Category Archives: Insight

Short features 500-1200 words

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)

Continue reading Back to the jungle? The myth of indigenous community resilience

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)

Continue reading Saving zoos during Covid-19 crisis – should we? (Pt 2)

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)

Continue reading Saving zoos during Covid-19 crisis—should we? (Pt 1)

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)

Continue reading Of Strikes and Science

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)

Continue reading Climate Action: Youth-Led, Not Youth-Only

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)

Continue reading Racing to Save a Plantation of Rare Trees

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)

Continue reading A Final Home for Lynas’ Waste?

In Defence of Orang Asli Rights

[First published Sept 26, 2019; updated Jul 3, 2021]

On Sept 25, the court heard an injunction application to stop private entities from logging and farming in Temiar customary land in Kelantan. This is the latest hearing related to the first legal action taken by the Malaysian federal government on behalf of Orang Asli regarding land rights. SL Wong and Darshana Dinesh Kumar report.

CAN YOU imagine having to barricade your home to prevent its destruction? That is what forest-based indigenous communities in Sabah and Sarawak have had to resort to for almost 40 years.

In Peninsular Malaysia, the Temiar Orang Asli community were forced to do so for the first time in 2012. The Gua Musang, Kelantan, communities started setting up barricades after repeatedly failing to resolve land use conflicts with the state government, federal agencies and companies. 

(Photo: The Pos Simpor community at the July Kota Bharu High Court hearing of the Kelantan state government’s application to strike out the AG’s suit. Courtesy of Siti Kasim)

Continue reading In Defence of Orang Asli Rights

The Lynas License Renewal: What Does It Mean?

ON 15 AUGUST 2019, Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) released a press statement announcing that they had renewed for 6 months the operating license of rare earths producer Lynas Malaysia. This renewal carries three conditions.

Each time Lynas’ license comes up for, or is renewed, it is a political hot potato. Supporters for and against renewals have protested on the streets to voice their environmental and economic concerns.

And it has become a sticking point as to whether or not the Pakatan Harapan government is keeping its pre-election promises.

To help you better understand the terms and context of this licence renewal, Macaranga dug into the licensing board’s statement as well as previous reports and documents related to Lynas.

(Photo: Lynas Advanced Material Plant, Kuantan, 15 Dec 2018. Credit: Save Malaysia Stop Lynas; Read AELB’s full statement here. Documents cited in this article are listed at the end of the article.)

Continue reading The Lynas License Renewal: What Does It Mean?

When Plastic Hits You In the Gut

WHILE he was undergoing a check-up, marine biologist Dr Yusof Shuaib Ibrahim had a question for his doctor: “Can you observe plastic in the human gut?”

The latter, consultant gastroenterologist Dr Lee Yeong Yeh, said no, but he had also been wondering about this. The two soon started a research project to look into this.

(Photo: What will Malaysian researchers find when they finish looking at the effects of microplastics on the human gut? Credit: Lee Yeong Yeh & Yusof Shuaib Ibrahim; annotated by Macaranga)

Continue reading When Plastic Hits You In the Gut