Category Archives: Opinion

Covid Provides Relief for Wildlife – but Not Really

With new lockdowns and closure of international borders, wildlife has been an increasingly common sight in Malaysia’s urban areas. But what does this mean? This commentary was first published on Channel News Asia and is republished here with permission.

[First posted May 27, 2021]

WHO DOESN’T like animal videos? Malaysians certainly do. 

With unending COVID-19 lockdowns, a subset of these have become social media favourites: Wild animals in urban areas.

Such visuals feed into the pandemic mantra of “Look how nature recovers when we humans are out of the picture”. But how true is that?

(Photo: Visuals of cute animals in human environments have been going viral during Covid-19; this one hasn’t but registers on the cute scale ~ Pic by Nuratiqah AR )

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Geopark Not Just Another Label for Kinabalu

Though already a World Heritage Site, Kinabalu needs geopark status to conserve oft overlooked natural values, argues geologist Felix Tongkul.

MOUNT Kinabalu, Malaysia’s tallest mountain, is now being assessed for UNESCO Global Geopark status. The proposed geopark encompasses not just the mountain, but the park in which it sits as well as the surrounding districts of Kota Belud, Kota Marudu and Ranau, an area of 4,750 square kilometres.

Kinabalu Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

Why is there a need for more recognition for Kinabalu Park from UNESCO? Is the Global Geopark status more superior to the World Heritage Site status? What is so interesting about geoparks? These are valid questions I often hear from my friends.

(Photo: Mount Kinabalu is the only glacial landscape in the tropical region. Glacial erosion from melting ice 10,000 years ago formed these parallel grooves. – Pic by Felix Tongkul.)

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Locals Make Terrapin Conservation Successful

When floods hit Kemaman, terrapin conservationist Chen Pelf Nyok raised funds to help her local partners who had supported conservation.

In early January, floods hit Kemaman, Terengganu, the district where Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia (TCS), the organization I lead, is based.

Many villages were flooded. My husband asked if we should begin raising funds to help the villagers who were our project partners.

I said no.

(Photo: Flood devastated Kemaman, Terengganu, in early January 2021. Pic from Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia.)

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Youth Assembly Platform Empowers Climate Activists

A UN-style Youth Assembly on climate change can give young people a powerful platform to address climate issues, find Kieran Li Nair, Josephine Koay and Lee Ee Jenn of the Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD).

IT WAS 2pm on 12 Dec 2020, the first day of the Youth Assembly, the first-ever Model United Nations-type platform set up solely to discuss climate change issues in Malaysia.

As organisers, we had logged onto the server early and were watching in anticipation as dozens of participant icons lit up.

We had received an impressive 137 signups from 6 different countries, a number unusual even for typical Model United Nations (MUN) events.

(Photo: Youth Assemblies can empower every participant to freely speak their minds. Pic by MYD)

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Islander Partners Improve Resource Management

Locals must be involved in managing their own islands and island resources, says Julian Hyde. It is better for community empowerment and for nature.

“CO-MANAGEMENT of natural resources”: It is in the National Policy on Biological Diversity; it is in the Convention on Biodiversity (of which Malaysia is a signatory); it is in the Sustainable Development Goals.

It is everywhere, except in the communities where it matters most.

(Photo: All together now: Tioman islanders and NGO members remove reef-smothering ghost nets. Pic by Reef Check Malaysia)

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The Pandemic and Our Growing Disconnection from Nature

Forced to stay home from the Movement Control Order, Tan Win Sim reflects on his – and our – deteriorating connection with nature.

A WISPY layer of dust has settled on my binoculars. Much to my dismay, I cannot recall the last time I went out for a stroll down untrodden paths while enjoying the gentle breeze and listening to the cheerful tweets of forest birds.

The Melaka Botanical Garden, just a stone’s throw from my hometown in Jasin, has always been one of my favourite birding spots.

While the Garden’s bird diversity pales in comparison to that of Panti Bird Sanctuary or Endau Rompin National Park, it is still a bird haven in the sprawling urban landscape of Melaka.

(Photo: A Grey-bellied Bulbul taking a dip in a relatively undisturbed forest in Johor. Such a clear stream is almost impossible to find in the Malaysian urban landscape. Pic by Tan Win Sim)

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NGOs Dangerously Stuck In The Rut

Drawing from her environmental experience in three sectors, Ginny SL Ng is concerned that environmental NGOs are not future-proofing themselves.

SO, THE year 2020 has been a blast, hasn’t it? There has been much said and written about the impact of the epidemic and the new normal, and the many communities and sectors that have suffered due to an economy built heavily on travel and consumption.

Unfortunately, one of the sectors that may continue to face such challenges after the pandemic is the non-profit or civil society sector.

(Photo: Being territorial is fine for tigers; less so for NGOs. Pic by Ginny SL Ng)

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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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Talk Less, Listen More

WORDS can punch harder than a fist. Or two. When I was an active researcher, statistics guided my writing. Now, as a journalist, I still collect evidence, but I walk with extra respect and caution.

Five years into this (financially pitiful) career, I’ve learned one thing: A good journalist talks less and listens more. So I do just that. The other way round is bad.

A talk given 23 July at the International Congress for Conservation Biology, Kuala Lumpur, reminded me of the above.

(Photo: Nadine Ruppert presents findings of her SPO Movement survey. Credit: YH Law)

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