“The Pandemic Killed Everything We Had Planned”

In their own words, conservationists share their their struggles during the Covid-19 pandemic. Part of Macaranga‘s Taking Stock series, these stories were written based on interviews; all interviewees approved the text.

DR WONG SIEW TE, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

THE PANDEMIC killed everything that we had planned for this year.

We have one major source of revenue – visitors. There are other sources, of course: donations, bear adoption programmes.

But with job losses and the economy deteriorating, it has affected a lot of our supporters.

(Photo: To generate income, Wong Siew Te is offering live virtual tours of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre . Pic: BSBCC)

Continue reading “The Pandemic Killed Everything We Had Planned”

Covid-19 Woes Continue for Conservation

Dire finances and stunted activity continue to plague Malaysia’s conservation sector because of Covid-19. Macaranga surveys the landscape in our Taking Stock series.

FROM GAPS in research to the loss of funding and conversely, wider outreach, Malaysian conservation organisations of every size have been impacted by Covid-19.

But what exactly are these impacts? How have the organisations adapted to this crisis? And have they strengthened their resilience against future shocks?

(Photo: Educational activities involving volunteers and groups have been disrupted [Malaysian Nature Society Facebook])

Continue reading Covid-19 Woes Continue for Conservation

Sustainable Islands in the Sun

Sabah’s beautiful islands can be managed so that tourists, nature and local livelihoods co-exist. This is the second of a two-parter on ecotourism in Macaranga’s Taking Stock series. .

FOR YEARS now, mass tourism has been impacting the environmental health of coral islands off Sabah’s west coast. Among them is the Mantanani three-island group, located off the northwestern tip of Borneo.

But there are far fewer tourists now as the pandemic stifles travel. Some islanders are using the lull to try new businesses and better manage their environment.

(Photo: Sun, sea and surf have turned Mantanani into a major tourist draw. Pic by Reef Check Malaysia)

Continue reading Sustainable Islands in the Sun

When Covid Resets Ecotourism

The loss of international tourists due to the Covid-19 pandemic has shackled the ecotourism industry, but is it also bad for conservation? This is the first of a two-parter on ecotourism in Macaranga’s Taking Stock series.

TOUR GUIDE Ahmad Shah Amit had been looking forward to the summer holiday season in Europe. In any other year, European tourists, up to 1,000 a day, would flock to the wildlife-rich Kinabatangan region in Sabah.

There, they would pay locals like Ahmad, popularly know as Tapoh, to show them Bornean pygmy elephants and proboscis monkeys.

(Photo: The popularity of river safaris to catch sight of Borneo’s Big Five helps conserve wildlife. Pic by Cede Prudente)

Continue reading When Covid Resets Ecotourism

Back to the jungle? The myth of indigenous community resilience

Indigenous people in Malaysia and the world over isolated themselves from society to avoid Covid-19. But do they have enough food resilience to do so? Macaranga looks at the issue as part of its Taking Stock series.

WHEN MEDIA reported Orang Asli moving “back to the jungle” during the Covid-19 lockdown and blockading their villages against outsiders, the stories fed a prevailing romanticised myth that indigenous communities are self-sufficient.

But in reality, most Orang Asli cannot harvest all they need from the forest and have in addition, stopped subsistence farming. Instead, they are plugged into and rely on the modern economy for their livelihoods.

(Photo: In Pahang’s highlands, Muri a/p Jerhuk tends to her hill paddy plot. Pic by Jeffry Hassan)

Continue reading Back to the jungle? The myth of indigenous community resilience

Saving zoos during Covid-19 crisis – should we? (Pt 2)

With huge income loss during the Covid-19 crisis, is it time to look at the role that Malaysian zoos play in wildlife conservation? This is the second of the two-parter on zoos and aquaria in Macaranga’s Taking Stock series.

WITH THE Covid-19 pandemic under control, zoos and aquaria in Malaysia might have averted a funding crisis for now. However, the question remains as to why wildlife is kept captive in the first place.

By definition, a zoo is a place where captive wild animals are exhibited. It is short for ‘zoological park or garden’. Meanwhile, marine animals are exhibited in aquaria.

(Photo: Endangered animals can get a lifeline in zoos, such as these Banteng Bos javanicus in Lok Kawi Zoo, Sabah. Pic by Cede Prudente)

Continue reading Saving zoos during Covid-19 crisis – should we? (Pt 2)

Saving zoos during Covid-19 crisis—should we? (Pt 1)

Malaysian zoos lost almost all their income due to the Covid-19 crisis but were kept afloat partly by public donations. Was it worth Malaysians giving them millions? This is the first of the two-parter on zoos and aquaria in Macaranga’s Taking Stock series.

IN APRIL, the horrific possibility of animals from elephants to slow lorises starving to death behind bars, shocked Malaysians.

As is the case world-over, zoos and aquaria in Malaysia are heavily dependent on income from visitors. This income vanished overnight when Malaysia implemented measures to contain Covid-19.

The strict movement control order (MCO) that began on March 18, 2020 shut down all public venues, indefinitely at the time.

(Photo: Zoos’ revenues were hit hard during the pandemic, spotlighting the role of these parks in wildlife education and conservation. Pic by Cede Prudente)

Continue reading Saving zoos during Covid-19 crisis—should we? (Pt 1)

Of Strikes and Science

Youth climate action groups in Malaysia have a raft of actions drawn up for 2020. How will they proceed in the face of the Covid-19 crisis? This is the second of the two-parter on climate activists in Macaranga’s Taking Stock series.

THE PLACARDS always take the cake. “You’ll die of old age, I’ll die of climate change”. “Rumah Banyak, Bumi Hanya 1” (Houses are plentiful, there is only one earth). And of course, “Skipping my juris class to strike. Sorry Mr Rabinder.”

Climate strikes are a powerful rallying call to action against global warming. But they are just one component in the arsenal of youth climate movements in Malaysia (read our first report here).

(Photo: Climate strikes are eye-catching but far from the only form of activism. – pic courtesy of KAMY)

Continue reading Of Strikes and Science

Climate Action: Youth-Led, Not Youth-Only

Of all the environmental issues, the climate change crisis is touted as being closest in nature to the Covid-19 crisis, requiring the most similar global response. Macaranga’s Taking Stock series begins with this two-parter on climate change and the folks most associated with it – youth.

A PIVOT to digital activism. Postponed plans. Climate change youth activists in Malaysia are figuring out how to navigate uncertainties thrown up by Covid-19 and a new coalition government who has yet to define policy direction.

That youths appear to be leading the climate change charge results from the widespread attention to renowned teenage activist Greta Thunberg and her Fridays for Future student climate strikes.

(Photo: Despite perceptions, climate action is not the purview of youths alone – pic courtesy of KAMY)

Continue reading Climate Action: Youth-Led, Not Youth-Only

A Malaysian Environmental Journalism Site