(MY) Sime Darby Young Professionals Sustainability Training Programme

The Sime Darby Management Trainees embarked on a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore the tropical forests of Borneo as part of the Sime Darby Young Professionals Sustainability Training Programme. Held from 10th September to 4th October 2018, 14 Management Trainees from all Sime Darby companies gathered in Sabah to learn about the paramount task of conserving biodiversity and sustaining the ecological services for human well-being. This programme was organized and guided by teachers and trainers from the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) and the Tropical Biology Association (TBA).

Two of Sime Darby Motors' former Management Trainees, Nadia Athirah and Wan Fatin Atira, participated in the programme. They had the opportunity to become not only amateur scientists, but avid hikers too. They completed two individual projects during their first placement in the Imbak Canyon Conservation Area. Besides conducting their own field studies, SEARRP and TBA allowed the participants to immerse themselves in the pristine primary forest while learning about carbon sequestration, biodiversity, ecological services and stakeholder management. ​

Atira's project centered around this question: What are the different strategies of information dissemination for ant colonies? After patiently observing patterns of behaviors of ant colonies along the ant trail, her findings can be summarized into strategies, communication and mobility. Ant colonies have complex strategies, similar to organizational structures. In addition, there are also different job descriptions for the lower worker caste and upper worker caste. Nevertheless, with a common goal, an intuitive path to fall back to and sheer hard work, these ants found always succeed towards serving their kind. Funnily enough, she found these observations useful in her corporate job as well.

Nadia's project revolved around termites, specifically mounds where termites reside. Nadia and her teammates were curious about the conditions of the surrounding area the termites preferred when building their high-rise nests. They have looked into few criterias which are: soil moisture, light and leaf litter. Their experiment suggested that the mounds were built around high level soil moisture and with abundant of nutrients surrounding them. But the most interesting observation was the structure of the mounds. Almost all of the mounds that were found looked like thin buttress-like "chimneys" with wide cores. According to Dr. Rosie, one of the scientists from SEARPP, she mentioned that these chimneys allow external air to flow in and out of the mound providing "air conditioners" in their own homes.

After their placement at the Imbak Canyon Conservation Area, they visited the Kinabatangan River. The Kinabatangan River offers a different habitat to host unique species of flora and fauna that is specific to Borneo, such as the Proboscis Monkey and Rhinoceros Hornbill. From cruising the Kinabatangan River, they were able to witness a habitat restoration project that was sponsored by Yayasan Sime Darby. After traversing the Kinabatangan River, they visited Sepilok to spend a day in the Orang Utan and Sunbear Rehabilitation Centers. These rehabilitation centers are also sponsored by Yayasan Sime Darby.

Their final placement was in the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystem (SAFE) project, which is one of the world's largest ecological experiments. In the SAFE project, scientists and research students work in collaboration with SEARRP to study how biodiversity and ecosystem function change as forests are modified by human activities, such as for palm oil plantations and property development. It was truly an eye-opening experience to be able to compare the quality and abundance of ecological services from pristine, untouched forests and altered forests that have been changed for profit-making purposes. More effort needs to be done to ensure the sustenance of these ecological services and to prevent further degradation of our natural resources.

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