Malaysia’s biodiversity advocate

Posted on November 11, 2011. Filed under: Bio-diversity |


GREEN WARRIOR Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Mustaffa Babjee, an iconic figure, shares his thoughts on nature conservation and preventing loss of vital species in our rich biodiversity with R. Sittamparam

Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Mustaffa BabjeeTan Sri Dr Ahmad Mustaffa Babjee with some of the books that he authored.

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A former Veterinary Services Department director-general has become  a leading advocate of conservation to help maintain Malaysia’s position as one of the 12 mega biodiversity nations.
Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Mustaffa Babjee said his first priority in helping to conserve Malaysia’s biodiversity, was to lobby for the country’s very own Natural History Museum similar  to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, the United States.
Ahmad Mustaffa, 74, who is a member of the Malaysian Science Academy, said such a museum, with the backing of   300 scientists, could serve as a nerve centre for the sustainable development of the country’s biodiversity.
The avid writer and photographer, instantly recognisable by his long white mane and moustache, said: “I’m worried that the species’ loss rate  is so fast that before we can get to identify a new species, it is gone.
“We might lose species, including micro-organisms like bacteria that are useful for global development before we can  even identify them.
“It is vital  to produce more biological scientists who can identify and conserve these species,  especially taxonomists and ecologists,” said  Ahmad Mustaffa, who was also a long-serving government veterinarian, who received his tertiary education at University of Punjab in Pakistan, Royal Veterinary College, University of London and University of Queensland in Australia.
He noted that while the number of natural species which had been identified globally stood approximately  at  1.8 million, scientists believed there were between 30 to 100 million that remain unidentified.
Ahmad Mustaffa said although Malaysia had a temporary natural history museum, it did not reflect the country’s status as a biodiversity-rich spot.
In a preface to one of the many books on environment conservation that he  authored, titled Glimpses of the Environment, Ahmad Mustaffa said: “My family’s interest and  love for  the environment goes back to the days when we were 5 to 12-year-old kids living in Kampung Raja, near Sungai Petani, Kedah.
“That was during the Japanese occupation, which had a profound impact on our lives.
“Fortunately, our immediate  environment provided our daily needs for food. “All my life, I have been curious about nature. “I can sit and watch nature at work for hours.
“A bundle of flowerheads of a wild palm can conjure in my mind, strands of DNA with their bases, or a bunch of rosary hanging in a shop in Medina or an exotic ear-ring for a go-go dancer.
“As I grew up, I began to worry for the environment because the natural habitats and the species of fauna and flora had begun to diminish.”
Ahmad  Mustaffa’s books, such as Glimpses of the World and More Glimpses of the World  offer light reading for the public.
In his distinctive carefree style, Ahmad  Mustaffa  takes readers on his journeys overseas and in the  interiors of Malaysia to introduce to them local natural wonders, such as  fighting fish and egrets, once abundant in padi fields, and wild green pigeons and the colourful kingfisher.
Ahmad  Mustaffa  said the natural world should not be regarded merely as a source for  food and material.
Also present are technologies that  humans have yet to discover.
“There is now a new group of scientists involved in the field of bio-mimicry which  is  renewed thinking on how we can mimic, or be inspired by nature to create new products, processes and organisations.
“These scientists are studying the mobility, navigational precision, organisational structure and work divisions of insect communities like ants, termites and locusts, with an aim to improve the fields of logistics, management and social networking and also  anti-collision sensors of cars.”
Ahmad  Mustaffa,  who is also an advocate of sustainable development, said he strongly believed development and  conservation could co-exist.
“We can create economic activities not only through expansion and growth  but also through the improvement of  life’s quality.
“For example, in Kuala Lumpur, we can infuse green technology in existing buildings and use technology to improve the living standards of residents of low-cost flats.”

Read more: Malaysia’s biodiversity advocate – General – New Straits Times

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