Malaysia’s biodiversity enriches the country and the world on many fronts. Malaysia is home to various flora and fauna that is not found anywhere else in the world.
Plants such as the Rafflesia flower and several species of orchids, as well as animals such as the Sabah grey langur and Malay partridge are some examples of unique Malaysian organisms.
Some Malaysian plants also serve as valuable sources of chemical compounds that are used in pharmaceuticals. Plus, aside from being the abode of flora and fauna, Malaysia’s rainforests are also excellent carbon sinks.
Therefore, it is imperative that we take steps to protect, conserve and manage this valuable commodity as best as we can.
On that note, a forum on Future Biodiversity Protection, Conservation and Management in Malaysia was held at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia on 16 April 2019.
The forum was organised to discuss future approaches on how to protect, conserve and manage Malaysian biodiversity to ensure continuous sustainability of our resources for future generations.
Furthermore, the forum also aims to take cognisance of exciting new tools such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), mega genome sequencing and synthetic biology.
Dr Helen Nair FASc delivered the opening remarks, followed by moderating the panel discussion.
Panellists for the discussion are Professor Dr Ahmad Ismail FASc, Professor Dato’ Dr Mohd Tajuddin Abdullah FASc, Emeritus Professor Dato’ Dr Abdul Latiff Mohamad FASc, Dr Ravigadevi Sambamuthi FASc.
Through the panel discussion, several issues have been highlighted regarding the state of biodiversity management, protection and conservation in Malaysia.
Despite having significant policies such as the First National Biodiversity Policy 1998, and the Second National Biodiversity Policy 2015-2025 that are perfectly designed to protect our biodiversity, implementation of said policies leaves much to be desired.
The problem is especially prominent at the state level, where it is never enforced despite natural formations such as rivers and land as well as the organisms contained in it being within the jurisdiction of these states.
Additionally, experts that have spent their lives studying on the rich biodiversity of Malaysia need to educate the masses on our flora and fauna, as well as how to conserve them.
Another issue in biodiversity conservation, protection and management lie in human capacity development. More young scientists need to be produced in the fields of botany, taxonomy and biodiversity.
Besides the already low intake of this subjects, there is also an issue with producing high-quality graduates in said fields, due to universities focusing on other achievements such as meeting key performance indicators or chasing university rankings.
Furthermore, researchers that have graduated from the fields as mentioned earlier have joined international organisations that provide better and more resources, causing brain drain to plague the country.
Funding also remains to be a perennial issue to implement conservation and protection at the state level. Finance and other issues arising must be tackled to ensure Malaysia’s biodiversity remains preserved, conserved and well-managed.
Existing policies with regards to biodiversity protection, conservation and management need to be implemented, especially at the state level.
States such as Sabah and Sarawak have already placed protection of the Nepenthes and Rafflesia plants; other states that have notable rare plant and animal species should be actively exercising conservation efforts in their jurisdiction as well.
Providing sufficient funding would be crucial in attracting more researchers to carry out more studies locally. Having more scientists in Malaysia may help to improve the country’s GDP as more experts are assisting the country to enhance biodiversity through scientific research.
On educating Malaysians of the rich diversity of our flora and fauna and conservation efforts, natural history museums and botanical gardens were proposed. Similar to other countries, these avenues of knowledge such as these could help to educate Malaysia citizen to learn the fundamentals of ecology, botany, biodiversity and taxonomy.
The panellists have voiced their suggestion on creating a national gene bank similar to the China National GeneBank, which will serve as an effort in protecting endangered and endemic plants, including the preservation and archiving of these germplasm resources to assist with their long-term conservation.
A project like this would scientifically and systematically digitise the country’s flora and fauna using genomics.
Additionally, books on noble efforts of local “heroes” in conservation and protection of Malaysia’s biodiversity could be published to enlighten the nation on what has been done by these distinguished individuals.
Are you interested in contributing to current and future initiatives in conserving, protecting and managing Malaysia’s biodiversity? Please contact us for more information.