Tag Archives: conservation

Loving Malayan Tigers 3000

It’s often cited that Malayan tigers numbered 3,000 in the 1950s. Could that be possible? Biologist Quek Yew Aun examines the evidence for this number.

The Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) is a definitive part of our Malaysian identity. Its presence adorns key icons synonymous to Malaysia, including the national coat of arms and the masthead of a prominent local bank. Even our national football team is nicknamed ‘Harimau Malaya’.

Sadly, the species itself is critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List.

How close a species is to extinction is indicated by the number of individuals remaining in the wild. And wild Malayan tigers have been declining in the past few decades due to factors such as poaching and habitat loss.

However, determining the exact number of Malayan tigers in the wild has always been a challenge.

(Photo: A Malayan tiger in Zoo Negara, 2012. Wild tigers in Malaysia inch closer to extinction but recent concerted conservation efforts bring hope. – Pic by YH Law.)

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To Save Seahorses, Culture Matters

The fascinating seahorse can be a marine conservation and climate change icon. To get Malaysians on board, a researcher looks at cultural practices.

WHENEVER conservationist Reana Ng walks into a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) shop, she gets a “look”, she says wryly. “They just know that you’re not coming in to buy traditional medicine…Why are you here?”

Undeterred, Ng continues to visit these shops. Since March, this Masters student has been gathering information on the many uses of seahorses and on how people in Peninsular Malaysia use them.

(Photo: Dried seahorses have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries | Image by Reana Ng)

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Can Experts Save Malaysia’s Remaining Endangered Large Animals?

With Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhinoceros taking its final breath in 2019, conservationists are calling for serious intervention to reverse species decline.

MALAYSIA is a biodiversity hotspot but its endangered large animals are being pushed into smaller habitats. In a race against time, conservation scientists are mapping efforts to protect critically endangered species.

Extinction is an immediate threat for large animals in Malaysia.

(Photo: Mother and calf only 300—500 Bornean banteng are left in the wilds of Borneo, the only place in the world they are found. | Pic by BORA)

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Deforestation project in Pahang exacerbates Orang Asli land rights struggle

A plantation project in Pahang wants to clear almost 85km2 of primary forest. The Orang Asli who live on the site have been protesting the logging since 2019. But there are two letters signed by the illiterate villagers which purportedly show their support for the logging. What happened?

A version of this story first appeared on Southeast Asia Globe on 21 June 2021.

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OMAR RANI is an Orang Asli who lives in the village of Kampung Berengoi in Pahang. Omar and his fellow Orang Asli villagers are illiterate – or as they put it: “We haven’t gone to school”.

Last year, they were asked to sign letters to receive free houses from private company YP Olio Sdn Bhd. Though unable to read a word, Omar and the villagers signed them; they trusted the government officers who accompanied the company’s representatives.

(Photo: The Orang Asli at Kampung Berengoi and Kampung Mesau gathered to speak out against logging around their homes. Rani (first left), Sani (second left), Omar (seated center), Abdullah (first right). Pic by Aminah A/P Tan Kay Hoe.)

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When Invaders Move In On Batu Caves (And They Have)

[First published 31 May 2021]

From flowering plants to butterflies , invasive species are taking over Batu Caves. This alarming threat to the fragile limestone ecosystem needs addressing.

WE HAD trekked up Batu Caves for about 10 minutes when botanist Dr Ruth Kiew turned to me and asked, “Can you see the difference in the vegetation?”

“Between limestone and non-limestone vegetation, you mean?”

“Yes.”

I scanned the plants before me. This was pre-pandemic times and I had been researching limestone species from lists provided by Kiew.

(Photo: Invasive species threaten plants like the keladi (foreground), discovered only 2 years ago and found only on Batu Caves, says limestone specialist Ruth Kiew. ~ pic by SL Wong)

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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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Can Oil Palm Explain The Lower Forest Loss Here?

Last year, tropical forest loss increased worldwide but Malaysia cut down less than it did the previous year, the fourth year it has done so. What explains this good news?

[First posted on 27 April, 12.17pm.]

Last year, the world lost 12% more tropical forest than it did in 2019, according to satellite census by forest monitoring platform Global Forest Watch. Malaysia bucked the global trend: it lost less. 

In fact, Malaysia has trimmed its primary forest losses four years in a row. Losses fell from about 185,000 hectares in 2016 to nearly 73,000 hectares in 2020 (Figure 1).

At the same time, there is a slow down in the expansion of the sector most frequently linked to deforestation – oil palm. Oil palm area in Malaysia contracted in 2020 – the first drop in 44 years.

Could this explain Malaysia’s recent downtrend in primary forest losses? And can we expect forest loss to drop further?

(Photo: Malaysia has been losing less primary forest since 2016. Graph: YH Law)

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Must the Pan Borneo Highway Dissect the Tawai Forest?

[Updated 29 July 2021]

Funds and political support are reinvigorating the Pan Borneo Highway project in Sabah. But is there time to consider ways to mitigate its environmental and socioeconomic impact?

WITH 2,239 kilometres of new roads to be built by 2025, the Pan Borneo Highway is expected to boost connectivity, tourism and trade in and between Sabah and Sarawak.

Parts of the current route, however, would severely impact the environment and local communities, say local NGOs and researchers.

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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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