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Summary and Recommendations

Rapid decline of global biodiversity and the teetering of species on the brink of extinction are apparent these days and the advances in technologies are becoming more prevalent in confronting these challenges. Digital technology should be considered as a benign tool in nature conservation. As it is a dynamic progress that transforms conservation scientists, protected area managers and conservation organisations works, motivated partially by peer pressure and the inherent possibilities and problems that digital technology brings.

Unlike previous technological revolutions, information is now the central component in which technologies revolve, resulting to a new mode of business, communication and governance in many societal domains, including the environmental. Digital revolution is directly relevant to the social practices and organisations concerned with the conservation of nature that refers to a plethora of ideas, practices and values. Its application has gained importance and influence in nature conservation both in number and diversity, progressively shaping conservation discourses and practices. Thus, conservationists are often optimistic towards the technologies of information age for more data, faster processing, better information access and connectivity, new communication routes, exciting visual representations and empowering decision-making support systems.

The term ‘digital conservation’ is used as shorthand for the broad range of developments at the interface of digital technology and nature conservation. The impact and significance of digital technology are considered as a collection of processes and materials related to the innovation, development, implementation and diffusion of digital technology. They are implemented in various ways, from multi-sensor equipped smart phones carried by humans and satellite tags carried by animals, to camera traps, drones, and space satellites. It has enabled more frequent monitoring of the natural environment, on a larger spatial scale, at a finer resolution in inaccessible or dangerous locations, has resulted in (near) real-time sensing and allows automated data capture that can bring clear benefits to conservation science and management.

Due to these scenarios a seminar was organized to enlighten participants on the usage of digital technology enhancing the management and monitoring of natural resources with the following objectives:

  • Creating awareness among participants on existing and future digital technologies in assisting conservations;
  • Highlighting the pros and cons of utilising digital technologies;
  • To publicise existing examples from Sabah on usage of digital technologies;
  • To provide a platform/ place for exchange of ideas amongst researchers and practitioners in the field of biodiversity and environmental conservation management in Sabah.
  • To gather information related to the application of digital technology in research projects and biodiversity activities conducted by the presenting companies in various protected areas and conservation areas in Sabah.
  • To build network and promote cooperation amongst practitioners and researchers in management of biodiversity and natural resources in Sabah.
  • To share and discuss the latest efficient techniques, technology and approaches and in assessing, managing and evaluating the biodiversity and actual environment for the purpose of improving the current biodiversity and natural resources management.

The Seminar was held on the 24th April 2018 at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu. The one-day seminar was jointly-organized by the Institute for Development Studies Sabah (IDS), Kondrad Adeneur Stiftung (KAS MALAYSIA) and Sabah Environmental Trust (SET). The seminar was attended by an overwhelming number of 217 participants comprising of policy makers, academicians, educationists and officials from relevant local government department and agencies.

The seminar was officiated by YBhg. Datuk Seri Panglima Clarence B. Malakun, Chairman of Institute for Development Studies (Sabah).

Papers Presenters

Paper 1:  Issues and Challenges, Ms Diana Anthony, WWF Malaysia

Paper 2:  Drone Rules and Regulation in Sabah, En Abu Bakar Ali, Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia, Putrajaya

Paper 3:  Google Street View, Mr Nhazlisham Hamdan, Google Malaysia

Paper 4:  Technologies Used In Gunung Leseur National Park, Sumatera, Mr Agung Dwinurcahya, Gunung Leuser National Park

Paper 5:  How Geographical Information System (GIS) Can Assist In Management and Surveillance of Biodiversity, Marylyn Janial Radius, ESRI Malaysia

Paper 6:  Biodiversity Monitoring Using FLIR & Monitoring Poaching and Illegal Logging Using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), AJ Scotti and Chris Thobaben, USA

The papers presented raised many discussions and various views among participants. This summary includes issues and concerns as well as recommendations that were identified during the course of the Seminar. Essentially, these recommendations highlighted issues and challenges in utilising digital technologies for the benefit of biodiversity management in Sabah.

Issues and Concerns

  • Issues on the efficiency and capability of the technology i.e. Google Geo Tools, GIS Technology and Drones, usage in biological conservation management, planning and biodiversity monitoring such as controls of fish bombing, illegal fishing, the study of turtle nest, for forest activities and enforcement, agricultural data collection, wildlife trafficking, deforestation and illegal poaching.
  • Understanding of the technology suitability and compatibility in its application on biodiversity conservation.
  • Government steps overcoming challenges to reduplicating of data.
  • What are the measures taken for quality control over data collected for accuracy and validity, should it be compared with any external data sets?
  • Enforcement of rules and regulations for usage of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS-drone) to control and for security against threats of drone misuse.
  • Issue on data sharing between government bodies and NGOs.
  • Data compatibility and retrieval from other source for example, between Google map data to GIS software.
  • Issues on data security from hackers.
  • Limitation and restriction on expansion of technology from organisation and individual acceptances and adaptation of new technology.

Recommendations

  • To have organisation or departments to work together with government authorities in dealing with nature conservations and monitoring issues such as fish bombing, illegal logging, poaching and wildlife trafficking.
  • To share basic information for example, the demarcation of boundaries of the forest areas, river boundaries and district boundaries to prevent data duplications.
  • To have local community engagement in the collection of valuable data to improve knowledge and interest.
  • Suitability advice of drone usage for works concerning nature conservation and biodiversity surveillance should be from drone suppliers or consultants as Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia only handles permit and regulates the flying of drones.
  • Knowledge of the regulation is a must for flying drones in Malaysia. The permit application can be requested from CAAM.
  • To obtain public area permits or permissions from landowners and approval to fly drones beyond own area. Flying without the permit and harm other people is against the law and will be penalised. Penalty for flying illegally is RM50, 000 for personal or 3 years jail and for a company is RM100, 000 or 3 years jail. Sometimes government assume that they do not need these permits to deal issues within governments.
  • To request for clearance from the Customs should be acquired for bringing drones into Malaysia and it verified as a flying object from the DCA or to come to CAAM office for a consultation.
  • The tools that Google have are more on data management. Google only provides the platform (i.e. technologies) for others to do the conservation purposes. We provide the platform, someone need to champion any conservation project. Google do not work with enforcement body to curb illegal fishing, it is between the researchers or scientists and the department of conservation to do that kind of procedure or measures.
  • Increase awareness on the usage of digital technologies would benefit the authority and community in Sabah as a whole.

Concluding Remarks

The seminar has given a positive impact to the audience by providing knowledge, information and updates on usage of digital technology to enhance managing and monitoring of natural resources. The suggestions and opinions have been taken into account by the relevant public and private agencies, institutions and organizations in formulating strategic measures in their specific field to address the development of conservation science and natural resources and biodiversity management in Sabah.

FOR FULL REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT IDS RESOURCE CENTRE AT 088-450500 OR EMAIL [email protected]

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