Forest Loss: Under Whose Watch?

How much forest loss is too much? And are the drivers of this loss the same as in the past? In Forest Files, Macaranga examines the dynamics and mechanics of forest-use changes in Malaysia. Our four-part In-Depth series focuses on Peninsular Malaysia, where more forests were lost in the last 30 years than in East Malaysia.

In Part 1, we look at how much forest we actually have, forest-use policies, and forestry decision-makers. In Part 2, we consider a key driver of forest loss – excision from permanent reserve forests. Part 3 asks what drives decision-makers and we end with Part 4 on how citizens could influence forest-use.

(Photo: A bird’s eye view of the protected primary hill and lowland rainforest of the Royal Belum State Park, 2003. Pic by SK Chong/Sasyaz Holdings)

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How to Fit a 15-storey Hotel in Fraser’s Hill

Planners are drafting a new plan for Fraser’s Hill, an environmentally sensitive area. How should development proceed there?

FRASER’S Hill will get a new development concept plan soon. The Raub District Council, which oversees development in Fraser’s Hill, Pahang, has appointed town planner Iktisas Planners to come up with the plan. 

The consultant told Macaranga they aim to finish the concept plan in November, and declined to comment more.

The new concept plan adds a new dimension to recent events that have focused discussion on how Fraser’s Hill, an environmentally sensitive area, should be developed.

In particular, some residents and concerned citizens are opposing the building of a hotel there which has been approved by the Council.

(Photo: The iconic clock tower greets visitors to Fraser’s Hill, a destination popular for its cool weather, nature and colonial-style buildings. Pic by : Pashmina Binwani)

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What Conservationists Want In Budget 2021

ACCORDING to the Parliamentary schedule, the Malaysian government will table Budget 2021 in the Parliamentary meeting on 6 November. 

The Budget would reflect the government’s plans to carry the country out of the pandemic woes of 2020. 

Malaysians have had a troubled year. Our lives, economy and national policies were derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic and unexpected changes in the Federal government and state governments of Johor, Melaka, Kedah and Sabah

Many conservation groups struggled to keep finances and operations running.

Amidst the turbulence, Malaysians continue to see our environment degrade: pollution of rivers and coasts; clear-felling and degazettement of forest reserves for economic activities; human-elephant conflicts; and poaching. 

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Stop the Playbacks If You Love Helmeted Hornbills

Hornbill researcher and conservationist Ravinder Kaur saw unethical bird photographers at work in Pahang. She shares her experience and concerns.

A MONTH ago, I had just returned from a field trip in Pahang to watch a pair of Helmeted hornbills (Rhinoplax vigil), one of the most endangered hornbill species in Southeast Asia.

The calls of the bird lingered in my ears as I unloaded my car upon return. But the birds themselves did not plant it there.

Rather, over four days in the field, I had been exposed to photographers’ incessant playbacks of the Helmeted hornbill calls from their speakers.

They were using such recorded playbacks to lure the Helmeted hornbills for a photo.

(Photo: Helmeted hornbill, a critically endangered species threatened by poaching and deforestation. (Sanjitpaal Singh / JITSPICS.COM©)

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“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)

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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])

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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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