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And The Hornbill Award 2021 goes to…..

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

If you missed The Hornbill Award finale, you can watch the recording right here.

What a ride the inaugural CGM Hornbill Awards has been. This year, we sought to shine a light on the great work that Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) have been doing to conserve biodiversity in Malaysia. Why biodiversity? Well, the answer is simple: as concluded by the recent IPCC-IPBES Biodiversity and Climate Change Workshop, biodiversity loss and climate change are inextricably linked, as are the solutions to the grave threats they pose.

Though not by design, the six finalists that were selected from an initial pool of 21 entries, covered a diverse mix of Malaysia’s landscapes – from the mountains to the sea. The focal areas for their projects ranged from the highlands of the Main Range to coastal habitats fringing the southernmost end of mainland Asia, to the coral reefs of the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia; to the forests of Tawau and Tabin as well as the fishing ports along the eastern coast of Sabah on the island of Borneo.

The Hornbill Award 2021 finals that took place yesterday was not your usual discreet grant competition. Rather, it was held in Shark Tank-style at Climate Week New York, live on Zoom, before a global audience. Each project was introduced via a short video produced with the help of student teams from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) followed by a live Q&A between the three judges and representatives of the organisation.

Aside from a pool of grant money that one winning finalist would walk away with to implement their proposal, the main idea was to provide the finalists with a platform to showcase their work to a wider audience.

In the end, the first Hornbill Award went to Bringing Back Our Rare Animals (BORA), (formerly Borneo Rhino Alliance) a Sabah-based NGO whose mission is to champion new paradigms for saving endangered terrestrial wild animal species. Represented by Executive Director Dr. John Payne and Project Leader Dr. Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, BORA presented its pilot initiative to develop an elephant pasture on degraded lands within the fringes of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. This targeted habitat improvement project to resolve an age-old problem of human–elephant conflict, is just one BORA’s focal areas in its effort to change the way that decision-makers think and act in relation to dealing with endangered species.

While BORA may have walked away with the prize, the other five finalists were no less inspiring. All of these projects are ground-breaking in some way or other, and deserve our full support:

  • Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (R.E.A.C.H.), a community based organisation (CBO) with a long track record on conserving the fragile highland environment, put forth its vision for a named “BioD site” that will be the focal point of its ongoing reforestation, environmental awareness and biodynamic farming programmes, among others.

  • 1 Stop BORNEO presented a comprehensive proposal to conserve the Critically Endangered Helmeted Hornbill population in the Tawau region of Sabah, based on a “4E” approach: Education (wildlife awareness programmes and research), Economy (benefiting the local economy with conservation tourism), Enforcement (forest patrols and wildlife rescues) and Enrichment of habitats (reforestation activities).

  • Kelab Alami Tanjung Kupang conveyed its plan to bring together all of the stakeholders present in the Pendas – Pulai coast of South Johor via a series of workshops, to formulate a co-management plan for the natural coastal habitats and establish an effective platform for reporting and resolving environmental problems, while at the same time empower and provide an avenue for the local community to work as rangers and habitat monitors.

  • Marine Research Foundation (MRF) conveyed its intention to use the grant money to deploy an additional 10-20 Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) as well as install 10 time-lapse GPS-linked cameras on trawl fisheries in Sabah, towards the ultimate goal of reducing the impact of commercial fisheries on marine megafauna populations in Malaysia, including sea turtles, sharks, rays, and dugongs, due to incidental capture, otherwise known as ‘bycatch’.

  • Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) shared its plan to find and map submerged reefs off the east coast off the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, which provide ecological connectivity between coral reefs from the Johor islands in the south to the Terengganu islands in the north. This survey, in particular the identification and profiling of these submerged reefs, would provide important evidence towards the integration of marine corridors into the existing marine protected area system.

We at CGM, are so very touched by BORA's generous gesture after winning the award, in recognising that "all six finalists had equally great projects, great ideas and, most importantly, the passionate and dedicated people to carry them forward" - in that spirit, BORA offered to share out the prize money, by offering RM10,000 to each of the other finalists towards their respective projects. What a gracious winner!

Datin Seri Sunita Rajakumar, Chairperson of Climate Governance Malaysia, closed out the event with the following message:

Many of us understand how critical biodiversity conversation is, that we maintain our civilizations and societies because the earth’s regulating ecosystems and biodiversity is (simply put) keeping us alive.

But it is NGOs like the ones we have heard from today, who are the true frontliners, the eco-warriors, the boots on the ground, fighting the daily battles on behalf of every single one of us.

They are the ones truly deserving of our support, whom we look up to and respect for their knowledge and intelligence, commitment and dedication to such a crucial cause, their resilience in striving and continuing their essential service on our behalf against multiple challenges, especially during a pandemic.

So CGM will certainly continue with plans for the Hornbill Award next year, hopefully bigger and better, so we can continue supporting these great leaders and patriots in our midst.

On behalf of all of us behind the scenes, on behalf of our wonderful judges who have spent many of their valuable hours with us, on behalf of our corporate sponsors

Areca Capital, Astro, Better Malaysia Foundation, CIMB Foundation, Tenaga Nasional, Yayasan Hasanah, Yayasan Sime Darby), as well as leading content and media houses (Eco-Business, and PwC who helped us with the assessment criteria and shortlisting processes.

On behalf of all of these stakeholders, we would like to thank all of the conservation NGOs who participated, especially the 6 who were shortlisted today

And most of all, we thank you, our audience, for supporting this recognition of conservation efforts in Malaysia.


Finally, we wish to thank the following people and organisations who made the inaugural CGM Hornbill Awards possible:

Our Corporate Sponsors

Areca Capital


Better Malaysia Foundation

CIMB Foundation

Tenaga Nasional

Yayasan Hasanah

Yayasan Sime Darby

Event Host and Judges panel

Meaghan See (Eco-Business)

Dr Gary Theseira (Malaysian Green Technology & Climate Change Center)

Dr Mohd Hariffin bin Boosroh (Tenaga Nasional)

Rash Behari Bhattacharjee (The Edge)

PwC team

Florence Tan

Sasha Mahadevan

Hannah Ryan

Student teams from UMT, led by Dr. Jarina Mohd Jani

Nur Ain Binti Mohd Jafri

Tng Kel Li

Siti Fairuz Binti Md Yasin

Iman binti Abdul Aziz

Wan Siti Mariam binti Wan Sa’idi

Nur Aqilah binti Mahamad Napiah

Muhammad Nurthaqif Bin Mohd Noor

Nur Solehah Binti Othman

Muhammad Alif Bin Kamarul Azman

Yusuf Azamuddin Bin Zaharudin

Nuremilisa Binti Mohd Sufian

Nur Anisya Naira Binti Jamil

Kurnianti Binti Tahir

Nur Alwafi Binti Al-Affandee

Wan Aisyah Amirah Binti Wan Mohd Zamri

Student teams from UKM, led by Dr. Nor Yuliana Yuhana

Puteri Nurlyana

Heng Pei Jun

Arunaasrini S Mahendran

Nur Amirah Syazwani Binti Razali

CGM Hornbill Awards production team

Datin Seri Sunita Rajakumar

Audrey Ho

Purnima Joshi

Salim Khubchandani

Khaw Soon Hoe

Vimalaan Nambier

Saravanan Sivanandhan

Raashi Agarwal

Dylan Jefri Ong

Xian-Ri Woo

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