PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian conservationist has been selected as one of eight finalists in this year’s Whitley Awards, an international ceremony dedicated to honouring the world’s best conservation efforts.
A field biologist and long-term conservationist, Dr Melvin Gumal was picked from over 170 experts worldwide.
“I’m actually a little embarrassed. I didn’t think I’d be selected. There are some really big people on the list this year. I mean, wow. But people are telling me that it’s a good thing, and I should take part. So, here I am,” he said.
In the conservation world, Dr Gumal said the Whitley Awards has among the most stringent background checks.
Candidates would not only be assessed according to their current work and that of their field experience for the past few decades, but that of their referees as well.
It has even been popularly referred to as the “Green Oscars”, and the organisation behind it – the Whitley Fund for Nature – has natural history expert Sir David Attenborough as a trustee.
The results will be announced at the Royal Geographical Society in London on May 8.
A director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Malaysian chapter since 2003, Dr Gumal has been working to understand and save orang utan since 1988.
He has been involved in the conservation of the primates in the Batang Ai National Park and the Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, home to over 2,000 animals.
WCS has also been involved in various wildlife-related plans here, including the research and monitoring of endangered species.
Dr Gumal said his work could not have been possible without help from the Sarawak Forestry Department, Sarawak Forestry Corporation and partners such as Borneo Adventure.
He also thanked longhouse communities as well as donors, such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Orangutan Project Sdn Bhd, the US Embassy and the British High Commission.
Should he win, Dr Gumal would receive a £35,000 (RM192,168) cash prize, though the money, he added, was not meant for the recipient, but for future conservation efforts.
Before he joined WCS, Dr Gumal headed the Conservation Education and Interpretation Unit within the Sarawak Forestry Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Office for 15 years.
He also helped to co-author the Wildlife Master Plan for Sarawak and has been working with rural communities living in and around protected areas in the state.
Source : The Star