Top Malaysian scientist and conservationist honoured

 The crucial work of a leading light in Malaysian scientific research and conservation has been officially recognised by Scotland’s top taxonomic and horticultural institution, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). In awarding Dr Saw Leng Guan the RBGE Medal for his excellence as a taxonomist, his contribution to the understanding of Malaysian biodiversity and his key role in conservation initiatives over 30 years, Regius Keeper Simon Milne MBE said it was “highly appropriate” the award should be made to someone with such remarkable expertise and who has had a profound and positive impact on safeguarding one of the most biodiverse regions of the world.

The honour was bestowed at the start of Flora Malesiana 10, an international five-day symposium drawing leading scientists from around the world – although principally from the countries of Malesiana – to RBGE.

Dr Saw Leng Guan was Director of the Forest Biodiversity Division of the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) from 2004 until December 2015 when he retired. Since retirement he has been appointed coordinator of the monocotyledons for the Flora of Peninsular Malaysia.

He received his Bachelor of Science (Forestry) from the Agriculture University of Malaysia (UPM) in 1981, his Master of Science (Pure and Applied Plant and Fungal Taxonomy) from the University of Reading in 1990 and his Doctor of Philosophy, also from the University of Reading, in 1994 for his study “The taxonomy and ecology of the genus Licuala (Palmae) in Malaya”.

Starting at FRIM in 1982, he was first employed as a Hill Forest Silviculturist, then as a Forest Botanist before being promoted to a Senior Research Officer in 1990, then Programme Director of the Tropical Forest Biodiversity Centre.

As Programme Director he was instrumental in initiating the two most important floristic projects currently being undertaken in Malaysia. He is a member of the National Technical Committee of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and represents Malaysia in the Standing Committee for CITES on the Working Group on Timber. He has been part of the Malaysian Government’s delegation to the Conference of Parties (COP), Convention for Biological Diversity since 2002 and has continually raised the importance of plant taxonomy and conservation. He has also been the Chair to the Vulnerability & Adaptations for Biodiversity of the Second National Communications for Climate Change since 2007.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)