A seminar on the “Usage of Digital Technologies for Management and Surveillance of Biodiversity/Natural Resources” was held on 24th April 2018 at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. This seminar was jointly organised by the Institute for Development Studies (Sabah), (IDS) in partnership with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and in collaboration with Sabah Environmental Trust (SET). A total of 190 participants comprising of government officials, policy makers, academician from public and private higher learning institutions, members of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), media and members of the public attended the seminar. The seminar was officiated by Datuk Seri Panglima Clarence B. Malakun, the than Chairman of IDS.


The objectives of this seminar were (i) Creating an awareness among participants on existing and future digital technologies in assisting conservations; (ii) Providing new ideas on how to improve the management and enforcement of Sabah’s environment; (iii) Highlighting the pros and cons of utilising digital technologies as tools for environment management; (iv) Show casing existing organisations from Sabah (and from nearby regions) which have successfully employed digital technologies in this field; and (v) Providing a platform for the meeting of divergent sectors (digital, environment and government) to promote dialogue and cooperation for the improvement and enrichment of Sabah’s natural resources.


There were six (6) papers presented during this seminar. Ms. Diana Anthony from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia presented the first paper entitled, Issues and Challenges in Conservation Planning”.


In this first paper, Ms. Diana Anthony highlighted three (3) main issues faced by WWF Malaysia:


  • Large landscape:


Based on the WWF Conservation work in Malaysia, they cover a large landscape in their conservation planning, with the focus on the six WWF Heart of Borneo Priority landscape. For Sabah itself, the WWF Conservation team already covers almost 60 percent of Sabah landmass area. Below are the details of the six WWF Heart of Borneo Priority landscape.


  1. The Crocker Range – Central Forest Landscape
  2. The Transboundary Elephant Landscape (Southern Part of Sabah and North Kalimantan)
  3. The Brunei – Sabah – Sarawak – North Kalimantan Transboundary Landscape
  4. The Sarawak – West Kalimantan Transboundary Landscape (Batang Ai – Lanjak Entimau – Betung Kerihun – Danau Sentanum)
  5. The Muller – Schwaner – Arabela Landscape
  6. The Katingan Landscape (Sebangan National Park – Schwaner Mountains)


  • Challenging landscape:


Accessibility to the location is quite challenging for the WWF Team and time-consuming. It may take hours or days to reach the exact location. During the survey, the team also needed high technology equipment to help them to collect the data.


  • Working in a dynamic landscape:


A dynamic landscape is a process where the character of a landscape changes from time to time. Human activities are one of the important drivers of these changes. Over the years, the activities of exploration of the land in Sabah become more active. As to date, there is more land degradation happens on Borneo island. The degradation is caused by the human activity such as commercial land for agriculture, developments, and settlement of the area. The WWF team faces a problem in finding a balance between maintaining the natural ecosystem and the needs of commercial development.


Ms. Diana also  highlighted the challenges in collecting specific data. These include:


  1. The accuracy of the final output is important for the future record. The team will depend on the available funding, as some technologies used are expensive;
  2. The duplication of data happens when everyone unwilling to share the basic information in public;
  3. Most of the data captured by the team is still being kept in a conventional way. WWF need to invest more funds in order for them to upgrade their database to a more advanced system such as cloud system;
  4. All equipments used such as camera trap that placed in the forest for data collection purposed are being vandalised. Hunters will destroy the devices so that they leave no evidence of their illegal activities.


The second paper was presented by Mr. Abu Bakar Ali, Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia, Putrajaya entitled  “Drone-UAS Regulatory Revolutionizing the Industries in Malaysia”. Mr. Abu Bakar highlighted various UAS usages in the industry, such as infrastructure, agriculture, transportation, security surveillance, media and communication, insurance, telecommunication, mining, energy, construction and sport and recreational. He explained some details on each of the industries as follows:


  • In the infrastructure industry, drones monitor and check for maintenance purposes and as well as in the assets inventory for cost-effectiveness.
  • In the agriculture industry, UAS aids in the sustainable increase of food production through the various applications such as crop supervision, soil and field analysis, health assessment and precision agriculture.
  • Transportation usages, UAS monitors and tracks traffic condition for smooth movement within the city.
  • Security Surveillance, UAS aids in guarding and surveillance monitoring task through live streaming and sensors to monitor of lines and sites on a large and remote area.
  • Media and Communication, UAS enables us to make great use of the latest technology in photography and videography, recording for news updates and live events.
  • In the insurance industry, booming fraud and increasing damage from natural disasters are problems which can be solved using the risk monitoring for an early warning system.
  • Telecommunication industry UAS aids in tower inspection and maintenance monitoring to provide efficient operations and infrastructure.
  • The mining industry, UAS can replace humans during dangerous jobs and increase the effectiveness of open-pit mines.
  • In the energy industry, UAS helps to monitor structural tower condition and for reporting.
  • In the construction industry, UAS usage helps to provide preliminary site survey and analysis report during pre-construction.
  • Sport and Recreational usages. Malaysia has a few world champions and have about two to three drone sports competition organised in Malaysia.


Mr. Abu Bakar said there are sets of UAS rules regulated to monitor, identify owners, control and for the security. These rules are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM or DCA).


  • Regulation 137 CAR 2016, the person in charge of the UAS shall not cause or permit any article or animal whether attached a parachute to be dropped from the UAS.
  • Regulation 140 CAR 2016, prohibited flight areas for all types of UAS are in Class A, B, C or G airspace, within an aerodrome traffic zone and at the height of more than 400 feet above the surface of the earth, unless obtained an authorisation from the Director General of DCA.
  • Regulation 141 CAR 2016 and Regulation 2 CAR 2016, to fly UAS for aerial work (e.g., agriculture) purposes, an authorisation from the Director-General is required should be obtained.
  • Regulation 142 CAR 2016, provide exceptions for intended flight of a small UAS.



  • Under the regulation 143 CAR 2016, states that, to fly a small unmanned surveillance aircraft an authorisation from the Director General is required in these circumstances.
  • Regulation 144 CAR 2016, states that there is no requirement to obtain the certificate of airworthiness for small UAS and small unmanned surveillance aircraft that is below 20 kg. Vis-à-vis UAS of more than 20 kg, it is a must to obtain the certification of airworthiness.
  • Regulation 3 CA (F&C) R 2016, explains the charges and fees, application for authorisation to fly UAS.


In conclusion, Mr. Abu Bakar said risks start when regulations are not enforced to control and monitor drone users. Drones can pose series of threats, when it is used as a vehicle for a weapon, risks of airspace threats and fatal coalitions.


The third paper titled Google Geo Tools for Conservation” was presented by Mr. Nhazlisham Hamdan, Program Manager from Google Street View Asia Pacific. He started the presentation by sharing Google mission to organize world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.  Mr Nhazlisham also share some geo tools that available in Google. These include:


  1. My Maps and Fusion Tables:
  • Google Map can be used as a base line for mapping but user can also make it as their personal map.
  • Fusion tables is a free tool that capable of taking a spreadsheet of information and turn it into a chart or map for users’ convenience and practicality.


  1. Open Data Kit (ODK)
  • ODK is a tool that only works with Android. It collects data from mobile devices such as smart phones or tablet. This tool can help organization to manage their mobile data collection solutions, for example building a data collection form or survey.
  • ODK stores data on cloud, where user can save the data on their own space and can be accessed by other people.


  1. Google Earth and Tour Builder:
  • Google Earth is a tool where user can plot or mark any places or areas on the virtual Google Map. It is a 3D map, and easy to see and understand.
  • Tour Builder uses the Google Earth plug-in for its 3D map where information can be uploaded and verified by different researchers. This will be convenient for user, without having to travel and see certain places.


  1. Google Street View:
  • User will be able to see street views of a city using this tool. Plus, users can locate the places or areas they want to go by looking at the street views.
  • In the case of protecting natural resources or tracking animals for conservation purposes, ATV (All-terrain-vehicle) is used to take pictures of animals.
  • Mr. Nhazlisham also shared his experience on marine observation project, where the speaker came up with an idea of using a Ricoh Theta S, with the waterproof casing to capture a 360 degree imagery of underwater marine life.
  • The resolution was good and the picture can be shared with others easily using smart phones or other gadgets once uploaded on Google.


  1. Google Earth Engine:
  • It is used for storing satellite images, manage and organise the collections of uploaded public data in Google Earth for analysis using some coding or scripts.
  • The Earth Engine provides data catalogue where its available for users to select for viewing or analyse various kinds of information, such as weather and climate, development changes, forest loss and satellite images provided by a third-party data provider.


Mr. Nhazlisham also shared Google experiences in helping the Surui tribe of Amazon. Google trained youths in the village on using cell phones and monitor by tracking any movement or illegal activities happening in the forest and alert their people in the village. The technology also allows the data sharing with public and everyone to have an access and help the development of the community.


The fourth paper titled “Technologies Used In Leuser Eco System Sumatra” by  Mr. Agung Dwinurcahya. He was the GIS Officer from Gunung Leuser National Park. Mr. Agung said the objectives of deploying such technologies are to conserve the forest by studying the changes occurring within the area and mitigating them using appropriate manner. The usage of digital technologies within the Leuser ecosystem has enabled faster detection of the occurrence of deforestation and illegal activities. This resulted in faster response being initiated by the responsible team. Each technology confers its own strength and weakness however, when combined in parallel with the manpower working on the ground, it resulted in the reduction of deforestation and illegal activities within the Leuser Ecosystem.


Currently, there are five different technologies deployed for the purpose of monitoring through space and aerial segment in the Leuser Ecosystem.


  • Satellite Imagery from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) NASA: Which is available at <glovis.usgs.gov>.
  • Satellite Imagery from PLANET.Com: Which has a slightly smaller spatial resolution of 10 meters per pixel.
  • GLAD Alerts (Global Forest Watch): Which is available from the website <globalforestwatch.org>.
  • Google Earth: Which has the highest resolution when compared to the other three satellite imagery.
  • Drones: The latest technology where it monitors the forest through the aerial segment. It has an even higher resolution that goes up to centimetres length, therefore, offering a clearer visualisation.


After using all the technologies to collect all datas, the management team in Leuser then establish a ‘Ground Monitoring Guidance Map’. There are three technologies (Remote Surveillance Cameras, SMART Patrol System and Camera Trap)  used on the ground to complement the technologies used for space and aerial segment. In the SMART Patrol System, they are sending twenty three teams to the field every month. They identify the illegal activities, study them and mitigate the threats brought about by illegal poaching. In 2017, 239 patrol missions were completed where it has resulted in the prevention of 703 illegal poaching cases and identification and arrest of 37 illegal poachers. Additionally, they also collect samples from animals such as faeces and record the footprints left by elephants, tigers and Sumatran rhinos.


In his final conclusion, Mr. Agung also share the impact of the use of technologies with the participants. There are:


  • The usage of digital technologies in the conservation of Leuser ecosystem has brought significant impact involving law enforcement.
  • Additionally, they also collaborate with the Forest Management Unit and police force to do follow-up measures on major cases involving illegal activities within the forest area.
  • This has resulted in several cases involving illegal activities being solved and the responsible parties are charged accordingly.


The fifth paper was presented by Ms. Marylyn Janial Radius, ESRI Malaysia. Her paper titled How Geographical Information System (GIS) Can Assist In Management and Surveillance of Biodiversity”.


Ms. Marylyn started the presentation by explaining Geographic Information System (GIS). GIS is a tool to visualize, question, analyse and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns and trends. She further explained that the best GIS system would play three roles in terms of it systems:


  1. System of Record: A system that composite all information in one geo data base. It will organize the geographic context so that everything in a geocentric platform or system.


  1. System of Engagement: A system that will bring engagement with the audience to get their feedback and to share the information with the stakeholders. It is able to outreach to stakeholders who can make use of the data and at the same time making it an accessible data.


  1. System of Insights: It is a fine line of comparison between mapping, visualisation and GIS. GIS provide a tool to do analysis and spatial thinking on where and when the certain situation happen.


Some of the biggest global issue such as climate change and deforestation is best use or manage by GIS because they are geographical in nature. GIS is an amazing tool that is applicable to almost every industry and disciplines.


Ms. Marylyn also shared some applications is  involving GIS in Biodiversity. Here are some examples.


  • GIS technology is an effective tool for managing, analysing and visualizing instances to understand the target area where conservation practices are needed.
  • GIS helps in mapping a target species or area and overlay it with parameter layers like land cover, topography, terrain soil, temperature etc.
  • GIS provides the framework and process starting with data integration and management, visualisation, mapping and analysis and modelling. The framework and processes includes:
  • Designed for the Field: Gathering the data with greater precision and efficiency to respond problems more quickly. ArcGIS mobile apps facilitate the users to work offline to observe, measure and monitor their area of study.
  • Predict the Future: Use the modelling tools in ArcGIS to analyse data, visualize patterns, and understand systems. Compares present conditions with the past to make authoritative predictions.
  • Plan to Protect: Create a strategic plan to meet the conservation goals. ArcGIS empowers stakeholders with decision support tools to visualise possible outcomes and inform others.
  • Resolve Natural Resource Conflicts: ArcGIS allows groups to come together and use maps to compare needs. Through collaboration, areas of contention are easier to manage and can be resolved with better communication.
  • Advocate: Inspire others to understand the cause and take action. With visual platforms like Story Maps, the conservation story can be written in context with maps and media that describe the cause.


In conclusion, there are five conservation components, which are, to map area of study and collect data, study patterns and predict future, conservation planning, resolve conflicts through collaboration and advocate sharing of information.


The final paper was presented by Mr. AJ Scotti and Mr. Chris Thobaben, USA. Their paper titled “Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) and InfraredModern Tools for Natural Resource Management and Protection”.


Among others the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) can be used for communication, monitoring, inspection, construction, security, transportation, delivery and interaction, atmospheric and earth science, audiovisual presence, information and surveillance, crime prevention and pursuit, imaging and mapping, maritime surveillance, photography, video and many more. For example, UAS can be used with a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) System or radar system or maybe Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) to run across the gas pipe line to detect leaks which is a conservation effort by repairing the leaks.


Drones could help protect endangered animal species with the help of software usually used to identify stars and planets. The software identifies by distinguishing heat patterns by the species. This makes it possible to track and monitor including some of the rarest animals on earth. The technique can also identify poachers and track animals inaccessible areas. Its ultimate goal is to help save endangered animals and improve current conservation practices.

UAS can bring persistence presence as an active protection mechanism, monitoring erosion as an after effect of illegal deforestation practices, and invasive species monitoring after deforestation. It can also detect Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) of illegal logger and also rapid risk and disturbance assessment. Other than that it can identifying ecosystem structure and processes assessment, mapping threats, vulnerability and conservation issues of biological communities and species as well as immediate synching of satellite data.


On the monitoring poaching capabilities, UAS uses the advance tactics. It supports ranger teams information and logistics. It is also creates a greater depth of observation and rapidly adjust to rat lines regardless of terrain. UAS allows you to stand out to collect the information from safe distance and hand out to the authority. This can be done by understanding the population and identifying the location of the species based on the assessment. Sharing the assessment in the cloud network with the GIS experts enable the prediction of higher population densities for the next application.


Overall, the seminar was successful in providing the participants with up-to-date information on the usage of technologies in biodiversity resources management. The participants felt that the seminar was highly valuable and had given them useful insights especially on the technical part. Both participants and stakeholders hope that more seminars on biodiversity can be held in the future to increase public awareness.


 Ali Suffri Mohd. Jaffar


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