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A global envoy for giant clams in the making
Published on: Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kota Kinabalu: Former Boy Zone superstar Ronan Keating is considering becoming a "Global Ambassador for giant clams".

"Sting has the rainforest, maybe I have the giant clams," Ronan quipped at a press conference at the Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC), Gayana Eco Resort.

"It all made sense because really we didn't know the clams were becoming extinct. We don't know that. That message is not spread back home (UK)" noted Ronan, here to mark a climatic end to the month-long Marine Awareness Month with two shows Saturday night and Sunday lunch time at Bunga Raya Resort and Spa.

A centre-piece of MERC's awareness month was the release of 500 three-year-old artificially spawned and propagated baby giant clams into a sea nursery and replant 1,000 pieces of corals.

The baby giant clams include all seven species of giant clams found in Malaysian waters, including the biggest and considered locally extinct species - the Tridacna gigas and the somewhat smaller T. serasa.

"It is fantastic to see it here first time what these guys are doing and the work that they are doing," Ronan commended, on the only project of its kind in Malaysia.

"It is fascinating√ČI will bring the message back to Ireland, England and Europe," Ronan said. Ronan did not say if the focus of his next global hit song would be about giant clams but confided that he was actually flooded with offers to do different things .

He said Sabah caught his attention as a logical sequence to a film shot in Australia entitled "Goddess" where he played the role of a marine biologist.

"Since I played the role of a marine biologist, I studied a lot about the sea to try to really involve myself in the role.

"I guess I was interested when I heard what it (giant clam propagation project) was and I wanted to understand more."

"So, it is nice to be asked to do this and be involved," he said.

"Besides, I am a fan of Asia, I love being in Asia. I love coming to Asia.

I do a lot of work in Asia and when I heard this, I said that's something I like to learn more about and help. So I am here."

"I have done some stuff in the North Pole regarding the seas and the melting of the ice caps," Ronan said.

"I guess when you are in a situation like mine that you are internationally looked upon as successful and you have a voice, and I don't mean voice as singer as a celebrity to spread the word, to create awareness, you have a responsibility to use that voice, stand up and be heard because there are so many out there who can't be heard and they need to be," Ronan added.

Cancer research is one of the charities he has put a lot of his time and energy into around the world, he said.

But cancer charity wasn't just talk or sing on stage, it was a real show of grit where he swam 56 miles in 35 hours across the Irish Sea last September.

"That was incredible, it was daunting, it was frightening swimming in the night across the Irish Sea. The largest shark in the world lives in the Irish Sea. It was an incredible task but we did it for cancer research," said Ronan who is "really excited" about snorkling around the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.

Meanwhile, Gillian Tan, owner of Gayana Eco Resort, said the first Marine Awareness Month will not be the last, neither the concert from a superstar like Ronan.

"There is a lot of stress yes but it is definitely something great when you have others like Ronan getting involved - we love it and we all look to doing it over and over again," Gillian said.

On the reason behind the Marine Awareness Month, aquatic biologist Alvin Wong who is also the Director of MERC, said:

"We realised the awareness level is not there. There are still a lot of people fishing in an unsustainable manner, there are still people buying bombed fish which are not supposed to be sold in first place.

"So this whole month campaign is meant to tell people that all's not well and that that everyone has a role to play, we all have a responsibility to play to save species slipping into extinction," Wong said.

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