Thursday, October 10, 2013

Green Living Turtle Volunteer Programme 2013

Volunteering has always been a critical component of Green Living. Volunteering enables us to put our skills and knowledge into practice, and to acquire more knowledge, awareness and experience in the process. Volunteering is an essential part of walking the talk about environmental responsibility, and also opens up our eyes to the problems we encounter in trying to implement solutions to environmental issues.

The Green Living SIG chose to organise a volunteer programme on 28th September 2013 at the Turtle Conservation and Information Centre operated by the Department of Fisheries in Pantai Pengkalan Balak, Masjid Tanah, Melaka as it does not receive as much volunteer help and positive publicity as some of the other turtle sanctuaries and hatcheries in Malaysia.

30 MNS members registered for the programme to learn more about turtle conservation issues in Malaysia and help with the upkeep of the Centre. Participants also made a financial contribution of RM25 each, which would be used by the Centre in its turtle egg buyback programme.

The first order of the day after the screening of a short video and educational slideshow was to clean the manmade turtle pond within the compound of the Centre, which held 3 hawksbill turtles and a green turtle for research and rehabilitation purposes. The turtles would be released into the sea once determined fit for release by the marine biologists.

The pond was filled with algae as it was filled with filtered seawater, and the turtles had dirt and algae on their carapace due to the stagnant water. The volunteers got down to work scrubbing the tiles with steel wool and scouring pads.

When this was completed, the turtles also received a bath. The young volunteers were very careful not to hurt the turtles or unduly stress them out.
(Photo credits: Steven Lim)

Once the pond and turtles were sufficiently clean, filtered seawater was pumped into the pond. The look of relief on the turtles' faces was palpable. "Yay, no more feet in our pond!" the turtles seemed to say.

After a short break, the volunteers proceeded to carry out a beach cleanup, which saw boxes and bags of rubbish being removed from the beach in front of the Centre. It was clear from the rubbish collected that the waste came from the local residents, food stalls and picnickers. It is hoped that more rubbish receptacles are put up around the beach to encourage people to dispose of their rubbish properly, and measures are taken to enforce this.

We regrouped at the Centre to help the staff clean up the turtle hatchery where the nests are. The volunteers used rakes and brooms to sweep up dry leaves and litter.

The young volunteers found the time to climb a lovely old tree in the hatchery compound after the cleaning duties were completed. We can think of no better way of spending a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Two tiny turtle hatchlings were released into the sea by the staff of the Centre around 6.45 p.m.
(Photo credits: Wan Sze)

4 of us who remained at the Centre until 9pm had the good fortune to witness a group of researchers weighing, measuring and releasing a batch of turtle hatchlings that had just hatched at the Kem Terendak beach.

Green Living would like to thank the participants of the Turtle Volunteer Programme for their helpfulness, generosity and willingness to accommodate imperfections in the said Programme.

To find out more about the Turtle Conservation and Information Centre, contact them at the numbers and address provided below:

Pusat Konservasi dan Penerangan Penyu 
Turtle Conservation and Information Centre
Pantai Padang Kemunting,
Masjid Tanah,
Pengkalan Balak,
Phone/Fax: 06 384 6754
Facebook Profile:!/hawksbill.ecoclub.3