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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Arborists in short supply

Tree surgeons: Certified arborists Mohd Afendi Hussin and Ahmad Azaruddin Mohd Noor using a Sonic Tomograph to check the internal condition of a tree. —Photo by SIA HONG KIAU

Tree surgeons: Certified arborists Mohd Afendi Hussin and Ahmad Azaruddin Mohd Noor using a Sonic Tomograph to check the internal condition of a tree. —Photo by SIA HONG KIAU

TO-DATE, there are only 75 certified arborists in Malaysia, a stark contrast to the 400 certified arborists (as listed in the website of the Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology) in neighbouring Singapore.

In comparison, Malaysia measures 329,758sq km in area and has a population of 28.3 million while Singapore has a land area of 714.3sq km and a population of 5.3 million. There are 300 parks and four nature reserves, two million trees and 2,800 trees per sq km in the island. (Source: app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/sg-facts).

Malaysian Arborist Society president Dr Ahmad Ainuddin Nuruddin, who is also the deputy director and associate professor of the Institute of Tropical Forestry and Forest Products (Introp), Universiti Putra Malaysia, attributes the lack of arborists to a late start.

roots lift pedestrain walkway (Photos by Mohd Afendi Hussin)
Above-ground symptom: Trees with root problems may blow over in windstorms.

“Malaysia started late in getting arborist certification. The first group of certified arborists was in 2005 and that was with the help of a project funded byDanida (Denmark Aid), which brought a certified arborist from the USA for a two-week course on Arboriculture.

“This first group took the certification exam. Singapore, by that time, had many certified arborists,” he said.

Cost is one of the reasons; it costs RM4,500 for the exam and preparatory course.

Dr Ahmad Ainuddin said to increase the number of arborists, our society must acknowledge that tree care and maintenance work was highly complex and required the knowledged-based occupation.

“Therefore, people who are taking care of the trees must be equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitude required to perform the job.

“The agency and local authorities must ensure that the job to maintain and manage trees must be given to the people who are equipped and trained to do this task so that the task can be executed successfully and professionally,” he said, adding that the arboriculture industry must also educate the society of its services in caring for the trees.

Ahmad Azaruddin Mohd Noor

He said the awareness of the need for arborists was higher in Selangor, compared to other states.

He noted that in other countries such as Singapore and the US, the awareness was higher.

“In the US, there is an arborist in every municipality to care for the trees in the township,” he said.

Currently, not all councils in Selangor have arborists in the respective landscape departments. For example, Putrajaya Corporation has nine and DBKL has four; but some other councils such as MPKj admitted that they do not have any arborists.

Certified arborists Mohd Afendi Hussin and Ahmad Azaruddin Mohd Noor feel that all local councils should have an arborist.

Ahmad Azaruddin said there must be better interaction between departments in councils and agencies to have a better understanding of each other’s roles when dealing with trees affected by development/construction works.

Mohd Afendi Hussin

“An arborist must be involved in the early stage of (town) planning and development that involves preserving existing trees and greenery.

“Sometimes, the services of arborists are sought when it is too late and the trees are damaged beyond repair,” he said.

Mohd Afendi, who is also known as the “tree whisperer”, noted that trees were affected by development, especially the construction of drains or road-widening works.

“Usually the tree is compromised. If severe, the tree may die.

“It is also important to use the right tools to prune trees,” he said.

They stressed that it was important to ensure that young and newly planted trees had good structures.

Ahmad Azaruddin said, “Structural defects in old trees can be due to the lack of structural pruning at an early stage, hence, it is important to implement structural pruning for young trees. Young trees react better compared to old trees.”

Mohd Afendi added, “Control the form of the tree in the early stages and get good branch formation to reduce pruning problems in the future.”

Dr Ahmad Ainuddin added that once the trees were old, they needed to be maintained, pruned and even removed, if they were hazardous to the public.


— An arborist is someone who is trained in the planting, maintenance and management of trees.

— In Malaysia, arborists are trained as horticulturists, urban foresters or landscape architects and they take a specialised course in tree care such as tree pruning, tree health care, tree care safety and other related arboriculture courses.

— Those who pass the exam offered by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) are called certified arborists.

— Roles of the arborist:

·Choosing and planting suitable trees;

·Maintaining and monitoring to ensure they will grow into healthy trees, providing benefits to the urban ecosystem;

·Removal of fallen trees;

·Care for heritage trees; and

·May appear in court to give legal testimony and advice

— Job opportunities: arborists can be hired by local councils, developers, golf clubs and individuals.

Related story:
Signs of tree failure

Tags / Keywords: Central Region , Arborists , PArM , trees


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