Covid Provides Relief for Wildlife – but Not Really

With new lockdowns and closure of international borders, wildlife has been an increasingly common sight in Malaysia’s urban areas. But what does this mean? This commentary was first published on Channel News Asia and is republished here with permission.

[First posted May 27, 2021]

WHO DOESN’T like animal videos? Malaysians certainly do. 

With unending COVID-19 lockdowns, a subset of these have become social media favourites: Wild animals in urban areas.

Such visuals feed into the pandemic mantra of “Look how nature recovers when we humans are out of the picture”. But how true is that?

(Photo: Visuals of cute animals in human environments have been going viral during Covid-19; this one hasn’t but registers on the cute scale ~ Pic by Nuratiqah AR )

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Geopark Not Just Another Label for Kinabalu

Though already a World Heritage Site, Kinabalu needs geopark status to conserve oft overlooked natural values, argues geologist Felix Tongkul.

MOUNT Kinabalu, Malaysia’s tallest mountain, is now being assessed for UNESCO Global Geopark status. The proposed geopark encompasses not just the mountain, but the park in which it sits as well as the surrounding districts of Kota Belud, Kota Marudu and Ranau, an area of 4,750 square kilometres.

Kinabalu Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

Why is there a need for more recognition for Kinabalu Park from UNESCO? Is the Global Geopark status more superior to the World Heritage Site status? What is so interesting about geoparks? These are valid questions I often hear from my friends.

(Photo: Mount Kinabalu is the only glacial landscape in the tropical region. Glacial erosion from melting ice 10,000 years ago formed these parallel grooves. – Pic by Felix Tongkul.)

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遏制珊瑚礁间的炸鱼:沙巴州的故事

当旅游业遭新冠疫情重创,当地居民的生活难以为继,许多人担心这种破坏性捕捞方式将卷土重来

一声低沉的爆炸声响起,潜水员们愣在了原地,不安地看着同伴和潜水长。幸运的是,爆炸似乎离得非常远,不影响他们继续探索色彩斑斓的珊瑚礁。

在沙巴州,炸鱼是潜水业的噩梦,不仅让游客望而却步,而且还摧毁着海洋生物,并且危及渔民自身的安全。

(Photo: 沙巴的曼塔纳尼群岛(Mantanani islands)附近海域一枚未爆炸的自制捕鱼炸弹。图片来源:Adzmin Fatta / Reef Check Malaysia)

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Tackling fish-bombing among the coral reefs of Sabah

With tourism hit by the pandemic and local people struggling to make ends meet, many fear a resurgence of this destructive fishing method.

AT THE sound of a muffled “boom”, the divers pause and look uneasily at each other and their divemaster. Luckily, the blast seems far enough for the group to continue exploring the colourful reef.

Fish-bombing is the stuff of nightmares for the diving industry in Sabah. Not only does it put off the tourists, it also devastates marine life and endangers the fishers themselves.

(Photo: An unexploded, homemade fish bomb off the Mantanani islands, Sabah | Image by: Adzmin Fatta / Reef Check Malaysia)

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Locals Make Terrapin Conservation Successful

When floods hit Kemaman, terrapin conservationist Chen Pelf Nyok raised funds to help her local partners who had supported conservation.

In early January, floods hit Kemaman, Terengganu, the district where Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia (TCS), the organization I lead, is based.

Many villages were flooded. My husband asked if we should begin raising funds to help the villagers who were our project partners.

I said no.

(Photo: Flood devastated Kemaman, Terengganu, in early January 2021. Pic from Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia.)

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The Environmental Rights To End Pollution

Are Malaysians fed up enough of river pollution to assert their environmental rights? Do they even know what these rights are?

ASTONISHINGLY, it happened again: Sungai Kim Kim in Johor was polluted once more in early March. And it happened smack on the second anniversary of the toxic waste disaster there that hospitalised 2,700 and cost RM6.4m to clean up.

While this recent episode was described by the Minister of Environment as “normal pollution” and not hazardous, it raises concerns and questions as to why any pollution has recurred. 

Johoreans are not the only ones wondering this. 

(Photo: The Barchats: Envirorights webinars on environmental rights drew 435 lawyers and members of the public. Facebook screenshot: Bar Council Committee on Environment and Climate Change)

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Youth Assembly Platform Empowers Climate Activists

A UN-style Youth Assembly on climate change can give young people a powerful platform to address climate issues, find Kieran Li Nair, Josephine Koay and Lee Ee Jenn of the Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD).

IT WAS 2pm on 12 Dec 2020, the first day of the Youth Assembly, the first-ever Model United Nations-type platform set up solely to discuss climate change issues in Malaysia.

As organisers, we had logged onto the server early and were watching in anticipation as dozens of participant icons lit up.

We had received an impressive 137 signups from 6 different countries, a number unusual even for typical Model United Nations (MUN) events.

(Photo: Youth Assemblies can empower every participant to freely speak their minds. Pic by MYD)

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Islander Partners Improve Resource Management

Locals must be involved in managing their own islands and island resources, says Julian Hyde. It is better for community empowerment and for nature.

“CO-MANAGEMENT of natural resources”: It is in the National Policy on Biological Diversity; it is in the Convention on Biodiversity (of which Malaysia is a signatory); it is in the Sustainable Development Goals.

It is everywhere, except in the communities where it matters most.

(Photo: All together now: Tioman islanders and NGO members remove reef-smothering ghost nets. Pic by Reef Check Malaysia)

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A Malaysian Environmental Journalism Site