Category Archives: Insight

Short features 500-1200 words

When Birds Flock to a Bornean Bay

Numbers of endangered migratory shorebirds are growing at Bako-Buntal Bay in Sarawak. But scientists warn the trend could reflect problems elsewhere on the critical East Asian flyway.

THE TIDE comes in quickly. “You have to move, move, move,” says Rose Au. “Within a few minutes, it’s up to your knees!” Coupled with the dangers of getting stuck in the mud or encountering a crocodile, the business of counting birds has never sounded more thrilling.

Au and the other amateur birders of the Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNS) in Sarawak, have been braving these dangers and more for the last 16 years. Their aim: to count the thousands of shorebirds which come to Sarawak every year en route south from their breeding grounds in Siberia.

(Counting shorebirds in Bako-Buntal Bay, Sarawak. Birds stop at the bay every year on their way from Siberia. |  Image: Batrisyia Teepol/MNS)

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潮水涨得很快。“你必须走了,快点,快点,”欧月圆(Rose Au)说。“几分钟水就会涨到你膝盖!” 加上陷入泥沼或者遭遇鳄鱼的危险,这都让统计滨鸟数量这项任务听起来十分惊险。

过去16年,欧和马来西亚自然协会(Malaysian Nature Society,简称 “MNS”)古晋分会在砂拉越的其他业余观鸟者一直勇敢地面对着很多甚至比这些还要危险的状况。他们的目标是:统计每年从西伯利亚繁殖地南迁途经砂拉越的成千上万只滨鸟。

(马来西亚婆罗洲峇哥文丹湾,观鸟者们正在统计滨鸟数量。西伯利亚的候鸟每年南迁途中都会在这里歇脚。 图片来源:Batrisyia Teepol/MNS)

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Locals Feeling Loss of Wild Pigs

African Swine Fever in Sabah has devastated wild pig numbers since February last year. Has this hurt the Kadazandusun-Murut communities, whose livelihood and culture are tied to this wildlife? Part 2 of a series on the impacts of the disease.

LEAN HUNTING dogs eagerly patrol the dirt roads, viewing strangers with caution. Stands of oil palm, rubber and food trees surround houses with zinc roofs. A large cross marks St Bede’s Catholic church.

This is Kampung Pangas Ulu, a village in Keningau, Sabah.

Like all rural indigenous Kadazandusun-Murut (KDM) villages, this kampung was once surrounded by forests. And one forest animal, babi hutan, the Bornean bearded pig (Sus barbatus), was integral to their culture and identity.

(Photo: All dressed up and no pigs to hunt: Ahmed bin Pintin (right) with his buddy and hunting dogs  | Pic by Alven Chang)


Where Are All The Sabah Pigs?

African Swine Fever has devastated wild pig populations in Sabah. To understand its impact on the animals, the forest, and people, data is needed. But counting pigs is tricky. This is Part 1 of a two-parter on the impact of the disease.

IT IS December 2020 and in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, a dead Bornean bearded pig (Sus barbatus) lies on the ground. It was the first of 14 that would be found in the following weeks.

“We knew something was very wrong when more pig carcasses started to pop up,” says Dr Benoit Goossens, director of the Danau Girang Field Center, which is located there.

(Photo: Since ASF, camera trap photos of wild pigs like this one from 2013 are rare | Pic by Danau Girang Field Centre)


Lessons Learned from #HutanPergiMana

An examination of how environmental NGOs banded together and drove public discourse to save the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve from development.

THE MALAYSIAN public almost always has no say over one thing that covers one-third of their country – forest reserves. Going against that norm is the fate of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR) in Selangor. 

Last August, the Selangor state government degazetted 536.7 hectares of the KLNFR. But unrelenting public outcry and political pressure pushed the government to announce it would gazette the reserve again. Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari has since said that the gazettement will be completed within the first three months of 2022.

(Photo: Shaq Koyok (left) and other members of the PHSKLU coalition protesting the degazettement of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve | Pic by Shaq Koyok)

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The True Value of Limestone

Quarrying limestone is worth billions but how does that compare to the ecological, touristic, cultural and historical values of this ecosystem?

DRIVING on the North-South Highway to Batu Gajah, Perak from Kuala Lumpur brings back many childhood memories of my balik kampung ritual.

We would pass limestone hills topped by dipterocarp trees fighting for space at canopy level while the sun created shadows in the hills’ crevices.

These views always made me ask my mother, “Do you think dragons live in these hills and caves?”

(Photo: Perak’s limestone hills are valuable as a source of raw materials for construction but is that all they should be valued for? | Gunung Kanthan pic by Sakyamuni Caves Monastery) 

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What It Takes to Manage Landslides

Floods might hog the current natural disaster news in Malaysia, but landslides are occurring too. Does Malaysia have what it takes to handle landslides?

CARRYING her one-month-old baby, Pricila Gracelyn rushed out from her hillside house in Penampang, Sabah in terror and pain as a big falling tree and cascading mud almost split her home into two.

“I was just about to lay my baby down on the bed when I suddenly heard a loud sound coming from above us. I thought it was thunder,” remembers Gracelyn.

“Maybe it’s my instincts, I carried my baby and escaped from the room, and in a blink [of an eye], our house was destroyed by the landslide.”

(Composite photo: Soil and trees destroyed Gracelyn’s house in Penampang, Sabah in September | Pics by Pricila Gracelyn)

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Coal Can Be Costly – Who’s Paying?

Pieces of coal litter the beach near a jetty that used to transport coal in Port Dickson. (Nicole Fong)

Coal Can Be Costly—Who's Paying?

Text and Photos: Nicole Fong

Editor: YH Law

Published: 22 December 2021

(Cover Photo: Pieces of coal litter the beach by a jetty that was used to transport coal in Port Dickson | Pic by Nicole Fong)

Malaysia favours coal as a cheap source of energy. But for the communities living near the power plants, coal exacts a high price. This is Part 2 of a series that examines coal-use. Read Part 1 here.


Rise of Coal in Malaysia

Malaysia’s dependence on coal stands in the way of the country’s ambition to tackle the climate crisis. This article looks at the numbers behind coal use in Malaysia.

MALAYSIA runs on coal. The black, solid remains of plants that died millions of years ago now make up 43% of our energy supply. 

In 2000, coal contributed to only 7% of our energy mix, but our demand has risen steadily since.

(Photo: The coal-fired Kapar Power Plant in Selangor | Pic by Nicole Fong)

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