Program Information

Plenary Sessions

Keynote Lecture

Sunday, 1 July 2018, 16:00 – 18:00
Seeing The Utan From The Orang: Field-Notes From a Recovering Conservationist

June Mary Rubis
Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

(Video Coming Soon)

Presentation Summary:
Here, I reflect on mainstream conservation narratives, politics and power relations around orang utan conservation in Sarawak, and highlight multiple strategies that Indigenous Dayak communities employ to uphold their rights over contested landscapes. Specifically, I reflect on the problematic framing around the current discourse regarding orang utan conservation in Sarawak and elsewhere in Borneo, how the framing works, how Indigenous Ibans resist the framing in diverse ways, and the consequences of focusing on particular narratives. For this talk, I draw on my ethnographic research in Batang Ai, Sarawak from the years 2015-2016, and my overall 12-year long conservation fieldwork and management in Sarawak and Sabah (Malaysian Borneo) and Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).

Combining my overall 12-year long work experience in long-term fieldwork with primate conservation biology in Sarawak and Central Kalimantan, NGO work in Indigenous land issues in Malaysian Borneo, and my academic interest in the intersection of political ecology, Indigeneity and cultural politics, my research focuses on Indigenous responses towards orang utan conservation-making in Batang Ai, Sarawak. I was born and raised in Kuching, and have spent much of my conservation work experience in Sarawak, Sabah and Central Kalimantan. I graduated with a MSc. in Environmental Change & Management (Distinction), from the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford on a Chevening-Oxford scholarship and have continued on in the same University to read for my DPhil. It is my hope that this background, in combination with my commitment to Indigenous issues in Borneo will result in a useful PhD project which will contribute to not only our understanding of the struggle of Indigenous land issues and history of conservation in Sarawak but also to policy and scholarship tackling Sarawak’s current conservation and land issues.

Monday, 2 July 2018, 11:30 – 12:30
How to Explain The Biogeographic Patterns in SE-Asia’s Equatorial Forests

Assoc Prof JWF Slik
Universiti Brunei Darussalam

(Video Coming Soon)

Presentation Summary:
The marked biogeographic difference between western (Malay Peninsula and Sumatra) and eastern (Borneo) Sundaland is surprising given the long time that these areas have formed a single landmass. Several possibilities could have lead to this pattern, with sea barriers being an obvious one. However, most of Sundaland has formed a single dry landmass during most of its history, making the sea barrier hypothesis unlikely as a sole explanation. A dispersal barrier in the form of a dry savanna corridor during glacial maxima has been proposed as an additional explanation to overcome this problem. However, conditions for a full fledged savanna corridor across Sundaland are also limited, and existed for relatively short time intervals. For most of its history Sundaland has formed a connected single landmass without sea-barriers and savanna conditions, so why didn’t all these plant spread across the whole region evenly? Here I will suggest another possible explanation for the observed biogeographic patterns.

Graduated as a Masters from Leiden University in 1994, having studied a variety of topics, from snail taxonomy in Greece, Southern Elephant Seal behavior in Argentina, and finally tropical forest ecology in Guyana. After my studies I fulfilled my ‘Civil Service’, instead of ‘Military Service’, studying Seagrasses and benthic worms at the Dutch Institute for Ecological Research in Yerseke, the Netherlands. Started PhD at Leiden University (1996) studying the taxonomy and ecology of two widely distributed and common plant genera Macaranga and Mallotus in East Kalimantan, Borneo (Indonesia). Had several postdoc positions at Leiden University studying effects of fire on tropical forests. In year 2008, he moved to China and started working at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, where amongst others he initiated a forest fragmentation study that originally included 50 plots in different sized forest fragments. In year 2013, he moved to the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, where he set up a 15-ha plot specifically aimed at monitoring large tree (dbh > 50 cm) dynamics. During the whole period described here he also worked together with many other biologists around the world building up a large data set of tree inventories across the tropics to study biomass, diversity and tree distribution patterns at the pan-tropical scale.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018, 11:30 – 12:30
Protected Areas of Bhutan and Its New Financing Strategy

Sonam Wangdi
Chief Forestry Officer, Nature Conservation Division, Dept of Forests and Park Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Royal Government of Bhutan, Thimphu

(Video Coming Soon)

Presentation Summary:
Bhutan has long held a deep commitment to conservation. Its mountains, forests, and rivers nourish diverse species within as well as outside of its well-connected protected area system that covers 51.44% of its geographical area. The country’s Gross National Happiness philosophy upholds environmental protection as fundamental to national wellbeing, and its constitution mandates that a minimum of 60 percent of the country remain under forest cover. More recently, the country made a bold commitment to remain carbon neutral forever. Within this shifting context, new possibilities emerge. For investors interested in long- term conservation impacts, Bhutan today presents an exceptional set of favourable conditions. A young and politically stable democracy, it is eager to enact systems that will benefit all life within its borders. To make this a reality, the Royal Government of Bhutan and the WWF are pursuing a project finance for permanence (PFP) model. Borrowing tactics from private finance, one of its trademarks is a single closing deal in which all partners come together to sign and agree to full funding. Known as Bhutan for Life, the initiative will provide Bhutan’s government with a $43 million transition fund until 2030 to build up and effectively manage a robust network of protected areas and wildlife corridors.

Mr. Sonam Wangdi currently works as the Chief of Nature Conservation Division under the Department of Forests and Park Services of the Royal Government of Bhutan. As the Chief of this Division, he is responsible for technically advising the protected area system of Bhutan that includes, five National Parks, four Wildlife Sanctuaries, one Strict Nature Reserves and also the network of biological corridors, that interconnects these protected areas. He is currently spearheading the national taskforce for revision of the protected area system of Bhutan that will look into redesigning of Bhutan’s 51% of area under protection to bring more relevance of these protected areas into the needs of present time. He is also a member of the Strategic Planning Committee and Technical Working Group of Bhutan for Life Initiative that intends to sustainably finance the conservation of Bhutan’s natural heritage in this protected area system.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018, 11:30 – 12:30
The Political Future of Haze and Peatlands in Southeast Asia

Dr. Helena Varkkey
Senior Lecturer, Department of International and Strategic Studies, University of Malaya

(Video Coming Soon)

Presentation Summary:
The Southeast Asian nations, especially Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, have beensuffering from almost annual episodes of haze pollution for decades now. Smoke from peatand forest fires, mostly in Indonesia, travel across boundaries, resulting in transboundaryhaze. Haze is not only a physical problem linked to fire, but also a complex political one.Many fires have been traced to land clearance activities of agribusiness concessionaries inIndonesia, who are not only local but often also Malaysian and Singaporean. Demand forland have encouraged the opening up of ecologically-important and fire-prone peatlands,which are largely protected by law but often licensed out to politically well-connectedbusinesses. Efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to encouragecooperation to mitigate haze have been unsuccessful due to national interests and weakinstitutions. Is the future of Southeast Asia destined to be hazy? This talk will focus on recentdevelopments to consider if the combined physical and political complexities of thistransboundary problem can ever be reconciled.

Senior Lecturer at the Department of International and Strategic Studies, University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, many of my childhood memories are tinted with the dreary shroud of haze that descended over my hometown almost every year. My curiosity about the haze nurtured my interest in air pollution and sustainable development issues in my university years. I chose to focus on different socio-political elements of the Southeast Asian transboundary haze pollution for both my Masters and PhD dissertations. My first book, “The Haze Problem in Southeast Asia: Palm Oil and Patronage”, was published in 2016 under Routledge and focused on the relations between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore as a result of the haze. Following this, I have continued to conduct research in on the politics of haze, while expanding into related issues like the region’s oil palm sector and peatland management and conservation.

Thursday, 5 July 2018, 11:30 – 12:30
Of Supermarkets and Superhighways – The Wildlife Trade of Southeast

Kanitha Krishnasamy
Acting Regional Director, TRAFFIC

(Video Coming Soon)

Presentation Summary:
From dusty market stalls piled high with exotic meat to the click-and-buy world of online wild pet shopping, Southeast Asia is a region that is both supermarket and superhighway for the illegal trade in an extensive list of wild plants and animals. Threatened and protected species are consumed locally or trafficked across international borders - at ease - with an acute link to Southeast Asia at the heart of this trade, as a source, consumer and transit region. TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, has been tracking this regional trade for the last 26 years. This session will provide some insights into ongoing and pressing issues, rising threats and the solutions at our disposal.

Kanitha Krishnasamy possesses over 15 years of knowledge and expertise working in the conservation field. Currently the Acting Regional Director for TRAFFIC Southeast Asia’s extensive programme in Southeast Asia, she leads the region’s programme on tackling the trade in threatened species. Kanitha’s wealth of knowledge on wildlife, trade and regional conservation policy informs not only the organisation’s work but its advice to agencies on monitoring and tackling wildlife trafficking and law enforcement support. Prior to joining the TRAFFIC Southeast Asia team, Kanitha worked with the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) for seven years, after which she served on its Board for two years. She holds a Bachelors Degree in International Tropical Forest Management, and is a current Board Member for FSC in Malaysia.

Thursday, 5 July 2018, 16:30 – 1830
An Earth System View of Tropical Forests

Prof Yadvinder Malhi
Professor of Ecosystem Science, University of Oxford

(Video Coming Soon)

Presentation Summary:
Tropical forests play an important role in the functioning of the Earth system. Attempts to understand some of these roles brings a novel combination of some of the traditional approaches with new toolkits associated with the Earth system sciences, toolkits such as satellite remote sensing, atmospheric observations and global biosphere-atmosphere models. Here I showcase how these various approaches can work together to provide understanding of the influence of tropical forests at a planetary scale. I focus on the specific case of the 2015/2016 El Niño, and try to answer the question: why do tropical forests pour out carbon dioxide during El Niño events, and what does this tell us about the future prospects for tropical forests and the global climate?

Yadvinder Malhi is Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University. His research interests focus on the interactions between tropical terrestrial ecosystems and the global climate, and how tropical ecosystems and their biodiversity and functioning can best be maintained in the context of global change. He founded the Global Ecosystems Monitoring (GEM) network of intensive monitoring plots across the tropics. This network also endeavours strongly to strengthen capacity and connect students and researchers across the tropics. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 2018 was awarded a Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society for his work (as was Alfred Russel Wallace in 1892!) For 2018 he is President of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation.

Panel Discussion 1

Monday, 2 July 2018, 17:00 – 18:30
Implicit Biases, Diversity, and Inclusion in Tropical Biology and Conservation

Neha Sinha
Advocacy and Policy Officer, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS)

Neha Sinha works with the Bombay Natural History Society as Advocacy and Policy Officer, with a specialization in policy and Important bird areas. She is also an environmental columnist and writer. She has taught environmental politics at the University of Delhi and received the Professional Legislative Fellowship sponsored by the US Department of State (2017), and the ‘Wildlife Service’ Award from Sanctuary Asia in year 2017.

Dr. Cecilia A. L. Dahlsjö
Environmental Change Insitute, University of Oxford

Dr Dahlsjö has a D.Phil in tropical ecology from the University of Oxford and currently holds a postdoctoral position in the Ecosystems lab at the same university. Her main interests include bottom-up approaches to ecosystem functioning with a particular focus on the role of decomposer organisms in both pristine and managed habitats around the world. Recently she has also dabbled in ethical analyses where she is exploring the boundaries of intrinsic value, using invertebrates as an example group, and the responsibilities that are associated with being the moral agent and a researcher. Dr Dahlsjö has a long-standing interest in gender issues and is running the survey on implicit bias as part of the ATBC registration form. Through the survey she hopes to identify and explore ethnic and gender-based biases in tropical science.

Dr. Sheema Abdul Aziz
Co-founder and President, Rimba

Sheema is the Co-founder and President of Rimba, a Malaysian non-profit research group conducting conservation science. She is also Principal Investigator of the organization’s Project Pteropus. A bat biologist and conservationist, she has a BA in Archaeology, an MSc in Conservation Biology, and a PhD in Ecology. She is also a steering committee member for the Southeast Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit (SEABCRU), specifically the Flying Fox Priority Group and Ecosystem Services Priority Theme. She has 15 years of experience in the conservation field, having previously worked under several conservation organizations (e.g. WWF-Malaysia, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Wild Asia) on issues related to protected area management, forestry, wildlife trade, biodiversity assessments, and local communities. Her research focuses on the conservation ecology of flying foxes (Pteropus spp., Acerodon spp.), which includes investigating bat ecosystem services, and situations of human-bat conflict. She is currently expanding her work on durian pollination ecology, conflict between fruit growers and bats, and hunting of flying foxes, with the goal of spearheading fruit bat conservation as a priority for Peninsular Malaysia.

Dr Emilio M. Bruna
Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation & Center for Latin American Studies

Bruna has a joint appointment with the University of Florida’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation & Center for Latin American Studies. He received his BS and MS from the University of California-San Diego and a Ph.D. in Population Biology from the University of California-Davis; Prior to joining UF he was an NSF Minority Postdoctoral Fellow at Brazil’s Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia. Bruna’s research focuses on (1) the ecological consequences of deforestation and other human activities on tropical ecosystems, (2) Latin American Science and Science Policy, and (3) the role of international collaboration on the impact of scientists and their research.

Panel Discussion 2

Tuesday, 3 July 2018, 17:00 – 18:30
Financing Biodiversity Conservation in the Tropics

Dr K. Nagulendran
Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation Malaysia

After a short stint in the private sector, Nagu joined the Government of Malaysia in 1995 as a Diplomatic and Administrative officer till today. He has been primarily involved in the biodiversity and environment sector. He has been involved in policy formulation, governance and stakeholder engagement on issues related to environment especially focusing on biodiversity. He was instrumental in leading the drafting of the Biosafety Bill which was adopted by the Malaysian Parliament in 2007. He too facilitated the drafting of the Access to Biological Resources and Benefit Sharing Bill which was adopted by the Parliament in 2017. He too was involved in assisting the adoption of the Wildlife Conservation Act in 2010. Nagu a Chevening Scholar completed his Masters in Environmental Management in 2003.
He has been involved as a negotiator for the Government of Malaysia at various UN meetings/conference on the many facets of biodiversity issues which affects the planet and global citizens. His doctoral study was on Biodiversity Governance. After completing his doctorate in 2017, Nagu is currently the Undersecretary, Strategic Technology and S&T Application Division, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), Malaysia.

Dr. Simon Hedges
Asian Arks

Simon has almost 30 years of experience in wildlife conservation-related research and survey work, endangered species and protected area management, and wildlife policy formulation, including the writing and implementation of wildlife action plans. Most of his time since 1988 has been spent in Asia and, from 2007, Asia and Africa. Simon’s experience encompasses work on elephants, rhinos, wild cattle, deer, wild pigs, primates, large cats, wild dogs, small carnivores, rodents, and birds. From 1998, he focused on elephants, particularly on the development of reliable monitoring methods, human–elephant conflict assessment and mitigation work, and, since 2004, the ivory trade and the resulting illegal killing of elephants. Simon worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) for 18 years, working to conserve elephants and ultimately coordinating WCS’s elephant conservation work. He left WCS at the end of January 2018 to establish a new NGO, Asian Arks, which will focus on protected area management in Asia. Simon was a member of the joint Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of the CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants program and the Elephant Trade Information System for many years. He chaired the IUCN/SSC Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group (AWCSG) from 1995 to 2005, was the Co-Chair of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AsESG) from 2005 to 2015, and a member of the IUCN/SSC Species Conservation Planning Task Force. Simon is currently a member of the IUCN/SSC Human–Wildlife Conflict and Green List Task Forces and remains a member of both the AWCSG and AsESG. He has published in journals ranging from Molecular Ecology, Conservation Biology, and Journal of Animal Ecology to Tropical Biodiversity, Kukila, and Gajah. Simon has also contributed chapters to several peer-reviewed books and edited (and contributed to) the 2012 book, “Monitoring elephants and assessing threats: a manual for researchers, managers and conservationists”.

Hari Sankaran
Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL & FS)

Mr. Sankaran has been pivotal in developing the IL&FS business portfolio and award-‐winning PPP projects. After taking a Master’s Degree in Economics from The London School of Economics and Political Science in the UK, Mr. Sankaran served as Project Finance Specialist with Industrial Credit & Investment Corporation of India (ICICI). He moved to IL&FS as Chief Economist in 1990 and later served as the Joint Managing Director and CEO, and then Vice Chairman and Managing Director of the Board. Mr Sankaran is the 2018 Chairman of CII National Committee on Infrastructure. CII is India’s premier business association with significant numbers of members on a pan India basis.

Pek Chuan Gan
Programme Manager, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Gan Pek Chuan is the Programme Manager and Acting Head of Sustainable and Resilient Development at the United Nations Development Programme in Malaysia. She provides policy advisory and project development support to the Government of Malaysia and relevant partners, in the focal areas of sustainable development and mainstreaming of environmental issues into planning and development. Pek Chuan holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management from National University of Malaysia (UKM) and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Environment from University Putra Malaysia.


Hosted by


Supported by

Partner With