Turtle Lab’s 1 Year Anniversary

Established in May 2018 in a collaboration with The Taaras Beach and Spa Resort, Turtle Lab has been running for a year and it also means that it is a “1 year anniversary”! Looking at how far we have gone, I feel really grateful to be part of Turtle Lab. When my supervisor shared with me about setting up this public viewing laboratory, I loved the idea so much but I had no idea on how to make it happen. My research partner and I took a few months to prepare the experiment equipment, educational and outreach materials, and protocols in the laboratory. Believe it or not, almost 50% of the preparation were not applicable and practiced in the lab right now!

Things were really beyond our expectation, knowledge, capacity, and even our confidence. The environment, audience (the guests), nature of the job, working cultures, and the workplace relationship totally made me feel out of place. Being placed as an in-house researcher, I was so uncertain if I could deliver the objective of Turtle Lab and perform the duties. Believe it or not, I found it awkward to start a conversation with the FIRST guest visited the lab. Other than the struggles with setting up the laboratory in a five star resort and trying to figure out how to fit into the hotel and tourism industry, I was also making a great effort to adapt the island life and learnt how to live with the coastal community.

Everything started making sense after 2 months, when I managed to study the behavior of the audience, understanding the demand in tourism industry, familiar with the operation of the resort, make friend with the staffs working in the resorts (especially the department of sport & recreation and front office), blend in with the local community, build a mutual understanding with the resort management, enjoy me-time by just sitting at the beach, and most importantly, realize the impact created by Turtle Lab.

 

 

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People were so curious about what we were doing in Turtle Lab when they were on their way to the restaurant for having meals, when they were exploring before check-in, or maybe they just wanted to kill their time in the afternoon after a few hours of snorkeling or sunbathing. Why are there turtle eggs and baby turtles? Are they real and alive? Who are these people? Are these baby turtles sleeping in the eggshell? With curiosity or any intention that make them stepping into Turtle Lab, it is the opportunity for us to break the barrier between the scientists and general public, by starting a conversation. Beginning with a smile and great “Hello!” “Good morning!”, people came closer to observe the about-to-hatch eggs, while I explain the hatching process of a baby turtle, energy reserve within the yolk attached at the plastron (i.e. abdomen), life cycle of a sea turtle especially the very challenging first few days of its life upon hatching etc. While they were amazed by the facts of sea turtle, more questions came into their mind, and my job is to solve all of them. The guests left the lab with knowledge about sea turtles and the message of saving our nature by changing some habits in life, as simple as not using single use plastic straw when drinking a beverage.

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When I noticed the magic made by Turtle Lab, I am driven, with more passion to do my job. I am no longer feeling lost of what I am doing and what Turtle Lab can do, but I am now aware of the significant role of a scientist / turtle biologist / conservationist as an educator, by sharing knowledge, the challenges faced by the marine life, human and our mother nature, and how we can help. Turtle Lab has taught me that relationship is built from conversation, and education, awareness, trust, and impact will come after. 

We were working really hard throughout the season and we felt so relieved when the season came to the end. We were celebrating, packing stuffs in the lab, moving out our personal belonging, to officially end the operation of Turtle Lab. We were happy that we made it, meanwhile we were sad of leaving Turtle Lab. I have grown a lot because of Turtle Lab, in fact, I am growing together with it, for both professional and personal development.

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In February 2019, we decided to join an invention and innovation competition organized by UniSZA. According to the criteria of the competition, we are required to measure the impact created by Turtle Lab. And that was the time when we found out how great the potential and influences that Turtle Lab can create. After 6 months of investment in terms of time, energy, mental strength, and resources, we managed to

  • Conduct 12 batches of experiment
  • Hold 60 hatchling release events with the guests
  • Release 1,522 hatchlings born in Turtle Lab
  • Achieve 91% hatching success
  • Reach out more than 2,800 visitors across 36 countries, Top 5 countries with most visitors: Malaysia, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, China
  • Generate more than RM30,000 funds including 95 turtle adoption
  • Be featured in GoAsia Plus
  • Receive appreciation from visitors in Trip Advisor

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We knew that we have made impact among people and we have done our best for making Turtle Lab possible, but none of us (SEATRU, including my supervisor) expected for such achievement. The outcome of Turtle Lab in 2018 was then highlighted by winning a gold medal and special award in the competition! I shed tears and screamed when I heard “Turtle Lab – The First Public Viewing Laboratory in Malaysia” being announced during the award ceremony. At that moment, I feel so blessed and thankful for the help, support, and encouragement that we have gotten along the tough journey from many people: my supervisor, the in-house marine biologists, the staffs of The Taaras Beach and Spa Resort, the SEATRU rangers and colleagues a.k.a SEATRU Family, the visitors, and whoever love sea turtles.

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I am now with Turtle Lab for another season, to continue serving its missions and values to more people in more approaches. Apart from conducting the current scientific study, holding hatchling release event, and sharing about volunteer program as well as turtle conservation work, we now

  • Lead educational day tour to Chagar Hutang Turtle Sanctuary every Tuesday and Thursday
  • Sell merchandise that are outsourced from another NGO, Turtle Conservation Society in Turtle Lab
  • Display photos to help us in explaining about sea turtles and our conservation work
  • Promote eco-friendly turtle watching practices during snorkel/dive trip, such as no feeding and touching
  • Initiate Sea Turtle Photo ID Citizen Science Project
  • Train the snorkel guides and boatman on doing briefing before snorkel/dive trip
  • Expose to more media, e.g. New Straits Times, AIA China, Macaranga
  • Connect with other turtle lovers! TurtleSpot from Taiwan, Exo Travel, Tong Xin She (China Young Journalist Group)
  • Build capacity among our SEATRU team in science communication by providing on-ground training at Turtle Lab
  • Venture to other potential research projects in collaboration with corporate

The journey has just begun. There are more things that Turtle Lab can achieve and I could learn from Turtle Lab. I have a very strong faith in Turtle Lab in creating more impacts and in shaping more future scientists and conservationists!

 

I was not born and breed at Redang Island, not even a Ganu, but it doesn’t make me love the island, sea turtles and the ocean less than the anok pulau.

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Learning Conservation Science with Inspiring Cedric

I never thought that it can be so much fun to learn about conservation science until I met Amazing Cedric (YES I’M A FANGIRL!).

I joined eLearning Wildlife Conservation Course , an online course held by Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), University of Oxford upon the completion of last online course I enrolled (read the previous article on “As an early career conservationist”). This eLearning course ran from Oct 2018 to Jan 2019 and Dr Cedric Tan was the course director.

This online course is considered as FREE with the only one criteria – successful completion of the entire course. Applicants are required to submit a 1-min (or less) recorded video about themselves, together with a £50 deposit to secure their places. The deposit will be returned if the participants fully participated throughout the course and completed the given assignments of all modules.

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In the application video, I shared about who I am, what I do, my past experiences in conservation and what I want to achieve by the end of the course.

There are a total of 8 modules covered different topics on learning research, analytical and communication skills. All modules was really intensive with lecture videos, collaborative learning tasks, online games, forum or discussion, assignments (individual/group), and quizzes. Participants can do the course anytime and anywhere at their own pace, within the certain period of the module. Mentors (from WildCRU team) will be assigned to groups to mentor the progress of the participants and provide guidance during the learning if necessary. 

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Module 1 & 2:

Conservation Research: The Scientific Process & Survey and Experimental Design

These two modules cultivate students or young conservation biologists with skills to transform their research into impact. At the 1st module, I learned how to develop research questions with PSBR (Pressure, State, Benefit, Response) model and the scientific process with constructing hypothesis, prediction and observation. I was taught at the 2nd module on designing data collection procedures, such as different sampling methods, randomization, blocking, replication etc. 

Module 3, 4, 5 & 6:

Statistical Analysis using R, Spatial Analysis using QGIS, Occupancy (Habitat Use) & Capture-mark-recapture (Density Analysis)

These are the most challenging modules to me as I never learnt R, QGIS and their application in conservation at my undergraduate and master studies, and they are the reasons why I am interested to participate this course. R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics, meanwhile QGIS is also a free software that functions as geographic information system (GIS) software, allowing users to analyze, edit spatial information,composing and exporting graphical maps. By using these two softwares, we can study occupancy of certain species on habitat use and density of a species at a particular site through capture-mark-recapture method.

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Assignment of Module 4: QGIS. A map showing the distance between the recorder and creature sightings at different locations.
Map of Relative Humidity
Assignment of Module 4: QGIS. A map showing the habitat characteristics (relative humidity) of the creature sighted at different locations.
Map of Surface Temperature
Assignment of Module 4: QGIS. A map showing the habitat characteristics (sea surface temperature) of the creature sighted at different locations.

Module 7 & 8:

Presentation Skills & Creative Games

These modules focus on how biologists communicate the findings to the public and/or policy makers through presentations or in a more interactive delivery approach – games. I learnt about three elements of oral presentation, which are SELL, ENGAGE and EXPAND (known as SEX). Presenting scientific findings is same as promoting a product, where we attract the audience with the focus of study and appealing visuals, engage with the audience through animation, music, story telling, and lastly stimulate the expansion of the topic by relating it on a personal level or creating a broader implications. At the last modules, I created a board game that educates public on responsible, eco-friendly tourism during their vacation on an island.

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Creating video on the active feeding activity of sea turtles in Malaysia’s tourism.
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Assignment of Module 8: Creating Games – Educational game on responsible, ethical, and eco-friendly tourism activities.

A fruitful learning is not only about getting knowledge, but also creating network with other like-minded people across the globe. The biggest gain that I received from this course is get to know Master Rushan! Rushan was my coursemate, a great learning partner, and a kind tutor, who helped me a lot during the course. I could never complete the course myself without his patience and mental support along the journey. We are no longer coursemate, but good friends who share the same interest (we both love sea turtles very much) and aspiration in conservation! Other than “skyping” to discuss about our study during the course, we never talk and meet each other in person. Therefore, I am extremely looking forward to meet this awesome guy at the conference in July – ICCB 2019! We will meet the Amazing Cedric at that conference as well! ICCB (International Congress for Conservation Biology) will definitely be the highlight of my 2019!!!

Lastly, I would like to say thank you to Dr. Cedric to create this course, making learning such a fun thing to do! I enjoyed a lot!

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I need to print this e-certificate and frame it on wall! So much effort and tears putting on it!

NOTE: The words highlighted in orange will be the topic of next article. Stay tuned to find out more!

 

As an early career conservationist

Making conservation a career is always my goal. While studying Master in Zoology and working with Sea Turtle Research Unit, I always seek to expose myself to different experiences and explore any possibility that could bring me one step closer to this goal. Without any marine related background and little experience in wildlife conservation (my internship in Sabah), I do realise that I am not competent enough as a conservationist and there are a lot of skills that I lack of. I came across an online course from United Kingdom when browsing internet.

 

Kick-starter for Early Career Conservationist is an online course provided by Conservation Career, UK, which helps you to better understand about conservation careers (what kind of position is available in conservation industry), to identify the type of job that suits your personality and ability (what you know and what you like, you come alive when you are…), and how to increase your possibility of making successful application with a good CV, great interview and get hired!

 

There are 7 modules in the online training.

Module 1: The Conservation Industry

Module 2: Self-Assessment

Module 3: Finding your Niche

Module 4: Getting Ready

Module 5: How to Apply for a Conservation Job

Module 6: Being Great at Interviews

Module 7: Top Tips in Your Conservation Job Hunt

 

This online course truly widens my perspective on conservation industry and allows me to find my niche in conservation based on my own potential and strength.  Below is the summary of what I gained from the course.

1. I am a ‘People person’.

Turtle Lab has provided me a lot of training on communication skills through guest engagement and chances of working along with the hotel management. I enjoy being a communicator who builds and manages relationships with volunteers and public.  I am passionate on sharing knowledge about sea turtles and related environmental issues. Meanwhile, I have developed skills on increasing awareness, support and funding through different approaches to promote conservation work done by SEATRU. 

2. I could work for community-based conservation, environmental education,  fundraising and development & programme and project management. 

The jobs that align with my interest and strength are:

Community-based conservation

Job titles: Community Outreach Officer, Local Empowerment Officer
Duties: Helping people to be part of the solution

  • To support local communities to sustainably manage their species, habitats and landscapes.
  • To deliver volunteer, community and people-participation projects.

Environmental education

Job titles: Learning Officer / Education Officer / Environmental Educator / Schools Outreach Officer / Learning Assistant / Schools Outreach Project Officer / Education Assistant

Duties: Increasing awareness and support for nature

  • Lead a wide variety of environmental education sessions for school groups and families.
  • Delivering community events to promote conservation work.
  • Delivering interpretation and training programmes.
  • Promote membership schemes.

Fundraising and development

Job titles: Membership Development Officer / Fundraising Officer / Membership Development Assistant / Development Officer

Duties: Raising the money needed to save nature

  • Writing grant applications and reports.
  • Supporting members and donors.
  • Organising appeals, campaigns and fundraising drives.
  • Developing projects and programmes.

Programme and project management

Job titles: Project Officer / Project Assistant
Duties: Saving the world one project at a time

  • Coordinate project activities to deliver on budget and to time.
  • Organize and run workshops and meetings, including budgets, travel, accommodation and other meeting requirements.
  • Support for the Monitoring and Evaluation work of projects.
  • Manage communications for the projects (email-lists, newsletters, social media, donor reports etc.)

3. Current trends of conservation are citizen science, crowdfunding, innovation / intrapreneurs and ecotourism.

Conservation is no longer priority of scientists and conservationists, but all stakeholders – from policy makers to industry operators to local communities – should have the equal concern on our planet. Citizen science, crowdfunding and ecotourism are the platforms that connect everyone to participate and support to help with conservation. Conservationists now learns from business and their innovation and dynamism to improve the environmental organization’s operation and marketing.

4. I need more experiences of volunteering and internships with different organizations, to equip myself with certain skills that I failed to fulfill in the job descriptions.

I lack of experience on working closely with local communities to sustainably manage their species, habitats and landscapes. I have not exposed to budget planning in terms of controlling income and expenditure for projects. I need to have more teaching experience in an outdoor setting and deliver sessions to a varied audience of school or community groups. I do not get to organize and run workshops, meetings, and fundraising campaigns with a group of people from diverse background. All the gaps identified can be filled by joining volunteer and internship program offered by other organizations.

5. I have to make use of employer websites and social media for job hunt.

For example, sign up or subscribe for job alerts on job boards, Google, and employer websites. LinkedIN and Twitter are also good media to build connections and set up job alerts. Not many employers, especially NGOs will post vacancy at job boards such as JobStreet.

6. I always need to prove my competence with evidences, instead of being an “empty-worder” with dreams and passions. 

I need to prepare a cover letter that clearly showcases my best examples on how I fit their key criteria and a CV that presents all my experiences relevant to their criteria. The evidences can be proved by either education, knowledge, specific experience and general experience (transferrable).

7. Last and most importantly, being great at interviews. 

I find myself that I’m always nervous before the interview and the first 5 minutes of the interview. After 5 minutes of talking, I actually find the flow and speak comfortably. It is fine and normal to be nervous, but never become hyperventilate and always smile! Prepare yourself for tricky questions such as career gaps, strange career moves and weakness.

 

This course had changed the conventional point of view of mine, in which there are limited number of jobs available in conservation. In fact, compared to the last decade, conservation is now in high demand, with growing number of jobs, and it has become a professional industry requiring a diverse range of skill sets. However, it nowadays has become a very competitive industry, where 92% of conservationists are hard to get a job. As an early career conservationist, we should not give up upon our passion, instead, we can shape ourselves to better characters who are able to help the wildlife in crisis all around the world. 

 

Acknowledgement: Information above are from Conservation Career-Kick-starter for Early Career Conservationist.

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Got an e-certificate for completion of the course!

Help sea turtles with own hands

After conservation taught me how we should treat and value marine wildlife, I wanted to do something to help and spread the message. At Turtle Lab, I never missed  a chance to educate the guests about no feeding and touching turtles through the conversation with them. Starting from July, apart from spreading the words, I started asking whoever I have talked with to fill in an online questionnaire survey of “Responsible Resort Snorkeling / Diving Activities”, which was initiated by Turtle Conservation Society (TCS).

The objectives of this survey are to:

  1. Determine how frequently snorkel / dive guides promote interactions with marine wildlife
  2. Gauge the tourists’ awareness on issues affecting our marine wildlife
  3. Highlight beach resorts that promote responsible snorkeling / diving activities.

Concerning about the issues of people touching or harassing marine wildlife and how these action can harm the marine wildlife, the data collected and analysed from the responses of the survey helps to better understand the level of public awareness towards the ethics and welfare of marine wildlife, to find solutions improving the current situation and to encourage responsible tourism practices in Malaysia.

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The survey was started on 5 July 2018 and ended on 31 August 2018.

 

To promote the online questionnaire survey of “Responsible Resort Snorkeling / Diving Activities” in a more efficient way, I emphasized on the issue of touching or feeding sea turtles and importance of conducting this survey at the briefing before turtle release event, where I could get the attention of many guests. The responses from the guests about the survey were quite positive, and some of the guests even concerned about the next step after data collection of the survey. This question took me to further step: writing an article on “Responsible snorkeling and diving activities in Malaysia’s ecotourism”. (This article hasn’t published yet but it is expected to be published in the magazine in June 2019.)

This article was written by two intern students of TCS (Rachel and Tyng Tyng) and me. We tirelessly worked on analysing the data, illustrating the data in figures (%), and putting the key points with a word limit of 1500. Pelf, co-founder and Executive Director of TCS also helped us in polishing the article and provided suggestions to enhance the article’s content. Within 2 and half months, we successfully completed the article and sent to the editor. Hopefully this article could make a great impact and the data was sufficient enough to create noise, ultimately drawing the public’s attention to look at this issue seriously and take action upon it.

While writing the article, I took another initiative to help sea turtles: conducting photographic identification (photo ID) as a citizen science project in Redang Island. This idea was “born” when I had a conversation with Seh Ling (a good friend of mine in conservation industry, and she is now my partner) about turtle feeding as well as the reactions of people in Redang Island and Perhentian Island towards turtle conservation. Seh Ling shared with me that photo ID has been conducting at plenty of islands and managed by different NGOs such as

  1. Perhentian Turtle Project (PTP) from Perhentian Island in Terengganu
  2. Lang Tengah Turtle Watch (LTTW) from Lang Tengah Island in Terengganu
  3. Juara Turtle Project (JTP) from Tioman Island in Pahang
  4. Tengah Island Conservation (TIC) from Tengah Island in Johor
  5. Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC) from Pom Pom Island in Sabah
  6. Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE) from Philippines
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So far I haven’t gotten a chance to take a photo of turtle for photo ID purpose. This photo was from database of Perhentian Turtle Project. What a nice photo!

 

However, photo ID is not practiced and inactive in Redang Island, except few undergraduate studies done by Sea Turtle Research Unit (SEATRU). Seh Ling proposed that Redang could join the photo ID network by submitting photos and information to the central data base with the other NGOs. Moreover, we both think that photo ID is not only a citizen science project that engages public in conservation and research, also helps to promote responsible, ethical and sustainable turtle tourism.

Due to lack of grant or funding to do this mini project, I suggested to look for someone who can contribute by designing a banner via our social media. After few days, I received three approaches from my friends, whereas one from Seh Ling’s side. After few rounds of discussion, Jenny was the designer of our photo ID banner! I really appreciate for Jenny’s offer to help and her hard work in making this banner possible.  She made an informative and reader-friendly banner. “Can I name a turtle” was a tagline created by Jenny for our banner! Isn’t this banner lovely?

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This banner was made for photo ID at Redang Island and it is also meant for educating the public on how to interact with turtles in an appropriate way. Therefore, guidelines to photograph sea turtles and information about turtle’s biology and threats are illustrated in the banner, in order to promote responsible, ethical and sustainable dive and snorkel practices around sea turtles. This banner will be distributed and put up at various resorts and dive centers throughout the island to reach out more people, encouraging more people on practicing a real ECOTOURISM!

 

Just like everyone else, I thought I have to be a scientist or biologist to save our nature and the precious species such as sea turtles. However, after getting involved in conservation, I realised that not only scientist or biologist can contribute, but everybody can be and should be part of this as this is our planet. Regardless of your background or expertise, you can play your own role and contribute with own strength. Conservation needs people with marketing background to enhance the NGO’s company profile, people with mass communication background could be the communicator or outreach coordinator, people who are good at writing could write articles to influence the readers, people who are IT pros could help to develop database and website or someone who is passionate on designing like Jenny is also much needed in this industry as most biologists or scientists are not good at Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop! We can be volunteers as manpower is always what a NGO lack of and students can apply for internship at NGOs. We practices go green in our daily lives by eliminating the single-use plastic straws, container and cutlery, supporting zero waste and doing plastic free grocery.

There are many more we could do to help our planet to be better, greener and healthier. If you are not sure how, ring me at lyvia.cks@gmail.com!

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This was my hand in this photo and the featured photo as well! My friend, Jon, who is from J&A production used to send me the photo but I lost it (it was in my water-damaged phone)!! I screenshot-ed from the video hahahaha. (Photo credit to Taaras Beach and Spa Resort, J&A Production)

 

NOTE: The words highlighted in orange will be the topic of next article. Stay tuned to find out more!

What turtle conservation has taught me

Disclaimer from author:

This article is not written to accuse anyone but it is meant for education and public awareness. Education starts with arising an issue, discussion, learning from lesson, accepting different perspectives and making a change in attitude. This article is supported with news, links, and photos and statement was made based on scientific knowledge on sea turtle’s biology.

 

Before stepping my feet into conservation, I have no idea what is really happening around us. I didn’t know how bad the plastic pollution is until I saw the marine debris accumulated at the bay and washed up to the shore. I wasn’t aware of how much plastic consumption, such as plastic straw, plastic bag, and plastic cutlery we used in daily lives until I am now haunted with plastic packaging when I just bought a bread from 7-11. I didn’t understand how tourism could affect the marine wildlife and the entire ecosystem until I get involve in tourism and environmental education. Since the day I choose my biotechnology as my bachelor degree, I know I want to do something for the environment, but I didn’t know how until I started my turtley amazing journey (you may refer to my previous article to understand how amazing it was). For this article, I would like to talk about one of the issues that was taught by turtle conservation, which hit my mind and touched my heart till this moment.

The first time I learnt about turtle feeding was when I heard from the tourists about their amazing experience of interacting with turtles in the water and how excited they were when touching and feeding the turtle for the first time in their life. They told me that the tour guide or operator provided them the squid to feed the turtles and some of them even made profit from selling squid to the tourists to feed the turtles. I am not surprised that many have no idea why we should not feed and touch the marine animals in the wild because feeding turtle, touching coral, picking up sea cucumber, star fish, removing clownfish from sea anemone etc. have become a norm during a snorkeling or diving package (Yes, it’s  something that always happen in front of our eyes and people see it as normal). Turtle viewing is definitely one of the famous tour packages offered by the operators. When there are people who are happy about the turtle viewing trip, of course there are people who came to me with frustration and complained what they saw. As a turtle biologist, I tell the happy tourists and angry tourists the same truth and fact: It is not good to feed or touch marine wildlife, including sea turtles.

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Feeding activity at Redang Island. (Photo from Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/RedangSnorkelingPackage/photos/pcb.447117725717257/447117662383930/?type=3&theater)
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Tourist was touching turtle. (Photo from my phone)

 

The reason of not having direct interaction (feeding or touching) is that this action is a form of harassment to the animals, which can negatively impact their animal behavior, physiology, and even their survival in the wild. Let’s look at an example, which is active turtle feeding activity at Teluk Dalam, Redang Island. Whoever used to join a snorkeling or diving trip to see turtles at Teluk Dalam or watched on a boat will realize the turtles at Teluk Dalam are very “friendly” and “playful” as they are not shy or afraid to approach humans and boats. Instead, they swim towards the boats and human, especially when they are attracted by the smell of squid and raw fish. The guides will normally enter the water together with the tourists and used squid to bait the turtle to come closer and surface, so that the tourists can have a close observation and physical interaction with the turtles. When the turtles surfaces and approaches, there are two types of reaction from the tourists:

(1) The tourists were extremely excited as it was the first time in their life to see a sea turtle at a very close distance. They may start touching or restraining it to take a selfie or close up photo.

(2) The tourists were frightened by the approaching huge turtle, especially when they were not good at swimming. They may start kicking and pushing the turtle around.

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A man was trying to catch the swimming turtle. (Photo from Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/RedangSnorkelingPackage/photos/pcb.447117725717257/447117639050599/?type=3&theater)
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Tourist was frightened and panic when turtles approached. (Photo from my phone)

 

Either way of reaction was not good for the turtles and even the tourists’ safety. So how is it not good to the turtles and us?

(1) Negatively impact the health of the turtles

Turtles foraging at Teluk Dalam are green sea turtles, Chelonia mydas. They are herbivores and their natural diet are seagrass, seaweed and algae. Feeding them with squid and raw fish which contain high protein content can cause obesity, stress to body organ, liver damage, and cardiovascular diseases (Stewart et al. 2016).

Reference: Stewart K., Norton T., Mohammed H., Browne D., Clements K., Thomas K., Yaw T., & Horrocks J. (2016). Effects of “swim with the turtles” tourist attractions on green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) health in Barbados, West Indies. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 52(2) Supplement 2016, Wildlife Disease Association 2016, S104–S117. doi: 10.7589/52.2S.S104

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Green sea turtle eats sea grass. (Screenshot photo from YouTube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBajUH6gs7U)

(2) Change their natural animal behavior

Turtles in the wild do not approach boats and human. They will swim away instead because they are sensitive to human presence. These “friendly” and “playful” turtles swim towards to boats when they heard of the propeller sound and approach human as they think there are food. In their effort to get food, they might bump into each other or hit by the boat propellers (Stewart et al. 2016). The turtles also sometimes become aggressive when irritated, and they respond by biting humans, which is possibly a sign of being stressed. In short, these turtles are not “friendly” and “playful”, but aggressive and probably stressed out. I encountered two tourists who got bitten by turtles and they were worried about the wound. They told me they are scared of turtles now as they never expect turtle could be this aggressive and bite human. I explained to them that turtles at Teluk Dalam behave differently from the turtles in the wild, as turtles normally swim away or stay a distance from human and do not take initiative to bite unless they are stressed and felt being threatened.

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Turtle carcass after being hit by boat propeller. (Photo from Perhentian Turtle Project, https://www.facebook.com/perhentianturtleproject/posts/2130276920587789?__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARB_N4KHqb8CJsVvi4FIWAmNe3mPGefRA2khHzA7SFI_M6Z48ioyuRub01EEsw3xEtnF3nzP7g-m3B1rZqHoTpqeexq42r9rzgJ0JP-ICSPKX2VVQ5vf0R4OggMBLvA7hjoGD5RZpxs0i8f94FKH5F-iiyF-wLSQbBvbAWCLpNJB4O8upCUROxo6cbIUsnPIN6j-9X3gMr1dIacCvbKVuESzJ6rKj_1cmDwUb9OFLEcwk56fJf3bUgbazOAOV3C_e2V4m15MHDctxXDrxrZc4nHXDxbKzdfvZBxA0tefLFLQydJBDz_QQjENHk11iqXXcusQ6sxdQZMP1C6LOvwu-zWBMP35X5pV17sZ_3lBwbU_uCfyKuT2U9HnKURhHXxLEhUDRf20l8uYqnFwL7W_KhfaV86vG-qnWynmMJZuj1aE5nEDJj_WOyOwNH6xZKgbUJs2YHk_t1ILvN5PSks5F_Cc7tQl2io5HDcGOv9_XwTqAeBL9Oki5pJbs975uj53swcRvDEjcBQT76QHFoCEk0rsYxlNjWxjyoSN2b8MgBo7Sh8IYxa_k3pbATBx9eq0jms1v5PB5zOI&__tn__=C-R)
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I didn’t get to take a photo of the turtle’s bite when the tourists came to me but this is how it looks like. Turtles do not have teeth but strong jaws and it was really painful when they bite. (Photo from https://sesl.com.au/blog/turtle-bites-woman/)

 

(3) Habituation of turtles to human

These “friendly” and “playful” turtles are usually less afraid of human and this exposes them to more potential threats and dangers, such as being caught by human for their flesh and shells. There was a news that people found turtle carcasses with their plastron (undershell) removed on shore. It is suspected that the plastron and meat of the endangered turtles were probably being sold for consumption or medicinal purposes.

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(4) Inappropriate demonstration on human interaction with marine wildlife leads to critical issues of animal ethics and welfare

A lot of news with photos and videos showing how human mistreated sea turtles have surfaced and gone viral in the social media. One of the most heartbreaking news that I have ever read in my life still trigger my anger till today. It was about an unnamed Vietnamese-speaking man riding the sea turtle and abusing it for fun while the turtle was struggling. Another news was about a kid on a boat riding a live turtle and the case happened in Sabah. There are a lot more unreported cases on how humans value and treat wildlife. This tells us that how urgent and important is that the world’s population needs a lot of  environmental education.

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See full video at YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDnySIdNJu4

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Turtle feeding might be a relatively small issue compared to the concern about trafficking, poaching, illegal trade of sea turtle parts, law and enforcement etc. However, turtle feeding is a starting point for the public to think it is okay to feed, it is okay to touch, it is okay to surround them, it is okay to do something that the turtles are not physically bled or suffered from the action of feeding or touching. The detrimental consequences will eventually lead to what happened in the news that I shared as above.

This article could sound really heavy to you, but this is the truth and reality on what is really happening around us. We cannot reverse the tragedy but we can always prevent it to happen again if everyone takes every single lesson serious enough.

Before it ends

Starting in October, the operation of the entire resort is slowing down as the monsoon season approaches. With the low occupancy rate of in-house guests, Turtle Lab is not as hectic as the previous months (Thanks God that we got through the crazy time in July, August and September!). This also means that I can finally take a break from work and have some leisure activities after work (it was too tired to even swim for the past few months!) It’s time to have FUN like everyone does in the island!

 

1. Body Surfing

I’ve missed few times of having this fun with my friends as I had hatchling release to hold after work. Finally, I got to try it and first try is always the exciting one! Balancing your body on the surf board is the first rule. As a beginner, I kept falling from the board due to imbalance and managed to do it after few attempts. Second step is to wait for the waves and surf! I had so much fun and of course, I got to spend a quality time with Izza, Mas and Lynn (the trainees).

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2. Catamaran Sailing

It was my first ride on catamaran. Thanks God it was a windy day but it would be more fun if the wind is stronger according to Mat Din (our captain of catamaran hahahaha). Meanwhile, the Moana’s songs keep playing in my mind (♫♪ See the line where the sky meets the sea It calls me ♫♪). Having a nap on the catamaran is definitely a good idea (I shall try next time)!

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3. ATV Riding

It was my first adventure with ATV too! I can’t ride a motorbike but ATV is really easy to control! Some unexpected incidents happened when we ventured into the forest. Balqis, Dira and I were trapped in the middle of the journey as Dira’s ATV was out of battery and I accidentally “crashed” into a tree when I was recording a video with my phone. The most exciting moment was racing on the beach!

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4. Yoga Session

I never knew that I can sweat that much when doing yoga. I was totally exhausting after 1 hour of yoga session. The yoga room was located on top of the hill, so the sea view was superb! I especially like the session where I was asked to relax my mind and entire body for almost 15 minutes to have a peace of mind which I needed the most! I learned few yoga pose and it was funny at the beginning as I always lost my balance.

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5. Beach Photoshoot

As I work in the daytime and leave work in the evening (sometimes the night falls when I leave the resort), I barely get a chance to take photo under the hot sun and clear sky. Besides that, the sky was always gloomy due to the pouring rain as the monsoon season is around the corner. On the last day of the trainees (Izza, Mas and Lynn) staying at Redang Island upon completion of internship, we head out to take BEACH photos! I got some good shots!

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6. Advanced Open Water Course!

This was absolutely unexpected plan for this year!! I am now a Advanced Open Water Diver! I shall share this in the next article, stay tune!

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7. Taaras Staff Appreciation Night a.k.a Staff Party

Although we are not Taaras’s employees, but we were invited to the party to join the fun. As the theme of the appreciation night was cultural night, I wore a baju kebaya (I seriously think that I look like a teacher in baju kebaya!) The food was good, performance was really entertaining (Especially the fashion show!!) and I took a lot of photos with the Sport & Recreation friends. The prizes of lucky draw were surprisingly awesome and Along (my best friend at Redang) won a 3D2N stay in Berjaya Langkawi Resort! The night was ended with a drink at Juki Restaurant with Along.

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8. Beach Volleyball Tournament 

It was also my FIRST TIME playing in a game. As Sport and Recreation team lack of girl player, I had no choice but joined them to make up the numbers. Our team played really well and I got to hit the ball for few times even though it didn’t pass the net (I’m not a good player!) My team was supportive enough and gave me encouragement in the game! What impressed me the most was to see how everybody played his own role and had each other back (They covered my well enough and I could’t ask for more). Lastly, we won the game!

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In the blink of an eyes, it’s my last month of working in Turtle Lab, living on an island, and having a life away from city. We always realize how fast time flies only when we need to say goodbye. It feels like everything has just happened yesterday, which I can even taste the tears when I cried to Jason about my worries on the night before I left the mainland. It wasn’t easy at all at the beginning and I’m really glad that I survived through those pain and harsh moments. It left with not more than 2 weeks and I knew this is going to be another hardest goodbye in my life.

 

NOTE: This is throwback post that should be posted in October, 2018. NO MORE DELAY LYVIA!

Planting the seeds of protecting nature

“Teacher” was never in my ambition list since I was young as I don’t like teaching and I was always impatient when teaching. However, I was educating people almost every single day when I started working in sea turtle conservation, especially working at Turtle Lab.

Sharing knowledge about turtles with the in-house guests occupied 70% of my working hour. I learnt how to spark someone’s interest and curiosity to know more about turtles, to engage them in conversation about conservation, and to educate them why we are responsible in protecting the environment and the animals residing on this planet. I then realised how important public education is because this is how we reach out, create awareness, and impact the others to make a step forward. A strong passion for sharing knowledge and involving in education has grown further since I met Taha.

I met Taha, a teacher from SOLS 24/7,  who works as a community center manager during a ferry trip from Kuala Terengganu to Redang Island. Through the conversation, we got to know that both of us were actually working at the same place and we started to talk about our job, Redang Island, and everything. He was teaching the Taaras’s staff and local kids (children at Redang Island) for English and Communication, meanwhile I was working at Turtle Lab. Knowing that how much I love turtles and sharing about turtles, Taha invited me to his class to share with kids. I was very happy for his invitation and said yes without hesitation!

I was really excited for the class as I never get a chance to hold a sharing session with the kids. To have a more interesting and interactive sharing with the kids, I prepared some slides for the class. As the local kids are not very fluently in English but it was a English class, the sharing session was bilingual, which I taught in Malay and English. Here are some of the slides that I created for the class:

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Besides introducing turtle and its biology, I also took the opportunity to tell the kids how we can save turtles by omitting some of our habits in daily lives, with simple but impactful steps!

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The class was unexpectedly smooth with the full attention and participation by the kids. They were keen to learn and stay with me for almost an hour. According to Taha, it is really hard to make children to stay focus for such a long period!

Overall, it was a great experience and I think this will not be the last time to teach 😉

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NOTE: This post supposed to be posted in October, 2018. I’ve just realised that this post was left in the draft box and haven’t published yet. It is a throwback and more throwbacks as I have more in the draft box so stay tune!!

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