Malaysia: ‘Love Tioman’ campaign is paying off with healthy coral reefs on Malaysian diver’s paradise

NATASHA JOIBI The Star 12 Sep 18;

Brought together by their shared passion for marine science, conservationist couple Alvin Chelliah and Chen Sue Yee moved to Pulau Tioman from the Klang Valley to be part of an important project that would transform the livelihoods of the islanders as well as increase the ecological resilience of the island’s coral reefs.

Chelliah, from Kajang, and Chen, from Cheras, first met while pursuing their undergraduate degrees in Marine Science at Universiti Malaysia Sabah in 2006.

The couple – both 32 – also earned their Master’s degrees in the same field before joining non-governmental organisation Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) in 2011. They relocated to Tioman from Kuala Lumpur in 2014 after being appointed programme managers of the “Cintai Tioman’’ (Love Tioman) project aimed at boosting the resilience of coral reefs around the island by reducing local impacts. (Main image above shows an RCM volunteer diver checking the health of corals in Tioman waters. Photo: RCM)

Their strategies include reducing solid waste generation, lowering sewage pollution, decreasing impacts of construction projects, cutting down impacts from tourism activities, improving management of the Marine Protected Area as well as conducting scientific programmes to provide data required for managing and monitoring Tioman.

At an interview held during a media trip organised by RCM, Chelliah says that the transition from marine scientist to grassroots conservationist was difficult at first because it required constantly communicating with people, as opposed to just dealing with raw data and statistics.

Other than that, the duo initially faced resistance from the local community while trying to raise awareness of their project due to their perceived inexperience and status as “outsiders”.

“The science part is easy. The challenging part is working with different people who have different ideas, who come from different backgrounds and have different ways of living and thinking.

“We learned to reconcile these differences through trial and error. It was tricky because we are not trained anthropologists after all,” he says with a laugh.

For Chen, who describes herself as a reserved person, the experience of running the project has allowed her to come out of her shell.

“We live among the locals and attend their birthday parties as well as weddings. They have come to accept us as part of the community and eventually opened up to us,” she relates.

Chelliah and Chen tied the knot in 2015 and now call Tioman home. They are raising their seven-month-old son, Ray Samudra, on the island.

Having developed strong ties to the island, Chelliah says it is all the more important to have islanders participate in the project, as the long-term purpose of Cintai Tioman is to empower the local community to manage its own marine resources.

Born-and-bred islanders Mohd Shahir Yaman, 29, and Norhasnieza Razali, 25, were recruited to be part of the team in the roles of assistant programme manager and community liaison officer, respectively.

Mohd Shahir was pursuing a Master’s Degree in Land Surveying at a local university a few years ago and returned to Tioman after his father fell sick. He joined RCM in 2015.

He believes one way to inspire locals to pick up enviromentally-friendly practices is by setting examples.

“They were suspicious at first seeing degree-holders collecting garbage. But eventually they were moved to do the same. They now actively participate in our initiatives.

“It is important to remind the locals why tourists want to visit Tioman. The island is our valuable asset, and that is why we have to take care of it,” Mohd Shahir explains.

Accounting graduate Norhasnieza, who joined RCM in 2016, says she too has witnessed positive changes in behaviour among the locals who have been exposed to the Cintai Tioman programme and are now familiar with the faces behind the project.

“Before this, they would shun us when we told them we are from an NGO. To them, the only thing that mattered was running their businesses, and they wanted to do so without us meddling in their affairs,” she says of her experience approaching resort operators to participate in the Asean Green Hotel Standards assessment.

Her resilience has paid off, as 55 out of 72 resorts on the island have agreed to be assessed by RCM.

As of now, RCM has trained nine local islanders in the Tioman Management & Conservation Group (TMCG) to focus on the direct impact of human activities on coral reefs, such as removal of ghost nets tangled on reefs, coral predator monitoring and removal, as well as oil spill clean-ups.

They have also been trained to assist with reef rehabilitation, maintenance and site monitoring, mooring buoys replacement, rapid response, and training of snorkel guides.

RCM and the conservation group are recognised by Tioman locals as first responders and/or resources for marine-related issues or emergencies.

The organisation has also implemented solid waste segregation which has been adopted by local residents and businesses. This initiative has recorded a collection of recyclable items comprising 4,600kg of plastic, 5,497kg of aluminium cans and 182kg of batteries.

To date, it is estimated that the project has directly reduced waste by 11.52 tonnes and even more indirectly as two local islanders have established their own recyclables collection businesses with a crusher sponsored by Yayasan Sime Darby for RM20,000.

The machine crushes glass into fine sand that can be used for construction, as well as to create moulds for reef rehabilitation.

RCM general manager Julian Hyde says after years of hard work and persistence, the team is now able to get locals actively involved in marine conservation.

Additionally, the reefs in Tioman are considered to be in good condition overall, with 66.36% coral cover, which is above average for reefs of the Sunda Shelf region (54.21%).

“We established the TMCG and introduced recycling programmes. We are selling recyclable items out of the island, that used to be burned in incinerators. Now that they can be recycled, they create value.

“The next phase of our project would be to build skills among the community so they can take part in management, start their own businesses and play a bigger role in the management of these resources,” Hyde says.

The project was made possible with Yayasan Sime Darby committing a total of RM600,000 from March 2014 to February 2019 for Cintai Tioman.

Yayasan Sime Darby governing council member Caroline Christine Russell, who was also on the media trip, says this programme demonstrates the importance of engaging local communities in marine conservation.

“You can’t preserve the reefs of Tioman without working with the local community, and this is where RCM has been so successful.

“I have seen them working and training around hospitality to provide jobs for locals, so instead of them depending only on fishing for livelihood, they have alternative sources of income.

“We have seen them (locals) working in hotels, and also participating in initiatives to clean up the island,” she says.

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Indonesia: BMKG detects 150 hotspots in Sumatra

Antara 12 Sep 18;

Peat land fires in Dumai Motor, Tanjung Palas, Dumai, Riau, recently. (ANTARA PHOTO/Aswaddy Hamid)

Pekanbaru, Riau, (ANTARA News) - The Terra and Aqua satellites have detected 150 hotspots as an early indication of land and forest fires in Sumatra Island.

The Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) reported on Wednesday that the hotspots were detected in eight provinces, and the highest number was detected in South Sumatra, with 77 hotspots.

Other hotspots were detected in Bangka Belitung (14 hotspots), Bengkulu (10 hotspots), Riau (eight hotspots), West Sumatra (four hotspots), Jambi (three hotspots), and Riau Islands (one hotspot).

In Riau, the eight hotspots were spread in five districts, namely Indragiri Hulu (three hotspots), Rokan Hilir (two hotspots), and one hot spot in Bengkalis, Meranti Islands, and Pelalawan, respectively.

Two hotspots in Indragiri Hulu and Pelalawan have the level of confidence above 70 percent.

BMKG has issued a warning to Riau administration on potential land and forest fires in the province, considering the consecutive no rain days.

"Regions with more than 10 consecutive no rain days are Rantau Kopar subdistrict in Rokan Hilir (13 days) and Ukui subdistrict in Pelalawan (24 days)," an official of BMKG station in Pekanbaru Ardhitama remarked.

BMKG in Pekanbaru has 150 hotspots in Riau Province to monitor the no rain days, especially in regions prone to land and forest fires.

The monitoring is aimed at providing early information to local government to prevent peat land fires, which would be difficult to contain until the rain comes.

Riau Province, in general, has entered the transition to rainy season from August to October, but the weather condition in each region differs, with the northern and southern parts of the province still experiencing consecutive no rain days.

Reporting by FB Anggoro
Editor: Sri Haryati

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Indonesia: Where are the anoas? Central Sulawesi’s midget buffaloes no longer in sight

Ruslan Sangadji The Jakarta Post 12 Sep 18;

An animal researcher of Lore Lindu National Park (TNLL) in Central Sulawesi has claimed that a mammal endemic to the province, the anoa, has rarely been spotted in recent years because of rampant illegal logging and animal poaching.

Idris Tinulele, the researcher, said traces of footprints of the midget buffaloes could still be found in the park, but the animals themselves were rarely seen.

“It is because their habitat in TNLL had been damaged by illegal logging activities in addition to their being hunted for consumption,” Idris said, adding that he hoped the government would consider breeding anoa like it did with maleo birds.

He said that, in the 1980s, anoas could easily be spotted in TNLL, the natural habitat of two species of anoa, the Bubalus quarlesi and the Bubalus depressicornis.

With the destruction of their habitat, locals may find anoas entering their housing compounds in Kanawu, one of four subdistricts located around Lake Lindu. “It’s very regrettable if the anoa are facing extinction,” he said.

The head of the TNLL center’s technical division, Dedy Asriadi, confirmed that anoas were rarely spotted in the park. He said the center did not have the latest data on the population of anoa in the area.

“It’s difficult for us to count the population considering [the lack of data],” he said.

He said the latest data recorded in 2013 showed that the population of anoa was 140, a sharp decline from the 1,000 in previous years.

The anoa has been a protected animal since 1931. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the anoa as an endangered species since 1986. (ahw)

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Taiwan: Massive Shark Fin Seizures Totaling 12 Tons Ring Alarm Bells

WildAid, Agencies Taiwan News 12 Sep 18;

(WILDAID) - Shipments totaling eight tons of shark fin en route to mainland China and Hong Kong were confiscated last week in India. The interception of these two shipments, worth more than $6.2 million (USD), led to an additional seizure of four tons of "dried ray skin"believed to be shark fin in Malaysia, making this one of the largest combined seizures of shark fins in recent history. The smugglers illicitly misdeclared all three shipments as dried ray skins, dried marine products and fish maw to avoid detection.

"While WildAid commends the Indian and Malaysian authorities for their diligence in intercepting such a massive amount of shark fins, a seizure of this magnitude certainly rings alarm bells,"said WildAid CEO Peter Knights."With depleting shark populations, the global community needs to invest in strengthening enforcement at all stages of the illegal wildlife trade chain, including in Marine Protected Areas, at customs and border agencies and inside the courtroom, in addition to reducing overall consumer demand and consumption to address the enormous overfishing impact on shark populations."

Indian authorities estimate between 15,000 and 16,000 sharks were killed for the eight-ton shipment. While the species of sharks have yet to be determined, export of all species of shark is prohibited under Indian law. Seven people involved, including the"kingpin," have thus far been arrested.

With marine protection programs in Malaysia, the Galapagos Islands, coastal Ecuador, Palau, Indonesia and Gabon, WildAid seeks to end poaching of ocean wildlife. We assist our partners to develop and implement effective enforcement systems for sustainable fisheries and marine wildlife conservation. We also foster peer-to-peer learning, sharing and small project incubation through our new Nexus Blue portal.

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