Monday, May 23, 2022

One man’s efforts to keep the world green

Suzairi Zakaria has spent many years working with the Orang Asli and doing what he can to save Kelantan's forest plants from extinction.

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Down below on the forest floor, environmentalist Suzairi Zakaria looks at the canopy of trees above him.

Suzairi began his career as a photographer but eventually moved on to collecting rare plant species in order to save them from extinction.

Suzairi stoops to examine a dead Rafflesia flower on the forest floor. Rafflesias have a very short lifespan and die soon after blooming.

A monkey pitcher plant, which the Orang Asli often use to make lemang.

An aerial view of the hills surrounding a road leading towards Taman Negara Kuala Koh. The hills have been laid bare by logging activities which have put many plants and animals at risk.

A lorry makes its way along a road in the hills, carrying a load of logs.

A settlement of Orang Asli from the Batek tribe in Taman Negara Kuala Koh. Thanks to the logging and other development activities, they are now forced to venture further and further away from their homes in order to forage for food.

Orang Asli women, one of them carrying a baby in a cloth sling, stand outside a house in the settlement.

A handful of Orang Asli make their way along a path leading towards an oil palm plantation, one of many developments that have disrupted their way of life.

An Orang Asli child draws in the sand outside his house in Taman Negara Kuala Koh.

An elderly Orang Asli woman sits with a furrowed brow as she recalls an incident in 2019 where two of her children and two of her grandchildren died as a result of water pollution in the nearby river.

An Orang Asli man who likewise lost two of his daughters in the same incident tells of how they died, and his continued anger at those responsible.

An aerial view of the land cleared for manganese ore mining activities near the Orang Asli settlement. The villagers blame these activities for the pollution which caused the death of 14 in total.

Suzairi is a familiar face in the Orang Asli village and always receives a warm welcome from the children.

He sits at the door of a house, chatting with the children who run and play around him.

He always remembers to bring along a little treat for the children, whether snacks and biscuits or even basic medication like asprin.

Back at home, Suzairi tends to the plants he has transported from the forest as part of his conservation efforts.

All in all, he has more than 2,000 species of plants growing in the makeshift conservatory in his backyard.

He often researches the plants he brings home in order to give them the best care he can. He also shares information and data with international researchers.

Hoya sp, Nepenthes sp, Acrotrema sp, Phlegmariurus Squarrosus – just some among the many plants Suzairi has saved.

It takes a lot of time and energy to care for all of the plants, but he is happy to do so as he knows that his work is important for saving the environment.

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