All posts by YH Law

Dawn Bat (Eonycteris spelaea)

Species: Eonycteris spelaea (Mammalia : Chiroptera)

Known Range: Southeast Asia

Size: (Adult) 40-70 millimeter, length of a forearm

Interviewed: Zubaid Akbar Mukhtar Ahmad, bat scientist (zubaid.akbar[at]gmail.com)

(Photo: Eonycteris spelaea by Juliana Senawi)

“DO YOU like durians? Do you like petai?” These are the questions Zubaid asks when he’s trying to win some supporters for bats.

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Minute Land Snail (Opisthostoma vermiculum)

Species: Opisthostoma vermiculum (Gastropoda: Diplommanitidae)

Known Range: Gunung Rapat limestone hill, Malaysia

Size: (Adult) 1.0 – 1.5 millimeters

Interviewed: Foon Junn Kitt, malacologist

(Photo: Opisthostoma vermiculum by Foon Junn Kitt)

HOW IS this a snail, and not just a tiny, whitish, swirly plastic tube? Even its species name, vermiculum, means ‘wormy’ in Latin, which aptly describes the snail’s shell.

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Quality Malaysian Research

COMMENT BY YH LAW: I WAS very happy to see that most Malaysian speakers aced their presentations at ICCB 2019. The younger speakers deserve special praise—they were confident, lively and eager to share their work. 

They presented effectively and answered questions well. They dished out plenty of positive vibes. And often their friends or colleagues were sitting in the audience—peer support must have helped!

Many of the Malaysian talks I went to showcased on-going work or results of their Master theses, which are often a prelude to bigger research projects.

So, I was often left wanting more. But I’m relieved to see that our younger scientists or conservationists are well trained. 

I am disappointed however, that there was no symposium or plenary dedicated to oil palm. 

Whither oil palm?

Given the impact that oil palm has on the environment, whether perceived or true, not dedicating a plenary or several symposiums on the issue is ignoring the elephant in the room. 

(Though there was a handful of talks about elephants that discussed the animal’s use of oil palm landscapes.) 

With more than 1,300 regional and international participants, mostly conservation practitioners and some industry players, ICCB 2019 in Kuala Lumpur was arguably the best platform to discuss and debate the environmental aspects of oil palm. 

We could have had so much science and so many opinions from experts and practitioners. The exchange might be awkward, perhaps even uncomfortable, but I think that is part of the process needed to get us out of our echo chambers and cross the divide. 

Finding answers

We need solutions to the complex, thorny issue of oil palm, solutions which I doubt would emerge from a feel-good conversation. 

Whatever the solutions might be, we missed the chance to discuss them at ICCB 2019. It’s everyone’s loss, including the government and people of Malaysia and Indonesia, and all concerned conservationists.

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Related reports: About ICCB I What Price Entry? I Marking Attendance

The Lynas License Renewal: What Does It Mean?

ON 15 AUGUST 2019, Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) released a press statement announcing that they had renewed for 6 months the operating license of rare earths producer Lynas Malaysia. This renewal carries three conditions.

Each time Lynas’ license comes up for, or is renewed, it is a political hot potato. Supporters for and against renewals have protested on the streets to voice their environmental and economic concerns.

And it has become a sticking point as to whether or not the Pakatan Harapan government is keeping its pre-election promises.

To help you better understand the terms and context of this licence renewal, Macaranga dug into the licensing board’s statement as well as previous reports and documents related to Lynas.

(Photo: Lynas Advanced Material Plant, Kuantan, 15 Dec 2018. Credit: Save Malaysia Stop Lynas; Read AELB’s full statement here. Documents cited in this article are listed at the end of the article.)

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Cave Cockroach (Pycnoscelus striatus)

Species: Pycnoscelus striatus (Insecta: Blattodea)

Known Range: Malaysia, Sumatra, the Philippines

Size: (Adult) 15 mm long , ~diameter of 10-sen coin

Interviewed: Dr Lim Teck Wyn, biologist

(Photo: Shaharin Yussof )

“CUTE” IS how Teck Wyn describes the cave cockroach, Pycnoscelus striatus. “The nymphs”—the juvenile stage of cockroaches—“are adorable, scurrying sort of things.”

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Gibbons Still Sing In Merapoh

[ICCB 2019] Gibbon adults in Merapoh, Pahang, are at “fairly good” levels, reveals the latest survey of these small apes. The status of juvenile gibbons however, is still unknown.

That gap in gibbon data causes concern, especially with deforestation in the area, says Adilah Suhailin binti Kamaruzaman, graduate student researcher at Universiti Sains Malaysia and leader of the Merapoh gibbon survey. Adilah presented her findings on 25 July at the International Congress for Conservation Biology, Kuala Lumpur.

(Photo: A Lar gibbon, also called white-handed gibbon, is one of the three species of gibbons found in Peninsular Malaysia. Credit: Gibbon Protection Society Malaysia/Infinim Creative Productions)

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How Do Turtles Like Their Sand?

[ICCB 2019] For newly hatched green turtles, life starts in the dark. Nine weeks ago, a turtle’s mother would have climbed onshore, dug a hole 50 cm deep, laid more than a hundred eggs inside, then sealed it with sand. Now, the hatchlings must escape from their buried nest and dash to sea.

But does it matter what type of sand hatchlings have to power through to make it to the surface?

(Photo: A green turtle hatchling peeks from inside its shell. Hatchlings have an attached yolk (red) which they absorb over the course of a week. Credit: Lyvia Chong/SEATRU)

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Talk Less, Listen More

WORDS can punch harder than a fist. Or two. When I was an active researcher, statistics guided my writing. Now, as a journalist, I still collect evidence, but I walk with extra respect and caution.

Five years into this (financially pitiful) career, I’ve learned one thing: A good journalist talks less and listens more. So I do just that. The other way round is bad.

A talk given 23 July at the International Congress for Conservation Biology, Kuala Lumpur, reminded me of the above.

(Photo: Nadine Ruppert presents findings of her SPO Movement survey. Credit: YH Law)

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Where Might Oil Palm Go Next?

[ICCB 2019] In Southeast Asia, oil palm expansion threatens biodiversity and the work of conservationists. Knowing where oil palm might go next then, helps inform conservation, says Molly Hennekam, an applied ecologist at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

(Photo: A composite map of Southeast Asia showing Key Biodiversity Areas and areas of potential oil palm expansion. “Suitability” here refers only to ecological factors like climate and soil. Credit: Hennekam, Sarira, Koh)

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In the Murky Waters of Brunei Bay, Turtles Feed

[ICCB 2019] There were two key facts that turtle expert Juanita Joseph of the Borneo Marine Research Institute wished she had known about the murky waters of Brunei Bay. The first was that hundreds of green turtles fed in the bay; the second was that crocodiles swam in the same water.

Today, the turtles keep drawing Joseph back to the bay, and the crocodiles keep her out of the water — unless necessary.

(Photo: To catch turtles in Brunei Bay, Juanita Joseph used nets called ‘kabat’ to trap turtles at the mouth of estuaries. Joseph learned the method from local fishermen. Credit: Juanita Joseph)

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