Assignment Asia

Protecting Endangered Wildlife

This edition of Assignment Asia takes you to the seas of the Philippines and the forests of Indonesia to highlight issues concerning the region's fragile wildlife. Whale shark tourism is a growing industry in the Philippines. It attracts thousands of visitors and generates millions of dollars in income every year. But environmentalists criticize the practice, saying excessive interaction with humans and the feeding of whale sharks are harming the endangered species. Reporter Barnaby Lo travels to Oslob and Donsol, two coastal towns with different ways of giving people close encounters with the gentle giants of the sea. The name "orangutan" literally means person of the forest. Yet in Indonesia, orangutans have lost their homes to deforestation over the years, and many have fallen victim to poachers. Faced with this problem, a nonprofit group has been rescuing orangutans and giving them refuge before releasing them into the wild. Reporter Silkina Ahluwalia goes to East Kalimantan on Borneo island, where rescued orangutans are having a new lease on life.

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Ancient Cultures in a Modern World

Asia is home to some of the world's oldest cultures and ethnic groups. But in modern times many of them are on the verge of fading. In South Korea, female divers called the haenyeo have been scouring the seas for food for more than 1,000 years. Yet today's sea women are ageing, and there's a dearth of new divers. Reporter Jack Barton travels to Jeju Island to meet some of its oldest haenyeo and looked into efforts to stop their tradition from dying. Seafaring tribes long inhabited the waters of Thailand and its neighbors, Myanmar and Malaysia.

Challenging Gender Norms

Steeped in tradition, many Asian cultures have tightly conservative gender norms. But in some places, people are daring to challenge them. In Turkey, male belly dancing is making a comeback after generations of being kept in the background. It's an art usually associated with femininity. But in Istanbul, men are grabbing the spotlight and breaking stereotypes by swaying their bodies. As Reporter Natalie Carney reports, they are also raising the profile of Turkey's marginalized gay community.

Women Empowerment

Women in many parts of Asia remain vulnerable to abuse, but a few bright spots in the fight for empowerment and equality have emerged. In Pakistan, where thousands of women fall victims to violence every year, a law ensuring their protection was passed in early 2016. Reporter Danial Khan spoke with survivors of domestic violence who have risen above their ordeal and are now finding hope in the new law. Despite the reforms and changes sweeping the country, gender inequality persists in Myanmar, and women are particularly vulnerable to different forms of abuse.

Development

Asia has some of the world's most pressing problems, including poverty and disease. But despite the odds, progress is being made in some parts of the region. Pakistan is one of only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic. The Pakistani government has launched an aggressive vaccination drive, but workers on the ground face security threats, and sometimes, an unwelcoming public. Reporter Danial Khan meets the health workers who confront dangers and challenges in their mission to eradicate polio in Pakistan.

Emergency

Without a state-run emergency service in their country, volunteers have taken on the task of responding to accidents and other emergencies in the Thai capital, Bangkok. They patrol the streets of the bustling city every night, rushing anywhere anyone needs rescue. Reporter Martin Lowe spent one busy but ultimately tragic night with Bangkok's volunteer rescuers.