As the infrastructure growth in the “Asian Century” shows no signs of slowing down, Malaysia has taken a first bold step in addressing how this growth will affect tigers and tiger habitats by holding a leadership forum on including priority tiger habitats into land and infrastructure planning. The meeting, entitled Cross-Sectoral Executive Leadership Forum on Mainstreaming Priority Tiger Habitats, is being held in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 20—22. At the forum, the Government of Malaysia is announcing the construction of viaducts that will promote safe passage for tigers and other wildlife along a busy East-West Highway.
“Smart Green Infrastructure is a vital component of any initiative to save tigers and recover their numbers,” said Mike Baltzer, head of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative (TAI). “As we strive towards TX2—doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022—we must immediately engage governments, international institutions and our partners on the ground to ensure that Asia’s rapid growth leads to opportunities, as opposed to increasing pressure, for tigers and their habitat.” At the forum, the TAI will present Designing a Conservation Landscape for Tigers in a Human Dominated Environment.
Malaysia plans to take its viaduct project one step further by integrating an ambitious forest plan, the Central Forest Spine (CFS) Master Plan, into its national spatial plan. The CFS plan will use smart green infrastructure such as viaducts to create forest linkages, which will lead to a contiguous network of forest through the country’s backbone, or spine. Malaysia’s implementation of the CFS plan and its National Tiger Conservation Action Plan will lead to further integration with plans at the state and local levels.
In addition to poaching and the illegal tiger trade, habitat loss and degradation represents the most serious threat to tigers. The pressures on the pockets of habitat where tigers are still holding on will only increase as the growth boom in Asia continues push outward, reaching formerly pristine tiger and wildlife habitat. As wildlife and park authorities look to stem the rising tide, they will need new solutions backed by robust government participation.
Northern Peninsular Malaysia’s Banjaran Titiwangsa Landscape, which includes the Belum-Temengor Priority Tiger Landscape, is one of the Tigers Alive Initiative’s 12 priority landscapes, and where some of the viaducts will be built. The area, which includes Peninsular Malaysia’s longest mountain range and largest national park, also harbors the country’s largest tiger population. Of the 3,200 wild tigers remaining in 13 countries in Asia and the Russian Far East, Malaysia contains a significant percentage of the population, currently standing at approximately 500.
The forum is hosted by Malaysia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, World Wildlife Fund partners the Global Tiger Initiative and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and will also include presentations from the tiger range countries of Indonesia and India
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
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The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
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Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.