Andrew Sebastian - Turning passion into profession
Andrew Sebastian - naturalist, environmentalist, activist and avid birdwatcher. He fell in love with nature at a young age and after deciding that law wasn't the right path for him, he went on to pursue a career as a full time conservationist with the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS). During his time with MNS, he spearheaded several birding projects in the states of Pahang and Perak. His efforts earned him international recognition as he was invited to present at various conferences all over Asia. In 2015, Andrew left MNS and started Ecotourism & Conservation Society Malaysia (ECOMY) where he currently serves as Chief Executive Officer.
I was lucky enough to grow up with forests as I spent 20 years living in the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM). My dad was attached with FRIM and later on, with the organisation's Unit Latihan Perhutanan (Forest Training Unit). Hence, I had an immediate and lasting bond with the environment. From chambering at a law firm, it was an easy switch for me to make when I decided to take a year off legal work. It has been 22 years since that momentous decision and I have no regrets!
I have visited almost all the rainforests in Malaysia except for the eastern lush forests of Sabah and some of the more remote parts of Sarawak. Too many stories, but observing a *binturong feed on a tree full of fig fruits at Lake Temengor last year was my latest highlight.
*Binturong- cute bear/cat-like creature native to South and Southeast Asia.
I enjoy meeting and working with like-minded nature lovers. Passion and a sense of pride to understand and protect our natural heritage is a special cause that involves us all.
ECOMY's ethos is ‘Conservation through ecotourism’. We plan to achieve this by building an army of naturalists in and around ecotourism sites in Malaysia to be the voice and ears in celebrating and protecting our heritage.
The old local saying “*Tak Kenal Maka Tak Cinta” is the message we live by and how we want to inspire people to love and protect nature. ECOMY wants all Malaysians to visit, read and appreciate our great outdoors.
*You can't love what you don't understand.
I hope to record a total of 4,000 (or more) birds in my lifetime...and swim with a great white shark, observe a tornado, and photograph all the species of *birds-of-paradise in the world!
*Colourful birds related to sparrows that are native to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
I love visiting the forest at night, especially if I’m alone! It's my happy place.
Being an environmentalist is not without its challenges. Many Malaysians think that environmental problems are too big for us to solve. I'm glad though, that more and more people are getting heavily involved and are aware of environmental issues. It's a good shift! My advice is, go out there, see what nature offers and create your own adventures. After all, tak kenal maka tak cinta.
Favourite species of bird? Trogons! Amazing colours.
Favourite flower? Rafflesia! Largest in the world and has a unique lifecycle.
Downtime pastime? Downing a big bag of sunflower seeds.
Favourite country to visit? Indonesia. So many unique natural assets.
Latest photograph taken? A lighting strike while on a plane home.
Role model? David Attenborough.
What environmental issue in Malaysia would you like to see resolved or at least positively addressed in your lifetime? Deforestation and clean rivers.
Do you think Malaysia should introduce a tree planting day? (like South Korea’s Arbor Day)
Yes, it was mooted 20 years ago and hopefully we shall see this happen soon. Not just planting trees, but appreciating them too.
Join Andrew Sebastian as a Belum Forest Friend today and help preserve the Belum-Temengor Rainforest Complex!