Inteview with Henry Goh - President of Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)

henrygoh1Henry Goh – President of Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)

1. Could you kindly please tell us more about yourself such as: 

Where were you born and raised? What were some of your fondest memories of childhood? Or even teenager years?

I was born and spent all my childhood and teenage years in Muar, Johore a quaint little town which has not really changed much till today. The exception being the increasing vehicles clogging the main streets during the peak hours. Muar district is the largest in Johore.

Growing up without a worry in the world is what I miss most.

The trips with the boys to the forest, wadding knee deep and bare foot in the murky waters of the streams with no fear of potential dangers of creepy crawlies which inhabit the waters and forests.

I uprooted and moved to KL to further my studies, settling down to the first job where on the my first day at work I was asked to choose an English name so that it would be easier for the orang puteh boss to address me.

So now everyone knows how my English name originated. I find it to be quite amusing each time I reminisce the situation back then.

Story about how you became involved with Malaysia Nature Society.

I joined the Malaysian Nature Society back in 2003 but only became more involved in activities and advocacies two years later. To be able to serve and at the same time take charge, in order to move ideas and aspirations, I became a committee member of the Selangor branch, the largest branch by membership numbers. A year later I was nominated for the Chairmanship of the branch of which I have now served in the same position the last four years.

Two years into the Chairmanship I was elected to the position of Vice President in the MNS Council, the highest policy making body of the society. And during my second term as the VP a few branches nominated me for the position of president.

What is your current position in the organization?
What does the job scope entail?

As the incumbent president the responsibility is to set policies and strategic directions for the society. This is done through consultation with the council members, comprising elected and branch chair persons who have a seat in council. And together with key council members we oversee the smooth running of the Secretariat. The job of the president in MNS also entails representing the society in government and public forums and be the voice in advocacies for conservation initiatives.

2. What is the current project/effort you are working on right now? Can you share a bit of your or your organization's latest efforts or projects? How does the project(s) help address the environmental issues it is supposed to address? What do you think are some of the challenges you will face? And how do you intent to overcome those challenges?

For the year 2014, some of the projects we have worked on are:

  • Raptor Watch 2014, our yearly event to promote awareness on the importance of Tanjung Tuan.
  • Wetlands Wanderer project to further develop an interpretive trail and habitat garden, greening the building, upgrading exhibits and getting more communities to use the MNS Sepang Environmental Interpretive Centre.
  • Kuala Selangor Nature Park for Ramsar, a project to develop an outreach program for MNS members and local communities to promote awareness on the coast and interior wetlands of North Central Selangor.
  • Project Restore Our Awesome Reefs (ROAR), with Berjaya Cares Foundation which is an integrated coral rehabilitation to help restore coral reefs.
  • Paddle for Nature, a 2,000km kayak expedition around Peninsular Malaysia to raise awareness and funds for marine and coastal conservation.

One of the many challenges is getting stakeholders and corporate companies involved with the projects that we have planned and raising funds for the projects. How we intend to overcome the challenge is we hope the current projects that we are working on will generate the interest of stakeholders and that they are able to see the benefits from the outcome of those we work with.

3. Is Malaysia doing enough for its environment? What is one big challenge that you see is facing the country now and one that is currently endured by Malaysians? And how do you think the country can overcome this? Are you confident we'll act in time?

More needs to be done as awareness is only on a miniscule level. Those at the top tier need to know the importance of the environment. Acting in time is out of the question as the recent tragedy in Cameron Highlands is evidence of how more needs to be done immediately from the ground and to not take action only when things are dire.

4. What does your typical day look like from the time you wake up to the time you rest at night? Please share with us if you have any routines (e.g. meditation, must have coffee in the morning, etc.)

Mondays to Fridays are pretty much the same – out of bed by 6 am, freshen up and go downstairs to the kitchen to make the standard morning cuppa to go with cracker cheese, biscuits and orange marmalade. Then it’s off to the office navigating through the morning traffic. Exercise is reserved for the weekends. Usually a walk in Taman Rimba Kiara, TTDI or a hike through the many trails in Bkt Kiara. I count myself fortunate to have a green lung as a back yard. Hope the on-going campaign to save and gazette the last green lung of Kuala Lumpur will be successful as a legacy for the future generations.

5. Could you share with us more about birding? Tell us your passion towards birding. When and how did it begin?  Where there any particular incidences that peak your interest in birding? 

I wish I had started birding much earlier. But the corporate working lifestyle does not allow the space for me to indulge in the passion. I only seriously started birding some nine years ago. The first trip was with the bird group of the MNS Selangor Branch to Kg Kemensah located behind the Zoo Negara. That trip was an all-encompassing experience and looking back I have no regrets whatsoever.  Birding is a wholesome activity in that it allows one to be with nature, admire all of its creations, and acquire the knowledge no textbooks can teach. Since then I have done a few forays to neighbouring countries to pursue the hobby further. It is a great personal satisfaction to contribute my images of birds which were used in a number of coffee table books featuring avifauna.

henrygoh2Himalayan Cutia
henrygoh3Hooded Pitta
henrygoh4Rhinoceros Hornbill
henrygoh5Henry Goh - passionate towards birding

6. Does MNS organize birding activities? Where do you usually go for birding activities?

Yes we do, we organize birding expeditions at Frasers Hill, Belum-Temengor and also festivals such as Raptor Watch and Asian Bird Fair 2014.

7. How’s the trend of bird diversity in Malaysia in terms of space and time? What is the future birding in Malaysia? Do you think Malaysians are aware of this?

The trend of bird diversity is growing as we are working with state parks to enhance the eco-tourism in the country. The future is looking bright as there are a few stakeholders that are interested to make Malaysia a hub for birding and the public in general is slowly showing interest in birding as we have been receiving a good number of people from the public at our bird events.

8. Do you have a favourite quote that you would like to share with us?

I have two favourite quotes. The first is by the late Robert Kennedy who made the statement before he was brutally assassinated: “PROGRESS IS A NICE WORD. BUT CHANGE IS ITS MOTIVATOR AND CHANGE HAS ITS ENEMIES”. I found this to be a very appropriate reminder in the course of daily work. The second one is simply: “DO YOUR BEST IN EVERYTHING YOU DO”. The quote explains itself.

9. If you could wish for one thing that helps improve the state of the environment in Malaysia, what wish would that be and why?

For Malaysia’s natural heritage and rich biological diversity to be effectively protected, managed and conserved for the benefit and appreciation of all Malaysians.

10. What is your message to all Malaysians in terms of environmental protection/conservation/sustainability?

Be more aware, make a personal commitment and take action. The average Malaysian understands the reasons and the need to keep the space around them clean. Putting knowledge to practice will go a long way to ensuring that our environment is protected and long term sustainability is assured for years to come.

Join or lend support to conservation NGOs in their work and efforts. More numbers mean more voice to get existing legislations to be friendly towards protection of the environment.

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