As in other former British colonies, the earliest protected areas in Peninsular Malaysia were game reserves. There were twenty protected areas at the end of the colonial period (1957), and twenty-five in 1992. The outstanding achievement of the colonial period was the creation of King George V National Park (now Taman Negara), but unfortunately too much reliance was subsequently placed upon it. Protected areas were established in economically undesirable or (formerly) remote areas, largely on an ad hoc basis and mainly as a kind of ‘residual’ land-use. The protected areas have long suffered from rescissions, excisions, and encroachments, primarily for three reasons: because commercial interests have always prevailed; because of insecurity of land tenure; and because ordinary people have been denied a stake in such areas.
I estimate that the ‘effective’ protected-area coverage in 1992 was probably no greater than that of about AD 1940 (when, unlike the situation today, most of the Peninsula still remained forested). The Malaysian states have been reluctant to create new protected areas, and the federal government has been unwilling to invoke certain of its constitutional powers in order to acquire state lands for national parks. Consequently, proposals for additional protected areas have produced few results. Yet owing to the rapid pace of anthropogenic forest change, the Peninsula is running out of potential sites for new protected ares.
Reserved forests comprise virtually all of the Peninsula's remaining forest cover (see Fig. 1). Set aside mainly for productive and protective purposes, it is these forests, not the protected areas, that harbour most of the region's wildlife. This being the case, and keeping in mind that almost all of the wild species are forest-dwelling, it follows that wildlife conservation must come to rely more and more heavily on the reserved forests. Studies conducted by Johns (e.g. 1983, 1986, 1987) at Sungai Tekam, Pahang, on the impact of logging on wildlife, reveal that most species can adapt to the altered conditions of logged forests; or, more precisely, that this appears to be the case following a single logging operation. But this topic, interesting and important as it is, takes us beyond the scope of this paper.
The matter of species adaptability, however, brings to mind a more general theme, which is the need to implement the principles of conservation everywhere, not just in specially protected areas. There is, in short, no effective alternative to rational land-use planning and to making conservation an integral part of all production processes.