I started off nervous to meet the team. During pre-trip, I felt like I was not contributing enough so I was scared it would be the same during the trip. Finally, when I met the rest of the team, I was happy to know that these people are an amazing bunch are we are here for the same cause. It was good to know that there was nothing to be nervous about and the team was friendly and easy to talk and work along with.
At TCS in Kemaman, I learnt that terrapins need the same attentions turtle get. There was also a lot of misconceptions on terrapins – that people thing they are turtles.I grew to appreciate them more and felt the responsibility to educate other people about terrapins too. Meeting and talking to the local there, I realised that they are under appreciated even by myself. They help TCS to conserve these animals without any huge reward in return. I have come to realise that the local community places an important role in environmental work because they are the closest people in that area and without them, conservation work will be tough. According to TCS, non-profit organisations such theirs do not get much help from the authorities. They spend at least RM10 000 per month for terrapin conservations.
I also learnt that being there, we tend to lose focus of our objectives. Therefore, we as a team, need to remind each other on the reason of why we are here in the first place.
We went to Cherating for a beach cleanup. After spending around 10 minutes picking up trash around the beach, we managed to collect trash worth of 3 big plastic bags. It was sad to know that there are many irresponsible people out there not knowing what their actions results in. Most of the trash we collected were plastic. Knowingly, plastic is one of the biggest pollution in the sea and is highly regarded as a danger towards marine life. There were also people illegally fishing at the beach. This shows that people disregard the laws implemented by the local government and act selfishly for one’s own benefits.
At the Cherating Turtle Sanctuary, we got to see real life green turtles. This was an effort by the government to preserve them and educate the public about turtles. However, the turtles there look pale and sad. Turtles are migratory animals – needs to travel long distance. Being in water tanks, confined their space and it is unhealthy to keep the turtles in a small confined space. There also were not any educators there to teach the public about what they are seeing. So, having an education centre without educators such as that is such a waste. At Rimbun Dahan Turtle Sanctuary, we were able to see what is happening to our local beaches – erosion. Due to the erosions, the turtle hatcheries at Rimbun Dahan were destroyed. Due to the lack of funding, the community of Rimbun Dahan had to fork out their own money and rely on donations to keep their conservation work going. They also had to deal with poachers. Old habits die hard. This is the case for poachers as they are not able to stop this irresponsible activity. In order to deal with this, the community of Rimbun Dahan buys turtle eggs from the poachers to prevent them from selling the eggs to the local markets. I also become more appreciative of sea turtles as I have come to know that only 1 out of 1000 baby turtles survive after hatching, enduring numerous challenges in order to survive.
I learn how to make mud balls and the benefits of mud balls for our rivers and seas. Who knew that such thing exists and how its purpose has exceptional benefits to our waters. Pak Nong, one of the guides there, despite being in his prime, he was able to throw the mud balls much further than us youngsters.
We were also able to go through the mangrove swamp and appreciate the flora and fauna around. Mangrove are the rubbish catchers of the sea as there were many plastics and bottles trapped between mangrove tree roots. We also got to learn about a lot of other plants and its benefits in the mangrove swamp habitat. Planting the mangrove seedlings taught me that sometimes or most of the times you need to get down and dirty to help save the planet. There was also a lot of care in handling the seedlings such as ensuring it being upright and planting it at a specific depth in order to ensure that the mangrove seedlings grow healthy and strong.
We also got the chance to go see fireflies. I got to appreciate nature at night as the fireflies were abundant at night. Their light shines the darkness of the rivers while the stars shine beautifully in the sky. This made me realise that excessive human developments can destroy the beauty of nature.
At Seatru, I learnt how to excavate turtle nests. This act is for data collection and to ensure that the nests are clean. Some nest can be attacked by wild animals such as dogs and monitor lizards, so they cover the nests with nets to prevent predators from digging. Turtle eggs takes around 60 days to hatch. There are some cases where the eggs do not hatch after 60 days and can turn rotten. There are also cases where baby turtles have abnormalities after being born. It is sad to know that these turtles have a low chance of surviving. Turtles are also sensitive when they are laying eggs. If there is any light, sound or movement, the turtle will stop laying eggs and run away.
When collecting data, the researchers must use red light, walk silently and cannot walk in front of the turtles. Seatru is located at Chagar Hutang and by far is one of the prettiest and cleanest islands I have ever been to. Credit must be given to the authorities there and everyone involved in Seatru, ensuring that this turtle reproduction hub is being preserved in efforts to increase the numbers of turtles.