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Concept: Malaysia


New plantations can either cause deforestation by replacing natural forests or avoid this by using previously cleared areas. The extent of these two situations is contested in tropical biodiversity hotspots where objective data are limited. Here, we explore delays between deforestation and the establishment of industrial tree plantations on Borneo using satellite imagery. Between 1973 and 2015 an estimated 18.7 Mha of Borneo’s old-growth forest were cleared (14.4 Mha and 4.2 Mha in Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo). Industrial plantations expanded by 9.1 Mha (7.8 Mha oil-palm; 1.3 Mha pulpwood). Approximately 7.0 Mha of the total plantation area in 2015 (9.2 Mha) were old-growth forest in 1973, of which 4.5-4.8 Mha (24-26% of Borneo-wide deforestation) were planted within five years of forest clearance (3.7-3.9 Mha oil-palm; 0.8-0.9 Mha pulpwood). This rapid within-five-year conversion has been greater in Malaysia than in Indonesia (57-60% versus 15-16%). In Indonesia, a higher proportion of oil-palm plantations was developed on already cleared degraded lands (a legacy of recurrent forest fires). However, rapid conversion of Indonesian forests to industrial plantations has increased steeply since 2005. We conclude that plantation industries have been the principle driver of deforestation in Malaysian Borneo over the last four decades. In contrast, their role in deforestation in Indonesian Borneo was less marked, but has been growing recently. We note caveats in interpreting these results and highlight the need for greater accountability in plantation development.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Forestry, Forest, Borneo, Malaysia, Malay language


The simian parasite Plasmodium knowlesi is a common cause of human malaria in Malaysian Borneo and threatens the prospect of malaria elimination. However, little is known about the emergence of P. knowlesi, particularly in Sabah. We reviewed Sabah Department of Health records to investigate the trend of each malaria species over time.

Concepts: Malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium, Plasmodium vivax, Anopheles, Apicomplexa, Malaysia, Plasmodium knowlesi


The approximately 300 (298, 95% CI: 152-581) elephants in the Lower Kinabatangan Managed Elephant Range in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo are a priority sub-population for Borneo’s total elephant population (2,040, 95% CI: 1,184-3,652). Habitat loss and human-elephant conflict are recognized as the major threats to Bornean elephant survival. In the Kinabatangan region, human settlements and agricultural development for oil palm drive an intense fragmentation process. Electric fences guard against elephant crop raiding but also remove access to suitable habitat patches. We conducted expert opinion-based least-cost analyses, to model the quantity and configuration of available suitable elephant habitat in the Lower Kinabatangan, and called this the Elephant Habitat Linkage. At 184 km(2), our estimate of available habitat is 54% smaller than the estimate used in the State’s Elephant Action Plan for the Lower Kinabatangan Managed Elephant Range (400 km(2)). During high flood levels, available habitat is reduced to only 61 km(2). As a consequence, short-term elephant densities are likely to surge during floods to 4.83 km(-2) (95% CI: 2.46-9.41), among the highest estimated for forest-dwelling elephants in Asia or Africa. During severe floods, the configuration of remaining elephant habitat and the surge in elephant density may put two villages at elevated risk of human-elephant conflict. Lower Kinabatangan elephants are vulnerable to the natural disturbance regime of the river due to their limited dispersal options. Twenty bottlenecks less than one km wide throughout the Elephant Habitat Linkage, have the potential to further reduce access to suitable habitat. Rebuilding landscape connectivity to isolated habitat patches and to the North Kinabatangan Managed Elephant Range (less than 35 km inland) are conservation priorities that would increase the quantity of available habitat, and may work as a mechanism to allow population release, lower elephant density, reduce human-elephant conflict, and enable genetic mixing.

Concepts: Borneo, Hunting, Elephant, Al-Fil, Malaysia, Asian Elephant, Elephants, Sabah


Drugs dedicated to alleviate neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s have always been associated with debilitating side effects. Medicinal mushrooms which harness neuropharmacological compounds offer a potential possibility for protection against such diseases. Pleurotus giganteus (formerly known as Panus giganteus) has been consumed by the indigenous people in Peninsular Malaysia for many years. Domestication of this wild mushroom is gaining popularity but to our knowledge, medicinal properties reported for this culinary mushroom are minimal.

Concepts: Neurology, Neurodegenerative disorders, Latin America, Malaysia, Agaricus bisporus, Indigenous peoples, Agaricales, Pleurotus nebrodensis


INTRODUCTION: Like many countries Malaysia is facing an increase in the number of people with type 2 diabetes mellitus diabetes (T2DM) and modifiable lifestyle factors such as sedentary behaviour are important drivers of this increase. The level of physical activity is low among elderly Malay people. In Malaysia, strategies to promote physical activity in elderly Malay people with T2DM are not well documented in the research literature. This paper discusses an intervention to increase physical activity in elderly Malay people with T2DM. The aim of our study was to evaluate the effectiveness of personalised feedback alone and in combination with peer support in promoting and maintaining physical activity in comparison with usual care. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: A three-arm randomised controlled trial will be conducted among sedentary Malay adults aged 60 years and above with T2DM attending an urban primary healthcare clinic in Malaysia. The participants will be randomised into three groups for a 12-week intervention with a follow-up at 24 and 36 weeks to assess adherence. The primary outcome of this study is pedometer-determined physical activity. Glycaemic and blood pressure control, body composition, cardiorespiratory fitness, balance, lipid profile, health-related quality of life, psychological well-being, social support and self-efficacy for exercise are the secondary measures. Linear mixed models will be used to determine the effect of the intervention over time and between groups. ETHICAL AND DISSEMINATION: The Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee and the Malaysian Ministry of Health’s Medical Research Ethics Committee approved this protocol. The findings of this study will be presented at international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study protocol has been registered with the Malaysian National Medical Research Registry and with the Current Controlled Trial Ltd (

Concepts: Hypertension, Diabetes mellitus type 2, Diabetes mellitus, Obesity, Malaysia, Brunei, Malays, Malaysian Malay


This study was initiated to determine the psychometric properties of the Smart Phone Addiction Scale (SAS) by translating and validating this scale into the Malay language (SAS-M), which is the main language spoken in Malaysia. This study can distinguish smart phone and internet addiction among multi-ethnic Malaysian medical students. In addition, the reliability and validity of the SAS was also demonstrated.

Concepts: Psychometrics, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Constitution of Malaysia, Malay language, Jawi script


The zoonotic malaria species Plasmodium knowlesi has become the main cause of human malaria in Malaysian Borneo. Deforestation and associated environmental and population changes have been hypothesized as main drivers of this apparent emergence. We gathered village-level data for P. knowlesi incidence for the districts of Kudat and Kota Marudu in Sabah state, Malaysia, for 2008-2012. We adjusted malaria records from routine reporting systems to reflect the diagnostic uncertainty of microscopy for P. knowlesi. We also developed negative binomial spatial autoregressive models to assess potential associations between P. knowlesi incidence and environmental variables derived from satellite-based remote-sensing data. Marked spatial heterogeneity in P. knowlesi incidence was observed, and village-level numbers of P. knowlesi cases were positively associated with forest cover and historical forest loss in surrounding areas. These results suggest the likelihood that deforestation and associated environmental changes are key drivers in P. knowlesi transmission in these areas.

Concepts: Malaria, Borneo, Malaysia, Brunei, Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Kudat


The Malay people are an important ethnic composition in Southeast Asia, but their genetic make-up and population structure remain poorly studied. Here we conducted a genome-wide study of four geographical Malay populations: Peninsular Malaysian Malay (PMM), Singaporean Malay (SGM), Indonesian Malay (IDM) and Sri Lankan Malay (SLM). All the four Malay populations showed substantial admixture with multiple ancestries. We identified four major ancestral components in Malay populations: Austronesian (17%-62%), Proto-Malay (15%-31%), East Asian (4%-16%) and South Asian (3%-34%). Approximately 34% of the genetic makeup of SLM is of South Asian ancestry, resulting in its distinct genetic pattern compared with the other three Malay populations. Besides, substantial differentiation was observed between the Malay populations from the north and the south, and between those from the west and the east. In summary, this study revealed that the genetic identity of the Malays comprises a mixed entity of multiple ancestries represented by Austronesian, Proto-Malay, East Asian and South Asian, with most of the admixture events estimated to have occurred 175 to 1,500 years ago, which in turn suggests that geographical isolation and independent admixture have significantly shaped the genetic architectures and the diversity of the Malay populations.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Asia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesian language, Malaysian Malay, Malay language


The Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak are global hotspots of forest loss and degradation due to timber and oil palm industries; however, the rates and patterns of change have remained poorly measured by conventional field or satellite approaches. Using 30 m resolution optical imagery acquired since 1990, forest cover and logging roads were mapped throughout Malaysian Borneo and Brunei using the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System. We uncovered ∼364,000 km of roads constructed through the forests of this region. We estimated that in 2009 there were at most 45,400 km(2) of intact forest ecosystems in Malaysian Borneo and Brunei. Critically, we found that nearly 80% of the land surface of Sabah and Sarawak was impacted by previously undocumented, high-impact logging or clearing operations from 1990 to 2009. This contrasted strongly with neighbouring Brunei, where 54% of the land area remained covered by unlogged forest. Overall, only 8% and 3% of land area in Sabah and Sarawak, respectively, was covered by intact forests under designated protected areas. Our assessment shows that very few forest ecosystems remain intact in Sabah or Sarawak, but that Brunei, by largely excluding industrial logging from its borders, has been comparatively successful in protecting its forests.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Ecosystem, Forest, Borneo, Malaysia, Brunei, Sabah, Sarawak


A key event in the domestication and breeding of the oil palm Elaeis guineensis was loss of the thick coconut-like shell surrounding the kernel. Modern E. guineensis has three fruit forms, dura (thick-shelled), pisifera (shell-less) and tenera (thin-shelled), a hybrid between dura and pisifera. The pisifera palm is usually female-sterile. The tenera palm yields far more oil than dura, and is the basis for commercial palm oil production in all of southeast Asia. Here we describe the mapping and identification of the SHELL gene responsible for the different fruit forms. Using homozygosity mapping by sequencing, we found two independent mutations in the DNA-binding domain of a homologue of the MADS-box gene SEEDSTICK (STK, also known as AGAMOUS-LIKE 11), which controls ovule identity and seed development in Arabidopsis. The SHELL gene is responsible for the tenera phenotype in both cultivated and wild palms from sub-Saharan Africa, and our findings provide a genetic explanation for the single gene hybrid vigour (or heterosis) attributed to SHELL, via heterodimerization. This gene mutation explains the single most important economic trait in oil palm, and has implications for the competing interests of global edible oil production, biofuels and rainforest conservation.

Concepts: Genetics, Evolution, Arecaceae, Malaysia, Palm oil, Elaeis guineensis, Oil palm, Palm kernel