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News on Malaysia
Borneo's rainforest may get high-tech 3D scan to boost conservation
Conservation efforts in Borneo's embattled rainforest may get a boost with the launch of the newest version of an advanced airplane-based monitoring and assessment system. On Friday, the Carnegie Institution officially unveiled the latest upgrade of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, an airplane equipped with technologies that enable scientists to conduct extremely high resolution scans of forest structure, biomass, and biological diversity. The platform has generated a wealth of information in places where it has been flown before.
Sarawak increases fines for illegal logging
After decades of intense logging that has left its rainforests degraded, fragmented, and stripped of valuable timber in many areas, the Malaysian state of Sarawak has passed a new forestry bill that could boost penalties for illegal logging.
Selective logging leaves more dead wood in rainforests
Up to 64 percent of above-ground biomass in selectively logged forests may consist of dead wood left over from logging damage, argues a paper published this week in Environmental Research Letters.
Report: Borneo could save billions while still meeting conservation and development goals
The three nations that share Borneo could save themselves $43 billion by more closely coordinating their environmental conservation and economic development efforts, according to a report published in the journal Nature Communications.
Officials: Sumatran rhino is extinct in the wild in Sabah
There are no Sumatran rhinos left in the wild in the Malaysian state of Sabah, confirmed Masidi Manjun, the Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, over the weekend. In 2008, conservationists estimated there were around 50 rhinos in the state. Five years later, it dropped that estimate to just ten. Now, it's admitted the awful truth: the wild rhino is very likely gone.
Growing need for deforestation-free rubber as tire demand destroys native forests
Surging demand for natural rubber is decimating some of the world's most endangered forests, putting wildlife and critical ecosystem services at risk, warn scientists writing in the journal Conservation Letters. Reviewing a large body of published research, Eleanor Warren-Thomas of the University of East Anglia and colleagues detail the crop's expansion across across Southeast Asia in recent decades.
Palm oil companies, NGOs endorse new deforestation-limiting toolkit
Forests not only house many of the world's species, but also much of its carbon. Now, a toolkit has been developed by a group of companies and organizations with the aim of helping other companies and NGOs identify High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests. The toolkit was endorsed last week by major NGOs and plantation companies in Singapore.
Kaiduan dam in Borneo meets fierce opposition
Activists are calling on the government of Sabah, Malaysia, to reconsider the proposed Kaiduan dam, saying it has not considered other solutions to Sabah's looming water crisis and has failed to consult with the indigenous people who will be displaced if the project proceeds.
Could inland aquaculture help save the oceans and feed the world?
Mark Kwok has always loved the ocean. An avid diver and spear fisherman, he has travelled the planet in search of exotic fish and undersea adventure. Born into a wealthy Hong Kong family, he had the freedom to explore the world’s oceans. But in the last decade or so, he hasn’t been content just looking at fish. He’s been growing them. In a squat, unassuming cluster of buildings in an industrial suburb north of Hong Kong, Kwok is experimenting with a potentially revolutionary technology.
Russia and Canada lead the world in forest loss in 2013
Russia and Canada led the world in forest loss, accounting for nearly forty percent of the 18 million hectares of forest lost globally in 2013, reveals a new analysis based on high resolution satellite imagery. The research — released today on Global Forest Watch, a forest monitoring and research platform — was led by Matt Hansen of the University of Maryland and involved Google, World Resources Institute (WRI), and other institutions
Study finds roads in Southeast Asia may be devastating forests, wildlife
Habitat loss and illegal hunting are leading drivers behind mammal population decline and extinction in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. But what's driving these drivers? Road infrastructure, according to research. Researchers conducted the first-ever comprehensive study examining the impacts of road infrastructure on mammal populations in Southeast Asia; their findings were recently published in PLOS One.
Who's funding palm oil?
Palm oil may be the single most important crop that you never heard of. A vegetable fat that resembles reddish butter at room temperature, palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Both nutritious and highly versatile, palm oil is now an important component of products ranging from biofuels and food to soaps and cosmetics. Estimates indicate that as much as 50 percent of the products used by the average Western consumer every day contain palm oil or its derivatives.
Weak sustainability policy presents financial risk for Malaysian palm oil giant, says report
Malaysian palm oil producer Kuala Lumpur Kepong's failure to adopt a robust zero deforestation policy puts its financial performance at risk, asserts a new analysis published by Chain Reaction Research, a project involving several environmental consultancies.
Reports slam Malaysian timber companies, urge reforms in forest management
Two international NGOs have called out Malaysia in recent months over the country’s widespread illegal logging. Malaysia has been accused of not doing enough to protect its diminishing forests and thwart the illicit timber trade, particularly in Sarawak, the site of the country’s worst deforestation. Lax oversight, endemic corruption and limited transparency have allowed for Malaysia’s forests to be plundered by both the government and the private sector.
Reports blame illegal logging for felling Sarawak forest
A recent report by the international affairs think tank Chatham House has highlighted Malaysia’s lack of progress in dealing with illegal logging, blaming corruption and a lack of transparency on the country’s sluggish approach to environmental policy reform.
Rainforest loss increased in the 2000s, concludes new analysis
Loss of tropical forests accelerated roughly 60 percent during the 2000s, argues a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings contradict previous research suggesting that deforestation slowed since the 1990s. The study is based on a map of 1990 forest cover developed last year by Do-Hyung Kim and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The map, which includes 34 countries that contain 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, enabled the researchers to establish a consistent baseline for tracking forest cover change across regions and countries over time.
Sabah shocked by banteng poaching
Malaysia's Daily Express recently published graphic photos of poachers in the Malaysian state of Sabah posing proudly with a number of illegally slaughtered large animals, including the incredibly rare and cryptic banteng. Wild, forest cattle, banteng are scattered across parts of Southeast Asia, but Borneo is home to a distinct subspecies: Bos javanicus lowi.
Illegal logging contributed to deadly Malaysian floods, according to government minister
Heavy rains hit peninsular Malaysia in December, leading to severe floods that resulted in at least 21 deaths and the displacement of some 200,000 residents in the states of Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, and Terengganu. Now a minister with the federal government says he has proof that the flooding was caused in part by illegal deforestation.
Malaysian authorities failing to take action against poachers
Authorities in Sabah are failing to enforce anti-poaching laws, undermining governance and wildlife protection efforts in the Malaysian Borneo state, argues a letter published by several local conservation groups.
Norway asked to divest from company linked to Malaysian official
Activists have petitioned the world's largest sovereign wealth fund to drop its investment in a company they say is linked to large-scale corruption in the Malaysian state of Sarawak.
When is a forest a forest? How definitions affect monitoring
What exactly is a forest? With forest definitions differing from country to country, and primary forests, secondary forests, and even tree plantations all perceived collectively as "tree cover" by satellite data, how does one accurately keep tabs on land changes?
Company run Sarawak governor has amassed $1.4B in state infrastructure contracts
Cahya Mata Sarawak, a publicly-listed infrastructure company run by relatives of Sarawak's former chief minister and current governor, has received over $1.4 billion in state contracts over the past 20 years, alleges an investigative report released by the Bruno Manser Fund.
Half of Borneo's mammals could lose a third of their habitat by 2080
Borneo consistently makes the list of the world’s “biodiversity hotspots” – areas full of a wide variety of forms of life found nowhere else, but which are also under threat. To better understand the hazards, a study published today in the journal Current Biology examines the effects of climate change and deforestation in the coming decades on mammals living on the island.
High deforestation rates in Malaysian states hit by flooding
Five states hard hit by flooding last month in Malaysia had high rates of forest loss in recent years, bolstering assertions that environmental degradation may have worsened the disaster. According to satellite data from researchers led by the University of Maryland's Matt Hansen and displayed on Global Forest Watch, the states of Johor, Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, and Terengganu each lost more than 10 percent of their forest cover between 2001 and 2012. Loss was greatest in areas with dense tree cover.
Facing legacy of deforestation and corruption, Sarawak may cease granting new logging concessions
Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem says his government may stop granting new logging concessions, reports Malaysian state media.
2014: the year in rainforests
2014 could be classified as 'The Year of the Zero Deforestation Commitment'. During 2014, nearly two dozen major companies, ranging from palm oil producers to fast food chains to toothpaste makers, established policies to exclude palm oil sourced at the expense of rainforests and peatlands.
Hunting is a greater threat than logging for most wildlife in Borneo
Persistence is the key factor in the two most common human stressors on tropical wildlife. In Malaysian Borneo, hunting continually diminishes wildlife populations, whereas the negative impacts from selective logging are more transient, according to a recent study in Conservation Biology.
Tradeoff: Sabah banks on palm oil to boost forest protection
Last month Sabah set aside an additional 203,000 hectares of protected forest reserves, boosting the Malaysian state's extent of protected areas to 21 percent of its land mass. But instead of accolades, Sabah forestry leaders were criticized for how they went about securing those reserves: allowing thousands of hectares of deforested land within an officially designated forestry area to be converted for oil palm plantations
Musim Mas says its palm oil will be deforestation-free
Singapore-based Musim Mas has established a new sustainability policy that it says will eliminate deforestation, peatlands conversion, and social conflict from its palm oil supply chain. The company, which operates plantations in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo, has been under pressure from environmentalists to join a growing number of palm oil producers and traders that have made zero deforestation pledges.
Is captive breeding the final resort for the Sumatran rhino?
Nearing extinction, the Sumatran rhino is running out of options. A native of Indonesia and Malaysia, the Sumatran rhino has declined in the past 30 years from an estimated 800 individuals to no more than 75 remaining today. So far there have been three ad hoc meetings held in 1984, 1993, and 2013, each attempting to develop policies that would potentially save this critical species.