M'sian Saves Over 2,000 Wild Plants In His Backyard & Has New Species Named After Him

The freelance photographer began saving plants when he realised how much the forests he photographed had changed due to development.

Cover image via Bernama (Facebook) & Bernama/New Straits Times

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Out of his love for the forests, a Malaysian man has made it his personal mission to save as many endangered species as he can in his house compound in Setiu, Terengganu

According to Bernama, Suzairi Zakaria, who has been involved in tropical rainforest conservation efforts since 2015, has successfully replanted over 2,000 species of forest plants in his home, including 200 types of wild orchids that he found in unfavourable soil and logging areas in the state.

The 46-year-old developed the passion to save wild plants when, as a freelance photographer, he visited the Setiu Wetlands to capture its greenery about a decade ago.

However, when he returned for a photoshoot, he discovered that the wetlands' landscape had utterly changed due to development for agricultural and residential purposes.

It was then that Suzairi, also known as Dome Nikong, resolved to doing what he can to save nature

The independent conservationist began collecting cuttings of wild plants and orchids that were under threat in their natural habitats and bringing them home to replant them.

After the Setiu Wetlands, he extended his conservation efforts to other logging areas, including the Tasik Kenyir area.

Suzairi's collection now includes various species of forest plants — ranging from endangered to non-endangered — such as ferns, hoyas, wild gingers, orchids, and pitcher plants.

With over 2,000 species under his care, his home has even been turned into a conservatory that has become a reference for other conservationists, researchers, and orchid enthusiasts in the country.

Over the years of collecting plants, Suzairi has also managed to discover several new species of orchids, pitcher plants, and parasitic flora called thismia

With the discoveries, he has also been given the honour of having the plants named after him, such as a new pitcher plant called Nepenthes domei and a parasitic plant called Thismia domei — both named after a variation of his nickname.

There is even an orchid species, the Chysis domei, named after him by researchers in Guatemala who follow his efforts.

According to MalaysiaNow, he has also named another species of the thismia genus after his mother, Thismia setimeriamae.

The conservationist is now working with institutes like the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) to study and register his discoveries

"I need to work with qualified botanists to elaborate on the findings of the new species because each discovery needs to have a written research paper to confirm the findings in any scientific journal," he told Bernama.

To thank him for his efforts, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu's Faculty of Science and Marine Environment has also recently appointed him a Guest Fellow.

The faculty's senior lecturer, Assoc Prof Dr Jamilah Mohd Salim, said Suzairi's efforts has raised awareness on the importance of conserving biodiversity among individuals and local communities.

"Suzairi's role [has helped] university researchers to know more about natural phenomena that occur in the forest," she said.

In 2020, social media called for the protection of an 84-year-old retired planter's nursery that consisted of two million endangered rainforest trees in Perak which were being destroyed for development:

If you'd like some greenery in your own home, we've got some ideas for you: