Asianthinker Interviews Lin Ji Liaw the President of BruWILD Biodiversity and Natural History Society in Brunei. BruWILD was started under the leadership of Linji Liaw, an alumna in BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of Brunei Darussalam. Formed in April 2014 its main aim was to provide educational support to educational institutions, nature groups and organizations that are concerned about the importance of environmental conservation and protection in Brunei.
Can you tell me more about the background of what Biodiversity and Natural History Society (BruWILD) does in Brunei? What started the initiative?
The idea of forming BruWILD was initiated by a group of passionate conservationists and scientists who aim to educate the large public members the significance of biodiversity conservation in Brunei. It became apparent to us that there is an urgency to conserve what biodiversity remain as deforestation and urban developments are taking place. Taking the lead, I spent a year applying for the NGO status to which we are proud and grateful to be legalized on April 2014.
Who are the people that are behind BruWILD? Can you name some of the biologists and conservationists that are part of BruWILD.
There are about 20 active members in BruWILD. Some of the members include Dr Salwa Khalid (a mammal specialist), Dr Hanyrol H Ahmadsah (a herpetologist), Mr Fahim Ibrahim (plant physiologist), Mr Hakeem Julaihi (marine biologist), etc. I am a botanist and an EIA specialist by training.
Can you tell us more about the different programs that you have implemented in Brunei? What are its levels of success? Did the programmes meet your objectives ?
There are 3 major programs that we currently execute. You can find more details about them via our website (www.bruwild.org). Our ‘Eco-Edu’ program is quite successful as we are often invited by schools and higher educational institutions to give talks and presentations on biodiversity conservation. Our ‘Report and Rescue’ program has three sub-milestones in which 2 have been achieved. More info on these can also be found via the website. ‘Saving Our Turtle’ program has four sub-milestones in which 3 have been achieved. I have attached here a booklet on this program. Included herein are some info on the progress thusfar.
What are some of the challenges meeting your objectives in Brunei? Has the government been supportive ?
Notable challenges we face include:
- weak Wildlife Protection Act. Without the backing of the law, it is difficult to stop poaching activities in the country.
- Lack of enforcement. As we are not the Authorities, we cannot make any arrests. Therefore, often we depend on the Government officials for this – especially to arrest any person holding species listed under the Wildlife Protection Act.
- lack of knowledge on biodiversity conservation among the public members. This makes it challenging to protect our remaining wildlife. If they don’t understand the nature and value of our biodiversity, they don’t see the point of conserving.
Nevertheless, the government has been supportive of our projects thus far.
What is project Habitat? Has it drawn a great deal of local and international support ?
Project Habitat is a community-based ecotourism and education project. It is currently in its infant stage and is yet to be officially launched. Currently, we are still building its foundation, tying loose ends, testing our ideas, etc. Nevertheless, albeit its infancy, we have received good testimonials of this effort. We hope to launch this project soon.
How do you get school children and the youth to contribute their time to BruWILD? What are some of the initiatives that you have implemented so far with schools? What is the Eco-Edu Program ?
BruWILD’ s main mission is to provide the best educational support on biodiversity conservation to the public members and educational institutions. We are often invited to provide talks and presentation on wildlife conservation by local schools during which we are grateful to receive many interested volunteers for our projects. The Eco-Edu programs are designed to facilitate and support classroom lessons provided by the teachers. We also carry out roadshows on wildlife conservation where we hop from school to school, engaging students on the various aspects of biodiversity preservation and how they can play their part in this endeavor.
Rescuing wildlife and rehabilitation of wildlife seems to be an important objective of BruWILD. Training is done apparently by the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. Can you tell me more about it?
It took me 2 years to draft a proposal, engage the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (based in the USA), and seek fund to make this possible. Prior to this, Brunei does not have any trained wildlife rehabilitator nor a functioning wildlife rehabilitation centre. Today, there are 30 trained and certified personnel (consisting of BruWILD members, government officials, other NGO members, students) who can conduct basic wildlife rehabilitation. We are grateful for the generous support of the US Embassy Brunei who funded this one-week training. For more information on the training, e.g. the topics covered, etc., please visit: http://www.bruwild.org/wildlife-rescue-training. The next big step for BruWILD is to operationalise the Sinaut Wildlife Rescue Centre – which is currently inactive and require some renovations. We hope to ‘soft-open’ this facility by the end of this year.
How is BruWILD supported? Is that by government funds or self-funded by donations? Do you also source for international funding? Do you invite other NGOs to join and network with your organization and what can they contribute ?
Hitherto, we have been financed primarily through donations from public members including family and friends. We currently are in the process of reaching out for international funding as without it, our operations could not be expanded further or would take far longer time to complete/achieve.
What areas would you like to focus on in the future?
Implementing and executing proper and sustainable ecotourism would be our next area to focus on.