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 December 18, 2000
Gunong Mulu National Park Caves Listed As A World Heritage Site

 During its December meeting in Cairns, Australia, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided to inscribe Sarawak's Gunung Mulu National Park as one of 138 World heritage sites.

Mulu and Mt.Kinabalu in Sabah are the only Malaysian sites in this prestigious list.

The spectacular caves of Mulu are more than tourist attractions, they are Wonders of the World which fulfil the four important criteria for listing as World Heritage Sites:

a. That the site be an outstanding example of major changes in the earth's history
b. That the site be an area of exceptional natural beauty
c. That the site contains significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation
d. That the site be an outstanding example of on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution of terrestrial habitats

Gunung Mulu National Park is practically a textbook example of all four points. Mt.Kinabalu only fulfils two of the conditions. In Mulu, the visible traces of changes in the earth's history have produced a landscape of exceptional natural beauty. The biodiversity is second to none on earth, and the whole part is a living, developing ecosystem.

Mulu was formed about 5 million years ago, when a submerged block was lifted from the seabed. The sandstone of the late Eocene period peaks in Mt.Mulu, at an altitude of 2377 m. Intrepid mountaineers climb the serene peak, or test their skills against the rain-polished Pinnacles which the locals call the 'axes and needles of Mulu.'

In Gunung Mulu National Park, four 'show caves' are open to the public: Clearwater Cave, Deer Cave, Lang's Cave and Wind Cave. They are provided with walkways, steps and handrails, discreetly lit in the darker sections, and well signposted. Others, like the spectacular Sarawak Chamber (floor area 162,700 m2) and Nasib Bagus Cave, are for the serious speleologist.

In 1977, the Royal Geographic society and the Sarawak Government undertook a joint expedition which revealed some staggering figures within the of 52,864 hectares of Gunong Mulu National Park, five distinct types of tropical forest harbour some 3500 species of plants, 4000 kinds of fungi from huge to microscopic, 20,000 types of invertebrates, 81 of mammals including many bats, 48 kinds of fish, 64 of frogs, 55 of reptiles and 272 of birds.

The Caves of Mulu have now joined a distinguished register of 630 World Heritage Sites. Within the Asia-Pacific region the list includes:

a. Australia's Great Barrier Reef
b. India's Taj Mahal and the Fort of Agra
c. China's Great Wall, the site of Peking Man, and the Tomb of Confucius in Qufu
d. Nepal's Birthplace of the Lord Buddha at Lumbini
e. Indonesia's Komodo Dragon National Park, Borobudur temples, and site of Java Man
f. The Philippines' Rice Terraces
g. Sri Lanka's sacred city of Kandy
h. Sabah's Mt.Kinabalu National Park

From a tourism point of view, Gunung Mulu National Park is very popular the WHS listing will help to spread its fame even further afield. The Park may be reached by a one-day river boat journey from Miri, or by 45-minute flight in an 18-seater Twin Otter; there are 24 flights a week from Miri to Mulu. Access is at present somewhat restricted by the fact that only small aircraft can land there.

Extension work on Mulu Airport is well in hand, and expected to be finished by 2003. Upon completion of the US$ 13 mil extension project, the airport will be able to handle larger craft, and be less weather-dependent. Tourist arrivals at the Mulu National Park are expected to increase by 60 percent.

This figure is well within the park's ecological carrying capacity. At present, Mulu gets about 12,000 - 15,000 visitors per year. According to the National Park Department's management plan, the sustainable capacity for the four 'show caves' is 2,000 per day, that would be over 700,000 per year.