Thursday, December 10, 2015

Being in Malaysia

Carol checking a camera trap on the trail

Early October I arrived in Kuala Lumpur for work. The first day I spent in TRAFFIC’s regional office in nearby Petaling Jaya. It was a great chance to meet colleagues and get a better understanding of how Regional Offices and Headquarters work together.

The following three days were spent at a fundraising conference with TRAFFIC’s partner organisation, WWF. There were nearly 100 delegates from the region sharing experiences – success stories and challenges. The work done by WWF and TRAFFIC in Asia Pacific is tremendously important. Around 50% of the world’s species live in the Asia Pacific countries, and it is home to some of the most fantastic (and threatened) rainforests.  It was put very clearly at the conference why conservation action is so important in this region:

There is no sustainable planet earth without a sustainable Asia Pacific.

We learned about the Sumatran rhino relocation effort, now desperate before the last few of these animals are lost forever as their home range has been converted from forest to palm plantation. We heard about the campaign to save the Snow Leopard, the programme to double the number of the world’s Tigers (whose numbers are going up in some regions, but not in Malaysia), and about many other projects unique to the region.  

Walking through the rainforest
After the conference several delegates (including me) went on a field trip up to Fraser’s Hill. We explored the forests first hand, struggling with difficult paths, mosquitos and leeches. We learned from the local conservation manager, Carol, about the endemic species found there such as a lovely white orchid, and of other important fauna and flora. Fraser’s Hill is a wonderful area, and also under threat from poaching.  There are many plant and animal species that are endemic (found nowhere else), and unscrupulous collectors are keen to add rare specimens to their collections.

Fraser’s Hill is known for its birdlife, but Asian songbirds are ‘in crisis’. Songbird competitions are highly competitive (and lucrative) in Southeast Asia, and captive breeding cannot keep up with demand. Birds are trapped from the wild – endangering vulnerable species and, of course, condemning these fabulous creatures to a (sometimes quite short) life in captivity.
Fraser's Hill - the tall plants on the right are tree ferns
But it wasn’t all bad news. During our trip we enjoyed the opportunity to share our common love of nature and I managed to see two lovely rare Langurs, as well as some beautiful birds.  The field trip included WWF staff from many countries including Mongolia, New Zealand, Japan, Pakistan, and our hosts WWF Malaysia. We listened and learned, from our guide Carol, and from each other.  All of us united in our aim to ensure that we have a future as a species by not destroying the natural resources that we rely upon, and that we enjoy simply for their beauty or uniqueness.  Those people I spent a short, but important time with, are now my friends as well as colleagues.   I would love to return to Fraser’s Hill if I ever get the chance – if for no other reason than to spend some quality time bird watching!
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