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)

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Plastic Solutions: It’s Complicated

[ICCB 2019] TWO CORPORATE executives and two conservationists walked into a room. They initially appeared to cross swords. “If we continue with chemical components in our plastic, we will endanger our health,” declared Fabien Cousteau, ocean activist and filmmaker.

But is biodegradable plastic “the magic bullet?” countered Wee Ching Yun, Chairperson, sustainability sub-committee of the Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association. “Will it eliminate all the pollution?”

(Photo: How can different segments of society tackle the plastic pollution crisis that is devastating marine wildlife? Credit: SL Wong)

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Gibbons Still Sing In Merapoh

[ICCB 2019] Gibbon adults in Merapoh, Pahang, are at “fairly good” levels, reveals the latest survey of these small apes. The status of juvenile gibbons however, is still unknown.

That gap in gibbon data causes concern, especially with deforestation in the area, says Adilah Suhailin binti Kamaruzaman, graduate student researcher at Universiti Sains Malaysia and leader of the Merapoh gibbon survey. Adilah presented her findings on 25 July at the International Congress for Conservation Biology, Kuala Lumpur.

(Photo: A Lar gibbon, also called white-handed gibbon, is one of the three species of gibbons found in Peninsular Malaysia. Credit: Gibbon Protection Society Malaysia/Infinim Creative Productions)

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ICCB: All Things Conservation

[UPDATED: 25 August 2019]

HOW TO talk to poachers. Why biodegradable plastic isn’t good enough. When a roadside patch can serve as a natural history classroom.

This was the recent International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) 2019 where Macaranga listened in, asked questions, and took notes. We tweeted and reported on some of the diverse and thought-provoking Malaysia-related topics presented there. (Check out our Twitter feed and follow us!)

Besides an analytical feature on the conference, our reports spotlighted conservationists and new research, showcasing how Malaysia fits into the global conservation landscape. We were also on BFM89.9 radio to discuss the event and its impact on local conservation.

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How Do Turtles Like Their Sand?

[ICCB 2019] For newly hatched green turtles, life starts in the dark. Nine weeks ago, a turtle’s mother would have climbed onshore, dug a hole 50 cm deep, laid more than a hundred eggs inside, then sealed it with sand. Now, the hatchlings must escape from their buried nest and dash to sea.

But does it matter what type of sand hatchlings have to power through to make it to the surface?

(Photo: A green turtle hatchling peeks from inside its shell. Hatchlings have an attached yolk (red) which they absorb over the course of a week. Credit: Lyvia Chong/SEATRU)

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Marine Champion Honoured With Award

[ICCB 2019] The man who was a force behind Malaysia’s marine parks and the region’s Coral Triangle was honoured with an award at the International Congress on Conservation Biology (ICCB) 2019.

For his leadership in “translating principles of conservation biology into real-world conservation”, Kevin Hiew was awarded with the US-based Society for Conservation Biology (SCB)’s Edward T. LaRoe III Memorial Award.

Hiew, 73, is the first Malaysian to win this award.

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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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Where Might Oil Palm Go Next?

[ICCB 2019] In Southeast Asia, oil palm expansion threatens biodiversity and the work of conservationists. Knowing where oil palm might go next then, helps inform conservation, says Molly Hennekam, an applied ecologist at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

(Photo: A composite map of Southeast Asia showing Key Biodiversity Areas and areas of potential oil palm expansion. “Suitability” here refers only to ecological factors like climate and soil. Credit: Hennekam, Sarira, Koh)

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In the Murky Waters of Brunei Bay, Turtles Feed

[ICCB 2019] There were two key facts that turtle expert Juanita Joseph of the Borneo Marine Research Institute wished she had known about the murky waters of Brunei Bay. The first was that hundreds of green turtles fed in the bay; the second was that crocodiles swam in the same water.

Today, the turtles keep drawing Joseph back to the bay, and the crocodiles keep her out of the water — unless necessary.

(Photo: To catch turtles in Brunei Bay, Juanita Joseph used nets called ‘kabat’ to trap turtles at the mouth of estuaries. Joseph learned the method from local fishermen. Credit: Juanita Joseph)

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