Achievements unlocked

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).

Huge thanks to EJN for funding these features as well as our Insights on the impact of Covid-19 on zoos and Orang Asli.

A shoutout also to regional news portal Southeast Asia Globe for running those ecotourism stories (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.

Also, here’s a news thread Yao Hua did on the issue after speaking to three experts (TwitterFacebook).

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:

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:

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”.

Thank you! Do keep letting us know what you want of us on our website, Twitter or Facebook.

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.

Got comments? Contact us on our website, Twitter or Facebook.

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

Source: Astro Awani

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.

Part 1: Protecting Environmental Gains? I Part 2: Ecotourism, Zoos and Research I Part 3: PN’s Environmental Policy Direction?

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 <thumbs up emoji> 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!

A Malaysian Environmental Journalism Site