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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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Racing to Save a Plantation of Rare Trees

The bulldozing of millions of rainforest trees in private plantation Penawar Hutan has raised the profile of the value of gene banks for conservation.

IN FEBRUARY, endangered tree species in a plantation in Perak, whose lease had expired, were destroyed by a state-linked company. Mounting public concern brought the matter to the Menteri Besar who quickly stopped the bulldozing. The fate of the trees remains in limbo.

The 200-acre tree plantation in Tanjung Malim is owned and operated by private entity Penawar Hutan Sdn Bhd. It housed up to 2.5 million trees of hundreds of species.

(Photo: Penawar Hutan’s Sheila Ramasamy (left) showing the Perak Menteri Besar’s press secretary Adie Suri Zulkefli a bulldozed section of the plantation, Feb 24, 2020. Credit: YH Law)

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A Final Home for Lynas’ Waste?

Lynas Malaysia has located a site in Pahang to build a permanent disposal facility for its radioactive waste, with consent from the state. But what is a permanent disposal facility?

MORE THAN 7 years after they started operations in Malaysia, rare earths producer Lynas Corporation might finally be within grasp of a state-approved solution for its radioactive waste.

In a January 30 statement, Lynas says it has identified a site with consent from the Pahang state government to build what it calls a ‘permanent disposal facility’ (PDF).

(Photo: The Lynas Advanced Materials Plant near Kuantan, Malaysia, March 11, 2019. The facility extracts rare earth oxides from ores imported from Australia and generates radioactive residue in the process. Credit: LawYH)

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A Malaysian Environmental Journalism Site