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SOUTHEAST ASIA VERTEBRATE RECORDS IN MALAYSIA

In May 2019, an article appeared in the online press in Malaysia written by a local academic. The article criticized a local NGO, other academics, a wildlife brochure and some foreign visitors. It accused some people of ‘undertaking research without a permit’ and 'entering our forests and conducting their scientific observations’. The article used offensive, strong words such as lanun (= pirate) and ‘merogol’ (= ‘rape’).

Instead of writing the article, the author could have chosen instead to email his concerns directly to those he seeks to denigrate.

Launched in 2016, Southeast Asia Vertebrate Records (SEAVR) is a platform by which simple natural history observations (i.e. a photo accompanied by basic field notes and some remarks) can be shared. Earlier postings were often from Malaysia, but in 2018 and 2019 the majority of postings have been simple, short-note articles from wildlife surveyors in the Philippines and Indonesia.

As in other countries, SEAVR articles from Malaysia are of wildlife found in a variety of habitats such as private property (residences, hotels etc.), coastal or marine, many include roadkill photos, and many have images taken from the edge of public roads and in secondary habitats. It is surprisingly easy in rural parts of these countries to find a wealth of small or medium-sized wildlife at night next to public roads: the number of roadkills in rural areas bears testament to this abundance and diversity.

In Malaysia, images taken ‘inside forest’ by day are in areas designated as Amenity Forest (‘Hutan Lipur’), or are along public trails in national or state parks. Images taken by night are either wildlife found near forest accommodation or are from roadside vantage points.

The online ‘news article’ of May 2019 summarizes various locations that such ‘illegal research’ has supposedly been undertaken in Peninsular Malaysia, however nearly all such areas are promoted as eco-tourist destinations e.g. Fraser’s Hill, Panti Forest, Langkawi, Taman Negara, Tioman and around Mersing.

Criticism is also made of the number of articles placed online in 2016, however in the case of SEAVR the records placed online in 2016 actually date back to 2002.

I joined the Malaysian Nature Society around 25 years ago. It is my wish to contribute to the appreciation of Malaysia’s natural heritage through SEAVR. Photographing and documenting wildlife is a retirement hobby. I share images widely, and at no charge. My images appear on the MYBIS website, and in nature areas such as Penang National Park, and in hotels such as Berjaya Resorts.

I am not a researcher, rather I am a 61-year old retired geologist. I have no affiliation with any research institution, nor any access to research grants. I have built the Ecology Asia website for 20 years using my own funds, and I have progressed to running SEAVR for the last 4 years. I have a Malaysian wife with an extensive family in the northern states. We have a second home in Malaysia, and frequently travel in the states of Penang, Perak, Terengganu and Johor.

If there are any concerns from regulatory authorities and professional researchers about SEAVR's role in Malaysia, please kindly share your feedback directly with me. I am easily contacted by email.

Nick Baker

Ecology Asia / Southeast Asia Vertebrate Records
9th July 2019