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Scientists in Malaysia are calling for five remote and uninhabited islands in the Straits of Malacca to be protected from human activities. Visiting the islands for the first time in 50 years, the University of Malaya team led by Phang Siew Moi found them to be 'pristine' and rich in biodiversity. But the islands — in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes — are threatened by pollution, fishing and diving.

The researchers found some of the largest corals ever seen in South-east Asia, as well as species of fungi that have a potential role in the development of new drugs. One island, described by a British expedition in the 1950s as a "barren outcrop", has developed a complex ecosystem including plants, insects, fish, birds and turtles.

But 50,000 vessels travel the straits between peninsular Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra every year. And the scientists say that without protection, the island ecosystems risk being damaged by oil spills or by waste discharged from passing ships.

Link to full Environmental News Network news story

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