Vandals mar Lily Square’s beauty

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Botanic Gardens, which received criticisms over its poorly-maintained Lily Square, faces another problem — vandalism.

Visitors have used the giant Victoria amazonica water lilies as target practice.

A Botanic Gardens department spokesman said the Lily Square has had  its fair share of vandalism.

 Apart from the usual throwing of rubbish into the ponds, some visitors have used the giant Victoria amazonica water lilies as target practice.

 ”Our employees, who clean the ponds daily and fertilise  the lilies, have been fishing out rubbish like plastic food wrappers and even broken glass bottles out of the water.

 ”There have been occasions when they have found the big leaves in the water damaged by objects that do not belong in the pond,” he said when met at the department’s office in the Gardens recently.

 The worst shock came when they saw visitors stealing  the lilies.

 The spokesman  also said there had been unsolicited “donations” of fish and small tortoises.

 Members of the public, he said, had released koi and tortoises into the ponds.

Though their actions may seem harmless and symbolise good fortune, it is detrimental to the lilies.

 ”The fish  destroy the roots of lily plants,” said the spokesman.

 Koi tend to uproot plants like water lily while in search of food and at the Lily Square, they had caused problems for the plants until the department discovered them.

 The department recently put small round culverts into the ponds to prevent the fish from getting close to the plants.

 He said the department was aware of the  criticisms that was being thrown its way. He added that the employees are working hard to improve the situation at the pond.  

 He explained that for the past months, the department was going through a transition period, welcoming new top management officers and staff.

 ”We are still learning about issues concerning the Gardens and how to handle things, especially maintaining the giant lilies,” he said, adding that guards would be hired to monitor the Lily Square to prevent further vandalism and  thefts.

He pointed out that the Lily Square is being upgraded with lamp posts to help brighten up the area after dark.

On the issue of cleanliness, he said the Gardens’ employees clean the surroundings every day.

“The Gardens’ cleanliness problem is mainly due to unauthorised private picnics and monkeys taking out rubbish from garbage bins in search of food.

 ”If the water is dirty, it is usually because of dried leaves,” he said.

 The spokesman gave his assurance that the department would monitor its staff  to ensure the Gardens was maintained properly.

There was an improvement to the situation at the Gardens when Streets visited the place recently following complaints on Lily Square’s poor upkeep. By Looi Sue-Chern

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