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Purple Water Trumpet Research Project in Malaysia

01-Oct-2002

Hidden in the deep swampy waters of Tasek Bera is the fascinating and rare Purple Water Trumpet or Cryptocoryne purpurea. It had lain submerged in the lake's water, undiscovered, until Professor Nie...
Hidden in the deep swampy waters of Tasek Bera is the fascinating and rare Purple Water Trumpet or Cryptocoryne purpurea. It had lain submerged in the lake's water, undiscovered, until Professor Niels Jacobsen from the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Denmark, stumbled upon it in 1985 during one of his field visits to Pos Iskandar, Tasek Bera. No sooner had it been identified and documented, the Purple Water Trumpet once again returned to obscurity. In March 2001 however, Ms Sim Cheng Hua, Senior Technical Officer with Wetlands International Malaysia, embarked on a long term research on the plant with kind contribution from the Nagao Natural Environment Foundation, Japan. Finally, it seems that the Purple Water Trumpet will be able to blow its trumpet to the world. And justly so, for it is the only endemic Cryptocoryne species still surviving in the wilds of Tasek Bera and nowhere else on Earth! The project was finalised last September. The goals were to assess the distribution of the plant's wild population, study its eco-physiology in its natural habitat, and develop a Species Conservation Action Plan for inclusion in the Tasek Bera Integrated Management Plan. Ms Sim is the first Malaysian to do long-term research on the plant and she has also developed the draft for a Species Conservation Action Plan for the ten Cryptocoryne species found throughout Peninsular Malaysia. The Purple Water Trumpet's ideal habitat is shallow water over peat soil under the shade of swamp forest trees. The natural fertility rate of its pollen is low and it thus primarily reproduces by producing runners (see illustration). The plant is in great danger due to loss of shaded riparian habitats and deterioration of water quality. Habitat management and conservation is critical in sites where this endemic plant with localised characteristics is found. Aside from that, members of the genus Cryptocoryne are popular ornamentals in the aquarium trade and therein lies the danger of illegal or uncontrolled harvesting. Needless to say, it is of great importance to safeguard this species from extinction.

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Email: ytha.kempkes@wetlands.org

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