Who We Are
On the Air
Episode Guide
Support for this Series
Earth Factor You
Asian Solutions
Educational Resources
Program 1
Program 2
Program 3
Program 4
Program 5
Program 6
Making a Difference
Contact Us
Program 6
Team in Malaysia     
Above: Earth Factor crew inspecting Palm plantation in Malaysia

In this Episode, we highlight developments in bio-diversity in Indonesia and Malaysia.
We examine the state of the rain forests in Indonesia, explore eco-tourism in the region, and ask whether the use of palm oil as an alternative fuel is ecologically sound or poses even more dangers for Malaysia's environment.    First broadcast by California Public television in 2008, re-edited, the program was last seen in Hong Kong on ATV WORLD on May 28, 2010.


 VO: “Earth Factor Asia with Lorraine Hahn 
(LH on camera) Trying to hold on to our bio-diversity. 
(music up and sting) 
LH:  With its sprawling jungles and tropical islands, South east Asia provides a reservoir of life for the whole planet. But increasingly that bio diversity is under threat.  Our rain forests in particular have been drastically damaged but Rob McBride reports now on a unique project in the jungles of Sumatra that offers hope for the future.

(effects music up)
 It is called the Harapan project – the Indonesian word for ‘hope’.  And the hope is, this swathe of rain forest will be protected and flourish. Occupying an area the size of Greater London,this lush tropical jungle provides some of the planet’s richest biodiversity, but until now ithas suffered from extensive logging, and encroachment by agriculture. Now, operating from a former logging camp atits edge, a small team has begun the task of managing and protecting this precious resource. 

SOT -“That’s the hope of this project, so we want to see the rain forest as it was one hundred years ago.” 

In trying to turn the clock back 100 years, the project is looking forward a century. Overseas conservationists, have joined forces with local groups to take on a one-hundred year license to manage the area. Adopting a strategy that combines conservationwith no nonsense policing, the project is already yielding results.  Where before the jungle used to buzz with the sound of chain saws from illegal logging, todaythere is only the buzz of the jungle. (sound of birds and insects)  SOT -“There were probably around six hundred chain saws operating around here, around the forest. But as you can see now, there’s still one or two but not six hundred.  I mean it’s a big drop.” Just before daybreak, we are out in the jungle on the look out for gibbons. Their strange whooping calls are all around us, but they themselves remain out of sight in the tree tops. Our guide is Urip - a local tracker who knows these forests probably better than anyone else. For him, the return of the gibbons morning serenade is a good sign. SOT -"In recent months, we have been hearing thegibbons more and more.  We didn't hear thembefore.  But the gibbons returned at exactlythe time they stopped the illegal logging." Although still richly wooded, former logging concessions have stripped a lot of this area. And everywhere in these woods are the signs of illegal logging. One of many trees felled, but never dragged out by the logger who felled it. The depletion of the Sumatran rain forest is symptomatic of how this unique habitat has been exploited and degraded across South East Asia. Based in Singapore, Shawn Lum is a rain forestexpert who has witnessed the alarming decline. SOT: if you look at all the tropical rain forests regions – Africa, Amazonia, Southeast Asia; SE Asia has the smallest block of forest to begin with.  Its broken up into these smaller land masses.  On top of that you have a large and fast growing human population so that there is a huge demand for the resources we have.  In this region we have some of the most efficient timber companies, largest pulp and paper companies, a long tradition of plantation agriculture, huge markets in North Asia that are willing to devour all the products in this area. So you have all the ingredients that contribute to rapid deforestation.                                                                                                                                                                     
Fed by the alternating forces of tropical sunshine followed by tropical rain, lowland rain forest is about the most abundant habitat on the planet. Operating from their camp, every day teams are dispatched, to safeguard that abundance. Their mission is two-fold - deal with any illegal loggers they come across.  And at the same time, record and monitor the health of the wildlife that exists here. In effect, they are policemen naturalists.' SOT - "The patrol team here are looking out for any illegal activity.  But they also conducting an on-going survey of fauna and flora. Taking the deeply rutted logging roads that criss cross the forest, even these motorbikes struggle - and this is the dry season. Our first stop, deep in the jungle, is one particular tree which is home to one of the forest's rarest birds, the hornbill. The bird, that can only survive in rain forest, has become the symbol of this project. On this trip, no sign of the hornbill, but luckily for the bird, the loggers who had tried to cut down its home, had given up half way through. Urip shows us the marks left by the whirring teeth of their saws. Although we don't find much wildlife, trekking through the jungle ensures the wildlife soon finds us. Not long before the ground leaches find their way into our boots.  But that in itself is encouraging - indicating there must be enough warm blooded creatures here to sustain them. A little further into our patrol, we come across the tracks left by some of those animals. Footprints from a passing tapir.   And then further still, the forest's rarest inhabitant -numbering around twenty - the Sumatran Tiger. 
here is a footprint of the Sumatran Tiger. Maybe here one week ago.
 The details of the find are carefully logged, with satellite accuracy.   It has not been found recently in this part of the jungle, -again another sign of forest life re-asserting itself. SOT-"It was very difficult to see hornbills.  And the gibbonscalling in the morning.  And the footprints of the Sumatran Tiger, but now I am happy to say there are a lot." In protecting the wildlife, getting on board the forest'shuman inhabitants is just as important. Home to indigenous people, who lead a semi-nomadicexistence, the project is careful to incorporate their needs. Gradually they are winning hearts and minds, but  it’s not easy – at the camp, the door of the main office still bears the scar from a machete, the night a mob attacked it. SOT - cop“People do know about the conservation effort thatis going on here, and they understand.  We go round to the villages explaining why they need torespect the forest.”VO:With such valuable resources in such an economically impoverished place, the pressures on the forest are intense. And they are set to become more acute as the world demands ever more palm oil.                                              

With rising demand, driven by food shortages and the need for bio-diesel, plantations of oil palm havebeen rapidly spreading, encroaching from all sides. SOT: How do we plant oil palm without eating into the best remaining habitats – the so called conservation value forests and so I suppose it would be to identify these areas.  Area that ought to be preserved. How to link them up – habitat corridors instead of just kind of blanketing the landscape completely with palm oil plantations.  We don’t have big national parks by in large in SE Asia. If you look on the map. we have small reserves.  Some of the most diverse tropical rainforests are little islands in a sea of oil palm. 
VOBefore we leave the jungle, we are taken on one last field trip – this time by four-wheel drive. We travel to the heart of the forest, and one of its least disturbed areas.   
SOT: Located right at the heart of the project, this is rain forest at its most abundant and diverse. All of the forest used to look like this.  Now this area counts for just 30 percent. It is what the whole of this jungle with eventually look like when it is restored – at least that is the ‘Harapen’ – or the hope. SOT:  Do you look ahead and think what this place will look like 50 years from now?Good forest.  nice forest. people will come and find a real forest in 50 years,  I guarantee it. 

[music up] to LH on camera:
More and More palm oil plantations are springing up in countries like Malaysia, partly due to the global demand for bi-fuels  to run our engines.  Countries in this part of Asia are facing the dilemma – how to grow this lucrative industry while still look after our environment. 

In the heart of one of Malaysia’s rich oil palm plantations, the harvesters are hard at work. Cutting back the fronds of the oil palm trees, andallowing the fruit to fall heavily to the ground. Overseeing the work on this shift, is Assistant Manager, Amir Syarifudin Bin Ahmad.   Sot:  they are cutting here the plants of the palm oil. The workers know just when to harvest – the fruit turning a dark reddish colour when ripe.   SOT:  this bunch is already ripe Full of oil, this crop’s bountiful properties have made it by far one of the most popular crops inSouth East Asia as a food source. SOT                                                                 “The orange layer is the outside layer, where you use           the oil, for the cooking oil and then the kernel, the oilis usually used for cosmetics.                                      Q.  The white part ?                                                                 A.  Yeah, the white part.”                                     Q.  How much oil will we get from one fruit ?A.  We normally get about 21-percent out of the bunch.Q.  So that’s quite a lot ?       A.  Yes that’s quite a lot ” Now its value as a bio-diesel on the world stage, is helping to drive up the price of the oil, leading togreater pressures to convert ever more land to thecrop. Between them, Malaysia and neighbouring Indonesiaaccount for almost all of the world's palm oil production, with more plantations being added all
the time.  
 Still visible on this plantation, the stumps of the trees that once stood here. But the association representing palm oil producers in Malaysia at least, is quick to defend its industry, only planting on land already used for agriculture and adopting best sustainable practices. SOT -                                                                 We can only plant oil palm plantations on licensed               or gazzeted agricultural land.  So it’s extremely well controlled." And far from damaging biodiversity, says the Association, oil palm has the power to green. SOT-          "What we do, we take logged out areas, grasslands and we actually green it up again, by developing it up as palm oil plantations. And just as rain forests are vital for biodiversity,so oil palm is essential for people. This is the management committee of the Krau Number 4 estate, coming together for a regular meeting. This district, like many other parts of Malaysia, convertedseveral years ago from rubber to palm oil, part of a trend reflecting the changing importance of the two commodities. This is a community that has grown prosperous from its plantations. With a fast developing economy and a growing population to support, the importance of oil palmis obvious. And Malaysia believes it has found the right balancebetween its obligations to its people, and to its roleas steward of some of the best remaining forests in Asia. Dr Beth Baikan is an environmental consultant tothe palm oil industry. 

SOT -                                                                                            " We look at the environment intotality, not only in segments, and we look at it from the points of economics, social and the environment.  (edit)  Malaysian Government is actually pro-environment, pro-biodiversity.  (edit)For example people are so concerned about the Orangutans and people want to preserve the orangutans.  The orangutans are an asset to Malaysia.  (edit)  And Malaysia is not going to destroy that asset.  But we have to also look at the policy of the Government on the people on the land." 

[Vo]  But that doesn't change the growing demand for palmoil, and in less controlled environments like Indonesia,that means forests disappearing at an alarming rate. The race is on to find fuel oil alternatives. Sot: lh    As energy producers look beyond palm oil, one crop in particular has been attracting particular attention.  Jatropha.  It might not look like much,but this plant is being hailed by some as the energy crop of the future." Here at this facility near Kuala Lumpur, new strains of Jatropha are being developed, trying to increase the oil yield to make it a viable alternative to palm. The company behind the project has taken over a former palm oil refinery, with the aim of using non-food sources, to produce fuels. SOT We believe that palm oil should not be used for the biofuel industry because it’s a highly nutritional wholesome product for human consumption and the world needs palm oil.  Therefore we believe that investment in alternative crops, alternative energy crops like JATROPHA is the way to go. The crop has the advantage of thriving even in the harshest of terrains.   Good news for Asia’s dwindling forests. SOT:  We will only be planting it in marginal lands.  We will not be planting it into forested areas and there are plenty of such land available in India, in Indonesia, in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos  Finding an alternative fuel source to palm is the stated hope of many palm oil producers themselves 


[Music wipe - sting] 
LH:In looking for alternative fuels, there are few options that seem to offer the perfect solution.  But Malaysia is  home to a unique aircraft project, that seems to have one answer – recycled cooking oil. VOAt their offices in Kuala Lumpur, this is the companybehind the project. And sitting proudly in their reception – the plane itself,-- the Jet Pod. A highly innovative aircraft design, that promises big environmental benefits for our cities. SOT – ‘this is central design centre for the aircraft.’ A British invention, it has been developed in Malaysia,and holds potentially global applications for greenerair travel. Its inventor is Bob Darcre. A former pilot himself, and an advocate of STOL aircraft – or Short Take-Off and Landing – as a potential solution to traffic congestion. SOT –Jetpod is built around people and their needs and their environment, so the aircraft can operate from a string of park and fly flights from the outside of major cities around the world. And land in downtown STOL ports.                           VOAs they struggle home in their cars, the commuters of Kuala Lumpur like every other major city, can dream of such a solution to their traffic headaches. The Jet Pod is attracting interest from a number of cities worldwide, looking to ease their gridlockproblems. But what the cities also provide is a plentiful supplyof the fuel the Jet Pod will run on – recycled cookingoil. SOT –LH Q: So it runs on recycled vegetable oil. A that’s right.  Q. and how does that compare with other bio fuels, palm oil or ethanol substitutes etc. A. Well ethanol doesn’t work in jet engines. We can’t use that and if you look at Palm oil base – that will go toward diesel usage.  Yes we could use palm oil but the Jetpod really wants to use recycled vegetable based  fuels from major cities around the world. This is what the aircraft is about.  This is the green message that we are putting across with this aircraft. PTC –What also makes this aircraft green are the special materials made for it – like this metal fibre developed with British scientists which reduces engine noise.  Now that’s especially important when flying over cities. Apart from working as an air taxi, it’s envisioned JetPods could be flying over our cities in a number of other roles. SOT LH: Q: And what about some of the different applications  A: Applications outside of air taxi use would be for police work, for air ambulance , coast guard and of course military applications.   SO there are may different application that the aircraft can be used for.  After years in planning and development, the components for the aircraft are finally in production. Extremely ambitious in its scope, the concept mightstill be too revolutionary for some.  But given theworld’s environmental problems, any solutions involvinga little lateral thinking are welcome. 

[above section edited out after August 2009]

(music sting and wipe) 
PTC Located right at the heart of this area of natural biodiversity is in fact one of the world’s most developed cities – Singapore.  On Earth Factor You, we are guided by a local resident, who has found his city state to be surprisingly wild. 

(music up = man tells his story on own words) I'm Ron Yeo. I'm a nature guide who brings people around the shores of Singapore.

Being a nature guide I show them the rich marine life that we have on our shores and explain to them what they do, what they eat and how they adapt to the environment.

Yeah, it's kind of muddy over there. Some of them just say “Oh my, I don’t wanna get myself dirty!” But eventually, most of them after seeing the rich marine life slowly get used it.  A lot of foreigners when they look at Singapore they tend to see it as a very urbanized area without much nature spots. In fact, a lot of Singaporeans think that way, too. They forgot that we’re living on an island and are surrounded by the sea.  And we do have a lot of marine life. Let’s talk about corals alone. We have about 200 species of hard corals. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has about 400 species. The size of Singapore compared with Australia – that’s quite a huge difference. So that is probably one of the best examples to show how rich our biodiversity is.  This is the “feather star”. I’m actually very excited about finding this here because it is the first time that I’ve seen it here. So definitely this will be going to the blog.  Usually, after every trip I try to blog. New media is definitely very important. A lot of nature lovers in Singapore like to blog a lot.  These are some of the many specimens we have in the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and these specimens come from Singapore and South East Asia.   The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research basically is about researches in the region and at the same time they also focus on public education to raise awareness among the public on the biodiversity that we have in the region.   Basically, what we’re doing is to spread awareness. Course we feel that if we don’t know about it - we can forget about saving it at all.  I’m Ron Yeo. It starts with us. [Music up – sting and graphic wipe] LH: So just how much biodiversity do we have ?  We end this episode with the story of one group of young Indonesians, who decided to see for themselves the natural riches that surround them, with their own eco-tour.  Jim Laurie reports. [final PKG] VOIt is a weekend trip by a group of young professionalsfrom Jakarta, into the natural wonders in theirown back yard. A journey by slow boat, chugging north through the tropical chain that makes up the Thousands Islands archipelago, in the Java Sea. Just an hour to two from the urban sprawl of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, these islands provide a tantalizing snap-shot of the biodiversity this country offers. First stop is the island of Rambut - a haven for birds. On this one small island, forty-five species all supported by the rich marine life in the surroundingwaters, and all living - largely in harmony - alongsideeach other. Around the shores of the island, abundant mangrovewhich sustains the vast bird population.   Birds here are king.  With mammals playing a supporting role - a few bats. And the occasional monitor lizard putting in an appearance for the reptiles.In Indonesian, the word for biodiversity is Kehati. It is also the name of this organization based inJakarta, that actively campaigns for the protectionof the country's flora and fauna. SOT: Indonesia is made up of  17 thousand islands.  Together they possess a unique biodiversity, their own species and ecosystems The young people on this trip take it in turns to organize a weekend excursion every few months. The ultimate destination on this journey is the mainisland of Pramuka.   This is where they will spend the night, and wherethey get themselves ready for snorkeling. To experience the wonders that lie just below the surface of these crystal clear waters. [SOT – music up & natsot] Eco-tourism is a trend for a growing number of the new young affluent of the developing world. SOT -  Eco-tourism is a form of development that respects the environment.  It also gets communities involved encouraging them to look after their natural resources. Certainly these tours provide a new source of revenue for boatmen like Abdul Sahlan. Hiring out his boat to take visitors to some of the many islands scattered around here. It is on one of these islands that the group arrives to watch the sunset - and where they find both good and bad news on the state of their environment. Along the beaches, some of the trash thatgets washed up, mainly from nearby cities like Jakarta. A few of the group take the chance to clean up what they can. But just off the beach, new shoots spring above thesurface. This is newly planted mangrove, which will eventually protect the shoreline, and help sustain the ecosystem. SOT:  The Mangrove is important because this is where shrimp can breed and feed and when the tide comes in , large fish and rays can swim in to feed off the smaller fish Several years from now, this shoreline will be lush and green.   An encouraging thought to end this first day. SOT – Indonesian biodiversity is a source for future evolution not only for country but for the planet.  It provides food, oxygen, medicines for the whole world. The next morning starts early for the group. On this island, with wildlife in such abundance, even the local residents are sometimes surprised. Like finding a bat that got lost during the night, hanging on your gate. But the group are interested in a different animal. The turtle.   Among the world's most endangered of sea creatures, this centre helps nurture the baby ones, and looks after adults that are brought here. This is the Hawksbill.  Of the world’s seven speciesof sea turtle, Indonesia has six. When nests are discovered, the eggs are brought hereto protect them from predators, and people.   And after sixty days, they hatch. With one of nature's worst survival rates - only a couple from each batch of more than a hundred ever survive - this centre at least tries to improve those odds. And on this last stop of the tour, as the group taketheir last chance to snorkel, there is more evidence of conservation, this time below the surface. (music up)  A short swim from the jetty and out over the reef, look down and you see the underwater frames of a coral transplantation project. More encouraging signs to dwell upon - and to sleepupon, as they head back home. (SHOW CLOSE – LH on camera) And that’s it for this episode of Earth Factor Asia.I’m Lorraine Hahn.  We’ll catch you next time. (music up – credits)



Rob Mcbride



Chris Dobson


Segment producers

Amalia Ahmad

Janette Padasian



Rob McBride


Online Editor

Cheuk Yan Kwok


Executive Producer

Jim Laurie


Production Facilities and technical support

Salon Films Hong Kong Ltd.


Additional Support from The Noble Group Charity Foundation Ltd.



Sponsored by