Sunday, December 19, 2010

On the Distinguished Professors

1. Last week for the first time in Malaysian educational history the Ministry of Higher Education launched and awarded the Distinguished Professors to three eminent scholars in the field of Humanities, Social Science and Medicine. In today's NST these three personalities were highlighted. Prof. Tan Sri Dr. Mohd. Kamal Hassan (UIA) is no stranger to all of us as he is ex-UKM and a Muslim scholar and philosopher as well as ex-UIA Rector. Prof. Datuk Dr. Shamsul Amri Baharuddin is an icon at UKM, an eminent socio-anthropologist, Deputy Chairman of National Professors Council and Director of Institute of Ethnic Studies at UKM; and Prof. Dr. Looi Lai-Meng is a medical pathologist from UM and a Senior Fellow of Academy of Sciences Malaysia.

2. It is in fact a promotion for these VK5 professors as they are now on Staff 3 and with a $300K research grant, this award augurs very well for the under-rated intellectuals. After all there are just over 1500 professors in Malaysia and only 3 are promoted to staff 3. If one think of the other civil servants in the government sectors there are dozens of staff 3 to staff 1 officers.

3. These professors are entrusted to teach students so that they become civil servants; supervise post-graduate students so that they possess MS and PhD key criteria for their promotions; carry out research in their fields of choice though the civil servants again decide on their research grants; publish articles in peer-reviewed journals locally and internationally; and they also served the communities at large in their own ways. These are intellectual ironies and great illusions!

4. However, when I read the NST today I sensed something different. The Minister and Ministry of Higher Education are looking for professors who don't do the basic teaching, supervising, researching and publishing anymore but they are looking for professors who are able to translate their past glories into government policies and direct and indirect community intellectual benefits (e.g. Sarong Index). And very few could fit into that. That reminds me of the awarding of research grants that promises products that benefits the foreign exchange in the shortest possible time.

5. I wish the Distinguished Professors many congratulations and the aspiring ones good luch for 2011.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Imbak Canyon Scientific Expedition 2010

1. This year the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) jointly with Sabah Foundation (YS) organised a 11-day expedition to yet another pristine conservation area of Sabah Foundation at Imbak Canyon. With the supports of more tha 100 reseachers from various institutions such as USM, UM, UiTM, UPM, UNIMAS, UMS and UKM; PERHILITAN, Sabah Parks, Forestry Department Sabah, Sabah Wildlife Department etc etc.

2. The activity started off with a cocktail reception at Yayasan Sabah library on the evening of 25th November, followed by signing of MoU between ASM (reprented by YBhg Dato Zaidee Laidin & Dr. Shukri) and YS (represented by YBhg Tan Sri Khalil & Dr. Waidi), launching of Maliau book and a flag-off of the expedition by YB Datuk Marsidi, the Minister of Environment and Tourism Sabah.

3. We spent the night of 26th at Camp Tampoi and managed to watch the end events of Asian Games. On the morning of 27th the participants walked from the send-off point to Camp Kuli, the expedition base camp. The time taken by them varies from ca. 1 hr by Prof. Emer. Dato' Ikram to 4 hrs by Prof. Dato' Laily. Of course the young porters ran in with heavy luggage on their backs.

4. From the afternoon of 27th till the evening of 5th December the participants walked the trails, observed and captured all kinds of flora and fauna. The expedition is divided into (a) Physical landscape & Geology, (b) Water quality and aquatic life, (c) Flora, (d) Fauna, (e) Tourism and (f) Local communities., aspects hoping to cover every disciplines that are significant to conservation of Imbak Canyon.

5. Many new discoveries and plenty of new knowledge had been generated over the periods that will be discussed in February 2011, possibly at Kota Kinabalu. To recap a few reports; a total of 31 species of odonates, 27 species of freshwater fishes, many collections of mosses, ferns and higher plants were made; many collections of beetles, birds, small mammals etc were made. The geological aspects were mapped, water quality is Class 1. Don't let me preempt the findings!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

DNA Barcoding and Taxonomy - A comment

1. Way back in 2005 botanists and zoologists representing well-known herbaria and museum met in London to discuss plans to do barcoding the specimens. This is reported by Malte C. Ebach & Craig Holdrege, Buffalo Museum of Science, USA and The Nature Institute, Ghent, New York, USA, respectively.The purpose is to find a unique piece of DNA for every described species, so future taxonomists can run large biotic surveys without the need to learn or use morphological keys.

2. As taxonomy is always viewed by non-taxonomists as a discipline on the verge of extinction or a discipline of stamp collecting, the future of morpho-taxonomy is getting bleaker as we can't compete with the barcoders for meaningful grants anymore. As it is in Malaysia the taxonomists and the biodiversity scientists are losing to biotechnologists for good grants. The people who sit on the R & D panels viewed taxonomy can't deliver patents and sellable products.

3. Taxonomy has always been base on solid knowledge of morphology including anatomy, palynology, ecology, very soon barcoders don't have to understand what is a stipule or an ovate leaf!. To-day the morphologists are already losing to molecular taxonomists who use say, cytochrome c oxidase subunits to differentiate families, genera or species. In Malaysia, molecular taxonomy is still at infancy state and yet we are becoming followers to those who are beginning to divide a genus like Costus to many genera and align Verbenaceae to Labiatae, for example.

4. As discussed DNA barcoding generate information but not knowledge that are derived from observing specimens from a wide range of habitats and provenances to understand the infraspecific or intrageneric variation. A herbarium and useum like ours at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia is going to have problems acquiring DNA machines and employ barcoders not taxonomists and para-taxonomies to collect, curate and study plants and animals collections.

5. What kind of taxonomic impediments are these?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Educational Illusions

1. Universities in the world including some in Malaysia are after the THES ranking; some want to be come world-class universities as the likes of Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford. Some aspire to be among the greats in Asia as the likes of Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. Some just want to be in the league as to be noticed. There are many arguments on this locally, some made sense and some made non-sense.

2. I could only speak for my university, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia as I began in this university in 1974 as a tutor in biology department and retired as a professor of botany in 2004, some 40 years. I enjoyed teaching and supervising students on both levels, the undergraduates and the graduates. I cherished research in botany and later in biodiversity and published some good, some bad and some lousy papers ....these bore my name.

3. When I looked back I began to see some illusions in our educational aspirations and systems. We made mistakes by going English and we made mistakes by going three years for an honours degree. When I taught them in Malay the graduates went on to do well in their MS and PhD degrees overseas and they came back home to be somebody ....when I taught them 4 years of botany they learned many things useful and they could communicate botany very well. And now when I taught them in English in 3 years, many of them couldn't survive the interviews for jobs, may of them failed in their MS and PhD studies overseas. What went wrong with me?

4. Years ago I used chalks and over-head transparencies and now I use power-points; then I used to take them to field works now the university doesn't have money to pay; we used to have many more practical classes and now we cut-short our practical classes because of monetary problems. The labs have not been improved and the equipments were old and rusty. What went wrong with us? Since 1982 when we first occupied the Biology building, nothing has changed. We have not added any new labs and building ....and we aspire to be among the best in the country.

5. I wished I am the Minister of Higher Education as I will approve 100 millions to refurbish the labs and build new building to house post-graduate and lecturers research labs. I will buy new up-to-date equipments, I will add two more SEM machine, six more PCR, 4 more DNA sequencers and I will allocated some R & D funds to professors ....when would I be the Minister?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On the current local university graduates

1. I was recently asked to state the differences between the local graduates and the overseas graduates. This question arisen as there are perceptions that the local graduates are less prepared to enter the Malaysian workforce. This question is difficult to answer as I myself am a local graduate in botany who teaches botany in one local university. However, I did my MSc and PhD in Plant Taxonomy at Reading, England. My eldest son is an overseas graduate in finance and accountancy and my daughter is the local graduate in biology.
2. What strikes first is the fact that most overseas undergraduates have a cheque book and most local undergraduates lack it. The possession of a cheque book makes one a different person as one can sign it to pay for services and other transactions. This I think makes the locals less confident in their conversation and undertakings.
3. Next is the power of English language. The locals proficiency in English is second-to-none and they don't read English newspapers and English novels. Those studying overseas, especially in UK, US, Canada, Australia have no choice but to read English newspapers and speak English, hence they become more proficient.
4. Next is the teachers or lecturers. Most local teachers and lecturers are not open, liberal, understanding, more dedicated and committed, of course with exceptions. However, most lecturers overseas are liberal and open and they are not stuck-up. In local universities the lecturers demand they be properly addressed as Dr and Professor; overseas especially in US they would rather be addressed with first name, Tom or ted etc.
5. The library and librarians. Overseas , most libraries have adequate number of reference books and journals. Local ones lack money to buy and subscribe to the journals, other than the popular ones. The overseas librarians are very friendly and ever-willing to help the students, the local librarians are library-workers, with some exceptions.
6. Lastly, the personality and personal altitude. The local students due to not being able to speak and write good English tend to be expressionless and conservative. They would mix among themselves and would be happy to wait for spoon-feeding and initiatives from their lecturers. They lack a lot of motivation to do better and improve their personality and character.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Scientific Expeditions and Animal New Species

1. The Department of Forestry Peninsular Malaysia is instrumental in organising scientific expeditions in its forest reserves in the peninsula since 1999. The scientific expeditions were organised in all the states for the duration of 4-5 days due to financial and administrative constraints. Many scientists from the local institutes, universities and NGOs had participated, however, there are some sceptics who questioned the duration of the activities and what could be achieved in those short times, as opposed to the month-long expedition in those colonial times.

2. There had been many discoveries either the finding of new records to Peninsular Malaysia or to the respective states and new species to science in the animal world and plant world. For this posting I would like to discuss the former,

3. In Kedah, there were Theloderma licin, two new species of frog discovered from Ulu Muda; Hylarana montjerai from Gunung Jerai and a new record of Rhizophora stylosa from Pulau Pasir, Pulau Langkawi and a new record for Kedah of Costus oligophylus from Sungai Sedim. In Perak, a new Costus is also discovered. In Johor, a new species of frog, Rhacophorus norhayatii was described from Gunung Panti, a species differentiated from R. reinwardtii. From Pulau Pangkor, a new species of thrip, Thrip razanii has recently been named in honour of the present Director-General of Forestry Department.

4. From Bukit Bauk, a putatively new species of the smallest cyprinid fish was discovered, belonging to the genus Paedocypris and recently been placed in a new family. From Cameron Highlands, a new species of bat of the genus Otomops awaits new description.

5. There are many more cicadas, beetles and other insects, possibly ferns, mosses and angiosperms also awaits description and naming. A putative new Gnetum is discovered from Kenong, Pahang. A new record of Trichosanthes emarginata, a Sumateran species has been collected from Krau Wildlife Sanctuary.

6. All the above clearly showed that with some extra efforts by the zoologists and botanists, many new species and new records had been discovered. These are some spin-offs from the scientific expeditions conducted in the last decade. We look forwards to a new cycle of expeditions starting next year 2011.

Friday, September 17, 2010

On the Hari Raya 2010

1. We decided to go home to Kota Bharu after all for the Hari Raya Aidilfitri knowing very well we are going to suffer from traffic jam. Traffic jam at Kuala Krai junction is synonymous with hari Raya in Kelantan. Every year those traveling from Kuala Lumpur via Gua Musang suffered from it creating unnecessary stress and burning of extra fuel.

2. Those who decided to travel earlier i.e. Monday 7th, Tuesday 8th suffered the jam from Karak. My sister-in-law decided to go via Kuala Terengganu and so did my son. I decided to go via Gua Musang. We started on Thursday 9th about 11 am from Kuala Lumpur and arrived in Kota Bharu at ca. 6 pm. just before breaking the last fast.

3. Throughout the Hari Raya, traffic jams in Kota Bharu and its outside the city roads were the talk of the people. It was like the annual flood, it has become the time to rejoice. many wonders when are we going to experience less traffic jams. My friends blamed the volume of the traffic, others blamed on the reckless driving, some blamed the narrow roads and while the minority blamed themselves.

4. On the 16th we decided to travel back to Kajang, a day after my son went to watch Kelantan vs Negeri Sembilan football match at the Sultan Muhammad IV stadium. It was a fair match but that penalty was not a penalty - well we lack the electronic eye to see the reality. The Kelantanese defender tackled the NS forward outside the penalty areas but both fell inside the area, hence the silly penalty and the Red Warriors lost.

5. We left K Bharu at about 11 am and when we arrived at Ketereh the traffic was becoming bad and my wife directed my son to go either via Kuala Terengganu or Jeli. I dictated my son to drive via Gua Musang and the jam became worst as we approached Machang. We arrived at Kajang just after 9 pm, a mere 10 hours of fuel burning. After Gua Musang the traffic became normal and driving became joyful. When are we going to have an alternative route called a Highway in Kelantan? ...I am sure the BN government is going to promise it a month before the next General Election, like they did before the 2008 election!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Wave University

1. Some years ago in 1996 the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak published an interesting book entitles, "The New Wave University - A Prelude to Malaysia 2020" and it was co-edited by Profs. Ghazally Ismail and Murtedza Mohamed. It was a very interesting book to read in paralley with the "The Renaissance Man", book published by the University of Malaysia, edited by Profs Dato' Hashim Yaacob et al.

2. Both discussed what the new waves university is all about. The first discussed about the paradigm shift universities in Malaysia should have taken to be more relevant and the second discussed about what Royal Prof. Ungku Aziz did at the oldest university as an example how to run a university.

3. In the Foreward of the New Wave University, written by our present PM he lamented two very crucial improvements which are necessary in our education system : first, to ensure that the people are technologically literate and develop a high level of thinking skills by using new approaches to develop and implement the curriculum; and the second, to humanise the learning environment by using natural learning processes that involve social, active and collaborative approaches.

4. With the availability of ICT and PC I think Malaysian are in good position to be technologically literate, but to think in a skillful manner to innovate and transformation our curriculum is a bit challenging for some. Many love to be on a status quo position, why don't rock the boat when we are comfortable; why transform when we are going to be over-burdened and why change for better when we are already good.

5. To humanise the learning environment is more challenging for it requires more thoughts to making our universities and their curricula relevant to the society at large. Many faculties are inclined to transform their approaches to make more profits and to cater for the urban rich and ignoring the poor rural folks. There are disparities between the big 5 RUs and the newer and smaller universities in many aspects of R & D, good teaching, good supervising and good research.

Happy Merdeka

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Flora Malesiana International Symposium

1. The Flora Malesiana International Symposium started in 1992 at Jogjakarta and since then I hardly missed it until last week in Singapore 23-28 August. I had wanted to attend and present an update of the Malaysian pteridophyte flora as requested by Prof. M, Kato. I had made my accommodation bookings and also my flight to and from Singapore.

2. However, one bad news struck. The eye specialist diagnosed me as having myopic maculopathy and I had got to go through some immediate treatments otherwise she warned me I might go blind. I went through thorough testings and consultation until last week she injected a drug into my left eye and now I am having a big black spot in my left eye sight. Luckily my right eye is perfect that makes driving possible.

3. I had been informed the Malaysian botanical representatives are small in number and there were not many papers presented. However, Dr. L G Saw and Dr. R Kiew of FRIM were there; Dr. Rusea Go was there; Datuk Seri C K Lim was there too.

4. Well, I missed updating myself with the progress of Flora Malesiana and also Malesian botany. In addition, I missed the Flora Malesiana Foundation Board meeting which was scheduled for the 25th afternoon, of whih I am a long-standing member.

5. I hoped all went well with the Singapore symposium and I just hope I will be able to complete my Malesianum Vitacearum for the next symposium which may be in non-Malesian country.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Biodiversity of Pulau Pangkor

1. In May 2009 the Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia & Forestry Department of Perak organised a 5-day scientific expedition to Pulau Pangkor, an island off Lumut. After one year and 2 months the participants gathered at Ipoh on 12-13 July to discuss the findings through a seminar. A total of 30 papers were presented covering forest management, water quality, flora and fauna.

2. An interesting paper was presented by En. Azid Adam of Forestry Department Pahang on the inventory of Shorea lumutensis at Sungai Pinang Permananet Forest Reserve adn Pangkor Selatan Forest Reserve. His findings immediately put Pulau Pangkor on the dipterocarp map as the density of the species in the former is 0.187/ha and in the latter 1.169/ha. A total of 276 stands of more than 10 cm DBH were mapped and measured.

3. Dr. Y F Ng informed the participants that there are two new species of thrips, one belonging to the genus Thrips and the other to the genus Siamothrips. The participant urged Dr Ng to name the latter after Pulau pangkor as it was first discovered on this island. Meanwhile Dr. C Y Choong reported the discover of the second species record for Coeliccia kimurai (Odonata) for Peninsular Malaysia.

4. Dr. Wan Julianan et al. reported Pulau Pangkor harbours ca. 52% of the mangrove flora in spite of the fact that you didn't see much of the mangroves on the shores and estuaries of the island. As for the higher plants Dr Mohd. Nizam et al. and Mrs. Ghollasimood et al. reported the ecological dynamics of the forests. In the former surveys a total of 480 stands belonging to 113 species,78 genera and 40 families were enumerated in a plot totalling 0.5 ha. In the latter study of 5 ha plot, a total of 3315 stands belonging to 211 species, 112 genera and 50 families were enumerated, showing richness and diverse flora.

5. The fauna were quite common with those of the mainland; 73 species of moths and butterflies, 53 species of birds, 13 species of spiders, 48 species of beetles, 13 species of amphibians, 25 species of reptiles were listed. However, much of the beetles, fungi and soil bacteria and actinomycetes remained unidentified to the species.

6. Pulau Pangkor has been designated as a destination for tourists. As it is the island is well-known for its white sandy beaches and hornbills which are quite tame that the tourists could easily watch. The Department of Forestry Perak had already gazetted a 10-ha HCVF, a Virgin Jungle Reserve, constructed more than 5.8 km of jungle tracks and in the offings are possible a small Botanic Garden or a State Park to value-add biodiversity for the visitors and ecotourists.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


1. From the 6th till 8th July I was invited to attend and present a paper at the 2nd International Conference organised by BioJohor. I understand that this event is organised once in two years; the first was organised in 2008, and the next one is promised in 2012. It was a 3-day conference and exhibitions by small and medium biotechnological business companies.

2, The papers presented covered biodiversity, environment, biotechnology, chemistry, policy, ethics, laws etc, almost all applied science and geared towards products and business. I found myself quite lost because I had nothing to sell and nothing that I was proud to dream to sell as a product. My science has always been non-commercial biodiversity.

3. However, what BioJohor had done should be praised for it raised many challenges to the state government the custodian of Johor bioresources, her flora and fauna and the environment. as biodiversity is a state matter. Johor should think how best and economic to pursue making some money out of her richness in biodiversity. I was informed BioJohor has been successful in producing and marketting some products from her resources such as mudballs and others.

4. I can help but thinking other states should imitate this fanfare. In future I would like to see BioKelantan, BioTerengganu, BioPahang, BioPerlis, BioKedah and other bios come forwards to organise similar activities if not for the KL-based scientists but for the local scientists, businessmen and state dignitaries to ponder. After all, once again, I dare said biodiversity is a state matter and state green assets which could be developed for biotechnology and ecotourim products at state level

5. I look forward for the next BioJohor in 2012 when Iskandar (or rather Iskandaria) becomes the futuristic city

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On the State of Taxonomy in Malaysia

1. Some years ago the taxonomists met in one of the hotels in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the fate of this old scientific discipline in Malaysia. Many well-known speakers came forward to voice their concerns for the taxonomy and biodiversity in the country. At that time we realised the discipline was not popular with the students and so much so that it halted and inhibited good science. The faculties were slowly disappeared from Universiti Malaya.

2. Then we met again at Marriott Hotel in Putrajaya, this time the meeting was sponsored by the Japanese Initiatives. Once again we discussed among other things are; the ill-funding of taxonomy and dwindling number of taxonomists and para-taxonomists, also the development of careers of many young Malaysian taxonomists. In 1991 we published the state of herbarium and thier reference collections in Malaysia and last year we intended to visit this but there was no fund. In 1998 we launched the country's Biological Diversity Policy in which we emphasised the fundamental importance of taxonomy and systematics.

3. We need a national debate and forum on this crucial issues especially on (a) training of young taxonomists, (b) funding for taxonomy research, (c) the fate of taxonomic groups such as the Insecta, (d) careers and human resources, (e) collections and documentation. We need not only a common strategy but also plan of actions. I am willing to talk to the Scientific Advisor to the government on this matter either via Academy of Sciences Malaysia or The Coulcil of National Professors.

4. Let us take this opportunity not only for taxonomy and systematics in Malaysia but also to take the lead for regional concern. This is in light of the forth coming International Conference on Flora Malesiana in Singapore in August 2010. The date-base on taxonomy and taxonomists at FRIM to my knowledge is not comprehensive and complete and there was no effort to discuss this. This is equally important as we would like to increase our profile to provide rapid response to jounalists and public at large on matters relating to taxonomy and nomenclature.

5. Presently, we have small number of taxonomists in the country and they are well-spread in universities and research institutes. For example, at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia we have En. Ahmad Damanhuri Mohamad (53), a muscologist; Dr. Haja Maideen Kadeer Maideen, a molecular pteridologist; Prof. Jumaat Adam (54), a specialist on Nepenthes and yours truly who is just 62 this year. We have some students in our school, though without funds, Ms. Ee Gaik Lee (Liverwort), Mrs. Qistina A. Latiff (Molecular pteridology), Mr. Shamsul Khamis (Lauraceae), Mr. Hussin El-Taguri (Vatica), Mr. Nasier (Madhuca), Aldrich Richard (Palaquium), Ms. Kwek Mei Juin (Rinorea), Ms. Nurulhuda Fathul (Cissus), Izlamira Roslan (Horntedtia), etc. My concern is about their future careers!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

When You Are 62

1. Some 62 years ago at about 0908 hr on this date I was born to a coconut tapper father and a housewife in the village of Parang Puting, Pengkalan Chepa, Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Being the first born in the family I was pampered like any other child to spoil my later adulthood. I was told by my late grandmother that my late uncle Pak Teh Hussin would not leave the house to go to work without seeing me in my sleep. It was only after seeing my innocent face that he cycled to work. However, my late grandfather didn't tell me what my late father did before he went out to do his chores.

2. I was spoiled from my childhood until my adulthood by members of my family. I gathered that was the way the last generation showered their love. Of course when my sister Latifah born in June 1952 and my cousin Eshah born in 1953, the close family attention went to these girls.

3. I started schooling in January 1955 at the Sekolah Kebangsaan Parang Puting which is situated on the road from Kota Bharu to Sabak at the 6.5 milestone. I remembered thefirst school very well; the walls were made up of bamboo, the roofs of nipah attaps and the floor is bare sand. I could not remember whether I had shoes or not, if I had they surely became dirty of mud which we called the Malayan snow. I used to carry one slate board and one slate pencil to school on which I wrote every subject matter from arithmatic to religious studies. I was quite good in school coming 5th in Standard One and from Standard 2-5 on top of the class.

4. I took the Special Malay Examination in 1958 hoping to enter the English school in Kota Bharu in 1959. I came out 4th in Kota Bharu District 4 and was posted to Merbau English School where I stayed until December 1961. In January 1962 I enrolled at the Sultan Ismail College and studied there until I completed Upper Six Science in December 1968. In the school I was a little active playing some games, though didn't excel in any; was a school prefect, president of Interact Club and Deputy President of Science & Mathematics Society. The president of the latter was Wee Chan Hock.

5. I entered the Faculty of Science, University of Malaya in May 1969 without knowing what to do. I did economics, chemistry, biology A and biology B in the first year; eliminated economic in the second year; and did all biology in the third year. In the final or Honours year I specialised in botany .....and botany I professed until to-day when I am 62

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Gunung Benom Scientific Seminar

1. On Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th most of those participants who took part in the Gunung Benom Scientific Expedition in November 2009, met to discuss their findings at J. W. Marriott Hotel, Putrajaya. The Seminar was officially opened by YBhg Dato' Azmi Che Mat, Deputy Secretary General, Ministry of natural resources & Environment on behalf of the Minister. Most of the seminar participants were young scientists and this augurs well for the future of Malaysian biodiversity.

2. There were two keynote addresses, on the first morning we had The Deputy Director-General PERHILITAN YBerusaha Pn Misliah speaking about the coming activities and mission of the Department of Wildlife & National park and on the second morning YBhg Prof. dato' Ibrahim Komoo of Academy of Sciences Malaysia who spoke about the role of ASM in organising scientific expeditions.

3. Altogether a total of 29 papers were presented covering topics like water quality of streams in the expedition area, geology of Gunung Benom, the flora and fauna of Gunung Benom, the Orang Asli of Krau and the ecotourism potential of the area.

4. I talked about the issues of connectivity of Krau Wildlife reserve in which Gunung Benom is situated on the north-western boundary of the game reserve. I realised this patch of wildlife reserve which is extremely rich in biodiversity is separated from the Banjaran Titiwangsa, which forms the core of the Central Forest Spine in Peninsular Malaysia. I personally believe that it is still possible to create and establish the forest corridors between these.

5. Among the significant findings were (a) A new record of Trichosanthes emarginata (Cucurbitaceae) for Peninsular Malaysia in Krau, discovered and collected by Datuk Seri C. K. Lim, a species 10 years ago was described by Dr. Rugayah (BO) from Sumatera, (b) A new record of gigantic earthworm for Peninsular Malaysia on Gunung Benom by Ms Tan, tentatively identified as Pheretima darnleinensis, a species that was discovered in Australia and 5 years ago recorded from Mt. Kinabalu, Sabah. It may be a new species! (c), Two new records of frogs, Hylarana siberu and Theloderma licin for Krau. The former was first described from Pulau Siberut, Indonesia and the latter was described from Weng, Kedah. (d) There are other new records for the mosses and possibly many new species of beetles yet to be identified.

6. After a panel discussion on the Gunung Benom and Krau ably chaired by Prof. Mohd. Shaffea Leman of UKM, the seminar was offically closed by a representative of ASM. the panel consists of Haji Mohd. Nawayai Yasak (PERHILITAN), YBhg Dato Dino Sharma (WWF Malaysia), En. Salleh Daim (UiTM) and a representative of the Krau community.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Gunung Belumut Forest Biodiversity

1. Last week, on the 1-2nd June 2010 more than 60 scientists and forestry officers met and discussed the findings of the Gunung Belumut Scientific Expedition organised on 10-14 August 2009, in a seminar held at Johor Bahru. It was officially opened by Johor Exco, a member of State Legislative Assemby from Paloh. On the night of opening ceremony we were entertained with various shades of zapin, a portpouri of traditional dances, originated from Persia but made popular in Johor. A total of 28 scientific papers were presented.

2. The papers covered forest management, ecotourism, water quality, flora, fauna, and the Orang Asli communities. It was reported that more than 60,000 people per year visited the Recreational Forest there and this augurs very well for the state of Johor which attempt to lure the Singaporeans across. There is a possibility of a new species of Scaphochlamys (Zingiberaceae) being described from the area; 11 new records of mosses were made and several other records of both the flora and fauna.

3. Many findings of great significance to the heritage of Johor were recorded and discussed. Among them are (a) the conservation and survival of the populations of Paphiopedlim barbatum which is iconic for Gunung Belumut, (b) four new records of orchids including Corybas carinatus and Anoectochilis, (c) the rare and important Hopea johoriensis, Androtium astylum, Kopsia teoi, Dichapetalum griffithii and Croton kelantanicus.

4. The productivity of the forest at Gunung Belumut whaih was presented by Dr. Mohd. Nizam et al. at 498.44 t/ha; an area of 0.5 ha support more than 772 tree species, H = 4.58 and a possible carbon stock of 289 t/ha

5. The seminar was officially closed by State Forestry Director, Hj. Yahya bin Mahmood.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

On the record by Abdullah Ahmad II

1. At last I finished reading this book, in between reading the biography of Mahatma Ghandi, chapter 4 of Kwek's MS thesis, Samsudin Musa PhD thesis, manuscripts on Rafflesia lawangensis, Folia malaysiana, a MS theses from UPM and USM and others. I wished I could do speed reading, but you can't apply sped reading to reading the thesis.

2. I saluted Abdullah Ahmad's clarity in expressing his dislikes of Western Press especially Newsweek, when these media attacked Malaysia and Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. I am as patriotic as Tan Sri, and I would do anything to defend my beloved country and also my beloved state, my beloved town and of course the village of Parang Puting where my blood was shed. But many a time I asked myself if my country and my Prime Minister were not wrong, why would these media did what they did. Of course tan Sri already explained the intention of these media.

3. Coming close to home I would have said the similar things to The New Straits Times, The Star, Utusan Malaysia, Harakah and other tabloids because these local media have quite similar intentions, right or wrong. At times I felt the editors and sub-editors and reporters were a bunch of "idiots" but then I think I understood their intentions as guided by their bosses and owners. After all journalism is a hypocritic arts and journalists are hypocrites.

4. However, I am so proud that Tan Sri expressed his thoughts and ideas in excellent English, very articulate and easy to understand. After all he was a former journalist, diplomat, politician, editor and etc. I had a couple of times spoken to him in person and I admired his philosophies and straight-forward ideas though too biased for his former boss, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, whom I perceived as committed some mistakes as politician.

5. In the last few records he did not minced his thoughts about his dislikes of Kelantan's MB Dato' Nik Aziz, Dato' Sri Anuwar Ibrahim, PAS, Islamic terrorism, western media and Mr Bush. I thought it was fair because Tan Sri had seen most and heard most, but how I wish he was more fair and balanced in his treatments of those who had been "damaged" by NST and all the TV stations especially during the elections.

Monday, May 31, 2010

On the record by Abdullah Ahmad

1. As I entered the waiting room at the Pengkalan Chepa airport I saw a book sale and I approached the stall. I saw many religious books and a couple by Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad or otherwise popularly known as Dollah Kok Lanas. He was well-known in Kelantan as a former Barisan National-UMNO MP for Machang, a former ISA detainee, a former diplomat, a former Deputy Minister who was so close to Tun A Razak

2. I was compelled to buy the two books written by him as I knew him, or rather I had talked to him some years ago. I think I spotted him at the airport wearing all-white with a white hat too, a colourless old man, so to speak. I had wanted to understand his thoughts as I knew as Editor-in-Chief of one of the populat newspapers he wrote his mind very well. As a former diplomat he articulated his thought very well too.

3. I enjoyed reading one of his books, "On the records" which is a compilation of his write-up for the column before he was sacked by Pak Lah the 5th Prime Minister. He recorded that incident very well on page 75. Though I had read these before but I must say it was equally enjoyable to read again and again. He wrote well in English, though coming from Kok Lanas. But this is the trait of Kelantanese of that generation.

4. However, I was beginning to get pissed off when he criticised Al Gore, Dato' Seri Anuar Ibrahim and PAS. I thought he was tolerant enough with that comments of Al Gore. I though he was tolerant enough with PAS's brand of Islam. But being an UMNO man, coming from Kelantan, I can understand why he could not tolerate PAS at all. He criticed many political incidents of the past from his personal point-of-view, which I though was fair but not quite intellectual and academic. There were a certain amount of intolerance within him that misguided his intellectual thoughts and wisdom.

5. However, I enjoyed reading it and it could easily be a piece of history and lessons in politic.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

National Council of Professors

1. In 2004 the faculty of Science and Technology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia established a Council of Professors, a committee under the faculty. The main objective had been to create an academic forum where serious academic matters are presented and discussed by the learned men and women. Some of these agendas were not able to be discussed at the normal faculty meetings due to lack of time.

2. Since then we had discussed the university rankings, internationalisation of university, journals of high impact factor, international networking, commercialisation of research, what is a research university, etc. The forum had been productive because great minds and brains think alike some times but not all the times.

3. Tomorrow Prof. R Wickineswari of the School of the Environment and Natural Resources is going to table a presentation on, "introgressive rice" the bread and butter of her academic research which has been supported very well by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation Malaysia.

4. This year on 31st March the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education established the National Council of professors with Prof. Emer. Dato' Dr. Zakri A. Hamid as her first Chairman. A number of clusters were also established to group some outstanding professors in various disciplines to give inputs to the government. Honestly I don't know how many professors are there in the country. My perception is that there are a few types of professors in Malaysia; there are founding professors, there are clinical professors, there are teaching professors and there are research professors. I am not sure whether United Kingdom has these types of professors!

5. A professor, to me is simply who has been a good teacher, teaching both the under- and post-graduate courses; who has been supervising graduate students, preferably PhD candidates; who has been carrying out good research and publish many papers in journals; who has contributed significantly to the scientific community, societies and governments; who is knowledgeable in his/her chosen discipline; presenting keynote and plenary addresses and above all the role model for the aspiring lecturers. The above characteristics differentiate professors from politicians, business people, professional practitioners and the public at large.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Universiti Malaysia Kelantan Symposium on Natural Resources

1. Last week I attended the first ever academic symposium organised by the Faculty of Agro-industry and Natural Resources, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan. In his opening speech the Vice Chancellor, YBhg. Prof. Dato' Ir. Dr. Zainai Mohamad commented that that was the first symposium to be organised by the new university and many more were to come in future.

2. I was happy to participate and gave a Keynote address on, "Conservation of biodiversity in Malaysia" a subject that I loved to dwell and cajole especially to the young scientists who will take the conservation baton from the old ones one day. The plenary lectures were given by YBhg Dato' Dahalan Hj Taha, the ex-Deputy Director General, Forestry department Semenanjung Malaysia and En. Khairuddin the Director, Department of Environment, Kelantan.

3. As I had stated elsewhere almost 90% of the participants who presented their scientific papers either orally or by posters are young; they came from almost all local universities in Malaysia, including those from Universiti malaysia Sarawak, Kota Samarahan and research institutes.

4. The papers covered all aspects of natural resources from minerals, heavy metals in rivers to flora and fauna reflecting their current graduate research projects conducted for their respective degrees, MS and PhD in their respective universities. I must confesses their English need a lot of improvement, their presentation especially their coloured slides need great colour-sense improvements and their answers to questions and comments need a lot of improvements. I believe in investing in the young scientist to carry the torches in various disciplines but they have to improve. There is no excuses in saying their Thai or Indonesian friends spoke worst English than them.

5. I wish the best to them in their studies and in their future participation in the national conferences and symposia. If not for them who have been daring enough there shall be little progress in our scientific endevours.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Biodiversity Footprints

1. This is the year of biodiversity and soon the COP is meeting again in Nagoya, Japan. Among other pressing items to be discussed is the link between biodiversity and climate change. The Rio Summit in 1992 discussed both and passed resolutions on both. When they met at Johannesburg in 2002 they evaluated the progress of Rio while discussing sustainable developement. They stalled the Kyoto Protocol and registered a failure at Copenhagen in 2009.

2. There was a divide on Climate Change both among the scientists and decision makers because they were greatly influenced by the business circles. Even in Brazil many politicians believed they coulddo away with conservation and go for maximum economic growth. The Malaysia Prime Minister made a promise to reduce green house gas emission up to 40% by 2020 on two conditions that Malaysia wants green technology transfer and financial compensation.

3. While targets are set both my political masters and business tycoons the ecosystems are suffering and species are being lost. However, both partners don't understand the definitions of community diversity and species diversity, let alone genetic diversity. They are willing to lose peat swamp forests in Sarawak and other lowland dipterocap forests in many states for some business gains. They are willing to lose turtles, rafflesias, orchids, dipterocarps, Sumateran rhinoceros, tigers, terrapins, freshwater fishes, slugs etc for similar financial gains.

4. What holds the future of biodiversity for the younger generations to appreciate and study? Possibly pockets of degraded forests where some populationss of fauna and flora are concentrated and fighting for their survivals. Perhaps degraded peat swamp forests where the peats could not much water; perhaps degraded mangrove swamp forests where aquatic life is in peril; perhaps the degraded montane vegetations where landslides are more prone to occur; and perhaps no more clean water is available to drink.

5. The prophets of climate change are dishing many alarming predictions what are in store for humanity in the next 100 years. Lkewise the prophets of biodiversity are alsopredicting its loss in the coming decades. I am not able to verify both but suffice to say that I have seen and witnessed the greed of loggers and business communities including past politicians in raking their profits from both the forests and marine habitats and are leaving the legacies for their grandchildren.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Gunung Besar Hantu Scientific Expedition

1. This year the Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department can only organise one forest biodiversity scientific expedition and the locality chosen was Gunung Besar Hantu, Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan. The locality could be accessed either from Seremban via Kuala Kelawang or from Semenyih via the Selangor-Negeri Sembilan border. From the trunk road junction we traveled on 4x4 road for about 15 km inside passing through a few the temuan villages.

2. It was launched and flagged off by the Chief Minister of Negeri Sembilan on the morning of Monday 2nd at the Sri Negeri, Seremban. This time it has attracted scientists from UNIMAS, UMS, USM, UM, FRIM, Tama Botani Putrajaya, SIRIM, UiTM, UPM, UKM, Department of Wildlife & national Parks and of course from the Forestry departments

3. As usual the scientists from SIRIM collected leaf litter and soils for bacteria and actinomycetes; Prof. Wan Ruslan from USM and Dr. Kamil UPM studied the water quality; Regina and Tuan Marina from JPSM studied the Temuan communities; Damanhuri collected mosses; Razali Jaman collected ferns; Datuyk Seri C K Lim studied gingers and palms; Hazman and pak Din collected gingers too; students of Dr. Rusea Go and A Rahman Jalil collected orchids; Ranger Salleh from Terengganu observed the dipterocarps; students of Dr. Nizam established plots; students of Dr. Fauziah of UM studied beetles; students of Dr. Norela caught moths and butterflies; Dr. Cy Choong studied the odonates; Azman Sulaiman caught cicadas, student of Dr. Y F Ng caught the thrips; students of prof. Idris trapped wasps; assistants of Dr. Shahrul Anuar caught bats, birds and small mammals; Dr. Pan of FRIM observed hornbills; Dr. Norhayati caught amphibians; Dr. A Hamid of UMS and Dr. Abdullah of UKM caught freshwater fishes and Azman of UiTM surveyed the recreational potential.

4. Some of the significant findings were:
a) The forests in the valleys and foothills are poor as indicated by the proliferation of bamboos and other pioneer species; lack of dipterocarps and palms. They are in the process of slow regeneration.
b) The waterfalls at lata Kijang was spectacular
c) Th gorges at Jeram Berunggut was also beautiful
d) Gunung Besar Hantu is still undisturbed at the altitude of about 1200 m a.s.l.
d) There are two endemic but rare Corybas
e) The red-flowered Etlingera which was put previously under E. littoralis complex needs further elucidation as Datuk Seri C K Lim thinks it warrants sp0ecific recognition
f) A few new records of mosses
g) Dr. Pan recorded on video the male Buceros rhinoceros feeding and caring the female in roosting site

5. The state plans to develop the 9,000 ha area as Taman Alam Liar Negeri or State Wildlife Nature Park together with Ulu Bendul Recreational Forest and Sungai Menyala Forest Reserve as ecotourism destinations. The basic infrastructures are already in place and we recommended the three localities must be developed with the biodiversity knowledge as the main educational attraction

Friday, April 2, 2010

Orchid Fever

1. Some times ago when I finished reading "The Lizard King" by Bryan Christy, I was recommended to read "Orchid fever" by Eric Hansen. I went to Kinokunia KL and searched for it ...out of stock said the girl at the desk. Immediately I put an order and it came last week before I left for Hong Kong. The former book highlighted the gaps in CITES and its enforcement arms all over the world including Malaysia and the USA. Almost every month animals were caught and smuggled through the porous customs' net. Once in a while the authority caught one culprit!

2. The latter is about the similar scenario that is happening in the world of plants, in particular the orchids. Every body loves orchids for various reasons. The housewives had their plant houses and orchids are a feature. I like orchids only in the botanical sense. It is only last year that I described my first new species in Orchidaceae, Dendrobium terengganuensis, a beautiful yellow-flowered endemic of Terengganu.

3. Eric Hansen described his journey to many places in the world either in search of orchids or orchid tales. He went to Gunung Api, Sarawak in search for Paphiopedilum. Of course he denied taking any piece of specimen but only took his friends to study the habitat of the orchids. He described his encounters with the orchid lovers in many funny but serious ways. I enjoyed reading it but it left too many questions unanswered.

4. In the book he had interviewed some taxonomists whom I know including Prof. John Beaman ex University of Michigan and Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Dr. Phil Cribb of Kew Herbarium and Dr. de Vogel of Leiden. John's comments were very candid and I believed him, but the parts played by Dr. Phil Cribb and Dr. de Vogel in orchid research and CITES enforcement remained blurr to me. May be I will ask them myself if I were to meet them again.

5. There were a lot of conspiracies in orchid trades and conservation. Before CITES came into force the colonialist botanists and noble traders had taken many species of exotic orchids from all parts of the world and maintained them in private tropical house collections and research institutions and botanical gardens. As the enthusiasts expanded in number there were demands for these orchids, the supply came from these collections. It was only when the small-times traders came into the picture the big players went to lawyers and beaurocrats and asked them to create CITES. Malaysia also signed the treaty but Malaysian custom officers cannot differentiate an orchid leaf from any succulent leaf of non-orchids. The part the German customs confiscated the herbarium and the picked specimens made me laughed. I though the Germans were more educated, after all Hitler wanted to conquer the World for the Aryans.

6. One question still bothered me though, the argument put forth by orchids breeders and propagators that they were multiplying these rare orchids to make them more readily available to the collectors, institutions etc. Similarly Thailand established tiger farm to make tiger meat more readily available to the Chinese markets, hence hindering poachers to go after the wild ones. But many of my friends want "village chickens" to the fat and hormone-containing broilers!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Research Audit at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

1. Probably this is my last posting for the month of March as I'll leave for Hong Kong on Tuesday 30th to attend WWF Asia-Pacific Chair meeting. Incidently I just came back from Port Dickson where we did the 2009 research project appraisal. This is an annual affair, I missed the last year's evaluation at Seremban and I decided to attend this one.

2. UKM has some 7-8 research niches such as medical and health science research, regional sustainable heritage research, exploring biodiversity & biotechnology, ICT, Climate change, nanotechnology, renewable energy etc. I belong to niche on regional sustainable heritage which is headed by Lestari's Director Prof. Mazlin Mokhtar.

3. Overall the majority of niches, and the majority of clusters within the respective niche and the majority of research groups within the cluster did well. There was an improvement when compared using the same indicators to those of 2008. I always believe the majority of researchers worked very hard to fulfill the agreed targets, except for a few. Many research groups scored the maximum 5 when calculated using the inputs and outputs. In other words they received more than optimum grants, published more papers in journals, had more PhD and MS students graduated, did great networking etc.

4. The groups within the medical and health science niche and exploring biodiversity and biotechnology did well but not as good as the other niches. The reasons given was that research in these fields are more competitive and they need a longer duration to achieve. These are fair comments and the medical researchers need to do their ward rounds as well and be on-calls. Research in molecular biology in particular is highly competitive the time they had finished a couple of experiments their counterparts in Europe, Japan and US had already published their papers!

5. The number of patents are not easy to come by ....the number filed took a long period of time to produce results. The number of books based on R & D is also small. Talking about the number of papers published in journal I must say UKM is still far behind. It is now 0.8 per person, and it was 0.2 in 2007. Mind you there are hundreds of staffs are devoid of research grants and they did not publish in journals. I presumed there are also hundreds who didn't do research at all. Of course there are many who are prolific, producing more than 10-15 each. Congratulations to these carriers or surrogates of other junior staffs.

6. I foresee the year 2010 evaluation in march 2011 will see another incremental progress. Cheers

Friday, March 26, 2010

On Freedom

1. To quote Barrack Obama on page 375 of his "Audacity of Hope" who talked about freedom. According to him in 1945 Franklin D Roosevelt looked forward to a world founded upon four essential freedom.

2. The four essential freedom are freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. I am sure since then there have been many interpretation of freedom and an equally amount of discussion on the subject. The various Prime Ministers and governments of Malaysia had talked about such freedom.

3. As far as freedom of speech is concerned much is desired as the government has many laws, regulations and acts that don't permit a full freedom of speech for fear of racial unrest and what-nots. Most newspapers reported what their masters wished to convey to the readers and not what the readers want to read and know. Many books have been banned from the public readership etc.

4. Freedom of worship is fulfilled without any hindrance except lately there were some people who capitalised on the controvery of the use of the name of Allah to gain sympathy from the Malaysian muslims. The Indonesians, Egyptians and Lebanese muslims and christians have been using the name of Allah. It is only those in Malaysia felt insecure.

5. In Malaysia there is so much poverty in rural areas, especially in the less developed states, including Kelantan. There are thousands whose monthly income is less than $300 per house-hold and yet they inspired for good water supply and food to eat, electricity to get uniform light to read and proper sanitation. Malaysia is a country of rich and diverse natural resources and very high GDP and annual growth. This is an irony.

6. In my past postings I discussed a certain degree of fear emancipated from the present government and the police in their quest to banish freedom of speech and expression that are not congruent from theirs. The government simply cannot except any views which are contrary to what they have wanted to hear and read. However, the present government under YAB Dato' Seri Najib is quite liberal in their thoughts and practice.

7. It is my wish that the four essential freedom is respected to the fullest as signs of independence and civilised society that Malaysians cherish.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On Scientific Collections and Material Transfer Regulations

1. At the on-set of CBD there were some trivial conflicts between the North and the South. The former is presumed to represent the rich and industrialised countries which have the technology to enhance the sustainable utilisation of natural resources in the less-developed countries. The South is presumed to be poor countries but have rich natural resources, especially biodiversity. The negotiators who are mostly lawyers and scientists turned businessmen sat across the tables to discuss material and technological transfers but failed. Then these North and South countries did it in bilateral negotiations and cooperation.

2. Malaysia is no exception. We claimed to be rich in biodiversity and moving towards becoming an industrialised country by 2020. But our human resources and scientific critical mass both in biodiversity and biotechnology is far behind countries like Cuba, Thailand, taiwan, not to mention Singapore and South Korea. To add salt to the wound we are yet to have a standard reference collections of our rich biodiversity to be housed in a Malaysian Natural History Museum.

3. In March 2010, Japan took an initiative to gather some scientists from South-east Asia, including Taiwan and met in Tokyo. We discussed scientific collections, modes of material transfer from country to country and also the national regulations. It must be emphasised that systematic study at a revisionary level can't be confined to a locality, state/province or even country for a taxon is widely distributed across a wide geographical range. We can't assume to do a revision, say of Vitaceae, without making specimen collections in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Thailsnd etc.

4. However, all countries claimed soverignity over their natural resources, including innocent specimens of corals, benthos, phytoplanktons, insects, beetles, birds, bats, grasses, weeds, mosses, ferns and other higher plants. All these countries believed they could find and harness richness from this biodiversity. I don't deny there is some money to be made in selling cut-flowers transported by Boeing 747 to Europe, smuggling Paphiopedilum, Nepenthes, fishes, turtles etc to the developed countries where ther are rich buyers. But these perceptions coupled with more stringent regulations, especially in Indonesia and the Philippines are hampering science, conservation and knowledge on biodiversity.

5. We met and we decided to approach ASEAN and other organisations to discuss on how to remedy these situations.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

On Ornamental Plants

1. Man is born to apprecaitae beautiful things, be it rural or mountain landscape, old but delipidated buildings, beautiful flowers, slim or large cars, gigantic animals etc. It is second nature for man to like and love beautiful things even though as some people declared beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To me beauty is beauty.

2. Man loves to decorate his dwellings with beautiful landscape hence he planted and cultivated plants of all kinds of habit around him. He likes the aromatic smell of Cananga odorata or Michelia champaca; he likes the bracts of Bougainvillea glabra or Mussaenda philippica; he likes the ringed stems of Veitchia merrillii or Roytonea oleracea; he likes the petals of Hibiscur rosa-sinensis or Plumeria obtusa, etc

3. Hence he imported many more foreign plants which are supposed to be more exotic and put in the nurseries throughout the country. When the government agencies more plants to plant and when the housewives more herbs and shrubs to decorate their dwellings and building they buy from these nurseries.

4. Then the problem started as the local taxonomists like me have a lot of difficulties in identifying the foreign plants to species. At the most I could get to the family level period and to get to the genus and what more species took a lot of pain referring to the unavailable books. In Thailand and Singapore my counter-parts have less problems as the reference books are plenty. In addition, many exotic plant species came to Malaysia via Thailand.

5. Taxonomy is beautiful if you could impress the public with binomial nomenclature but when you are stuck with foreign plant species you were more like a fool. These plant species didn't come through the immigration channels for passport registration like we do. How nice if these species were to line up in the immigration channels with their passport in their branches where we can register their species names and origin, and sometimes their sex too, monoecious or dioecious or polygamous.

6. Malaysia needs more reference books with beautifully illustrated pictures of the ornamental plant resources.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On biopiracy

1. When I watched Pirates of the Caribbean, a few bioheritage issues cropped up. When the Portuguese were here in 1511, the Dutch in 1642 and the British in 1787, the Japanese in 1940 and the British came back in 1945, surely they did not come innocently. The textbooks they came for spices. However, I think they came for many other reasons ...spice was probably one of them.

2. After Independence in 1957 many more peoples came to Malaysia, Portugueses, Dutch, British, Japanese and others ....this time not for spice, but for our natural resources. They were looking for soil bacteria, leaf litter bacteria and other protistans. Many also came to screen our anthophytes for possible new chemicals to fight cancer and AID. Many came looking for exotics such as orchids, aroids, gingers etc.

3. Many came for exotic animals such as lizards, turtles, birds, insects to trade. Many came as tourists but they went home and biopirates. Many came through a proper channel via EPU and local counter-parts and went back as collaborators in R & D. In the case of the latter, after a couple of publications, the locals were satified but they kept the Malaysian specimens in their labs working further on new innovations.

4. So there are a few kinds of biopirates, those without license to rob and those with license to rob. In the epic films only the strong became the pirates and the weaks became the victims. Normally the strong won and became the hero until the end. The weaks normally forgot what they had lost because they were handicapped and too innocents.

5. I am suggesting let the pirates-to-be and the Malaysian scientists work together on equal terms in honesty and sincerity for humanity. After all the Malaysian resources are world's resources before polity was introduced and practiced in the name of socialism and democracy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Malaysian Wildlife Trade

1. After reading the article entitled, "Trafficking in Wildlife" in National Geographic January 2010, by Brian Christy, I am compelled to post some of my perceptions and thoughts herein. Earlier I had bought and read "Lizard King" and just ordered "Orchid Fever" at Kinokunia KLCC. Bpth of these books reported the trade in wildlife and orchids.

2. Whether we liked it or not, Malaysia has been reported as an active hub in Asian and World trade in both the wildlife and plants. There were incidents in the past where Malaysians were caught and jailed in USA and England for trafficking plant and animal materials which are listed in under CITES Appendix I. One of the the ironic things is that these involved Malaysians and they were caught outside our country. Are we saying they were more sensitive than the Malaysian authorities in handling these kind of cases. Malaysia has been a signatory of CITES.

3. It is reported that import and export of these items are very lucrative economically as there are many buyers in the world and the demands for the exotics are on the increase. Some under the pretext of R & D for medical reasons, e.g. the exports of Macaca fascicularis three years ago, involving some high ranking government servants. Whenever there are demands the suppliers and the middlemen became more active.

4. The staffs of WWF Malaysia reporetd that there is no more evidence of Sumateran rhinoceros anymore in Belum Forest Reserve, Perak; the number of tigers is dwindling as the poachers from neighbouring countries are becoming more daring. However, they have the locals as their accomplish. The populations of civet cats, reticulated pythons, cobras, monitor lizards, crocodiles, mynahs, ant-eaters, slow lories, flying squirrels, etc have decreased alarmingly due to this phenomenon. Like-wise the orchid and ferns trades are also becoming active, with the Singaporean tourists cum collectors were observed buying them from road-side Orang Asli sellers in a very innocent manner.

5. Read more in the national geographic for more details.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Out Of Africa

1. When I finished reading Martin Meredith's "The State of Africa" a couple of things stuck in my mind. Amongst them are:

2. Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa once said. Africa was renowned for the pyramids of Egypt, the Benin bronzes of Nigeria, the obelisks of Aksum in Ethiopia, the libraries of Timbuktu in Mali, the stone fortresses of Zimbabwe and the ancient rock arts of South Africa. What had happened to all these .....

3. In July 2002, President Muamar Gadaffi of Libya once stated, "Africa for Africans. the land is ours.No more slavery. No more colonisation.. It is a new dawn.We are bigger than the Whites. We are mighty. If they want to serve us, okay. If they want to go back, okay" .

4. These are pure rhetorics. After 2002, African dictators went on to plunder the natural resources of their own countries to enrich themselves and their cronies. They had their accounts in Europe. And today Africa was where it was after Independence, far worst when they were under colonialism. I am not saying colonialism was good, far from it, but the African dictators simply betrayed democracy and their own peoples.

5. There was similarity with Malaysia after her Independence. We had "Bersih, Cekap and Amanah", we had "Masyarakat Madani" and we have 1Malaysia". Though we didn't have military dictators, we had corruption of high level, evidences of cronyism, we had patronage in sports and party politics, etc that attempted to plunder our rich natural resources, namely forests, wildlife, petroleum, gas, flora and fauna, and our beautiful and clean environment.
It is not too late to be sober and go for more transparency in running the accounts of PETRONAS, awarding logging concessions, awarding negotiated business deals and mega-projects; handling corruption by MACC, handling students demonstration by Police, newspaper reporting, TV news reporting etc.

6. Please forgive me for saying all these simply because I love Malaysia and the only country I can make a home and I don't want to see my country going the African way of governance and independence. "Malaysia Boleh" is one slogan of ego-centric arrogance, if used in negative ways. Tun Mahathir meant well with that slogan, but was misused by many in sports and business transactions. Malaysian soccer has gone below unknown countries like Vanuatu in international ranking. However, thanks to Nicols David and Lee Chong Wei for putting us on the squash and badminton maps. Why do we have to run the Sepang circuit and a FI Lotus with foreign drivers?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On Martin Meredith's The State of Africa"

1. After I finished reading Zaid Ibrahim's, "I, too, am a Malay" I moved to Martin Meredith's The State of Africa. It is about a history of 50 years of Independence of many of the African nations. According to The Economists it is a highly readable digest of half a century of woes in the cradle of mankind. It is in the horn of Africa where I believe the man originated and I think here too mankind would bring unto himself self-destruction.

2. Malaysia gains her Independence from Britain in 1957, about 52 years ago. It was the same time as many African countries under the European powers gained their Independence. In other words what had happened in some African countries are not much different from what had happened in Malaysia. However, we were quite lucky in having our Prime Ministers and their ministers, armies and police who were not that corrupt. As a country bestowed with rich natural resources we, however, became rich by utilising foreign species, namely the rubber and oilpalm, neglecting our own indigenous species.

3. President Nkrumah, President Gamal Nasser, President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, President Hasting Banda, President Robert Mugabe, President Mobutu, and I can go on mentioning the dictators of Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Cameroon, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Congo etc who had plundered their golds, diamonds, copper, oil to enrich themselves and their cronies.

4. Millions of Africans died in tribal wars becoming the ponds between waring nations and provinces within the nation while their elite were enjoying their champagne and cereals, including human flesh. The killing fields of Rwanda when Hutu and Tutsi took turm to kill each other were testimony of the greed those dictators had.

5. I thought it was only in Khmer that Pol Pot used the chidren army to kill adults. I was wrong, in Liberia they did the same thing earlier. Apparently, Pol Pot copied what had happened in Liberia. And the super-powers the US, Russia, France, Britain, Cuba, Belgium etc were making money selling weapons of African destruction. These western powers were indeed behind the waring parties. It was no different from the politics of this decade when the US, Britain and Russia conspired to punish other less-developed nations. This is politics of the highest order of hypocricy.

6. Zaid Ibrahim cynically compare Malaysia with Mugabe's Zambia which was a beautiful country with rich natural resources. Today 1 billion of their currency could but 3 eggs! I pray that my beloved country will not get near of being 10% of Mugabe's greed. What who knows if what Zaid Ibrahim wrote in his little book might come through in 10 years time if they are not checked by the Malaysians.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

On Zaib Ibrahim's "I, too, am Malay

1. I just finished reading this paper bag book which was written by a Kelantanese Malay lawyer cum politician. I was recommended to get this and read and I did without regrets. It was a beautifully written by a man who gave some thoughts about everything around him.

2. In the book some things struck me . He mentioned his friends and classmates whom I also knew; Dr. Nik Ismail Nik Daud, my colleague at UKM; Tan Sri Nik Ismail Mohamad, an ex Airforce chief and Dato' Nik Nasarudin Wan Mahmood, ex MACRES boss. I knew these people when they were in Form 3 at the Sultan Ismail College, Kota Bharu. Zaid spent three years in my alma mater.

3. He mentioned about Tok Awang whom I also remembered when I was young. This man went around Kota Bharu town shouted,"What cat shit Independence, I can have my nasi berlauk breakfast" As Zaid said the message was clear ....what kind of Independence in 1957 had we achieved if we could not feed this man with a cheap but good nasi berlauk Nak Nah? Of course Zaid failed to mention Mat Tok Pek, Tok Wali Saad, these gentlemen were also illustrous.

4. Zaid lamented a lot on what it takes to be independent and progressive Malaysians devoid of corruption, freedom, liberty, integrity, greed, intolerant etc. He also talked about religion in particular Islam citing a couple of verses from Quraan, hadiths and sunnahs.

5. He argued Malaysia would be a different nation had we practices some good governance based of our secular constitution, had we not put up a borad that read,"Ini satu lagi projek Barisan nasional". He criticised many past and present leaders at the same time he respected them for what they are. He had wanted them to have more self integrity and less corrupt. he has wanted more professional civil servants, police force etc.

6. He had wanted the present generation of students to be better educated in schools and universities. Here I agreed totally with him on the present quality of teachers and lecturers. He didn't believe in party politic patronage as we have been observed in many years now. I think I will stop here, go and get a copy of it and read it. Cheers

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A weekly activities

1. Two days ago one of my old friends commented that I apperaed busy or pretended to be busy as he couldn't contact me and advised me to take thing easy as I am not young anymore and also on contract with the university. I told him I have not been busy it was just that I have lost his handphone number hence didn't answer his call. Anyway, I told him to read my blog to know my weekly schedules. Herewith I put down my daily activities for this week.

0900-1200 hr Lectures on Economic botany
1230-1330 hr Has tuna sandwich at delifrance
1420-1820 hr Finalising a paper of Sphaeropteris arjae to be resent to Blumea

0930-1140 hr Meeting of Arus Perdana research grant
1330-1640 hr Meeting at bank Negara, KL - no lunch

0800-0900 hr To clinic for blood and urine test
0900-0930 hr Breakfast of pau kacang at Sri Serdang
1400-1600 hr Lectures on Seed plant families
1640-1750 hr BoT Meeting of Orang Utan Island Foundation at Damansara Perdana

0900-1200 hr Lectures on conservation biology
1400-1820 hr Finalising two papers for Malaysian Forester

0930-1100 hr School meeting
1100-1200 hr Lecture of Seed plant families
1500-1750 hr Special WWF Exco meeting at Kelana Jaya

0800-0930 hr In office
1000- 1300 hr Biology Task Force Meeting at ASM K Lumpur
1700-1820 hr Went for acupuncture treatment

0830-1100 hr Special lecture at UPM
1100-1340 hr In office
1430-1700 hr Officiate a seminar on Dinar Emas at UKM

2. So my dear friend that is my last week's activities. Not that busy but manageable and I enjoyed every hour of it. Basically the next week 25-31 Jan would be very similar.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Comments on Malaysian Naturalist

1. Today I received an email from Prof. Emer. Datuk Dr. Noramly Muslim who alerted me to two interesting things, namely The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and an International Committee of Taxonomits announced the top 10 new species in 2008.

2. On the list is a pea-sized sea-horse, Hippocampus satomiae, whose length is 13.8 cm which was discovered near Derawan island off kalimantan, Indonesia by Ms Satomi Onishi (hence satomiae). Also a gigantic new palm, Tahina spectabilis, found in a small area of Madagascar. Others include a tiny snake of ca. 104 mm, a small insect from Malysia of ca. 56.7 cm, a twisted snail etc.

3. In the latest Malaysian Naturalist 63(2) which I received today are a few interesting feature articles that include:
a) the caterpillar of the butterfly that has been eating the young foliage of my Cycas clivicola, called Chilades pandava. Thank you Arthur Chung for the information.
b) A tribute to Prof. dr. Kamarudin Mat Salleh submitted by Sonny Lim
c) In memory of Triple H whom I firest met during the Endau-Rompin Scientific Expedition
d) Maliau Basin
e) Mobilising civil society and private sector to address climate change by my schhol mate Dr. Martin Abraham, a one -time thin long-distance runner.
f) Mapping the impacts of climate change by Mr. M Loganathan
g) The itchy moth, Toxoproctis hemibathes that became a celebrity in Labis, Johore some times ago by Dr. Norela Sulaiman et al.
h) Cabomba furcata that has been infesting the water body of Tasik Chini, made famous by Prof. Dato' Dr. Musrifah Idris
i) Five-horned beetle Eupatorus whose species are in peril

Sunday, January 17, 2010

On Climate Change and Biodiversity

1. In June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro the political leaders and scientists discussed climate change at the convention and in 2002 they did again at Johanesburg. Mr Al Gore wrote a book and did a documentary on it and yet there are so many sceptics about the issue.

2. For Malaysia which does not have melting snow caps and whose temperature remains almost constant everyday and everyweek the common people find it almost difficult to comprehend about climate change. Although in the last decade the weather, the flood, the drought have been playing havoc ...are they due to climate change?

3. I was informed by orthinologists like Dr. Pan of FRIM that lowland and open-country birds have been observed on higher grounds especially at Gunung Jerai. Somehow these species sensed the temperature at higher altitude is similar to theri habitat at lower altitude. I have been informed there awas a study just published in foreign journal that moths at Gunung Kinabalu have been ascending some hundreds of meters higher ....again these lepidopterans must have sensed similar change of temperature.

4. For plants, I argued, it is not easy to monitor the upward distribution of the tropical lowland species as their diaspores are not dispersed upwards. Perhaps the diaspores of lowland ferns and bryophytes are being dispersed by warmer air current to higher altitudes. For ecologists it is so challenging to monitor the changes in mangrove and peat swamp forests composition to detect possible impacts of climate change on biodiversity.

5. The base-line data for the plants are available requires some students of MS and PhD to monitor the possible changes like that of the birds and moths. I proposed the 50-ha plots at Pasoh, Lambir and the recent one at Danum could be the filed labs for this kind of investigation. We need some funds and guide-lines to implement this.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On Avatar

1. Last Saturday my daughter Qistina insisted me to go and see the 3D movie called Avatar directed by the same man who did Titanic some years ago and initially I hesitated as I realised that it is about of descent of diety to earth in incarnate form. As I watched the epic Titanic, my son Razlan also recommended it as he earlier watched a 2D version. I hesitated as it would be about incarnation. Nevertheless I obliged both of them, including my son-in-law Enol.

2. Much to my surprise it was a great movie as I forgot about the incarnation but what I did remember were:
a) How arrogant the people from the sky who came in with their tanks, robots and sophisticated weapons to attack the tree and the forests. They behaved almost like the Americans who invaded Iraq some years ago to get the oil. Here the people from the sky were to steal the precious metals underneath the forests. When the Americans were in Vietnam they were as arrogant displaying their chemical weapons, big guns and yet they were defeated by the Viet Congs.
b) How beautiful were the seeds of the sacred trees, depicting the seeds of grasses among the extant angiosperms. The pappus of Gramineae are almost like that blown softly by the breeze to germinate in some remote areas.
c) How beautiful were the gigantic fungi which retracted on touch just like the touch-me-nots, Mimosa pudica. How elegant were the aroids with gigantic leaves that supported the fallen hero from above. How beuatuful were the flowers and leaves and aerial roots that had wanted Tarzan to use them
d) How fantastic were the hanging hills and mountains and the birds, tiger-like creatures, hyena-like predators etc. However, there were no land dinosaurs otherwise my grandson Ilyas is going to like the movie. There were no boas, pythons and anacondas!
e) How could Homo sapiens the so-called intelligent beings try to destroy the beautiful forests which are so important to the long-pleated-haired with tails beings? The forests were their souls and lives.

3. The computers did wonders to the movie. However, my daughter compalined a 2.5 hour in 3D glasses made her suffered from headache. I did not as I really enjoyed the movie. Congratulations to Mr. Cameron whose movie had made 1.7 billion yesterday.

Monday, January 11, 2010

On Murders

1. Today I read a news item in New Straits Times p. 23 that reports on the possibility Michael Jackson being "murdered" by his personal physician Dr. Conrad Murray who negligently treated MJ that caused an acute propofo intoxication.

2. Several years ago we were informed that the greedy Brazilians "murdered" the trees and other components of biodiversity in the Amazon Basin to make way for the expansion of agriculture and farms to feed the poor Brazilians.

3. The Malaysians and Thais and possibly other nationals "murdered" tigers, pangolins, monitor lizards, cobras, aloewoods, turtles and other animals to feed the greedy and rich people overseas.

4. Almost every year the Indonesians "murdered" peat swamp forests and their biodiversity releasing massive PM10 acroos her boundries choking some innocent Malaysians and Sinaporeans with haze.

5. The fish breeders and farmers introduced many exotic species into our rivers and lake thus "murdering" innocent indigenous freshwater species. Like-wise Acacia mangium is also "murdering" other local tree species.

6. The Bush and Blair peoples went to Iraq and Afghanistan to "murder" the innocent people there with various chemicals and gun powders all in the pretext of democracy. Like-wise the suicide bombers also took turn to "murder" the innocent Americans.

7. Lately, the terrorusts tried to "murder" the Togo team members who wanted to take part in African Cup. Emmanuel Adebayor decided to go home to Togo and rejoin Manchester City to plat safe football.

8. So, what are we talking about the muder of MJ?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My comments on mock turtles

1. I would like to wish all my friends and readers of my blog a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Some people say as 2010 is the year of the tiger (panthera tigris) it is a new and roaring beginning and a new start for a journey for another 365 days before we all come to another new year to be called 2011.

2. In my first posting for the year 2010 I would like to share with you all the content of Nature : 423 : 219-220 entitled, "Mock turtles". It is a must read for all the taxonomic students and those interested in taxonomy and conservation.

3. In the 1980s descriptions of many new species of freshwater and land turtles of China and Southeast Asia emerged in prestigous journals written by some well-known biologists. China Red Data Book of Endangered Animals put 4 of them for wildlife conservation.

4. One taxonomic student James Parham and his associate Haitao Shi from Hainan University went into private investigations and found out that one was a possible new species (Cuora mccordii), 3 were previously described elsewhere and 6 were probably hybrids.

5. The points are, firstly the scientists didn't know that those were hybrids produced by breeders in China, supplied the innocent specimens to the Americans Veterinarian by one Malaysian and one Hong Kong's dealers. Innocently or otherwise, the biologists described them as new. Secondly, the investigators claimed some funds already were spent to conserve these rare and endangered turtles, not knowing there were hundreds or thousands in Chinese farms for sale. Thirdly, it took another two biologist to unravel the mystries via DNA and genetic analyses . This is pure taxonomy!

6. In those times, James Parham met with resistance and attacks from the professional taxonomists and the scientific fraternity, including an invitation to participate in a workshop was withdrawn. Now the journals which published those papers conducted some inquiries of their publications and about the dealer-supplied specimens to determine "if any fraudulent or illegally gathered data were unwittingly published".

7. Could this also had happened in the botanical world, especially in Orchidaceae, Palmae, Zingiberaceae and Araceae, among the most prized ornamental plants? That I knew were some new species of plants were described ex night markets, ex botanical gardens ex private collections and probably ex botanical piracy!