The president of The Association for the Protection of the Natural Heritage of Malaysia (better known as PEKA) speaks up about her long, arduous fight to save our environment, when not many would.

Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil is on an extremely challenging mission to save Mother Nature.

Her determination is so strong that she even bought plots of jungle land to keep them safe from the clutches of illegal loggers.

Shariffa Sabrina, the president of The Association for the Protection of the Natural Heritage of Malaysia (better known as PEKA), has for years been vocal about illegal logging and deforestation in the country.

Her social media accounts are often filled with strong views against those who ruin the jungles and rivers.

The wife of prominent businessman Tan Sri Syed Mohd Yusof Syed Nasir, who co-owns Hard Rock Café in Kuala Lumpur and Melaka, and Concorde Hotels in the country, Shariffa Sabrina is eager to walk the talk as she continues to advocate a greener Malaysia.

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She has done the unthinkable – buying plots of land deep in the heart of Pahang’s rainforests. She also owns a chain of eco-friendly resorts – called Tanah Aina in Pahang, Johor and Selangor.

Only a minute portion of the land is developed. At her resorts, guests are taught about nature and ways to appreciate the environment.

One of her resorts, Tanah Aina Farrah Soraya in Raub, is nestled in a 153-acre private forest with only eight acres developed. The rest is untouched.

“I want to teach people all about the environment. There is no use just talking or protesting about land clearing activities. We must educate the masses about the importance of jungles. At least I know the jungle plots and orchards that I own will not be cleared,” Shariffa Sabrina said.

“This is my way of protecting our jungles.”

She said no trees were felled when she developed her resorts as she believes development and nature can co-exist. 

“It all boils down to how much you care for the environment. Trees do not need to make way for buildings if you are visionary and have the right builder,” said the 55-year-old mother of five.

The green advocate, who is also a certified fitness instructor and patisserie chef, is constantly on the go. 

If she’s not at her fitness centre and cafe in Shah Alam or busy managing her resorts, she’s advocating a greener Malaysia.

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“PEKA receives tip-offs from the public and my team is constantly on the move. I also meet with the authorities, including ministers, to highlight illegal logging cases which are becoming more rampant."

Not everyone is happy though and her efforts have been criticised by certain quarters. Some have gone to the extent of labelling her NGO set up in 2010 “a nuisance”.

“Some say I should just mind my business. But just look at what has happened to Cameron Highlands, Tasik Chini and Tasik Bera as a result of rampant illegal logging.

“Logging is so rampant in certain states, yet these are the poorest (states) in the country. It just does not make sense,” she lamented.

I love my country. How can we just ignore this and see our natural heritage being destroyed?"

The grandmother of three believes it is pointless advocating change if the young are not taught to love nature.  

“Our generation can only do so much to preserve what’s left. The young too must be taught the importance of conservation,” said Shariffa Sabrina who also regularly conducts environmental workshops and talks for students.

“I’ve travelled across the globe. Nothing compares to the beauty of Malaysian rainforests. Development and nature can co-exist. It’s all about finding the right formula and changing mindsets.”

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