Irshad Mobarak – Naturalist – Conservationist – Educator
Irshad Mobarak has been a keen naturalist since his childhood. Inspired by the lives and deeds of pioneer naturalists and explorers such as the legendary Alfred Russel Wallace and the renowned botanist, writer and environmental campaigner, Professor David Bellamy, Irshad left his banking career and walked down the path of Natural History. He has been deeply moved by the plight of the animal and plant world and the perilous relationship they have with man at this moment in history. He has devoted his life to helping ordinary people unlock the mysteries of the natural world. To help achieve this role he founded Natural History Tours, a company which specializes in wildlife tours on Langkawi and nearby islands, with a focus on the Natural History of birds, plants , butterflies , rainforest fauna as well as marine fauna. He also undertakes the training of budding naturalists and conservationists and is himself an active participant on scientific expeditions. With an illustrious career spanning over 25 years, Irshad has also appeared in a number of international documentaries such as National Geographic Channel’s ‘Mysteries of the Malaysian Rainforest’. That documentary was the first ever to record on film the courtship ritual of the Great Hornbills, in which a trio of Great Hornbill males engage in a titanic clash of beaks to court a female in waiting.
He was also featured in a short vignette on Discovery Channel’s’ The Wedding Ceremony of the White Bellied Sea Eagle’. Irshad also appeared with Ian Wright, the hugely popular host from Globe Trekker, which was aired on Travel and Living Channel. He was featured with another popular TV travel host Toby Amies on the documentary entitled The Rough Guide –’Trips of a Lifetime’. Irshad recently featured on a documentary advertisement for Tourism Malaysia, which was also aired on National Geographic Channel. His most recent high profile
public appearance was on TEDxWWF talks in Singapore , where he was the only Malaysian invited to address a ‘live’ audience, which was broadcast around the globe .
His ceaseless quest for excellence in Natural History took him on an extraordinary visit to the world-renowned British Museum of Natural History in London where he undertook, by invitation, a brief course in taxonomy and biosystematics with Bernard d’Abrera, arguably the greatest world authority on butterflies and moths. For many years, Irshad has spent hours in the field with Professor d’Abrera on his frequent visits to the island, learning about insect life in general, and the Lepidoptera in particular, and was introduced inter alia by the famous ‘Butterfly
Man’ to the miracles of the Irreducible Complexity of symbiotic relationships in the insect/plant world.
As an avid ornithologist, Irshad has himself spends many hours in the rainforests of Langkawi and elsewhere in Malaysia and has observed, studied and documented the life histories of many species of birds, with a special focus on two iconic species on Langkawi, namely the Great Hornbill and the White Bellied Sea Eagle. He is also the first person in Malaysia who, together with late Miles Badeley recorded the enigmatic
presence of the Mountain- Hawk Eagle on Langkawi, a bird not found on either Peninsular Malaysia or Borneo.
When not in the field, Irshad consults and lectures on birds, biogeography, conservation and other elements of island Natural History to a wide audience, ranging from school children to corporate figures, naturalists, scientists and others with a love of, or interest in, Natural History. He conducts interpretive nature-walks daily at ‘The Datai Resort’. Irshad’s aim is to communicate to people that the forest is a living community of interactive and interdependent relationships of living creatures, and not an inexplicable world to be ignored or taken for granted.
Irshad is also exploring the realm of archaeology and the relationship it reveals between Man and Nature. Soon he will be conducting exploratory tours in one of the oldest civilizations known in Malaysia, the 2000-year-old Sungai Batu site located in the Bujang Valley, also known as the ‘Valley of Dragons’, situated near Merbok in the state of Kedah in Malaysia. It is possibly the richest archeological site in Malaysia with evidence
of both ancient Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms that once flourished there.
For his important contribution to the preservation of nature on Langkawi, he was awarded a grant by Khazanah National Fellowship. Irshad is also president of EcoMy – Malaysia Ecotourism & Conservation Society.
When not on his travels or tours, Irshad may be found in his idyllic home with his wife and two small children, nestled in the midst of padi-fields shimmering with gold and grassy green. Here he relaxes with the simple pleasures of bird-watching, painting and sketching Natural History. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, he also likes to immerse himself in reading from his growing personal library.