The natural and cultural heritage of Penang Island and its people have been officially recognised with designation of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status for the Penang Hill region. Status was officially imparted by the International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) on 16 September 2021.
Covering an area of 12,481 hectares of marine and terrestrial ecosystems in the north-western region of Penang Island, Penang Hill will now join a distinguished global network of 714 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves spanning 129 countries worldwide. These areas are held up as examples of unique natural or cultural wonders, in places where people live harmoniously with nature.
“I would like to extend our sincere appreciation and congratulations to the Chief Minister of
Penang, the Penang Hill Corporation and the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources on this momentous occasion,” said Harry A. Cockrell, who is Co-Founder & Chairman of The Habitat Group, which was instrumental in advocating for UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status for Penang Hill, alongside local and national government officials in Malaysia.
“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with you all on this historic initiative and to have supported it from conception to the happy announcement today,” he added. The Habitat Group is a non-profit organization established to advance the conservation of biodiversity and natural ecosystems in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. They are committed to making Penang Island a global centre for tropical research and conservation, environmental education and best practices in sustainable natural resource management.
UNESCO Biosphere Reserves have been described as ‘places that provide local solutions to global challenges.’ They include terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems, with each site focused on reconciling the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources with their sustainable use. Reserves are places where innovative interdisciplinary approaches are tested, in a bid to devise solutions such as conflict prevention and the sustainable management of biodiversity.
The Penang Hill Biosphere Reserve is home to verdant forest reserves that shelter around 2,500 species of flora and fauna, along with the historic Penang Botanical Gardens, Penang National Park, and various coastal and marine ecosystems that link the island’s hilly interior with its tropical coastline. Visitors to the Bioreserve will be able to reconnect with nature, through a range of facilities and installations designed to facilitate wildlife exploration, while also showcasing the island’s cultural wonders. These include the iconic Langur Way Canopy Walk and the Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk.