Volunteer researcher Sui Peng Heon loves birds which is maybe how she found us on Twitter!

With experience of conservation issues in Malaysia and Indonesia, language skills and a passion for wildlife, she’s a valuable asset to the team.

What inspires and motivates her time and effort? Let her explain…

I was interested to know more about the environmental issues especially on the Indonesian side of Borneo and wanted to contribute my knowledge about Malaysia and help conservation efforts in Borneo so I found out about the Heart of Borneo project via Twitter, signed up and since then I’ve been working on gathering information for my research topic on hydroelectric dams.

Sui Peng Heart of Borneo Volunteer

Had you done any volunteering before?

Yes, I have been involved in volunteer programs with several non-profit organizations in Malaysia. I was a field assistant for a hornbill programme in Belum-Temengor, Malaysia. I was involved in a few rural and urban outreach programmes, talking to people about the wildlife trade and the importance of conservation. I’ve also participated in tree planting and beach clean-up programmes. Recently, I was a volunteer park ranger at the border of Taman Negara National Park in Malaysia where I had the opportunity to setup camera traps looking for wildlife and poachers for a tiger conservation programme.

And what, in your opinion, should be done to protect Borneo’s rainforests and what can HoB supporters do?

In my opinion, the first step is to change people’s perception on environmental conservation especially in this part of the world (Southeast Asia). People need to realize that apart from the losing our biodiversity, we also stand to lose the services that we obtain from the rainforests such as water supply, natural resources, clean air and protection from floods.

I believe that development is necessary but if it is done at a sustainable pace with proper regulations in place the environmental impacts could be minimized. People should also start speaking up and applying pressure on policy makers to ensure that environmental regulations are clear, transparent and properly managed. The indigenous people also need to be empowered and given the rights to protect their forests/lands. Heart of Borneo supporters can learn about the issues and share this knowledge with others. They can also encourage their friends and family to get involved in conservation efforts

What are your main skills and qualities?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology and Environmental Management and I have field research experience in plant ecology and entomology through a year of field research looking at Nepenthes carnivorous pitcher plants in Sarawak, Borneo! I am also passionate about conservation and I can communicate in several languages: Bahasa Melayu (Malay), English and Chinese dialects (Basic Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien) and I get along well with my team members while working in a group.

And you say you like exploring?

Yes and I enjoy hiking, travelling and spending time with my cats too! Bird watching is fun and I like reading, listening to music and taking walks. I also like visiting indigenous villages to learn about their culture, heritage and going to museums, trekking through a new jungle trail and outdoor activities like white water rafting!

Finally Sui Peng, what advice would you give people wanting to volunteer with Heart of Borneo?

I would strongly advise locals and people staying in Borneo to volunteer! You get to meet people from all over the world working towards a common goal. Volunteers need to be dedicated and prepared to commit their time and I believe you should choose to volunteer because you feel strongly about something, want to make a difference and not because it looks good on the CV.

Interview by Neil Fraser, Communications and Outreach Manager, April 2015