Macaranga Annual 2022
30 December 2022: We produced an Annual to encapsulate the stories we came up with in the last year. It was fun to put together a digital print magazine. Siew Lyn especially is thrilled to return to her print roots for this. Great working with designer Sharon Yap, who does amazing work with the team at the Gerimis Art Project.
This is a Supporters’ Reward for our Kapur, Merbau and Cengal supporters. But we do thank every one of our readers for your support, whether financial or reading, sharing and commenting on our stories. Look out for our fund-raiser next year!
Annual Wrap-Up: 2022
28 December 2022: We recorded our final wrap-up of the year with Juliet Jacobs (photo below: top right) on Earth Matters. We picked a few of Macaranga’s most significant stories and spoke about how they relate to the bigger picture of environmental concerns in the country.
There was the #TanahAir series, especially timely due to food insecurity aggravated by climate crisis; the efforts to tackle African Swine Fever and to enforce modernisation of pig farms; coral restoration as an immediate concern that requires national collaboration; and finally the urgent need to review the impact of forest plantations.
Monthly Wrap-Up: November 2022
7 December 2022: Last month, NGO/CSOs pushed the green agenda amongst political candidates this GE15 election season, more than in recent times. Among efforts were #UndiIklim to act in concert with the more popular #UndiBanjir. We boosted their efforts here.
Likewise, there are better preparations for floods this time, with timely warnings and alerts of river levels. That is important as there are warnings that this year’s floods might be worse than last year’s. Check out the timely public information apps: MyCuaca and Publicinfobanjir.
Finally, wildlife trade gets a boost after the recent World Wildlife Conference which saw over 500 species protected under CITES. Of note are 2 songbirds, proposed for listing by Malaysia and Singapore; over 100 species of sharks and rays; and closing of domestic trade for pangolins.
Monthly Wrap-Up: October 2022
3 November 2022: We highlighted the growing number of quarries in Bukit Lagong forest reserve, the outreach programme by “Improving Connectivity – Central Forest Spine” in Kuala Lumpur, and look forward to…what else but GE15?
The Selangor government has approved or is reviewing 27 new quarries in Bukit Lagong forest reserve. Quarries in forest reserves are giving plenty of cash to the state government, as we reported last year. But in this show, we share the many reasons to question if such projects are rational, optimal, and sustainable.
(On another show, experts give an excellent and in-depth query into the quarry issue.)
Over the weekend, visitors to Central Market were had a chance to learn about the Central Forest Spine from the Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia. Visitors could watch videos and read posters on the efforts and need to link up forest fragments, listen to talks, and speak with Orang Asli who have been running nurseries for reforestation. The talks gave precious insight into challenges and achievements of the programme.
With Malaysians picking our new government in just a couple of weeks, we are eager to know what candidates think and will do about sustainability. What can we demand of them to help our country better face the climate crisis? Several NGOs and CSOs have released their environmental demands which we compile here.
A crazy photo but twas a good sharing session
29 October 2022: Thank you to Macaranga Supporters 2022 for engaging with us on our #TanahAir series. Sharing their behind-the-scenes experiences were writers Ushar Daniele, Lee Kwai Han and Ashley Yeong, editors Masjalizah Hamzah and Law Yao Hua and series editor Wong Siew Lyn.
We answered questions like (in paraphrase):
- What was the editorial process like?
- What can we do so we don’t feel so depressed after reading the stories?
- How did the locals feel when you (reporters) showed up?
Radio and TV appearances to talk #TanahAir and tiger habitat destruction
28 October 2022: Huge thanks to Juliet Jacobs on BFM89.9 Radio’s ‘Earth Matters’ and Melisa Idris on Astro Awani’s ‘Consider This’ for showcasing our stories and expanding on the conversation on the findings in Macaranga‘s stories.
Law Yao Hua talks on ‘Earth Matters’ about his 3-parter on an 8,948ha excision and clearing of forest in the heart of the Chini-Bera forest complex – 26 October 2022.
Macaranga features in discussion on Meat and One Health newsroom collaboration
21 October 2022: Providing nuance and going against the dominant narrative were among the drivers of Macaranga‘s approach to our investigation of pig farming and river pollution.
Thai and Filipino journalists shared about alternative meats too, while event host and series editor Sam Shramski discussed what collaboration on a regional level looked like.
Read our stories here.
Monthly Wrap-Up: September 2022
30 September 2022: September saw KL residents sue the DBKL local council over flood mitigation plans. To a request on preparedness for upcoming monsoonal floods, DBKL had sent them the outdated Pelan Tindakan Banjir Kilat 2022.
In Sabah, 5 villages are protesting the ‘illegal’ 2,200-acre state sand mining project near Kampung Sikuati, Kudat. They claim the project is operating without an approved EIA although one has been submitted. The project’s fine silica dust can threaten the health of humans and coastal ecosystem, says WWF-Malaysia.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has called again for the formation of a Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Climate Change and Biodiversity. This follows a climate change conference in Parliament. A new bill on climate change is also expected to be ready for debate at the year’s end.
Next month on 21 October, Malaysia celebrates its National Environment Day. We look at the history of this observation: the seminal Langkawi Declaration on the Environment in 1989.
Monthly Wrap-Up: August 2022
8 September 2022: Perak Chief Minister Saarani Mohamad recently said that the pilot study of a lanthanide mine will start in September. The entire project site is 2,161 hectares in Gerik district, Perak. The project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) report was approved by the federal Department of Environment on 11 May 2022.
Conservationists are concerned that the project will further fragment forests and obstruct wildlife movement.
Meanwhile the first-ever study on coral replanting in Malaysia found that the most common spcies used in replanting isn’t necessarily the best in surviving and growing. The 14-month study on the Peninsula’s east coast islands did find some species with promising growth rates but these need to be taken out of the nursery into real-world conditions.
The study provides lessons in coral rehabilitation and planting.
September 7 is the UN International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies.
Аir pollution is the single greatest environmental risk to human health and one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally. The 2022 theme #TheAirWeShare focuses on the transboundary nature of air pollution, stressing the need for collective accountability and action.
4 August 2022: A few days ago, our reporter Yao Hua spoke at-length on BFM89.9’s Earth Matters show about the two stories we published last week. The first story investigated new oil palm and coconut plantations in Endau, Johor. The second recorded the nearby villagers’ experiences and thoughts of such development.
In a gist, the projects cleared >600 ha of forests and installed new drains in 2020—2021, but only filed the compulsory environmental impact assessment report in June/July 2022. It is illegal to start the project before acquiring government approval of the EIA report.
Yao Hua reported using satellite images, official documents, and interviews with locals around the site. Listen to the BFM89.9 show to know more. One thing he didn’t share on air is that he saw black hornbills on both the days he visited the village! He was thrilled!
We have also translated the stories into Bahasa Malaysia, and they can be read here.
And while Yao Hua has returned from reporting in Johor, Siew Lyn has gone north to Penang. Not for the food (though we hope she gets to enjoy local favourites), but to report on farms and pollution.
This is Siew Lyn’s first field reporting for Macaranga. Unbelievable, isn’t it? She wrote so many good stories in the past three years – all from her desk!
27 July 2022: In July, 53 NGOs recently called on the Department of Environment to improve the transparency of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). These documents are critical to clarify what development is allowed, particularly in the aftermath of tragedies such as the Baling, Kedah flood and mudslide, and when a plantation company clears land such as AA Sawit did in Endau, Johor.
Protection for forests has been strengthend with a new National Forestry Act for Peninsular Malaysia 29 years since the last amendmend was made. It tightens the degazettement of forest reserves through public enquiry and replacement land. The amendment also empowers forestry officers, and imposes higher penalties for law-breakers. It must now be adopted by every state to be effective.
Looking ahead to World Elephant Day (Aug 12), and World Orangutan Day (Aug 19), we discuss how important it is to support the protection, replanting and enrichment of habitats for these animals by NGOs, government agencies and oil palm plantations. We shout out to Seratu Aatai, HUTAN, MEME and WWF-Malaysia.
28 Jun 2022: June saw news of resistance to large infrastructure in Malaysia by communities concerned about their environmental and social impacts.
In Kelantan, an Orang Asli coalition (JKOAK) are planning a court injunction against the Nenggiri dam that will flood 5,000ha of their traditional lands. They had exhausted other avenues of protest from blockades to marching in Putrajaya to submit a memorandum and even winning an earlier court injunction against development in a smaller part of the lands.
On Tioman island, fishers and tour operators spoke out against the proposed new airport that will require reclaiming 66ha of their coasts. The cost is not only to flagship coral reefs but more infrastructure on the island to cater to increased visitors and locals posisbly being sidelined economically.
26 Jun 2022: Macaranga is truly humbled to have won the gold award for excellence in environmental reporting at the Malaysian Journalism Awards 2021. The award is for 3 stories on forest use in Peninsular Malaysia written by Yao Hua and edited by Siew Lyn with the support of the Pulitzer Centre’s Rainforest Investigative Network.
The annual media awards are organised by the Malaysian Press Institute and judged by an independent panel of veteran journalists unaffiliated to media, and academics. The environmental category saw 23 entries from 11 media.
It is an honour for a small, young (3 years old next month!) entity like Macaranga to be selected from among established and major media companies.
The silver environmental award went to Malaysiakini for its brilliant series on coal. Bronze went to Utusan Malaysia for their coverage of the North Kuala Langat Peat Swamp Forest degazettement.
Thank you to all our interviewees, collaborators, readers and the awards selection committee. Our winning stories:
Macaranga’s forest stories shortlisted for Malaysian Press Institute award
22 Jun 2022: Macaranga is pleased to be shortlisted for the Malaysian Press Institute award for environmental reporting. We are humbled to be nominated alongside media giants Malaysiakini, Utusan Malaysia and the New Straits Time.
Read our nominated stories here:
‘Sustainable(?) Forest Plantations’ webinar raises more question marks
1 Jun 2022: It was a rare opportunity to have three planters appear in a forum on forest plantations, but this happened at our Macaranga webinar on May 25. The webinar was open to our 2022 contributors of the Kapur, Merbau and Chengal tiers.
The planters represented the Persatuan Pengusaha-pengusaha Ladang Hutan Negeri Kelantan. Also on the panel was a committee member from environmental NGO KUASA (Persatuan Aktivis Sahabat Alam).
The forum, ‘Sustainable(?) Forest Plantations’, was informed by our #LadangHutan series on the sustainability of forest plantations, most of which are have been earmarked for and to a lesser extent, planted in forest reserves.
The planters shared the many challenges they face, chief of which is the lack of workers, and highlighted their hiring of Orang Asli as plantation workers.
The activist raised issues of free, prior, informed consent and alternatives to monocrops and the use of forest reserves. One supporter asked if it was time to declare an end to this model of large-scale monoculture tree plantations.
Look out for our next webinar!
Monthly Wrap-Up: May 2022
1 Jun 2022: Looking back at May, floods yet again in Kuala Lumpur: this time, it’s the ‘monsoon break’ where a change in wind direction promotes more clouds. At the same time drainage issues are at fault. Nonetheless, interim measures like pumps worked to mitigate the floods, while RM15b is earmarked for longer-term solutions.
World Migratory Bird Day last month highlighted growing light pollution’s impact on birds. Folks can try turning off lights in migratory bird areas – Malaysia has 55 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, one being a lovely, peaceful haven for migratory shorebirds near Kuching in Sarawak.
Meanwhile, activists are concerned about the approval of a rare-earth mining project in Hulu Perak that could impact water, soil and biodiversity. The 2,161 ha area includes forest reserves that are still forested. We ask if there are solutions post-project.
Looking ahead to June, World Oceans Day is on the 8th. Look out for our pieces on the climate crisis and corals. Also join activities in Sabah (Eco Diver course in Semporna for youths), Terengganu (beach cleanup in Dungun) and online, WWF Malaysia’s Monday Blues series on marine issues.
“Open and respectful atmosphere for learning and exchange”
27 April 2022: Ten journalists walk into a room. They can only be up to no good. But a good time was had by all. This was Macaranga’s Environmental Reporting Workshop on writing for impact held on 25 and 26 April.
In lively, participatory and enquiring sessions, they covered the gamut of environmental journalism. This ranged from story framing and reporting to writing and putting a pitch together.
Through presentations and discussions, analysis and even talking writing about each other, it was a great workshopping experience for both participants and trainers.
“I appreciate the open and respectful atmosphere you created for learning and exchange. The workshop is also well-paced,” said one, without us paying them to say it (although we did pay for lunch).
The group was an interesting mix of journalists and writers from established media and freelancers. And they each produced a story framework and story pitch to which everyone tore apart gave constructive feedback.
We look forward to great stories from all of them!
Monthly Wrap-Up: April 2022
27 April 2022: The Klang MP and residents are threatening to sue the government after December’s devastating floods. This is an outcome of a seminar earlier in the month called ‘The Impact of Climate Change on Coastal Areas like Klang’, organised by the MP’s office.
We look in the April wrap-up at the outcomes of the seminar.
We also discuss the raising in the Pahang State Assembly sitting about the questionable management of forest plantations in the state. Macaranga‘s #LadangHutan series was quoted.
The state government issued a press statement about area planted, but what do their numbers actually mean?
Finally, we look ahead to the International Day of Biodiversity on May 22. The UN has presented 22 actions to take to help biodiversity. We look at some usual and some quite unusual actions.
Longlisted for Independent Media Award
10 April: Macaranga Media have been longlisted for the Special Award for global south independent media by One World Media.
We are thrilled and humbled to be in such esteemed company. It’s a big up for environmental journalism and a local Malaysian independent media outfit.
Monthly Wrap-Up: March 2022
29 March 2022: We kick off our March environmental wrap-up with the long-awaited amendments to the Forestry Act of Peninsular Malaysia. They cover 3 areas:
- Harsher penalties for breaching forestry laws
- A public inquiry (siasatan awam)must be conducted before removing areas from permanent reserved forests
- Gazetting replacement areas of equal size to excised areas.
And finally, we discuss the significance of Suhakam’s roundtable on the haze, following a pioneering filing of a complaint by the Cerah Anti-Haze Coalition to them for public inquiry into haze pollution as a human rights violation.
A Joyous Month, This March
28 March 2022: Macaranga has been receiving lots of encouragement in the last few weeks. We are happy to share our joy with you. Here’s what happened in chronological order:
10 March: We applied for and were accepted for another year’s Rainforest Investigations Network (RIN) fellowship for our reporter Law Yao Hua. Law was also a RIN fellow in 2021/2022 during which he investigated if forest plantations in Peninsular Malaysia were sustainable (quick answer: no). For 2022/2023, he will investigate a large area of forest loss that appears to be unaccounted for in official statistics.
11 March: Part 2 our #ladanghutan investigation series was selected by GIJN for its weekly “Top 10 in Data Journalism”. There is plenty of data in Part 2, and GIJN specifically pointed out charts that “show the increasing rate of logging in comparison to the declining rate of replanting, as well as which states are falling behind.” The story also has an app that helps readers visualise 256,769 hectares – the area cleared from forest reserves since 2007 for the sake of forest plantations.
17 March: Shortlisted for the Sigma Awards 2022 as part of the Rainforest Investigations Network portfolio entry! The Sigma Awards is one of the most esteemed awards for data journalism. Winners will be announced in April. Our contribution to the portfolio was our 2021 story that revealed how the Orang Asli villagers of Kampung Berenggoi and Kampung Mesau in Pahang were allegedly misled into signing consent letters for clear-felling and oil palm projects in their forests. The villagers recently told Macaranga that clear-felling continues, although the oil palm project’s EIA report was rejected in September 2021.
19 March: We won our first award! The jury for the Said Zahari Young Journalist Award 2022 picked our September 2021 story “Cut, Carved, Cleared: When Big Forests Go”. Organised by Pusat Sejarah Rakyat, the Said Zahari Award recognises the best story that “highlights the principles of social justice, stimulates civil discourse, and has the potential to bring about positive change in society.” Pak Said championed press freedom and the interests of the commoner, and he paid dearly for his principles. Macaranga is immensely honoured to receive this award.
Monthly Wrap-Up: February 2022
6 March 2022: In our February #MonthlyWrapUp, we look at the gardeners of the forest, wild pigs. Also, detecting smuggled wildlife, the good news of a possible new species of gibbon and environment on the agenda for the Johor elections.
Links to discussion:
* Traffic’s reports on rhino horns confiscated in South Africa and Malaysian arrested and Pos Malaysia training
* Genetic assessments point to a potentially new species of white handed gibbons in Peninsular Malaysia, as announced by Perhilitan.
* Our coverage of African Swine Fever’s impacts on wild pigs in Sabah, using data: Where are all the Sabah Pigs?
Monthly Wrap-Up: January 2022
3 February 2022: In our first monthly wrap-up of 2022, we try to figure out how politicians can say the darnednest things (apologies to Amir Muhamad).
Last month, a Minister said at an oil palm meeting that orangutan attack people; and a state forestry director backed by a deputy Menteri Besar ‘referred’ to scientific research to say that logging was good for tigers.
Were these taken out of context? Is there political manipulation of the outrage from conservationists? Have these statements from public officials increased rather than minimised the perception damage to palm oil and sustainable logging?
Marine wildlife also took a beating last month with 5 green sea turtles found dead all over Terengganu. The causes of death were a what’s what of the multiple threats to these ancient reptiles.
Finally, we highlight the Kuala Lumpur Joint Statement on Tiger Conservation which is a global commitment to stabilise and increase wild tiger numbers and their prey in their historical ranges.
This new lunar Year of the Tiger, we hope this will work in Malaysia to reverse the dwindling population of our 150 remaining tigers.
Annual Wrap-Up: 2021
13 December 2021: We look back at the big environmental news and issues of 2021 in Malaysia with Juliet Jacobs of Earth Matters on BFM89.9FM.
It has been a year of policy and legislation changes that are good for the environment, but mixed in with that is less good news on the ground. We cover forest-use, wildlife, climate and governance, and for 2022, we really hope for good and stable governance and good handling of COVID-19.
Thank you, Juliet and BFM!
‘Let’s Talk With Sharaad Kuttan’ x Macaranga
11 December 2021: What goes into environmental journalism? Are elephants magical? Aren’t Sprouts taugeh? TV host Sharaad Kuttan talks to Macaranga co-founder Siew Lyn and Macaranga Sprouts journalist Natasha Zulaikha on his show ‘Let’s Talk’ on Astro Awani.
Watch it here.
Monthly Wrap-Up: November 2021
9 December 2021: November was all about pledges. First, Malaysia’s pledge at COP26 to stop deforestation by 2030. The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use has 140 signatories as of 12 November. It’s a good move but not legally binding. Also, stopping forest loss doesn’t mean the end of cutting forests in Malaysia.
Malaysia also signed the Global Methane Pledge at COP26, along with 110 other countries as of 26 November. The pledge is to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 compared to its level in 2020. Malaysia’s main methane sources are the oil and gas sector, palm oil mill effluents, and solid waste.
FInally, we try to figure out how carbon credits work, and what this form of trading is all about, especially for Malaysia.
A Macaranga story in Sin Chew Daily – our first in a Chinese print daily on 17 Nov 2021 (and a first local Chinese daily byline for Siew Lyn after 30 years in the business!) Thank you, Sin Chew!
Monthly Wrap-Up: October 2021
25 October 2021: The tabling of the Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill 2010 on 11 October was definitely a highlight of October, so it headlines our wrap-up. Much delayed, the Bill sees an increase of penalties ranging from a maximum of RM50,000 to RM200,00 and jail sentences of up to 3 to 5 years, depending on the crime.
Meanwhile, Malaysia has set the most ambitious timeline in ASEAN to reach net-zero carbon emissions: 2050, at the earliest. Indonesia’s timeline is 2060, Thailand 2065, Singapore hasn’t set a deadline. Will it work?
Finally, we cover the bad floods and landslides in Sabah. Similar to Yan, Kedah, a landslide has devastated an area in Sugud and affected villagers allege it is linked to highland clearing for a 2,300ha rubber project by a state body.
18 October 2021: Our reporting is capturing the attention of larger media platforms and research groups.
In recent weeks, our stories on deforestation in Pahang and Johor were cited in stories published by The Vibes (29 September) and Mongabay (13 October); SCMP also commissioned a shorter, more global version (17 October) of our Jemaluang-Tenggaroh story.
Our in-depth reporting of deforestation by YP Olio Sdn Bhd and Nadi Mesra Sdn Bhd also prompted Chain Reaction Research – a palm oil supply chain monitoring platform – to feature these companies in their 2021 half-year summary.
A Conversation with the Forestry Department
9 October 2021: We held a 2-hour discussion with the Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia on 7 October. The Department invited us to present the analyses and findings in our story “Forest Management in Peninsular Malaysia – You Decide”.
When we first received the invitation, we weren’t sure what to expect. No government agency has (officially) given us feedback on our work. We accepted the invitation in the hope that it would be a mutually helpful discussion.
We are glad that it turned out so. Also, it was great for YH and SL to meet physically again!
Dato’ Hj Zahari Ibrahim, deputy director-general (Policy and Planning), led the session. He was joined by about 15 foresters, mostly based at the Kuala Lumpur HQ.
We had an open and respectful conversation. The Department expressed their concerns and opinions with our story. And while we explained our story, we also suggested ways that the Department can help improve journalism and get their messages across too (e.g., responding to enquiries).
The Department pointed out some valid weaknesses in our reporting, and we welcomed them to write a response to the story which we will print in full. Our readers would greatly benefit from such open discussion.
We don’t know how often such fruitful discussion happen between government agencies and the media (especially small outfits like Macaranga), but we would love to see more of it.
We thank Dato’ Zahari for extending the invitation and his team for the discussion, and to Puan Izaidah Talib for handling our visit with efficiency and much courtesy.
Monthly Wrap-Up: September 2021
27 September 2021: State governments have the final say in the use and management of their state’s natural resources. We look back at how two states are handling this:
- Selangor’s clumsy and confusing handling of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve 12 August degazettement and subsequent u-turn due to overwhelming public and political pressure.
- Pahang’s passing on 25 August of bills concerning protected areas gazetted under state laws: RUU Perbadanan Taman Negeri Pahang 2021 (Pahang State Park Corporation Bill) & RUU Majlis Biodiversiti Pahang (Pahang Biodiversity Council Bill).
We also commend the Department of WIldlife and National Parks, Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan) for seizures of illegal traded wildlife, and ask folks to look out for activities related to Malaysia Environment Day on October 21.
Zoos and Seahorses
16 September 2021: So the Consumer Association Association of Penang called for zoos to close in this “modern age”.
To discuss this, BFM89.9 Radio invited Siew Lyn to discuss the role of zoos and wildlife conservation in this challenging age, which she prefers to call The Anthropocene.
Her discussion was based on her stories last year on the impact of Covid and the MCOs on zoos. She interviewed zookeepers, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia & conservationists.
Siew Lyn also appeared on BFM’s ‘Earth Matters’ with Malaysian seahorse guru Dr Adam Lim to chit-chat with producer Juliet Jacobs about the conservation of these fascinating fish. Read Siew Lyn’s feature here.
Monthly Wrap-Up: August 2021
31 August 2021: We remember and pay tribute to conservationist Balu Perumal, who passed away from COVID-19 on August 6; he was 55. The segment includes an audio clip of him too.
Go to our website to read a moving tribute to him by his former charges, all still conservationists 20 years later. (Our 6 August blog below is our tribute to Balu)
We also cover highlands which are tricky to develop, live on and be too close to; climate change adds to that risk. We talk about the Gunung Jerai landslides and the announced European-themed amusement park on Cameron Highlands.
31 August 2021: We’ve been on radio lots! Thanks BFM89.9FM!
Yao Hua talking about environmental journalism on ‘Live & Learn’
Siew Lyn gushing over naturalist Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’ in the August ‘Book Club’
Rest in peace, dear Balu Perumal
6 August 2021: Sad, terrible news. Balu Perumal, Head of Conservation at Malaysian Nature Society, has passed away due to COVID.
Balu has been instrumental in the reporting for some of Macaranga‘s biggest stories. He was a busy man giving his best to conserve our country’s natural heritage, and yet he always responded promptly to our questions.
He gave us time even when he didn’t know us personally and Macaranga was new. We are immensely grateful for his trust and help.
And we had many more questions to ask of him. But alas, environmental journalists in Malaysia have lost an inspiring, cheerful, and helpful source.
In one of his many chats with us, Balu told us:
“We (MNS) have always been in the front mind of monitoring and trying to protect (forests). But being a NGO there’s only so much that you can do. Because (we are) not authorised to manage these forests, we are not authorised to protect or conserve them…
So this has been our ongoing effort and also struggle…When people ask us how successful are we now as MNS, I would say we are still failing. If you look at the situation of the forest and also the you know amount of forest cover that we have, we are failing the Malaysian public.
But we are trying very hard.
When we first started we are maybe the only NGO but now there are many NGOs, so I think the way to move forward is we need to consolidate. All of us have the same objective here to address deforestation in this country.”
Thank you very much, Balu. Rest in peace.
Monthly Wrap-Up: July 2021
29 July 2021: In this month’s wrap-up, we look back at how Lynas are seeking a new site to build their permanent disposal facility for their radioactive waste. Their previous application for a site in Bukit Ketam was rejected by the federal authorities in April.
Now a government September deadline to build the facility is approaching. Lynas is reportedly considering a facility just next to their current location. How would this meet (or not) the public’s concern for human and environmental safety?
Meanwhile, a new plant discovered in Terengganu is named after the mother of Dome Nikong, its Malaysian discoverer. The fairy lantern Thismia sitimeriamiae belongs to a group of unusual plants with no leaves.
The taxonomy and naming is done by local and international scientists, a good example of real international collaboration.
First Macaranga article in Bahasa Malaysia
29 June 2021: We published our first piece in Bahasa Malaysia! Pembasmian Hutan di Pahang Menghambat Hak Tanah Orang Asli is a translation of a piece in English first carried on Southeast Asia Globe. Adriana Nordin Manan, the translator did a great job, and we also edited the piece closely.
We are grateful to the Pulitzer Centre’s Rainforest Investigative Network support for Yao-Hua for the article and for covering the translator’s fees.
Monthly Wrap-up: June 2021
29 June 2021: Free, prior, informed consent – this is needed from Orang Asal before logging and land conversion can take place in customary lands. But are they only words? In our monthly wrapup, we explore cases that were in the news last month.
Orang Asli in Pahang
Eight representatives from this and another village signed letters by the developer in the presence of JAKOA government officials. Four of the representatives say they thought the letters were for houses, not permission to log and replant on their land.
The company refutes allegations of fraud and misrepresentation. The matter is being investigated by the Department of Environment, who is also reviewing the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.
Kenyah and Penan in Sarawak
In Sarawak, a year-long dispute over consent between Orang Asal in Miri and Limbang, and timber company Samling, is now going to dispute resolution. Two forest lots on customary lands have received certification for sustainable logging.
The natives say they were never shown EIAs and dispute the validity of the certification. The company says they adhered to all certification requirements. Hence, the dispute resolution exercise; the panel is independent of certification bodies, government and communities.
Looking ahead, with the Emergency due to end on 1 August, we emphasise – again – the need for Parliament and state assemblies to sit soon.
Environmental sectors such as zoos, research and ecotourism are suffering and the government needs to be held accountable for expenditure and decision-making.
Monthly Wrap-up: May 2021
1 June 2021: Looking back at May, forests and zoonotic diseases were in the headlines. And in June, we look forward to World Environment Day’s ecosystem restoration activities and webinars.
Conserving mangroves is top priority because they are unique ecosystems which cannot be replicated. The Forestry Department of Penang knows that well – they aim to more than double the area of mangrove forest reserves by gazetting another 428 hectares this year.
As of now, monkey malaria is more of a concern – the disease is transmitted from macaques to humans by mosquitoes. Since 2007, monkey malaria has infected more than 20,000 people and killed more than 50 in Malaysia.
Monkey malaria emerges when forests are cut: scientists have found that in Sabah, monkey malaria cases spike a few years after deforestation.
We are living with zoonotic diseases – diseases that jump from animals to humans. So we need a strong public health system which includes early and frequent detection.
World Environment Day 2021
Looking ahead, World Environment Day on June 5 sees the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. In Malaysia, the federal government launched in January 2021 a campaign to plant 100 million trees by 2025.
A well-participated public webinar on the campaign on 25 May showed encouraging support for the initiative, although many participants also asked about the conundrum of planting trees while natural forests continued to be cleared.
The deputy director-general of Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia promised a forthcoming webinar that focuses on forest plantations.
Here are some World Environment Day events to look forward to:
- GEC’s Ecosystem Restoration Journey on Friday, 4 June 2021 at 10am (Global Environment Centre).
- Envisioning the Future of Effective Wildlife Conservation in Malaysia on Saturday, 5 June 2021 at 10am (The Habitat Foundation & Society for Conservation Biology Malaysia Chapter)
- Exploring Strategies for Bringing Back Our Rare Animals on Saturday, 5 June 2021 at 8pm (BORA & The Habitat Foundation)
Our Stories carried by WWF, Pulitzer Centre and Southeast Asia Globe
1 June 2021: Pleased to announce that our stories have appeared on other platforms: (1) WWF Asia-Pacific republished our story on fish -bombing in Sabah (2) Southeast Asia Globe carried our feature on decreasing forest loss in Malaysia, which also appeared on (3) the portal of the Pulitzer Centre, whose Rainforest Investigative Network grant made this story possible.
Monthly Wrap-up: April 2021
27 April 2021: Malaysia is losing less and less forest every year: yes it’s true, according to Global Forest Watch who uses data from stallites that peer down on actual forest cover on the ground.
In our wrap-up, we discuss their latest report which was posted on 31 March. Then click here as we try to figure out how it is our forest loss is reducing. Hint: Is it oil palm? Hint: It’s complicated.
In other news, we are pleased to form a new co-publishing relationship with China Dialogue. We co-published a feature on tackling fish-bombing in Sabah on our site and theirs. It is also the first piece of ours translated into Mandarin. Look out for more multi-lingual pieces in the coming year!
Monthly Wrap-up: March 2021
Meanwhile in Sabah, an anti-poaching raid saw 14 men arrested, including policemen and allegedly one ex-MP.
Climate change youth group Klima Action Malaysia carefully chose the Tugu Negara for the global climate strike; among other things, they declared “No” to a political Emergency and “Yes” to a climate Emergency.
#ForestFiles on Radio and TV
6 April 2021: IN THE last couple of months, we have had our #ForestFiles In-Depth series covered on radio and TV. The 4-part series covers the drivers of deforestation in Peninsular Malaysia.
Many thanks to Juliet Jacobs of ‘Earth Matters’ on BFM89.9 FM and Sharaad Kuttan and Melisa Idris of ‘Consider This’ on Astro Awani, as well as all the guests who appeared with Yao-Hua, the series’ principal investigator and writer.
Consider This: Environment ~ Is forest protection inadequate? (9 March 2021) Featuring Lim Teck Wyn, Resource Stewardship Consultants https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzQr-S4Vqj0
Forest Files Findings Part 1: Who Decides on Forest Use? (15 February 2021): Who has the final say over what happens to our forests here in Peninsular Malaysia? Featuring: Adrian Yeo, Selangor State Government.
Forest Files Findings Part 2: Is Sustainable Logging Sustainable? (22 February 2021): Does certification promote sustainable logging and sustainable forestry? Featuring: Siti Syaliza Mustapha, Malaysian Timber Certification Council.
Forest Files Findings Part 3: Strategies and Solutions for Sustainable Forestry (1 March 2021): What more can be done to improve forest use, in line with the needs of all the different stakeholders involved? Featuring: Balu Perumal, Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and Surin Suksuwan, the Southeast Asia Regional Director at ProForest.
Monthly Wrap-up: February 2021
24 February 2021: WHY IS there scepticism when government agencies win awards? And environmental awards at that. Well, in this Monthly Wrap-up with BFM Radio 89.9, we discuss why winning the prestigious Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards is a win for the environment.
The international award was bestowed to (1) Perhilitan and the Royal Malaysian Police Taskforce involved in Operasi Bersepadu Khazanah for impact in wildlife crime, and (2) the Enforcement Division, Department of Environment, Malaysia for collaboration in tackling plastic pollution.
Of the many implications, mainstreaming these efforts raises public awareness of these crimes. Hopefully, it also encourages resource allocation to these efforts – never a given.
Finally, it’s a signal that it pays for new governments to continue with good policies and programmes even if they were started by the previous government.
Check in with us again on the last Monday of March for our next Monthly Wrap-Up!
2021 = 2020 2.0?
26 January 2021: WITH high Covid-19 numbers, political uncertainty and an MCO, the start of 2021 feels like an endless loop of 2020. With massive floods thrown in. Our first Monthly Wrap-Up of the year with BFM89.9 Radio necessarily addresses this.
MCO 2.0: With the Ministry of Health indicating that the curve won’t be flattened until May 2021, environmental sectors are again going to be affected. Macaranga will be keeping an eye again on the impact. Our reports from last year are here.
Emergency: The suspension of Parliament and state assembly sittings is troubling. When are laws going to be made and amended and policies drawn up? In particular, our hobbyhorses are the amendments to the Forestry and Wildlife Acts. But crucially, how are checks and balances going to be carried out? Read how forestry management decisions are made here.
Floods: The devastating floods early this month prompted many environmental NGOs and academics to denounce logging as the cause of the floods. They found themselves at loggerheads with the Kelantan Menteri Besar who blamed the monsoon instead. Surprisingly, the evidence is mixed. While a 2005 report that analysed global data found little support that forest cover prevents major floods, another 2016 report of local Malaysian data showed that forest cover loss increases flooding days. Both reports however support the need to better manage river basins, not just forests per se.
Supporting conservation: Back to MCO 2.0, the lockdown is increasing both disconnection from nature and challenges for environmental organisations. We urge folks to go online to keep associating with nature virtually; and at the same time, we give a shout out to some groups (and there are more!):
- Rimba – ‘Limestone in the Limelight’ series in conjunction with the International Year of Caves and Karst
- Malaysian Nature Society – Tapir Talks: Communities and Urban Forests Feb 1
- Habitat Malaysia – virtual talks: How to be a Successful Hornbill Feb 2
- Malaysian Youth Delegation – upcoming survey on water and climate change
- Marecet – 10th anniversary: support their research
- WWF Malaysia – green turtle research internship in Terengganu (this is actually in person)
29 December, 2020: IN OUR 2020 Wrap-Up with BFM89.9 Radio, we look back at the key issues of 2020, and try hard to include positives too:
Obviously, the impact of Covid-19 on environmental sectors has been big.
In ecotourism, jobs have been lost but the jury is still out on whether resource extraction has gone up. On the bright side, technology has come in to save the day.
In conservation, funding and research have been disrupted; how bad job losses are is still unclear.
But as the economy ramps up again, emissions will return to and even exceed pre-Covid-19 levels.
We relooked water cuts in the Klang Valley and Johor with a nod to the 2019 Sungai Kim Kim river pollution disaster.
Basically, authorities are struggling to monitor river quality. Malaysia has 3,000 rivers: only 638 or 21% are monitored.
The culprits are numerous, ranging from licensed and unlicensed rivers factories, to sand-mining operations, farms, sewage treatment plants and landfill leachate.
However, there are solutions, including multi-million ringgit real-time early monitoring systems in industrial estates, amending laws for longer jail terms and the definition of contamination.
More folks are turning to lawsuits.
Forestry and Wildlife Acts
Amendments to both these Acts were meant to have been tabled this year. They have not.
With forest loss continuing during the MCO, amendments are badly needed to include compulsory public consultation before permanent reserve forest excisions and the simultaneous replacement of these forests.
Updated wildlife laws are needed to keep up with the action being taken to address poaching. Jail terms are expected to be increased from 2 years to 15 years, maximum fines from RM100,000 to RM1 million and crucially, the inclusion of online wildlife trade.
Bouquets to Juliet Jacobs at ‘Earth Matters’ for having us on monthly for the environmental Wrap-Up. See y’all on the last Monday of January 2021!
All things bright and beautiful and the pandemic
17 December, 2020 [by Siew Lyn] : HUGE thanks to Astro Awani’s ‘Consider This’ for having me on to chat about the continued impact of Covid-19 on environmental sectors in Malaysia.
This conversation is crucial in light of the recently-released IPBES scientific report on biodiversity and pandemics. The report stated that all the drivers of biodiversity loss and climate change are the same drivers of pandemics such as Covid-19.
In fact, if these drivers are not urgently addressed, pandemics, will “spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than COVID-19”.
Very pleased to share the slot with sun bear expert Wong Siew Te who was quoted in 2 Taking Stock stories.
Thanks again, Sharaad Kuttan, Melisa Idris and Hafiz Marzukhi and I’ll end with Sharaad’s quotable “God forbid you try and save an animal that is ugly”.
Monthly Wrap-Up: November 2020
Catch you next month on BFM89.9 Radio on the last Monday, 28 December, for a look back at that ‘wonderful year’ that was 2020 (what’s the bet it will involve water cuts…)
In other news, huge thanks to Malaysiakini for running our Insight on how 64 researchers have the science to back the conservation of Batu ‘It’s More Than A Temple’ Caves: https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/551232
30 October, 2020: MACARANGA has achieved much over the last seven days.
First, we delivered Macaranga’s first newsletter on 23 October. Finally we have a way to reach our readers directly (or at least their mailboxes).
We toyed with the idea of a newsletter for almost a year, but we had little time for anything other than stories and grant applications (we won two!).
And when we got down to it, MailChimp was easy enough (and its interface works quite like our website builder WordPress’) that we finished the newsletter in a couple of days.
The newsletters introduce Macaranga stories to our subscribers. But there will be more.
Going forward, we will make the newsletter more personalised and hopefully reward subscribers with unique access to our stories or projects.
Click the link below to subscribe to our newsletter. Share it widely.
Second, over 50 subscribers signed up for our newsletters within 12 days. I’d call that a good start.
Almost all our subscribers come from Malaysia. I’d expected the group to be populated by conservationists, but there were only about 15 of them, and I was happy to be wrong.
The rest were students, lawyers, journalists, communication officers and teachers, among others.
Third, we published a story on new development in Fraser’s Hill written by our new contributing writer, Pashmina Binwani.
Pashmina is a travel writer and PR specialist in Malaysia. In late September, she pitched us a story about the contentious new hotel in Fraser’s Hill.
Although the issue had been widely reported, and Pashmina was new to journalistic reporting, I sensed promise in her.
I called her to explain (at length) how reporting works and how we work (no pay, yet).
My call might have discouraged some aspiring writers, but not Pashmina. “Alright, let’s give this a try,” I thought.
We are happy with the result – especially since Pashmina interviewed the many parties involved, including the developer and the town planner recruited to chart Fraser’s Hill future.
Fourth, we spoke on BFM89.9’s Earth Matters for our October Wrap-up. The achievement here is that we managed to close the show at <14 minutes!
We addressed the seemingly monthly ordeal of river pollution and water cuts in Selangor, and the town hall on the proposed degazettement of the North Kuala Langat Permanent Forest Reserve.
We also called attention to the environmental aspects of Budget 2021 which will be tabled on 6 November. The government is apparently injecting a ‘sustainability agenda’ in the Budget.
Meanwhile, read our story on what conservationists want to see in the Budget.
The right(s) stuff
16 October, 2020: WHEN YOUR heart goes pitter-patter and it’s not love, it’s because you are in an event hosted by the Bar Council of Malaysia.
I (Siew Lyn) was invited as a panelist to kick off a webinar series on environmental rights by the Bar Council Environment and Climate Change Committee (BCECCC) yesterday.
Called EnviroRights, the series aims to address “whether normal citizens like you and me have a right to be involved with the environment and how it is managed, what those rights are, how to protect them and why bother doing so.”
But of course, the participants weren’t exactly just you and me. Half of the over-160 participants were lawyers, a fact organisers shared with me just before going live. (It turned out at the end that 60% were lawyers)
It’s a good thing the panel also included Jessica Binwani, legal consultant to the Consumers’ Association Of Penang and Sahabat Alam Malaysia, and Tan Sri Dr Salleh Mohd Nor, former Director-General of the Forest Research Institute Malaysia and former President of the Malaysian Nature Society.
Thanks to meticulous prep by the organising team and skilful moderation by a fellow journalist Norman Goh, all went very well. I shared my views, both personally and from the media perspective.
My closing remark: “If I, who am a non-lawyer, can – perhaps foolishly – take part in a forum like this about environmental rights, everyone can do something about the environment.
“I can’t ‘lawyer’. But I can speak to lawyers about laws and rights. And I have a tool and that is the ability to write. So I choose to use that tool. I choose to write as a way to engage, to voice out.
“And everyone can use their tools and everyone can choose to voice out.”
EnviroRights Episode 0: Sg Kim Kim and then Sg Gong – Do We Have The Right To Be Angry? For more information on the series, check out the BCECCC Facebook.
Monthly wrap-up: September 2020
29 September 2020: SEPTEMBER’S sudden disruption of water supply to 1.2 million households in the Klang Valley and Selangor begs the question of what authorities are doing about the long-time and well-reported status of river quality.
With 43% of rivers in the peninsula slightly polluted, 11% polluted, do we need harsher penalties for offenders or just better enforcement to catch the offenders?
Meanwhile, as COVID-19 cases surge, dimming hopes of tourism revival, communities relying on ecotourism are hitting hard times.
On the Mantanani islands, locals learn new skills and trades to make up for lost tourism revenue. What works and not there could inform the rest of the country.
Looking ahead, World Migratory Bird Day 2020 is celebrated the second time this year on 10 October. Malaysia has lots of bird-watching sites, but volunteer also to research those under threat.
Catch you next month on the last Monday, 26 October, for our next wrap-up!
Ecotourism insights featured
15 September 2020: OUR TWO-PART Insight on the impact of Covid-19 on ecotourism in Sabah featuring the Kinabatangan floodplain and Mantanani island also appear on the Earth Journalism Network website (Part 1 and Part 2).
Orang Asli and food resilience
2 September 2020: THE NEWS team at BFM Radio 89.9 interviewed Siew Lyn as a follow-up to her story Back to the jungle? The myth of indigenous community resilience.
The interview will appear in audio clips in the station’s hourly news bulletins over the next few weeks.
Among other things, they wanted to know about whether Orang Asli’s incomes have been restored and the status of issues revealed by the pandemic including connectivity to broader Malaysia and data gaps in demographics.
Monthly wrap-up: August 2020
31 August, 2020: WHY DID the elephant cross the road? It’s their right of passage. Or is it? We discuss what happens when elephants and humans disagree, in our August monthly wrap-up.
The gist is that elephants are always moving across the landscape for food. As they travel through the mosaic of forests, farms, houses and roads, they might damage property. Many locals respect elephants but can’t afford the losses.
For now, the authorities capture and relocate troublesome elephants, and advise people to stay away.
Malaysia needs better long-term solutions for human-elephant co-existence.
We also look at the shelving of the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act. Following stakeholder consultations by the previous government in September 2019, the law would have eschewed being a copy-and-paste of the Singapore law and it would mitigate Asean sensitivities.
But those reasons are the very ones being used by the current government to put the law on ice. More information here:
- Press statements by Cerah Asia and Bar Council Malaysia
- Petition to continue with the Act
- Analysis by Reuters
Looking ahead to September, the state-wide Sabah elections will be the first real test of support for the Perikatan Nasional government. We discuss the implications of a government change for conservation.
This is in light of Sabah having the largest forested area in the country, also how ecotourism is closely tied to protected areas and needs to be revived for livelihoods and conservation.
In other news, thank you to the Star for running our feature on Orang Asli and food resilience. Another showing of the great photos by Pos Lanai community leader Jeffry Hassan, who is also interviewed.
Read the stories here:
- Malaysia’s Orang Asli want to have food resilience
- Almost all of Malaysia’s Orang Asli are locked into poverty and struggling
Monthly wrap-up: July 2020
30 July 2020: OUR July wrap-up pays tribute to a late, great Malaysian zoologist and asks: could there be another Lim Boo Liat? Both Yao Hua and Siew Lyn have met him and remember him for his knowledge, humility and friendliness.
We also throw a spotlight on Sabah’s upcoming conservation blueprint on the gorgeous Kinabatangan riparian forest. Yao Hua was there just weeks ago and saw elephants, hornbills, proboscis monkeys and orangutans—all in a day. The mosquitoes were ruthless.
Looking ahead to the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, we talk about the continued impact of COVID-19 on local communities. Read more in our Taking Stock Insights on food resilience and Orang Asli and, coming soon, Sama Dilaut.
On our monthly wrap-up, @natashazlkh said on Twitter, “I was listening to it!! Pretty cool stuff!!” When asked what aspects she liked (so we can do more of the same): “The bit about the Sabah government and interdisciplinary research, very subtle way in saying we need to work beyond reaching KPIs”.
Catch you next month on the last Monday, 24 August, for our next wrap-up!
Monthly wrap-up: June 2020
30 June 2020: IT’S the end of June and our monthly wrap-up of all things environment in Malaysia looks at turtles, zoos, forest degazettement and hope for the tabling of environmental bills next month.
We covered zoos as part of our ‘Taking Stock’ feature series, and the forest angle presages a large In-Depth feature we have coming up in the next couple of months.
For our wrap-ups, do check in every last Monday of the month.
Wildlife behind bars
30 June 2020: WHEN millions of ringgit was donated to keep Malaysian zoos going during the height of the Covid-19 crisis, we asked if it was money worth spending.
With zoos being so contentious, both of us had previously written about zoos: Yao Hua in 2014 and Siew Lyn in 1995 (!). This time, we zoomed in on zoos’ and aquaria’s role in conservation (Part 1 and Part 2).
This included asking whether zoos figure in national conservation policies (they do) and how the Department of Wildlife and National Parks of Peninsular Malaysia consider zoos (“relevant” and “important partners”).
Because a Macaranga reader had previously reached out to us, we ended up interviewing him—a marine biologist—for the section on aquaria. He, too, had previously written about wildlife in captivity.
And following the story’s publication, animal rights NGO Friends of the Orangutans got in touch expressing concern about the welfare of captive animals.
Our Insight on wildlife in captivity was also published by Malaysiakini (Part 1 & Part 2) and we spoke about the issue on Astro Awani’s ‘Consider This’ in May as well as in our June monthly wrap-up on BFM Radio’s ‘Earth Matters’ (click above blog entry to listen to it).
Thanks to all our media friends. Thanks also to Earth Journalism Network, who funded this Insight.
Monthly wrap-up: April & May 2020
18 May 2020: MACARANGA is thrilled to launch our monthly wrap-up of key Malaysian environmental stories on BFM 89.9 Radio’s ‘Earth Matters’. Huge thanks to producer Juliet Jacobs and BFM for this opportunity.
For April and May 2020, we talked about the impact of Covid-19 on environmental sectors in conjunction with our ‘Taking Stock’ feature series, and how the world and Malaysia celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar, the Chairperson of Klima Action Malaysia said of our BFM show: “Well done! Can’t wait to hear your (story) on the orang asli issues.”
We (mostly Siew Lyn) can’t wait to write those stories too!
Do check in every last Monday of the month.
People vs The Planet
14 May, 2020: CAN WE prolong environmental gains resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, such as cleaner air, cleaner waters and wildlife on the streets?
Astro Awani’s ‘Consider This’ team of Sharaad Kuttan and Melisa Idris had Macaranga on to discuss this, the impact of the pandemic on environmental sectors and the role of government in maintaining a balance between economic recovery and environmental protection.
We’ll be diving into some of these issues in our ‘Taking Stock’ feature series.
Yao Hua found that speaking for TV was more unsettling than for radio. He needed 99% of his will to speak into the webcam. Were his smiles too much? How could he best peep at his notes? Everyone looked better than him!
Siew Lyn figured post-interview she was channelling committed conservationist and protected area specialist Surin Suksuwan. Do read/watch any of his interviews and writings.
We also got nice feedback from marine biologist Quek Yew Aun.
“Made some good points Btw, I found your comment on zoos in Malaysia quite interesting. I think it’s an interesting story to pick up. I personally think zoos have to be held accountable. I grew up thinking zoos were great for wildlife, but that might not always be the case in Malaysia.”
Look out for our stories on zoos and rehabilitation centers, Quek!
Macaranga’s forest stories shortlisted for Malaysian Press Institute award
22 Jun 2022: Macaranga is pleased to be shortlisted for the Malaysian Press Institute award for environmental reporting. We are humbled to be nominated alongside media giants Malaysiakini, Utusan Malaysia and the New Straits Time.