Scot leads the fight to protect wildlife in Malaysia


Aberdeen-born Charles Hay, who is the UK’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, is part of a team working with officials around the country to help save endangered wildlife like tigers and monkeys, stop the destruction of forests and encourage the transition to renewable energies.

The new partnership between the two nations was signed last month and comes as scientists debate whether the discovery of a new hybrid monkey is the result of deforestation in the Asian country.

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It follows a pledge made by the UK at the UN climate summit in Glasgow, pledging to support countries in Southeast Asia.

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It is estimated that Malaysia has lost nearly two million hectares of its forest land to logging and land clearance.

Wildlife experts believe habitat loss could have been the key factor in the emergence of the mysterious primate, as the animals find themselves forced to survive in smaller areas.

The mixed-species creature that has sparked major discussion is believed to be the offspring of a male proboscis monkey and a female silver langur.

British High Commissioner to Malaysia Charles Hay at Kenyir Terengganu, where a project to map carbon stored in forests is underway

“The discovery of this hybrid ape shows why the commitment of the UK and Malaysia to working together to protect biodiversity is so important,” said Mr Hay.

“There is much debate in the scientific community about whether the emergence of this mixed-species monkey is the result of habitat loss – but our governments are clear that we must rely on the COP26 in Glasgow to address climate and biodiversity issues.

“Malaysia has around 54% forest cover and is home to some of the oldest and most biodiverse forests in the world.

“I visited a project last week that is partly aimed at saving the highly endangered Malayan tiger.

Charles Hay previously served as a private in the army, including a posting in Northern Ireland

“The tiger needs vast expanses of connected forests, in order to move around to find food and a mate.

“There is a lot of work going on in different ways to work towards wildlife and forest preservation.”

The UK’s £110m ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility will help finance new sustainable infrastructure projects and the £274m fund, under the UK Climate Action for a Resilient Asia (CARA), will strengthen adaptation to climate change in the Indo-Pacific.

Charles Hay with Heather McGregor, director of the Heriot-Watt business school, during a recent visit to the University of Edinburgh – which has a base in Malaysia

Malaysia’s forest loss has been slowing since 2010 as the country tries to strike a balance between development and meeting sustainability goals.

The country has now made an international commitment to maintain at least half of its forest cover and has set a goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Scottish and UK expertise will be shared to help tackle the twin biodiversity and climate crises and improve the lives of residents.

“The UK and Malaysia are working on some fantastic climate change projects,” Mr Hay added.

“By sharing UK technical know-how with Malaysia, we can help make the maintenance and growth of forest areas an important economic asset that supports the country’s GDP growth.

“A few months ago, I visited Sabah, where we are mapping all the villages that have no connection to the electricity grid.

Charles Hay has a military background, following in his great-grandfather’s footsteps to join the Scottish regiment of the Gordon Highlanders in 1988.

“I visited a remote village where we helped install a micro hydroelectric machine that flows from the local river and provides enough electricity for 52 homes.

“The UK has expertise that we can pass on to help local people do more to help themselves.

“It’s the kind of cheap and efficient project that we hope to support more of.

“Last month I was in a northern state called Terengganu and we have a nice project there where we are helping them map the carbon stored by the forests in one of the nature reserves.

“It’s really important to set some kind of benchmark for future carbon trading.”

The 56-year-old Scotsman, father of two teenagers, is based in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

He underlined the ties between his homeland and his Asian base.

“One of the benefits of being in this country is the incredible links between Malaysia and Scotland.

“For example, Heriot Watt University has a campus in Putrajaya and I was keen to visit them in Edinburgh to explore how we can further strengthen ties.

“At the UK Embassy you can see the insignia of the 5th Royal Malay Regiment, which is twinned with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, and they still wear tartan and play bagpipes.”

With a military background, following in his great-grandfather’s footsteps to join the Scottish regiment of the Gordon Highlanders in 1988, he faced conflict up close.

“I served in Northern Ireland when the security situation was still quite tight,” he said.

“I remember people regularly throwing bricks and bottles at us while we were on patrol.

“Once on foot patrol, we were shot at.

“I’ve never been so worried or nervous, but as a platoon commander you can’t show that you’re scared.

He also served as ambassador to South Korea when tensions with North Korea escalated when US President Donald Trump pushed Kim Jong Un on social media.

“The most nervous moment was when the Americans had three air carriers in the seas around Korea and set off a giant bomb in Afghanistan, which people took as a warning to Kim Jong Un that they were serious. “, did he declare.

“It was a difficult time.”

But despite those experiences, he now believes the environmental crisis is the most dangerous ever.

He said: “Climate change is now the biggest threat to my children’s future, so I’m proud the UK is working with other countries to make a difference.”


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