Featured Post

Monday, November 2, 2009


Presented at the 13th Annual General Meeting on 4 July 2009

Prepared by
Rebecca D’Cruz, Chair
MNS-Kuching Branch 2008/2009

With assistance from
The Kuching Branch Committee 2008/2009

Malaysian Nature Society - Kuching Branch
P.O. Box A144, Kenyalang Park, 93824 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
mnskuching@gmail.com; Tel: 082 428004 (Rebecca D’Cruz)

“Conservation is humanity caring for the future.”
Nancy Newhall
Writer on photography, conservation, and American culture (1908 – 1974)

The MNS-Kuching Branch has completed yet another exciting and fulfilling year, during which we had opportunity to celebrate our achievements, and learn from our experiences.

We have attracted new members, and lost others. We have successfully carried out conservation projects and programmes, and forged new partnerships along the way. We have provided opportunities aplenty for our members to experience and learn about the wonders of nature in Sarawak, and to contribute their efforts to protecting these natural wonders.

All these have managed to raise the profile of the Society, and helped cement our role as the premier nature conservation organization in the greater Kuching area.

We have managed to do this because of the support and contributions we have received from our members, the MNS Secretariat in Kuala Lumpur, our partners within the government and private sectors, and our friends.
Our achievements

The MNS-Kuching Strategic Plan 2009-2012

"If you don't know where you are going, you are certain to end up somewhere else."
Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra
former US Major League Baseball player and manager

At the MNS National AGM in August 2008 members, representing all the branches nationwide adopted the MNS Strategic Plan 2008 – 2020 to guide the implementation of the Society’s mission and to ensure that it is in line with existing government policies and plans, and with Malaysia’s international nature conservation commitments.

In response, the MNS-Kuching Branch Committee decided to draft a 3-year Strategic Plan, to cover the period 2009 – 2012, to communicate to the MNS Secretariat, MNS Council and other MNS branches how we propose to contribute to the implementation of the MNS Strategic Plan 2008 – 2020.

Our Strategic Plan is also intended to:
a. provide a framework for the MNS-Kuching Branch to define its direction for the next three years, to make decisions on allocating its financial and manpower resources, and to monitor and assess the impacts and outcomes of its actions;
b. inform key partners and other interested parties about the Branch’s priorities, and to provide the opportunity to enhance existing partnerships and create new partnerships with like-minded organizations; and
c. solicit support from, and promote greater exchange and sharing of information and experiences within the MNS family.

To date, MNS-Kuching Branch remains the only branch in Malaysia to have taken this important step.

The vision, mission and guiding principles of our Plan are the same as that of the MNS Strategic Plan 2008 – 2020.

The strategies and actions in our Plan were formulated based on an assessment of the priorities and challenges for nature conservation in Sarawak, and on the strengths and opportunities of the MNS-Kuching Branch in terms of its existing programmes, members’ skills and expertise, and partnerships.

It is important to note that not each and every issue that could be of relevance to nature conservation in Sarawak has been included in our Plan. Our Plan deals with those issues that have been identified, through the consultative process and the review of available information, as being the immediate key issues that the MNS-Kuching Branch is in a position to address in the coming three years.

Our Plan is, and will remain an organic document, i.e. it will be reviewed periodically and revised accordingly in response to emerging challenges and opportunities.

We are pleased to be able to present the draft MNS-Kuching Branch Strategic Plan 2009 - 2012 to our members, for adoption at the Branch AGM. We hope that you will afford the incoming Branch Committee every support in their efforts to implement the Plan over the coming 3 years.

Members who are interested to contribute to the implementation of the activities under the plan are asked to send a message (with your telephone contact details) to the Branch Secretary at mnskuching@gmail.com

I would like to thank all the members of the planning team for their input to the development of this draft Plan.

“Trees for Life” Community Project

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”
Nelson Henderson, Author

This project, which we undertake jointly with the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), is designed to create an opportunity for the residents of Kuching to actively participate in a community effort to realize the full potential of the Sama Jaya Nature Reserve (SJNR), and through this to raise their awareness and understanding of the value of the SJNR. We hope to use the lessons learnt from this project to develop a model for community participation in the conservation and management of an urban nature reserve, to catalyze similar initiatives in other urban areas.

For the second year running, we organized themed community events, which drew participation from schools, private sector organizations, and the general public. Four such events were organized this past year, with the flagship event being our 1st anniversary celebrations on 5 July 2008, officiated by Datu Haji Len Talif, Managing Director of Sarawak Forestry Corporation and Director of the Sarawak Forest Department.

This project continues to enjoy the support of a select number of organized groups, namely HSBC, International School Brunei, Eastern Oxygen and Cahya Mata Sarawak, and private individuals.

The tree-planting programme is continuing, guided by the Tree-Planting Master Plan for Sama Jaya Nature Reserve (Phase 1) developed jointly by SFC and MNS-Kuching Branch, and adopted in July 2008. A total of 229 trees have been planted to date, including 100 trees that were donated by the International School Brunei as part of their Million Tree Project. While not all of the trees planted have survived, replacements are planted as required and some of the earliest planted trees are performing excellently after two years.

In October 2008, students from Swinburne University developed a communications strategy for the project. In November 2008, we presented a joint SFC-MNS paper at the National Forestry Conference, hosted by the Sarawak Government, in which we discussed the partnership approach taken under this project, its achievements to date and the lessons learnt.

Following discussions with SFC at the end of 2008, we decided to scale down the activities proposed in the original project document to focus on implementation of the Tree-Planting Master Plan (Phase 1), and on organizing the community events.

In the past year we have worked to transfer more responsibility to the reserve staff to manage the volunteer program. To aid their efforts, we helped develop a ‘Tree-planting / Educational Programme Request Form’ for volunteer groups interested to participate in the planting effort, and a simple monitoring system to enable volunteers to assist with efforts to monitor the biological resources of the SJNR. We hope to be able to continue to provide our technical expertise and knowledge to support the conservation efforts at the SJNR, and eventually to be able to extend the rehabilitation efforts to the unused filled area of the park.

I would like to say a big thank you to Susan Teal and Kit Pearce for their huge contribution to this project, and to all the SJNR volunteers who have contributed their time and energy to lead activities during the community events.

Members who are interested to receive more information about, and volunteer some of their time to this project are asked to send a message (with your telephone contact details) to the Branch Secretary at mnskuching@gmail.com

Bako-Buntal Bay Project

This project aims to strengthen government-civil society partnerships to support wetland conservation and the implementation of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in four South-East Asian countries – Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. An important element of this project is to promote networking and the sharing of experiences between different countries to enhance wetland conservation.

The Bako-Buntal Bay in Sarawak is one of only two project sites in Malaysia, the other being the Kuala Selangor Nature Park in Selangor. Activities under this project include the setting-up of a Local Conservation Group to coordinate and implement the work, to organize educational and awareness-raising activities to increase understanding about the value of the area and to advocate for its protection, and to organize and participate in training workshops on assessing and monitoring biological diversity in the area.

We received formal approval from the Sarawak State Planning Unit in April 2009, a study team has been identified, and activities will begin with a multi-stakeholder workshop to be hosted by the State Planning Unit in the coming month.

I would like to extend a big ‘thank you’ to the members who have agreed to be part of the study team for this project, and those who have agreed to assist in other ways.

Members who are interested to receive more information about, and contribute some of their time to this project are asked to send a message (with your telephone contact details) to the Branch Secretary at mnskuching@gmail.com

MNS-Kuching Branch & Borneo Highlands Resort ‘Mini Bird Race’

The first-ever bird race in East Malaysia was organized at the Borneo Highlands Resort on 19 October 2008, and attracted 15 teams. The event was organized jointly by MNS-Kuching Branch and Borneo Highlands Resort (BHR), and included other activities such a nature photography exhibition, nature treks and activities for kids.

The 2nd Mini Bird Race is scheduled for 4 October 2009, and will again feature nature treks and other activities. A competition was held for students of Swinburne University to design the logo for the upcoming event. We would like to thank the staff and students of Swinburne University for their valuable contribution.

The BHR is located within the Penrissen Range which has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Discussions have been held with the BHR management and the MNS Secretariat about the possibility of conducting a formal launch the IBA site in conjunction with the 2nd Bird Race.

Nature-based activities for members

"The objective is to teach the student to see the land, to understand what he sees, and enjoy what he understands."
Aldo Leopold
Author, conservationist, forester, educator (1887 – 1948)

Early in the term, the Committee took the decision to focus on developing nature trips that were of high quality in terms of their conservation education value. A lot of time was devoted to preparing for each trip, including conducting a site recce and preparing detailed information on the site prior to the trip. The feedback from participants has been very positive, with one of the 25 participants on the ‘Walk to Baruk Saga at Kampung Sudoh (Singai)’ on 3 August 2008 describing it as a “Walk with Meaning”.

I would like to extend a big ‘thank you’ to Georges & Jacinta Schneider, Cynthia Hazebroek and the members of the Kuching Branch Bird Group for succeeding in organizing high-quality trips filled with fun, adventure and learning.

In the past year, and in addition to the project-related activities described above, a total of 22 activities were organized for members and, in some cases open to the general public. Activities included nature trips (day & overnight), talks, and workshops.

The nature trips that attracted the most participants were the day trips: Geological Trip to Santubong (38), Safari along Samadang River (31), Walk to Baruk Saga (25), Kampung Pugu (19), and the 3-day camping trip to Tanjung Datu (22). Of the 5 nature talks that were organized, the most recent one, “Amphibian Ark” attracted the highest number of participants, i.e. 40.

In June 2008, we jointly organized a talk with the Department of Environment Kuching for members of the State Committee on Environment, which featured a guest speaker from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) agency in the US who introduced a new conservation management tool called “TerraLook”.

In general, participation in activities by MNS members has been disappointing. I hope that members understand and appreciate the amount of volunteer time and effort that goes into organizing our activities and ask for your support for, and participation in future activities. The Committee would also be interested to receive suggestions from members on interesting sites to visit, and types of activities that they would be interested to participate in.

Borneo Post column

This year marks the 7th consecutive year of our weekly column (now featured in the “Nature & Cuisine” section of the Sunday edition of the Borneo Post, thanks to the tireless efforts of our Editor, Ann Armstrong. With a circulation of 6,000 copies per day, this continues to be our main vehicle for communications with the general public. It has succeeded in generating positive feedback, and the occasional request about MNS membership.

I would like to extend a great big ‘thank you’ to Ann for her untiring efforts to keep this initiative going.

On Ann’s behalf, I would like to thank Georges Schneider, Cynthia Hazebroek, Cheong Ah Kwan, Kit Pearce and Rebecca D’Cruz who have contributed articles this past year, and to extend an urgent call to other members to contribute articles so that we can keep this important initiative going. Those who are interested to contribute to the column are asked to send a message (with your telephone contact details) to the Branch Secretary at mnskuching@gmail.com

I would also like to record our heartfelt thanks to the management of the Borneo Post newspaper for continuing to provide us the column space free-of-charge.

Media coverage

MNS-Kuching Branch has enjoyed a considerable amount of positive coverage in the local media this past year, thanks in large part to the efforts of our Secretary Zora Chan. I would like to extend a great big ‘thank you’ to Zora for her continuing efforts to promote our branch and its activities here in Sarawak, despite her very busy schedule.

I would also like to record our heartfelt thanks to the media corps in Kuching for their support.

Responding to emerging issues

"Conservation... is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution..."
Aldo Leopold
Author, conservationist, forester, educator (1887 – 1948)

We continue to respond to, and engage with the relevant stakeholders on emerging issues which could have negative impacts on the natural heritage of Sarawak. One such example is our ongoing engagement with Rio Tinto of Australia and CMS Sarawak to provide input to the assessment of potential environmental impacts arising from the planned aluminum smelter in Bintulu. In order to facilitate this and to ensure consistency in our responses, we have formed a tripartite advisory group comprising the Chairs of the Kuching and Miri branches, and the Executive Director and Senior Policy Officer of the MNS Secretariat.

We have also responded to media requests to provide comments on issues such as increased flooding in the Kuching area, the potential impacts of global warming, and turtle conservation efforts.

We provided input to WLP Resource Mgmt Pty Ltd in their efforts to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the proposed HT Power Line from Mambong to Serikin and on to Bengkayang in Kalimantan, which included a survey of the Malaysian side of the line. Our efforts were aimed at alerting them to nature conservation-sensitive areas such as the Bidi Limestones near Bau, and the crossing of the Sarawak Kiri River at Kampung Git.

Developing partnerships

a. Borneo Convention Centre Kuching
The MNS-Kuching Branch is pleased to announce its developing partnership with the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK). The primary objective of the partnership is to demonstrate how the combined assets of a nature conservation organization and a business entity can be a powerful tool to address the environmental sustainability challenges we face today.

Two key activities are planned under this partnership: the first, a ‘re-greening’ of the BCCK venue and its surrounds to serve as a living model of how it is both possible and practical to restore degraded lands in the tropics, as a contribution to global efforts to ‘re-green’ the earth.

The second, to develop a voluntary carbon emissions offset program to enable conference participants to contribute to mitigating the local impacts of global warming, and to demonstrate the BCCK’s contribution to Malaysia’s commitments under international climate-related agreements and treaties.

We believe that this partnership offers a potential win for both parties: the BCCK is provided the opportunity to market a ‘green’ conference venue and in turn, to provide opportunities for conference participants to be part of rehabilitation efforts; MNS is afforded an opportunity to contribute its expertise and to increase its level of experience in the rehabilitation of degraded lands.

b. Sarawak Biodiversity Centre
This year we have begun to engage more actively with the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC). In November 2008, we organized a visit to the Centre in Semenggoh, and in January 2009, the Branch Chairperson was invited to present a talk on MNS during the SBC Motivational Workshop in Santubong.

Possible areas of collaboration between MNS and SBC include activities related to the documentation and dissemination of traditional knowledge related to the conservation and management of biodiversity resources, setting-up a database of species of high conservation value in Sarawak, and joint activities aimed at promoting greater awareness about Sarawak’s biodiversity and its conservation.

How we operated

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead
US anthropologist & popularizer of anthropology (1901 - 1978)

The MNS-Kuching Branch Committee

The Branch Committee for this term comprised 9 elected members, and included 6 others who were co-opted onto the Committee to assist with its work.
Chairman: Rebecca D’Cruz
Vice Chairman: Georges Schneider
Secretary: Zora Chan
Treasurer: Jacinta Wong-Schneider
Committee: Ch’ien Chien Lee, Cheong Ah Kwan, Anthony Wong
Marilyn Ong Siew Ai, Cynthia Hazebroek
Co-opted members: Ann Armstrong (Communications), Susan Teal & Kit Pearce
(‘Trees for Life’ project), Kathy Oakley (marine conservation
issues), Collin Cheong, Tay Yit Ping (merchandise)

The full Committee met 3 times during this term, and in the interim conducted its work through email and telephone exchanges, and ad-hoc project and event-related meetings.

Members of the Committee also participated in the following workshops and symposia: Cost-Benefit Analysis Workshop (10-13 August 2008), Biodiversity and Biotechnology Symposium (19-21 November 2008), and Education for Sustainable Development (19 March 2009). Core funds from the Branch were used to partially support their participation, where necessary.

The Kuching Branch was also represented - by its Chair or Vice Chair - at all meetings of the MNS-Council held this term, and continues to provide feedback and input to the discussions via the MNS Chat Room.

The Kuching Branch Bird Group

"Birds, it must be admitted, are the most exciting and most deserving of the vertebrates; they are perhaps the best entrée into the study of natural history, and a very good wedge into conservation awareness."
Roger Tory Peterson
Artist, author, photographer, educator (1908 – 1996)

The Kuching Branch Bird Group, established in 2006, remains the only Special Interest Group within the MNS-Kuching Branch. In the past year, our team of bird enthusiasts continued to actively organize birding trips, surveys and workshops, in an effort to promote awareness and greater understanding about our feathered friends who visit and reside in the areas around Kuching. They conducted 6 birding trips, contributed to the Asian Annual Waterbird Census, and organized 1 workshop on shorebirds.

Elected Office Bearers for the 2009 – 2010 term are:

Group Advisor Anthony Sebastian
Group Coordinator Anthony Wong
Assistant Coordinator Yeo Siew Teck
Secretary Susan Teal
Assistant Secretary Cheong Ah Kwan
Treasurer Lucy Chong
Trip Coordinator Georges Schneider
Field Trip Leaders Daniel Jee & Kho Kay Kuang
Committee members Ting Ting King, Ch’ien Lee, Rose Au, Malin Ong,
& Daniel Kong


The audited accounts for the 2008/2009 term are presented as an annex to this report. The total income for the year (as at the close of accounts on 31 May 2009) amounted to RM 46,843.63 and total expenditure amounted to RM 19,266.27.

Balance carried forward amounts to RM 27,577.36 of which RM 2,508.75 is earmarked for the “Trees for Life” Community Project and RM 16,237.98 for the Bako-Buntal Bay Project, leaving a total of RM 8,810.63 in core funds. We expect to receive an additional RM 20,000 for the Bako-Buntal Bay Project from the donors later this year.


In effort to boost merchandise sales, the Branch Committee decided to enter into a profit-sharing agreement with one of our members, Ms Tay Yit Ping. Under this agreement, Yit Ping maintains our merchandise inventory, and promotes and manages the sale of all merchandise produced by MNS-Kuching (not merchandise purchased from the MNS Tapir Shop in Kuala Lumpur). She provides monthly reports to the Branch Committee on income generated from the sales, and an update of inventory in stock. In return, she receives a percentage share of the profits.

Income generated from the sale of merchandise has doubled since this agreement came into effect. I would like to extend our gratitude to Tay Yit Ping for agreeing to take on this role and for her hard work.

Cooperation with the MNS-Secretariat

During this term, we worked closely with the MNS-Secretariat and primarily the Conservation Division, on developing the Bako-Buntal Bay Project. We also consulted with both the Conservation and Communications Divisions, as necessary, to agree our response to emerging issues, and queries from the public.

We had contact with the Membership Officer to discuss ways to improve the management of our membership database. The Head of Services provided timely advice on issues related to branch administration and partnership development. We would like to extend our appreciation to the relevant members of staff for their assistance and support.

Cooperation with the MNS-Miri Branch

This term has seen a further cementing of our relationship with the MNS-Miri Branch. The Chairs of both branches are in regular contact via email to discuss issues of common interest, and to agree a common position/response. Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia with two branches and it is imperative that such communications are maintained and enhanced to ensure consistency in the messages that we put out, and sufficient geographical coverage in terms of our work. I would like to extend my gratitude to Nazeri Abghani, Chair of the Miri Branch for his enthusiasm and support.

The challenges we faced

a. Manpower: The lack of full-time personnel to coordinate and manage our day-to-day activities remains a big challenge. We are entirely dependent on the voluntary contribution of time and manpower from members to plan, organize and undertake events and activities. Concurrently, and as the profile of MNS increases in Sarawak, we are faced with an increasing number of requests from all quarters, including members, to respond to, and engage in a greater number of initiatives and programmes. This situation is not likely to change until and unless we can procure funding to support the appointment of a full- or part-time Coordinator.

b. ‘Activating’ members: While we have a small group of members who turn out regularly to participate in, and volunteer their time to assist with activities and programmes, the response from the wider membership to requests for volunteer assistance has been disappointing. We hope that MNS-Kuching members will consider giving some of their time in the coming year to participate in, and help out with the planned projects and programmes. Please send an email (with your telephone contact details) to the Branch Secretary at: mnskuching@gmail.com if you are willing to do so.

c. Membership:

Year Total number of members as at 31 May
2004 86
2005 91
2006 115
2007 101
2008 105
2009 97

A quick analysis of Kuching Branch membership over the last 6 years reveals that membership numbers have remained stagnant at an average of 99 per year.

A recent analysis by the MNS Council revealed that membership numbers have been declining across the Society in recent years. The reasons for this are not clear; however, early indications point to a problem with member retention, i.e. being able to retain members once they’ve sign-up. This issue is being looked into by the MNS Council and actions will be identified to address this. Our Strategic Plan has identified some actions that will be taken at the branch level to address this issue. Additionally, we welcome suggestions from members on actions that can be taken to increase our numbers and to retain those that have joined.

There are as yet, no corporate members of MNS in Sarawak, but we are working to address this gap. At the request of the Kuching Branch committee, the MNS Secretariat sent letters of invitation to join MNS as a corporate member to the Borneo Highlands Resort and Cahya Mata Sarawak – both of whom we have collaborated with on events - but we have received no positive response to these as yet. We have also broached the subject of corporate membership with the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching, and we are informed that this is being considered by its management.

Looking ahead

The MNS-Kuching has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1996, and we are poised to do our part to deliver the MNS vision and mission, and to contribute to achieving the MNS Strategic Plan 2008 - 2020.

The MNS-Kuching Strategic Plan 2009 – 2012 offers an opportunity for us to focus our efforts to ensure the efficient and effective use of our existing resources and strengths, and to use this to as a catalyst for further development.

The biggest challenge which lies ahead of us is to build sustainability into our operations, and a vital part of this is ensuring financial security, and securing a ‘home’ for the MNS-Kuching Branch, with the necessary manpower to manage our activities and programmes. Both of these have been identified as priorities in the Kuching Branch Strategic Plan 2009 - 2012.

I call on the members of MNS-Kuching Branch to give their full support and assistance to the incoming committee as they work to implement our new Strategic Plan.


“Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls.”
David Thomas

I would like to take this opportunity to say a great big ‘thank all’ to the members of the Committee for their support and hard work this past year. It has been a rewarding and fulfilling experience for me to work with such a committed, enthusiastic and dedicated group of people who share my love for nature, and my desire to do my part to ensure its conservation. All that we achieved, we achieved together!

I would also like to thank the Kuching Branch members who have volunteered their time and energy to assist with our work this past year and the years before. Your contribution is much appreciated, and gratefully acknowledged.

To those of you whom we have called on for advice and assistance on specific tasks and projects, thank you for saying ‘yes’ and for being there when we needed you.

To our partners and donors, thank you for your continuing support. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with you.

To the relevant staff of the MNS Secretariat in Kuala Lumpur who provided advice and guidance this past year, thank you very much.

Rebecca D’Cruz
26 June 2009

No comments:

Post a Comment