Archive for the ‘Environmental Education’ Category

Zoo has important role in new normal

Monday, July 6th, 2020
A child carried by the mother feeds the giraffe in an enclosure at the Singapore Zoo in Singapore on its first day of reopening to the public after the attraction was temporarily closed due to concerns about the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. -AFP picA child carried by the mother feeds the giraffe in an enclosure at the Singapore Zoo in Singapore on its first day of reopening to the public after the attraction was temporarily closed due to concerns about the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. -AFP pic

SHOULD zoos around the globe close their doors? Many experts, however, still believe that we need zoos for wildlife conservation as many species are in danger of extinction.

You might not know that 85 per cent of the animals in Zoo Negara are endangered species and 15 per cent are heading towards extinction.

Hence, similar to other zoos, Zoo Negara undergo many conservation breeding programmes to help preserve and protect the wildlife.

The zoo also plays a significant role in educating and creating awareness about different species that exist on the earth, as well as bridging the connection between humans and animals.

Thus, it is vital for zoos to study and understand how species interact within their ecosystems, as well as how they are affected by environmental and human influences – so, with this understanding, the management will know how to provide suitable atmospheres for the animals.

For instance, scientists at Queen’s Animal Behaviour Centre revealed that classical music and scents such as lavender in dog shelters calm them. Plus, shielding zoo-housed gorillas from visitors with camouflage netting over the viewing windows would prevent great apes from becoming agitated.

One thing for sure, there is no “one size fits all” welfare model, as there’s numerous ranges of animals’ biological requirements and needs.

All necessary measures should also be taken to ensure the animals are not abused. Rather than in cages, they are kept in an open enclosure that allows them to move freely, with enough barriers between them and humans.

As for the zookeepers, they are trained to be aware of and avoid fear-evoking behaviours. Research shows that when zookeepers spent extra time mingling in positive interactions with chimpanzees like playing, grooming, feeding treats, and chatting, the animals behaved better, exhibited fewer abnormal behaviours and were less reactive.

Visitors play a significant role too by not disturbing the animals by making excessive noise levels or throwing food or other objects into their enclosures to get their attention. This will stress them out and cause a negative impact on their behaviour.

The current pandemic has also dramatically impacted zoo animals. Zoologists point out, intelligent and social animals, including gorillas, otters and meerkats are missing the attention of humans.

Zoo animals are accustomed to routines and schedules like hanging out with human visitors as well as continually seeing the crowds who like to call out their names. With the sudden absence of human visitors, some of the animals suffer from boredom and loneliness.

According to Muhamad Akramin from the Public Relations and Marketing Department of Zoo Negara Malaysia, some of the zoo staff remarked that their captives appear to notice this new silence. For that reason, zoo employees are making efforts, like talking or visiting the animals more frequently.

Paul Rose, a lecturer in animal behaviour at the University of Exeter, said that without human visitors, some animals show lack of stimulation.

“Some animals such as primates and parrots, get a lot of enrichment from viewing and engaging with visitors. It is beneficial to the animal’s well-being and quality of life. If this stimulation is not there, then the animals lack the enrichment,” he said.

While in Giza Zoo, Egypt, zoo management have established a programme that focuses on entertaining their animals, focusing on proper nutrition to keep animals healthy, providing them with their favourite food, and the necessary medical care.

However, some animals seemed to enjoy their quiet moment. In Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, Ying Ying, one of the resident pandas, may be pregnant after 10 years of natural mating attempts.

Michael Boos, executive director at Ocean Park, said: “Today’s successful natural matching process is highly thrilling for us all, because the probability of conception by natural matching is higher.”

Zoologists conclude that changes in the usual routines of zoo animals affect different species in different ways.

All in all, though, it will be some time before Malaysia will truly accept foreign tourists after their reopening, our local zoo now needs local visitors more than ever.

Do remember that animals in zoos are undergoing their post-lockdown fuzz too, so they need time to adapt, just like humans. Keepers and other zoo staff will always be on hand to guide, help enforce social distancing and show us how to act with the animals appropriately.

BNurafifah Mohammad Suhaimi.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/07/606388/zoo-has-important-role-new-norma

Malaysia may be spared from haze due to fewer hotspots in Indonesia

Saturday, July 4th, 2020
A number of hotspots had been detected in Kalimantan or Sumatra, Indonesia, where rampant bushfires had spread across the republic. -AFP picA number of hotspots had been detected in Kalimantan or Sumatra, Indonesia, where rampant bushfires had spread across the republic. -AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is not likely to experience severe haze as several hotspots detected in Indonesia recently were relatively low.

METMalaysia director-general Jailan Simon said based on the data collected yesterday, there were only around seven hotspots in central and eastern Kalimantan, which did not pose haze hazard to Malaysia this month.

It was previously reported that a number of hotspots had been detected in Kalimantan or Sumatra, Indonesia, where rampant bushfires had spread across the republic.

He said the direction of the wind and the higher humidity were also among the factors contributing to the lesser effects of haze in the country.

However, he cautioned that if the forest fires continue to worsen and create many more hotspots in the republic, Malaysia is likely to be choked by haze.

“Yesterday there were seven hotspots in Kalimantan, with 17 in Sumatera.

“Because of the wind direction and the location of the hotspots in the centre and east of the Kalimantan, Sarawak will be spared from haze, unlike in the previous years.

“However, if the bushfires are not contained, it could be detrimental to our country.”

Jailan was responding to a report that over 700 forest fire hotspots had been detected, based on satellite data at Kalimantan, Indonesia, and that haze could reach Malaysia and Singapore if the situation was left uncontrolled.

About 1.6 million hectares of forests in Indonesia have been destroyed by bushfires to date this year, making it one of the worst bushfires since 2015.

Meanwhile, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Social and Environmental Research and Development Studies lecturer Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Ekhwan Toriman said the implications from the hundreds of hotspots detected in Kalimantan on the Peninsular Malaysia were minimal as the southwest winds since May could last up to September.

“The wind is moving southwest at a speed of 15 knots and is generally dry. So the haze caused by fires in Kalimantan would only affect the interior of Sarawak and Sabah”.

He said if open burning in Sumatra continues to be rampant in the coming days, it will bring haze in Peninsular sometime between August and September.

He said all 10 Asian member counties should comply with the Asean Cross-border Haze Pollution Treaty (AATHP) that had been signed.

By Fahmy A Rosli.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/07/605920/malaysia-may-be-spared-haze-due-fewer-hotspots-indonesia

Johor developer crowned as ‘Malaysia’s Responsible Developer’

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Tanah Sutera Development sales and marketing assistant general manager Tan (left) receiving the trophy for EdgeProp Malaysia’s Responsible Developer: Building Sustainable Development Award 2020 from Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin.- EdgeProp

AS a property developer, it means more than just a bricks-and-mortar company for Tanah Sutera Development (Sutera).

Prioritising sustainable development values, the award-winning township developer believes in nurturing communities, providing good quality homes and promoting green living.

Sutera is a joint-venture among Malaysian and Singapore-based companies, namely Keppel Land, Lee Rubber Co (Pte) Ltd, The Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) and Primesite, credited with past developments such as Sutera Mall and Sutera Square – a commercial centre.

“Sustainable integrated townships should be built with the community and environment in mind

“This development principle resonates with Sutera’s vision in creating the best neighbourhood to provide a holistic living to its close-knitted community, which derives from the four Cs component – comfort, care, cultivate and cherish,” said Sutera sales and marketing assistant general manager Daniel Tan.

Committed to sustainability

Established in 2011, the Sutera Good Earth (SGE) initiative aspires to create a zero waste township and green living environment through various community involvement projects in Taman Sutera and Taman Sutera Utama townships in Johor Baru.

Kuru Kuru shop is located in Sutera Mall to promote recycling by collecting and displaying usable unwanted items for those who need it.Kuru Kuru shop is located in Sutera Mall to promote recycling by collecting and displaying usable unwanted items for those who need it.

Among the projects is the SGE Farm started in 2018, a community space where residents can grow and harvest vegetables and fruits.

“The SGE farm is a community sustainable agriculture (CSA) effort focusing on collecting and turning food waste from Sutera Mall, Sutera business centre and the neighbourhood into composts for the farm as well as the townships’ landscaping.

“The farm also serves as an environmental awareness space for future generation learning,” said Tan.

Meanwhile, Kuru Kuru is another initiative under SGE to promote the reuse culture by collecting usable unwanted items for those who need it.

“Kuru Kuru means ‘re-circulation’ in Japanese and this concept originated from Kamikatsu, a zero waste-town.

“There are so many items going into the waste collection centre that are still usable so the Kuru Kuru shop is set up in Sutera Mall to put them on display for people to pick up and bring home,” explained Tan.

The SGE Farm is a community plot for residents to grow and harvest vegetables and fruits as well as an educational environmental awareness space for the community.The SGE Farm is a community plot for residents to grow and harvest vegetables and fruits as well as an educational environmental awareness space for the community.

Playing its role in environmental education, SGE has a group of dedicated “green ambassadors” who regularly engage residents and associates to come up with green awareness workshops and programmes.

The green ambassadors also work together with non-governmental organisations and educational institutions within the community such as Kiwanis CareHeart Centre (KCHC), the International Association of Students in Economics and Commercial Sciences (Aiesec) of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Pusat Kebajikan Kalvari, Madrasah At-Tariq, Calvary Victory Centre as well as Hsing Ma Si Buddhist Education Centre, to support and co-organise green events.

One such example is the use of food waste compost and liquid fertiliser to replace chemical agents at KCHC’s vegetable farm.

“Sustainability is not just about the environment but it also involves the community. To promote communal living or the kampung spirit in the neighbourhood, the Home Owners Association was initiated to foster friendly ties among residents while tasked to manage its own precinct independently,” added Tan.

Demonstrating its commitment to provide a holistic environment for the community, other components integrated into the development include a private library in Sutera Mall – My Library, Sutera Education Hub, Sutera business centre and Sutera Sports World.

Towards being the first zero waste community in Johor Baru

To ensure the community continues enjoying an enhanced quality of life, conscious efforts have been put into upcoming sustainable plans for the townships.
The Seed - a green award winning development for two consecutive years.The Seed – a green award winning development for two consecutive years.

The Seed aspires to be a zero waste community development which collects food waste, closes the food loop and reduces the waste to landfill. Garden plots are available in the SGE farm for all the residents to adopt, where they can grow and eat pesticide-free nutritious vegetables.

Additionally, Sutera has plans to enhance the farm to create a place for outdoor activities including biking trails, tree houses, camping sites, decking and gazebo area, natural wildlife sightseeing, jogging track and a mini fruit farm.

Sutera Mall is currently undergoing installation of solar panels which will cover 21,000sqm with a total of 10,526 panels. The installation is expected to be completed by the end of this year with an estimated annual savings of about RM1.7mil.

Sutera’s sustainability efforts have earned the EdgeProp Malaysia’s Responsible Developer: Building Sustainable Development Award 2020.

Tan attributed the recognition to the dedicated efforts of the residents and the community.

“We at Sutera are honoured to receive this award and it certainly gives us the motivation to go even further in championing sustainability development,” concluded Tan.

By RUBY LIM.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/metro/metro-news/2020/07/03/johor-developer-crowned-as-039malaysia039s-responsible-developer039

Are we prepared?

Friday, July 3rd, 2020
We need to preserve the natural environment to halt natural disasters. -NSTP/MOHD YUSNI ARIFFINWe need to preserve the natural environment to halt natural disasters. -NSTP/MOHD YUSNI ARIFFIN

LETTER: In theory, logging may appear to be a sustainable activity and timber may appear to be a renewable resource. However, this is no longer the case in countries such as ours due to diminishing forests and the overexploitation of forests and forest products.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations reported that Malaysia saw a 60 per cent decline in log exports since 1980 due to the decline in harvestable forest products. Surely there are enough clear indicators that the overharvesting of timber and forest products in the short term will lead to a greater loss of potential earnings in the long run, while increasing the risk of environmental disasters.

Primary forests are complex and fragile ecosystems.

Once disturbed for logging, quarrying or agricultural activities, secondary forest species and recolonisers such as fast-growing climbing plants and epiphytes grow in the clearings created by human activity.

Over time, these recolonisers overtake the primary rainforest species in their numbers and affect the composition and biodiversity of a forest, changing its very nature and increasing the risk of mass extinction of thousands of species.

Disturbed and cleared rainforests, even if fortunate enough not to be clear-cut and converted into plantations, quarries or dams, end up becoming unproductive wastelands that are incapable of supporting wildlife or providing the same variety of ecosystem services, such as flood mitigation and carbon sequestration, as primary rainforests.

The reduced ability of a cleared or decimated forest to absorb solar energy and release water vapour leads to higher temperatures and a decline in rainfall.

The Greater Ulu Muda Forest, for instance, is a critical water catchment area for the northern states of Kedah, Perlis and Penang and supplies water to, among others, the Ahning, Muda and Pedu Dams. Ulu Muda further provides economic and sociocultural services which include ecotourism, the harvesting of forest products and a home for indigenous and rural communities.

According to the World wide Fund for Nature Malaysia, the Ulu Muda forest complex supplies as much as 96 per cent of Kedah’s, 50 per cent of Perlis’ and 80 per cent of Penang’s water supply. Ulu Muda also provides vital ecological services such as climate regulation, soil erosion prevention, biodiversity conservation and maintenance of soil, water and air quality.

The 2016 drought in northern Peninsular Malaysia is directly linked to logging activities in the Ulu Muda forest, which affected climate and water cycle patterns, resulting in a massive decline in dam water levels and a postponement of the padi planting season.

Logging in Ulu Muda would affect the survival and food and water security of a significant percentage of the population of northern Peninsular Malaysia. Are the authorities prepared to deal with the environmental and economic fallout of the deforestation of Ulu Muda?

As for the Belara Forest Reserve in Terengganu, this lowland tropical rainforest, which is home to Great Hornbills and other vulnerable and endangered species, was surreptitiously degazetted to make way for oil palm plantations. We can already foresee some of the immediate adverse impacts of the degazettement and deforestation.

Orchard owners whose fruit orchards surround the Belara Forest Reserve will see reduced yield and more contamination of soil and water due to the agricultural chemicals used in conventional oil palm cultivation.

When forests are cleared, malaria and dengue infections will rise. Landslides and flash floods will be a common occurrence, as ground cover crops are eliminated in monoculture plantations. Perhaps there will be another disastrous flood, more severe than the one that destroyed much of the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia in the monsoon season of 2014 to 2015.

Do the authorities have plans to deal with increased human-wildlife conflict and water and food insecurity following deforestation, floods, drought and haze?

by WONG EE LYNN.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2020/07/605192/are-we-prepared

Plantation owners urged to allocate land for wildlife corridors

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020
WWF-Malaysia is urging plantation owners, especially those whose lands are located adjacent to forests, to set aside part of their land as wildlife corridors. - NSTP file picWWF-Malaysia is urging plantation owners, especially those whose lands are located adjacent to forests, to set aside part of their land as wildlife corridors. – NSTP file pic

KOTA KINABALU: WWF-Malaysia is urging plantation owners, especially those whose lands are located adjacent to forests, to set aside part of their land as wildlife corridors.

Its conservation director Dr Henry Chan said the corridor could serve to connect forest patches and improve the habitat for plants and animals.

He said with most of the forest landscape in Sabah fragmented into pockets and the planting of oil palm adjacent to forests, such crops had become an attractive food option and an easy target for elephants as the favoured young palm shoots would supplement their diet considerably.

“Our only lasting solution to the situation is the need for tolerance – we need to share our space with our fellow Sabahan, the Bornean elephants.

“To put it plainly, we have to accept that Bornean elephants will continue to travel through plantations,” he said in a statement.

Chan said the solution of sparing part of plantation land was not new as it has been tried and tested in Sabah with great success.

Since 2012, Tawau-based plantation Sabah Softwoods Berhad (SSB) had established more than 1,067-hectares of wildlife corridor to facilitate elephant movement throughout the landscape and realigning electric fences around vulnerable young palm trees and community settlements to keep such areas safe.

Between 2004 and 2011, SSB faced crop damage amounting to a total RM3.5 million or averaging half a million ringgit annually. Since it adopted elephant conservation efforts in 2012, the damage dropped substantially to RM5,000 in 2018.

Chan said that in 2014, WWF-Malaysia started collaring elephants in the plantation and has since had a better understanding of the movement patterns of five elephants.

“This crucial data is used to guide land use plans, and the placement of electric-fences as well as to assist the company to plan their operations around elephant movements for safety measures.

“The encouraging results seen at SSB has allowed for the expansion of the land-use planning approach to neighbouring plantation companies in the Kalabakan landscape in Tawau,” he said.

In 2016, a human-elephant conflict working group was also set up to ensure that joint mitigation measures could be developed and implemented for the whole landscape.

At present, there are less than 2,000 Bornean elephants left in Sabah.

By Olivia Miwil.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/07/605429/plantation-owners-urged-allocate-land-wildlife-corridors

Sabah floods worsen with 55 villages inundated

Sunday, June 28th, 2020
Flooding in Sabah has worsened, with up to 55 villages in 10 districts state-wide inundated as of noon today.  NSTP/ courtesy of NST readerFlooding in Sabah has worsened, with up to 55 villages in 10 districts state-wide inundated as of noon today. NSTP/ courtesy of NST reader

KOTA KINABALU: Flooding in Sabah has worsened, with up to 55 villages in 10 districts state-wide inundated as of noon today.

This is an increase from 30 villages in five districts as of 8am this morning. The flooding follows non-stop heavy rain since yesterday evening.

The 10 affected districts are Tenom, Pitas, Beaufort, Membakut, Papar, Kota Belud, Kota Marudu, Penampang, Keningau and Tuaran.

 The number of evacuees is expected to increase in some districts as the evacuation and registration process for flood victims is ongoing. - NSTP/ courtesy of APM The number of evacuees is expected to increase in some districts as the evacuation and registration process for flood victims is ongoing. – NSTP/ courtesy of APM

In a statement, the Sabah Malaysia Civil Defence Force said four temporary evacuation centres have been opened: two in Kota Belud housing 81 people from 31 families; one relief centre in Penampang (21 people from six families); and one centre in Papar (60 people from 19 families).

According to the statement, the number of evacuees is expected to increase in some districts as the evacuation and registration process for flood victims is ongoing.

by   BERNAMA

Manager turns roof car park into melon farm

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

Essential elements: Manickavasagam with his worker Romadi, 48, at one of the watering system tanks being filled at his modest melon production plot in Shah Alam. — Bernama

SHAH ALAM: Inspired to branch out into farming, a private college manager has been reaping the fruits of his labour with rock melons grown on the rooftop of Plaza Sri Muda for the past 10 years ago.

P. Manickavasagam, 60, said his hydroponic and fertigation system melons were easy to grow.

“They are of grade A and do not spoil easily. I manage the Vis Mechatronic College on the third floor of Plaza Sri Muda. When I saw the open-air carpark on the fourth floor wasn’t being used, I decided to rent it for growing rock melons.

“With knowledge provided by the Klang Agriculture Department and my skill, the farm is well-maintained and the yield has been good, ” he told Bernama of his 3,600 melon vines growing in a 30.5m x 61m plot.

He has 3,200 plants growing hydroponically in 48 6m-long pipes and 400 plants growing in peat-filled polybags.

“I set up the automated system using a fuse box and computer to determine the fertiliser and water application times.

“The system consists of a 600l tank filled with water and fertiliser which is streamed into the pipes every two hours, six times a day, ” he said.

He said it would take a maximum of 75 days for the fruit to be ready for harvest and each time he could reap RM7,000 to RM8,000 in revenue.

“When the melons are ripe and ready for picking, we’ll pass the grade A fruit weighing over 1.5kg to wholesalers while the rest is sold to supermarkets here.

“The plants can yield at least 1.5 tonnes of fruit which we sell at about RM4 per kg, ” said Manickavasagam, who has three daughters.

Read more @ https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2020/06/28/manager-turns-roof-car-park-into-melon-farm#cxrecs_s

Widespread flooding in Sabah after non-stop heavy rain

Sunday, June 28th, 2020
Several districts in Sabah are flooded following a continuous downpour since Saturday afternoon. - NSTP/ courtesy of APM
Several districts in Sabah are flooded following a continuous downpour since Saturday afternoon. – NSTP/ courtesy of APM

KOTA BELUD: Several districts in Sabah are flooded following a continuous downpour since Saturday afternoon.

In Kota Belud, 31 people from 16 families were evacuated from their flooded homes and brought to a temporary relief centre at Tun Said community hall. SMK Taun Gusi II in the district was also opened last night to prepare for more flood victims.

According to a statement by the Civil Defence Department, 19 villages in Kota Belud are inundated by floodwaters after non-stop heavy rain since yesterday.

“The flooding is due to sandstone sediments and silt from upstream of the Kadamaian river until the estuary at Sungai Abai.

NSTP/ courtesy of APMNSTP/ courtesy of APM

“The water level is continuing to rise,” it said.

Five major roads have become impassable to traffic: Jalan Kg Bobot, Jalan Siasai Tamu, Jalan Kampung Menunggui, Jalan Kampung Linau and Jalan Lebak Moyoh bypass Kudat.

In Penampang, 18 people are taking shelter at the Penampang Cultural Hall after 12 villages in the district were flooded.

The villages are Kampung Tuavon, Kampung Dabak, Kampung Kambau, Penampang Proper, Kampung Kambazan Kolopis, Kampung Putaton Inobong, Kampung Babah Penampang, Kampung Dungkahang, Kampung Tanaki, Kampung Nambazan, Kampung Sugud and Taman Donggongon.

In Penampang, 18 people are taking shelter at the Penampang Cultural Hall after 12 villages in the district were flooded.  - NSTP/ courtesy of NSTP readerIn Penampang, 18 people are taking shelter at the Penampang Cultural Hall after 12 villages in the district were flooded. – NSTP/ courtesy of NSTP reade

Also inundated are Jalan Kiranau Inobong, Jalan Kolopis, Jalan Datuk Panglima Banting, Jalan Kibabaig and Jalan Kivatu-Kasigui.

Other flooded areas are seven villages in Kota Marudu and two villages in Putatan.

The Tamparuli bridge in Tuaran is now impassable to traffic.

By Olivia Miwil.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/06/604120/widespread-flooding-sabah-after-non-stop-heavy-rain

Sabah wildlife enforcers arrest FB turtle egg seller

Friday, June 26th, 2020
Sabah Wildlife Department arrested a man for allegedly marketing turtle eggs on his Facebook page. -NSTP/File picSabah Wildlife Department arrested a man for allegedly marketing turtle eggs on his Facebook page. -NSTP/File pic

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah wildlife enforcers have nabbed an online turtle egg seller and seized 20 eggs from endangered sea turtles in Putatan near here today.

The 21-year-old suspect was wanted by the Sabah Wildlife Department for actively marketing turtle eggs on his Facebook page.

Following public complaints, the department enforcement team launched ‘Op Tapau’ to track the man down and successfully arrested him at 11am at a parking lot near the Putatan Survey Hypermarket area.

State Wildlife director Augustine Tuuga said during the operation, enforcers inspected a Proton Wira car and found two food containers, each containing 10 turtle eggs.

Tuuga reminded the people that all turtles species are totally protected under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

Therefore, it is an offence to store or to have in possession a wildlife animal or wildlife products without permission from the Sabah Wildlife Department, he said.

Those committing such offence could be fined between RM50,000 and RM250,000, and jailed between one to five years, if convicted.

By Avila Geraldine.

Read more @https://www.nst.com.my/news/crime-courts/2020/06/603762/sabah-wildlife-enforcers-arrest-fb-turtle-egg-seller

Divers make ‘heartbreaking’ discovery, scary encounter

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Michelle, Aaron, Robert, Adzmin and dive teams at the end of the Ocean Dive Clean Up 2020 at Mantanani Island in Kota Belud. – All photos courtesy from Mantanani Divers and Reef Check Malaysia.

KOTA BELUD: Ever since the Movement Control Order (MCO), Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) and the latest Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) were enforced to fight the global Covid-19 pandemic, tourism players have slowly began to open its door to local guests to once again embrace mother nature.

With SOPs in place during the RMCO, some 15 avid divers had recently got together for scuba diving activities in an attempt to see what had become of our ocean since we last left them some three months ago.

The dive team, comprising guests and members from Mantanani Divers, Reef Check Malaysia and Empire Scuba Supplies Sdn Bhd, had jointly organised an Ocean Clean Up Dive 2020 on June 7 at Mantanani Island, in Kota Belud.

But unfortunately, the early morning anticipated dive turned heartbreaking when divers came across a dead juvenile Hawksbill sea turtle caught in a ghost net.

The ghost net was believed left on purpose by illegal fishermen to make a quick catch.

Mantanani Divers marketing director Michelle Wong, who was part of the dive team said encountering sea turtles caught in ghost nets is just heartbreaking.

“Seeing sea turtles, especially a juvenile, caught in a ghost net is something that no diver would like to encounter.

“It just saddened us how such a beautiful and harmless animal can be treated like that,” she said, adding that the team worked together to remove the dead turtle from the net before the carcass was taken back to shore.

The carcass will be handed to the Wildlife Department for further action, she said.

Two weeks later and another sea cleanup, the team once again encountered another dead sea turtle, this time an adult Hawksbill, caught in a ghost net again in Mantanani Island on June 20.

According to Michelle, the turtle is believed to have been dead for more than a week.

“All that is left is its skin and shell,” she said, adding that the team again removed the carcass from the ghost nets.

While into their second dive on June 20, the divers encountered one of their most terrifying experience when two explosions were heard underwater that were caused by fish bombs.

“We were only in the water for about 20 minutes into our second dive when the explosions occurred.

“Before the first explosion, some of us heard a ‘hissing’ sound and thought it was a boat moving above us.
“I remember Robert, my dive buddy, pulled me down to the surface as he also initially thought the sound came from the boat propeller.

“However, just seconds after Robert pull me down, we all heard an explosion. It was so loud that it felt like the bomb had gone off where we were diving.

“We immediately checked if everyone was alright.

“About two minutes later, we heard a second explosion about some meters away.

“Fearing for our safety, we decided to end the dive earlier then expected,” said Michelle, adding that both explosions occurred during their dive at Police Gate, one of several dive sites in Mantanani Island.

For the record, fish bombing is illegal in Sabah as the explosion will not only destroy marine ecosystem such as reefs and corals, but also posed a danger to recreational divers.

This illegal method has been documented and made public numerous time in the media but is still rampant especially around tourism dive spots.

Aaron Gavin, a dive instructor from Empire Scuba Supplies Sdn Bhd, said beside fish bombs, fishermen have also opted to used a primitive method known as chicken rigs, where fishing hooks will be connected along fishing lines and placed underwater around coral reefs.

“Big fish or turtles will normally get hooked by the line as it moved through the water.

“This method is not only illegal but also dangerous to recreation divers.

“Imagine a diver getting entangled in the fishing hooks and fishing line while taking photos of coral or small creatures underwater. How are they going to free themselves?”

As a dive instructor, Aaron claimed to have come across many chicken rigs while taking guests on dive activities.

“But during our dives in Mantanani, both on June 7 and June 20, I saw many fishing lines with fishing hooks along coral reefs.

“We believe some villagers have decided to set up these lines in the water as they were unable to buy chemicals or other equipment to make fish bombs during the MCO period,” he said.

Aaron also said the fish bomb incident that they encountered during their dive had been reported and shared in a WhatsApp group called “Sabah Fish Bombing” and hopes authorities who are in the group will take the necessary action.

The owner and founder of Mantanani Divers, Robert Thien also hopes the relevant authorities will take stern action against those not only responsible in destroying the ocean, but also endangering the life of divers through their irresponsible action.

“Sabah is blessed with many beautiful dive sites but how are we going to attract local tourists to enjoy our diving activities in our own country if we cannot ensure the beauty and safety of our oceans?”

“We hope during the RMCO period, efforts are taken to focus on recovery, not only from the pandemic, but also through actions that really strengthen the resilience and sustainability of the ocean.

“Even if another outbreak strikes, at least we know that our local tourists are confident about local tourism services,” he said.

Meanwhile, Reef Check Malaysia founder Adzmin Fatta said protection of coral reefs should be given critical attention from being destroyed either through illegal fish bombing or underwater vandalism.

“Healthy coral reefs can boost the tourism sector especially through diving and snorkelling.

“The state government had earlier this year announced to gazette both Mantanani and Darvel Bay in Lahad Datu as a Marine Protected Area before 2023.

“We welcome such move by the state government in their effort and commitment in achieving the 10 percent target of protecting the waters around Sabah,” said Adzmin.

Adzmin said Reef Check Malaysia hopes that with the gazette plan, management efforts will be carried out to ensure the sustainability of the island’s resources and economic viability for the islanders, including the tourism sector.

Read more @ https://www.theborneopost.com/2020/06/26/divers-make-heartbreaking-discovery-scary-enco