. The highway slices between the strip of land that once connected it to the Lake Gardens. This is not part of the original forest that once grew here.

Much of the area was dug up for tin mining or covered in rubber estates but enough time has gone by that an old-growth secondary rainforest has now come into being. Dotted around the hill are the satellite palaces of the royal houses and old colonial bungalows, some serving as offices and clubs, others as subsidised housing.

They are not alone; in the deeply forested land between them are 234 tree species, some of which are rare or endangered, such as the merbau tree, native and migratory birdlife, various fauna and the Sungai Bras-Bras, fed by groundwater and never having run dry, recognised in the recent River of Life project.

We are not the only inhabitants of the city, as much as we like to think we are.

It is at the fringes of the hill that the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) came to be headquartered. The slow work of rehabilitating the hill, of tree-planting activities and the construction of trails that snake through the terrain, has led to the creation of the Urban Community Forest (UCF).

But there is no official protection for the shrinking land, not when the...

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