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Humble World Famous Coral Gardener

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

For decades, a “coral gardener” worked solo to restore reefs - now people are coming to him from around the world for help.

Clown fish on a coral reef

Anuar Abdullah is a 61-year-old diving instructor in Malaysia, but when he isn’t teaching diving classes - he’s back out in the water studying, observing, caring for, and reviving coral reefs. He’s observed coral health and worked to revive them for nearly four decades, the majority of which have been solo.

Now, as climate change becomes an ever-apparent threat, governments, corporations, resorts, and others are coming to him for help, reports the Washington Post.

Abdullah has no degree in marine biology or formal training - just a phenomenal amount of experience learning what conditions corals thrive in. And that’s expertise people are flocking to. In just the past decade, thousands have traveled to him to learn how to grow corals, he now has around 700 active volunteers and has already revived hundreds of acres of coral reefs.

In 2017, Thailand’s government asked Abdullah to initiate the rehabilitation of one of its most famous tourist attractions, Maya Bay, which had lost half its coral population after years of unbridled tourism. Visitors were kept out of the site for three years while Abdullah led a team of 120 people, including staff from Thailand’s Department of National Parks, in planting new corals.

In 2021, after Typhoon Rai wrecked the island of Cebu in the Philippines, a group of resorts asked Abdullah whether he could save what was left of the shoreline’s coral reefs. And earlier this year, Abdullah launched a new effort with officials and companies in Egypt to build the world’s largest subtropical coral nursery in the Red Sea. There was a presentation on the nursery at the U.N. climate change summit, COP27, but Abdullah did not attend.

He hates conferences, he says. And he had work to do.

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