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I am a pessimistic optimist. I am optimistic because I know I can make a difference through research and progress science. Yet I feel pessimistic of the larger global problems that require a lot more effort in reversing the rates of deterioration. 😦

Over the years, people have asked me if my research work and science engagements have made a difference in the conservation efforts for the giant clam. And I remain positive, so my reply is “Hopefully, yes!”

My favourite pet topic, the giant clam hit the news again. But this time, it gives me hope that more and more people are increasingly aware and becoming outspoken on conservation issues. 🙂 Here’s highlighting three cases where the public raised their standpoints regarding the illegal poaching of giant clams.

Case #1: South Korean actress poached endangered giant clams for food (July 2019)

Law of the Jungle_Credit to SBS
A scene from “The Law of the Jungle”, aired on SBS, June 30, shows South Korean actress holding a giant clam taken from the Hat Chao Mai National Park in Thailand in March 2019. Credits: SBS.

After the airing of episode, the scenes of South Korean actress collecting these endangered molluscs caused controversy among online viewers. This prompted the officials at the Hat Chao Mai National Park to file charges against the relevant individuals involved in the production. It was said that the production crew is aware of the regulations and laws.

Case #2: Indonesian TV shows cooking of protected giant clams

Para Petualang Cantik makan kima - Twitter
The two female TV hosts (on the right) shown with local fishers carving up the giant clams on Para Petualang Cantik. Credits: Twitter user.

TV show, Para Petualang Cantik was criticised by environmentalists for airing scenes of cooking the protected giant clams at Derawan Islands, East Kalimantan. This case was also highlighted in a publication titled “The Negligence of Conservation and Environmental Communication in the Nature Tourism and Adventure Programs on Television“. The article criticises how nature tourism and adventure programmes on Indonesian television often ignore environmental impacts.

Case #3: Netizen outcry over NUS students collecting giant clam shell from beach

NUS students drew flak after bringing back giant clam shell shown in this photo. Credits: ST Photo.

After this photo of NUS students posing with seashells, especially the giant clam surfaced, netizens went on to social media to criticise the group for ‘not being environmentally sensitive’. Alas, the NUS group was unaware of the international regulations on collection of giant clam shells, and extremely apologetic for their actions. For this case, the group had visited the giant clam hatchery at St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory to learn more about the animals and their conservation.

Protected status of giant clam species

For most of its geographic range, the giant clam is considered an endangered species and most locales have specific fishing and conservation laws protecting them (see Neo, 2019). The effectiveness of such laws and guidelines is highly dependent on regular monitoring and enforcement, which tend to be lacking in most instances. These are short-term deterrences, but long-term solutions are needed and science communication to raise environmental awareness could be the way forward. 😀

Further readings:

  • Neo ML (2019). Conservation of Giant Clams (Bivalvia: Cardiidae). In: Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-12-4095489. DOI: 10.1016/b978-0-12-409548-9.11780-4
  • mothership.sg, 7 July 2019: Korean actress faces 4 years jail for catching giant clams in Thai national park for reality show
  • The Straits Times, 7 July 2019: S. Korean star in hot water after reality TV clam stunt
  • South China Morning Post, 5 July 2019: South Korean actress Lee Yeol-eum charged in Thailand for catching endangered giant clams
  • Washington Times, 5 July 2019: S.Korea actress charged in Thailand for catching giant clams
  • ChannelNewsAsia, 4 July 2019: Korean reality TV show sparks controversy after contestant catches, eats protected species in Thailand
  • Agustin H et al. (2018). The Negligence of Conservation and Environmental Communication in the Nature Tourism and Adventure Programs on Television. International Journal of Global Community 1(2): 141-158.
  • Fimela, 25 April 2018: Makan Hewan Laut yang Dilindungi, Para Petualang Cantik Dikecam Netizen
  • The Jakarta Post, 23 April 2018: TV program under fire for showing protected giant clam being cooked
  • The Straits Times, 4 February 2017: NUS project team has learnt to be more sensitive to conservation issues
  • The Straits Times, 2 February 2017: Be more thoughtful when visiting beaches
  • the newpaper, 1 February 2017: NUS students lambasted for taking giant clam shell
  • The Straits Times, 1 February 2017: Outcry over students’ giant clam shell photo
  • The Straits Times, 31 January 2017: NUS sailing trip draws flak after students return with giant clam shell
  • Wild Shores of Singapore, 31 January 2017: Not OK to take giant clams and shells!