malaysian naturalist, june 2019
AS WE KNOW, Malaysia is one of the top 17 mega-biodiverse countries in the world. Thanks to a location in the tropical region and good climate, our country is rich in biodiversity. Yet, the flora and fauna that have been listed are just part of our unique ecosystems and living organisms in complex rain forests.
There is a lot more that we need to know about our biodiversity and habitats, therefore more research needs to be conducted. The findings will provide information not only towards listing flora and fauna, understanding habitats, interactions and effects of environmental changes and creating conservation strategies, but will also help decision makers solve conflicts between development, demand for public needs and nature conservation.
Habitat protection and conservation is one of the important pillars that concern the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS). Malaysia must have enough forests that are protected and preserved as important habitats for wildlife and unique plants, and other functional ecosystem services for the benefit of human beings.
The Malaysian government has an expansive plan in this regard – the Central Forest Spine (CFS) initiative, which sets out to link all the main forests in Peninsular Malaysia to support the home range of large animals, aside from ensuring 90% of the population’s water supply.
In protecting and conserving wildlife and their natural habitats, MNS welcomes the government’s planning for CFS. Big animals such as the elephant, tiger, tapir and some birds need extensive space to roam and forage, not just for food, shelter and propagation of the species, but maintaining quality population for the future.
When talking about declining populations of wildlife such as the elephant, gaur, tiger and tapir, protecting a sufficient expanse of habitat is just as important as addressing the poaching threat.
Malaysia’s tiger population is at the critical stage, and the fewer than 200 individuals remaining in the wild is a severe threat to their population. This has attracted quick attention by the government, and the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan (NTCAP) was established specifically to conserve the national emblem of Malaysia, the Malayan tiger.
MNS will support the government in all actions towards the conservation of the country’s wild animals. When we protect habitats for wildlife, we will consequently protect all other biodiversity of plants, insects, herpetofauna, birds, mammals and other living organisms. Improving connectivity in CFS is very important for wildlife conservation, and the initiative’s successful implementation necessitates collaboration between federal and state governments.
Malaysians are also getting more knowledgeable about values of biodiversity and ecosystems. MNS is very active in environmental education through programmes with KPA (Kelab Pencinta Alam) schools, involving school children, university students and the public, to create awareness on nature protection and conservation.
Here, state governments must act to respond to public concerns and demands for nature conservation. It is incumbent upon all state governments to support the CFS initiative, especially in following guidelines on gazetting and de-gazetting forests. Demand for fast economic growth needs to take into consideration natural resources, especially in relation to biodiversity and ecosystem conservation. Once important reserve forests are destroyed, the flora and fauna may follow.
Therefore, replacing degazetted reserve forests with another forest is not an issue. That is why the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) is very important and must be done by the experts and be open for public comment. Important reserve forests such as Ulu Muda Forest Complex, Belum-Temengor Forest Complex and Endau-Rompin Forest Complex must be a model National Park. Active research and education programmes must be carried out to highlight why forest complexes are important.
The protection and conservation of reserve forests is mainly for future generations, so that Malaysians will continue to enjoy ecosystem services of tropical rain forests, rich biodiversity, sufficient water supply and ecotourism.
Providing continuous education programmes, increasing public awareness and fostering effective training and leadership calls for a special programme for future leaders in nature protection, conservation and management. MNS’s KPA for Youth initiative is well suited for this purpose, in line with the Malaysia Young Leader Programme recently launched by the government.
KPA for Youth was launched in 2012 at Universiti Putra Malaysia, as an extension of the school-level KPA. The initiative encourages university students to volunteer in nature protection and conservation, and the members can participate in education, research and public awareness programmes organised by MNS. They are the leaders of tomorrow, and we should instill in them the qualities of nature leadership, to ensure that down the line, Malaysia is still recognised by the world as a megabiodiverse country.
The inaugural session of the Tapir Talks MNS Public Forum Series, themed “De-gazettement of forest reserves and protected areas”, was held on 23rd April 2019 at Rimba Ilmu, Universiti Malaya. The session was moderated by Malaysian Nature Society President Prof. Dr. Ahmad Ismail, with MNS Senior Advisor and renowned forester Tan Sri Dr. Salleh Mohd Nor, forest activist Lim Teck Wyn and youth environmental activist Michaelle Phoenix as panellists.
Tapir Talks is mooted as a talking point for issues relating to Malaysia’s forests and its flora and fauna, towards capacity building non-state actors in forest governance. The series will be spearheaded by the MNS President, with the panel comprising a selection of individuals from government agencies, expert speakers, media organisations, civil society organisations, advocacy groups, youth advocates and the public.
A series is also aimed at raising the profile of MNS and its conservation work, through public and media engagement over a selection of hot-topic environmental themes as well as issues affecting Malaysia’s natural heritage. – Text and images by MNS Conservation Division