by AZALEA AZUAR
NATURE therapy is the practice of being in nature to help relieve mental health-related issues such as stress, anxiety, depression and attention problem. Such practices include farming, hiking and camping.
Being in nature is known to bring many benefits such as happiness, a sense of wellbeing, positive social interactions and a feeling of meaningfulness.
Unfortunately, many of us stay indoors and spend more time on our screens due to our busy life. This is especially true for those who stay in big cities and non-landed properties.
Why not plan a short nature getaway.
Located on the outskirts of the Klang Valley, IOI City Mall Putrajaya recently unveiled Malaysia’s first urban indoor farm park — IOI City Farm.
The farm is perfect for those who do not want to participate in overly strenuous activities, but want to have a casual relaxing “nature” family day out with the comfort of nearby restaurants and shops.
The permanent edutainment space opened in tandem with the mall’s Phase 2 on Aug 25 and consists of three different zones — Greenland, Little Rimba and Freshwater World.
The two-storey indoor farm measures a total of 18,000 sq ft. Visitors of all ages can interact and observe different plants, aquatic life and animal species.
Upon entry through the main entrance, visitors will be greeted by the Greenland zone’s lush greenery and surroundings, all Instagrammable for the younger generation.
This zone features nine sections — Green Glades, Vertical Garden, Urban Farm, Glocave, Mystical Cave, Season of Colours that are filled with giant lotus structures, Teeny-weeny Forest, Insectopia and Roots N Seeds that consists of 11 living plant species.
The Green Glades is the main highlight of the Greenland zone, featuring an open terrarium filled with a variety of flora species.
According to IOI City Farm manager Suphannsa Ong Xing Wyn, the Insectopia section displays carnivorous plants and preserved insects which they felt were important to educate the public about plant-insect relations.
“People don’t actually tend to think that insects actually play a huge role in the ecosystem. But they nevertheless have symbiotic relationships with plants, whether it’s mutualistic or antagonistic.
“So, carnivorous plants, for example, are antagonistic as they benefit by harming one party. When we talk about harming one party, that means carnivorous plants feed on insects,” she told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) at an exclusive preview event.
Currently, only pitcher plants are displayed at the Insectopia section, but Ong assures that they will include the Venus Flytrap plants soon.
IOI City Farm includes educational sessions by qualified zoologists, aquarists and botanists, so that visitors can learn all about the flora and fauna on display.
Cute and Cuddly Animals
Perhaps the zone that visitors, especially children, will enjoy the most is Little Rimba as it is like a small viewing area that displays 17 different species of animals from around the world. These include the sugar slider, hedgehog, Bengal cat, racoon, chinchilla, marmoset and fennec fox.
Visitors can also pet and feed child-friendly animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, chicks and ducklings.
“We understand that nowadays the pet keeping industry is booming as well but over here, we would like to educate people that some certain animals cannot be kept solitarily.
“Like the meerkats, we see people buying them everywhere but if they come here, we’re very happy to advise them on certain things like nutrition, or whether it’s furnishing habitat design, or their enclosure,” Ong explained.
Not All Fishes Can Be Kept At Home
The Freshwater World zone consists of 50 freshwater aquatic species ranging from river giants such as the Amazonian arapaima and Amur sturgeon to tiny crustaceans such as the vampire crab and bamboo shrimp.
Visitors can also check out the interaction and touch pool, which allows them to touch these underwater creatures, as well as a feeding pool and a catch pool.
Ong also shared that many people keep the arapaima, Amur sturgeon and the Alligator gar as pets, but they are unaware that all these fish are prohibited as pets.
IOI City Farm collects these fishes from the public after they are caught by the Department of Fisheries, as they are harmful to the ecosystem if they are released back into the wild.
These species are invasive and carnivorous, and will harm the endemic wildlife by competing for resources. They can grow to huge sizes, causing their owner to be unable to provide the right living conditions such as a big tank with 11,000 gallons of water.
“Now, most places you can see animals upfront (and) up close, but sometimes here, we give it a bit more of an experience for people to actually kind of look for the animals.
“We design each enclosure and each display (is custom-made). According to natural behaviour, if they are afraid or distressed, they need to be able to seek shelter, so the animal’s welfare is being protected.”
Exciting Workshops and Activities
Unlike other farms and aquariums, IOI City Farm has a line-up of different activities such as fun fishing, do-it-yourself workshops and animal interaction, among others. It also hopes to conduct events such as birthday parties featuring animal care workshops.
The farm have also contacted University Putra Malaysia and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, so that the universities can have their students carry out their workshops at the farm.
One said the workshops will enable the farm to work alongside the communities, supporting the local universities and educating the public at the same time.
The urban indoor farm at IOI City Mall is open daily from 10am to 10pm.
Tickets are priced at RM48 for children and RM37 for adults on weekdays, while it costs RM58 for children and RM48 for adults on weekends. — Pics source: IOI City Farm