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The park is an important stopover for migratory waterbirds traveling and crossing various obstacles along the Asia-Australasian Flyway (EAAF). The 807 hectares of muddy land that surrounds the park is a productive source of food for birds during low tide, while the mangrove swamps provide a safe place for them to take shelter.

The park is also important to the local people who live on the mainland of Kukup where the mangrove swamp is a breeding ground for fish that can support the local fishing industry and the mud is rich in shellfish that provide a source of food and income. This island faces the Malacca Strait and it can be said to be one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, this island protects coastal waters from wind and waves. In January 2003, the park was gazetted by the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Importance, or Ramsar Site.

Like many other small islands in this region, Pulau Kukup is not without many myths and legends. Among them is the story of the fairy princess; one of them falls in love with a sailor and receives dire consequences. Another story tells of a giant snake that protects the island and is sometimes seen swimming across the strait to Karimun Island in Indonesia. In the past, Kukup Island was famous as a pirate headquarters. According to one source (unconfirmed), the name of the island comes from the Malay word ‘nervous’ because it is what sailors felt in the past when they sailed across this island, on their way to the Malacca Straits.

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