Tag Archives: Covid-19

What Conservationists Want In Budget 2021

ACCORDING to the Parliamentary schedule, the Malaysian government will table Budget 2021 in the Parliamentary meeting on 6 November. 

The Budget would reflect the government’s plans to carry the country out of the pandemic woes of 2020. 

Malaysians have had a troubled year. Our lives, economy and national policies were derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic and unexpected changes in the Federal government and state governments of Johor, Melaka, Kedah and Sabah

Many conservation groups struggled to keep finances and operations running.

Amidst the turbulence, Malaysians continue to see our environment degrade: pollution of rivers and coasts; clear-felling and degazettement of forest reserves for economic activities; human-elephant conflicts; and poaching. 

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“The Pandemic Killed Everything We Had Planned”

In their own words, conservationists share their their struggles during the Covid-19 pandemic. Part of Macaranga‘s Taking Stock series, these stories were written based on interviews; all interviewees approved the text.

DR WONG SIEW TE, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

THE PANDEMIC killed everything that we had planned for this year.

We have one major source of revenue – visitors. There are other sources, of course: donations, bear adoption programmes.

But with job losses and the economy deteriorating, it has affected a lot of our supporters.

(Photo: To generate income, Wong Siew Te is offering live virtual tours of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre . Pic: BSBCC)

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Covid-19 Woes Continue for Conservation

Dire finances and stunted activity continue to plague Malaysia’s conservation sector because of Covid-19. Macaranga surveys the landscape in our Taking Stock series.

FROM GAPS in research to the loss of funding and conversely, wider outreach, Malaysian conservation organisations of every size have been impacted by Covid-19.

But what exactly are these impacts? How have the organisations adapted to this crisis? And have they strengthened their resilience against future shocks?

(Photo: Educational activities involving volunteers and groups have been disrupted [Malaysian Nature Society Facebook])

Continue reading Covid-19 Woes Continue for Conservation

Sustainable Islands in the Sun

Sabah’s beautiful islands can be managed so that tourists, nature and local livelihoods co-exist. This is the second of a two-parter on ecotourism in Macaranga’s Taking Stock series. .

FOR YEARS now, mass tourism has been impacting the environmental health of coral islands off Sabah’s west coast. Among them is the Mantanani three-island group, located off the northwestern tip of Borneo.

But there are far fewer tourists now as the pandemic stifles travel. Some islanders are using the lull to try new businesses and better manage their environment.

(Photo: Sun, sea and surf have turned Mantanani into a major tourist draw. Pic by Reef Check Malaysia)

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When Covid Resets Ecotourism

The loss of international tourists due to the Covid-19 pandemic has shackled the ecotourism industry, but is it also bad for conservation? This is the first of a two-parter on ecotourism in Macaranga’s Taking Stock series.

TOUR GUIDE Ahmad Shah Amit had been looking forward to the summer holiday season in Europe. In any other year, European tourists, up to 1,000 a day, would flock to the wildlife-rich Kinabatangan region in Sabah.

There, they would pay locals like Ahmad, popularly know as Tapoh, to show them Bornean pygmy elephants and proboscis monkeys.

(Photo: The popularity of river safaris to catch sight of Borneo’s Big Five helps conserve wildlife. Pic by Cede Prudente)

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Orang Asli and Poverty

VIRTUALLY all the Orang Asli households in the peninsula are in the income bracket of the poorest 40% of Malaysians, says NGO the Center for Orang Asli Concerns.

The centre estimates that 54,600 or 99.29% of all Orang Asli households earn below RM4,000 a month, putting them in the B40 category.

The poverty trap is hard to get out of, according to a 2013 paper, ‘Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia: population, spatial distribution and socio-economic condition’ (Masron et al).

Customary land

The main reason is the dispossession of their native customary land, which has been the source of their livelihoods.

“Deprived of their land, they are increasingly pushed from a subsistence economy into the prevailing cash economy,” the paper reports.

Except for a very small number of groups who are semi-nomads, official reports estimate that around 60% of Orang Asli actually live in or close to urban centres and most are connected to contemporary economies.

According to Masron, some groups have actually done so for hundreds of years.

Economic activities

Currently, the communities’ main economic activities are harvesting and selling forest products such as petai, durian and rattan; managing and selling products from rubber, oil palm or fruit and vegetable smallholdings; and wage jobs in towns and cities.

Still, the majority is not integrated into mainstream society, either by choice or lack of choice due to discrimination and lack of education.

Because of malnutrition and poverty, Orang Asli are also vulnerable to diseases. Access to healthcare remains challenging.

No options

As a result, the government’s pandemic lockdown hit a lot of them hard. “With no income, no access to alternative avenues of income, and no natural food source, their hands are completely tied,” stated the COVID-19 Collective for Orang Asli, a group coordinating Orang Asli Covid-19 relief efforts.

Post MCO, the collective is continuing to raise funds for the Orang Asli. The site has a map with all the village locations and groups helping to provide relief.

Photo: Pos Lanai Orang Asli transport their forest durian to urban centres for sale. Revenues that Orang Asli earn from these activities are enough only to put them in the bottom income bracket. (Credit: Jeffry Hassan)


Ref: Masron, T. & Masami, F. & Ismail, Norhasimah. (2013). Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia: population, spatial distribution and socio-economic condition. J. Ritsumeikan Soc. Sci. Hum.. 6. 75-115.


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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