Updated: Jan 21, 2021
by Dylan Ong
As a result of its warm and wet equatorial climate and long biogeographic history, Malaysia is home to a wealth of species and ecosystems that make it one of the most biodiverse nations on Earth.
From towering dipterocarps that fuel the logging industry, to majestic Malayan tigers caught in the vortex of extinction, to miniscule land snails of which entire species may be confined to a single karst outcrop, our life on land is as diverse and complex as it is fragile.
As succinctly put by Malaysia’s National Policy on Biological Diversity 2016-2025, this biodiversity is our national heritage that must be sustainably managed, wisely utilised and conserved for future generations.
And conserving biodiversity is not just important for the enjoyment of our future generations, but also for their very existence, since functional ecosystems (underpinned by healthy populations of original species that inhabit them) supply priceless goods and services that even human beings cannot live without – fresh water, clean air, and control of pests and pathogens, to name a few.
In terms of the impending climate emergency, our forests and wetlands are vital carbon sinks that counteract anthropogenic emissions, thus saving us from ourselves. As such, the need to uphold Malaysia’s pledge made at the Rio Earth Summit almost 30 years ago, to maintain 50 percent of our land area under forest cover is now more important than ever, especially in terms of our old-growth tropical rainforests, which absorb more carbon from the air than any other form of land cover.
Conservation is a journey rather than a destination, and we are still, as some Malaysians like to say, “on the way”. We are still losing biodiversity every day, as is the trend of the Anthropocene, so we need to work harder and smarter than ever before, in order to stem the tide. Fresh approaches and novel solutions are needed, with much greater levels of cooperation forged between government, NGOs and the private sector.
CGM is proud to have hosted a showcase of three Malaysian organisations that are doing important and pioneering conservation work in three different corners of the country.
The first speaker, Dr. Felicity Oram from Pongo Alliance – a coalition of oil palm growers, businesses and NGOs – demonstrated how a science-led and evidence-based approach is used to enable Critically Endangered Bornean orangutans to survive in mixed forest/ oil palm plantation landscapes. Their work in the Kinabatangan region of Eastern Sabah highlights the need for a paradigm shift in conservation management and plantation landscape design, so that private land owners and businesses also contribute space and habitat for Asia’s only great ape .
Our second speaker, Yeap Chin Aik from the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) shared with us his experience in hornbill research and conservation within the Belum-Temenggor Forest Complex of northern Peninsular Malaysia. This long-term field conservation project, which has been ongoing for over 15 years has yielded a number of important lessons – perhaps none more so than that indigenous local communities are best placed to be partners in research and monitoring as well as protect species and habitats in their customary lands. The MNS Orang Asli Hornbill Guardian initiative hatched and nurtured by Mr. Yeap and MNS is an excellent working model for community-based conservation initiatives in Peninsular Malaysia.
Our final speakers, Dr. Ros Fatihah and Dr. Zubaid Akbar from the Malaysian Cave and Karst Conservancy (MCKC) made an impassioned case for karst conservation. Karst (or limestone hills) and the caves that lie within them are living repositories of specialized plants and animals, many of which only occur at one or two sites and nowhere else in the world. Faced with the ever-constant threat of quarrying and other detrimental human activities, karsts are a microcosm of the unending conflict between economic growth and conservation. Using Batu Caves, a veritable ark of biological diversity located just 11 km from the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) as a model site, MCKC is advocating new and improved ways of managing and conserving caves and karst in Malaysia.
If you missed the webinar, you can view the recording here. The panellists have addressed the questions raised during the webinar, and is available for your download here.
We hope that you will support the great work that these organisations are doing.
If you enjoyed this, do sign up for our next webinar in this series “Life Below Water” which is scheduled for 5pm on Tuesday 16th March, 2021.