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The birdman of Malaysia

AFTER almost two decades with the Malaysian Nature Society, Andrew J. Sebastian - who is also a bird and nature guide – left to form his own non-governmental organisation ECOMY (Eco-Tourism and Conservation Society Malaysia).

“You can’t use the conservation-only approach. I figured out that there was a gap between us fighting the government on conservation issues, and protecting nature.

“The gap in this case was people are not connected to nature any more. You can say ‘Ulu Muda’ or ‘Belum’ (two well-known rainforests), and they will only be happy to help with conservation campaigns if they have been there.”

As there were no other NGOs working or pushing towards eco-tourism, Andrew decided to step into this void.

“I work from home. I can focus and push for projects and do things from my home.”

He gives tours for groups, schools or corporations, and talks on conservation, eco-tourism, and gets them involved in local community projects.

He also takes international tourists on tours for bird watching, as well as on wildlife tours.

“Locally the bird watching community is growing. Internationally, it is much bigger business.”

Andrew says that people travel to places like Africa just to see zebras crossing the Zambezi River, or see to gorillas in Uganda.

He points out that over here, we could do more to attract tourists to see our elephants and orangutans in the wild.

“The Plain-pouched Hornbill flies from Thailand to Ulu Muda and Belum every July to September. Flocks of migratory birds fly in every year to feed and then fly back home. Every year during the winter season (October to March) they fly from the Northern Hemisphere to the South. They can fly as far as Australia and New Zealand.

“There is a lot of opportunity for us to create awareness. We can create businesses from this that is really sustainable.”