Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Eco Kids Column: Quick and Easy Watermelon Piñata

By Wong Ee Lynn
The New Year has just begun, and that means a whole year’s worth of parties and celebrations lies ahead of us!
Piñatas are treat-filled papier-mâché or clay shells believed to originate from Europe, but are often associated with Mexico. They were made immensely popular by the USA, and have now become a common sight around the world, including in Malaysia, where children wait eagerly for their turn to strike at and break piñatas at parties.
Piñatas can be expensive to buy, and time-consuming to make.
Here is a quick and easy version of a homemade piñata that uses paper bags and other items found around the home, and wastes far less paper than the traditional cardboard and papier-mâché ones.

1.      A large, sturdy paper bag. You may need to make a few strategic slits in the bag to make it break more easily so that your party guests will not be kept slugging away at the indestructible piñata for hours, like ours had to.
2.      Crepe paper or coloured paper in different colours. We used red, white and green crepe paper left over from another art project, as we wanted to create a watermelon piñata.
3.      A scrap of black construction paper.
4.      Adhesive tape.
5.      Scissors.
6.      Instead of cheap, junky plastic piñata fillers, stuff it with things your guests can use. 

We filled ours with card games, stickers, erasers, pencils, small comic/picture books, sweets, boxes of raisins and packets of roasted seeds and nuts.    

Step 1: While the crepe paper is still folded, cut it into strips. We used a ruler to draw lines on ours to ensure that they are all of uniform width.

Step 2: Cut slits into each strip of folded crepe paper, but do not cut all the way through or you will end up with a pile of little squares that will take you weeks to stick onto your piñata. Make it look like the teeth of a comb – the long ‘spine’ still holds all the ‘teeth’ together.

Step 3: Unfold / unravel the crepe paper strips very, very slowly and carefully, as it will tear easily. Don’t worry, you will get better at it with each strip. Use adhesive tape to stick the strips of the crepe paper to the paper bag. Adhesive tape sticks to the surface of paper bags better than glue. Also, you will not have to wait for glue to dry. Start from the bottom of the bag, and stick each strip of crepe paper slightly overlapping the previous strip. Think of how roof tiles/shingles are laid – Each row slightly overlaps the row beneath it.

Step 4: We taped 3 rows of green paper to the lowest part of the bag to form the watermelon ‘outer skin’, one row of white paper as the ‘rind’, and covered the rest in red so that it would resemble a ripe, juicy, rectangular slice of watermelon. Cover the entire piñata in crepe paper strips, including the bottom. Fill up any gaps with smaller strips of crepe paper to hide the paper bag.

Step 5: Cut out a bunch of tear-shaped watermelon ‘seeds’ out of black construction paper. Use adhesive tape to stick these ‘seeds’ to the slice of watermelon in a semi-circle or curve, just as you see in watermelons in real life.

Step 6: Fill up the paper bag and seal the mouth of the paper bag. The handles of the paper bag can be tied around a long pole (if the piñata is to be held by one or two persons) or suspended from a string from the ceiling or a tree branch.
There are so many designs you can create with a cuboid paper bag. It doesn’t have to be a watermelon slice. You can make it your favourite colour and add your initials in a contrasting colour. You can make a rainbow piñata, a flag piñata, a stripy piñata, a patchwork quilt of scrap coloured paper, or an ombre piñata in your favourite colour starting with the lightest shade to the darkest. You could try covering your piñata in blue crepe paper ruffles and add fish and marine creatures cut out of bright-coloured construction paper, or cover it in black paper and add stars and planets and rockets. Or you might want to turn it into a big, silver cuboid robot.
If you wish to go the extra mile in not wasting paper and resources, you could collect a bunch of old catalogues and magazines and cut out the coloured portions and sort them into piles according to colour before pasting them on your piñata.  
If you are filling a piñata for adults or for a mixed family crowd, you could add eco-friendly gifts such as reusable shopping bags and cotton handkerchiefs and fun things such as brain teasers, mini puzzles, decks of cards, coins, snacks and leftover travel/event souvenirs such as key chains, stress balls and mobile phone pouches. Do NOT add anything liquid, such as small bottles of body wash, perfume or soap bubble solution, or pudding and jelly cups, as the bottles or cups may break when hit and the liquid will soak all the other piñata contents. If you are adding snacks and sweets, do not add soap, candles or anything strongly-scented, or your guests may end up with chips and sweets that smell and taste of soap. 

Remember to provide your guests with used envelopes or paper bags to store their piñata loot in. We forgot to provide our guests with bags and they carried their goodies home in their pockets and inside their shirts.
Use your imagination and find ways to throw a great party without generating too much waste!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Beginner's Guide To A Plant-Based Diet


By Wong Ee Lynn
(wongeelynn@yahoo.com / gl.mnselangor@yahoo.com)

Former California Governor and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger recently made waves in the news when he urged people to try to go meat-free once or twice a week for the sake of the environment. Recognising that many people would find it challenging to go fully vegetarian, he wisely pointed out that "People will buy in to stop eating meat one or two days a week - you have to start slowly. It's a very big challenge but it doesn't mean it shouldn't be done."

The factory farming industry has a very large carbon footprint. Producing 1kg of meat protein is calculated to take between 3 and 10kg of vegetable protein.

Emissions from farming, forestry and fisheries have nearly doubled over the past 50 years and may increase by another 30% by 2050, according to the United Nations.

Most of the emissions from meat farming come from belching livestock and nitrogen fertilisers.

People go vegetarian and vegan for many reasons -- religious, health, environmental and ethical -- and all these reasons are commendable. Whether you are a full-time vegan or vegetarian or someone trying to reduce his or her meat intake, all efforts to eat fewer animal products should be encouraged and applauded. No effort is too small or negligible. We may not volunteer for environmental organisations, clean up oceans, plant trees, or save endangered wildlife every day, BUT we do eat every day, and therefore even small changes to our diet will make a large difference over time.

Here are ways to gradually reduce your intake of meat and animal products and transition to a plant-based diet, tried and tested by the vegetarian subcommittee members of the Green Living Special Interest Group:

1. Identify good reasons for going vegetarian or reducing meat consumption. If  your goal is to impress somebody you like or just to reduce enough weight for a special occasion, you might not stick with the goal for long. To remind yourself of your reasons and goals, it may be helpful to visit websites such as Mercy for Animals (http://www.mercyforanimals.org/), Humane Society International (http://hsi.org/), and One Green Planet (http://www.onegreenplanet.org/) or watch documentaries such as Earthlings to educate, empower and motivate yourself. Be forewarned, though, that the graphic images in some of these documentaries can evoke strong emotions.

2. Start small. Meatless Monday is an easy, painless way to start. Increase it to two days a week, and then increase it until you can be a Weekday Vegetarian. When you are ready, transition into a full time vegetarian and finally, into a vegan.

3. Start by eating lower on the food chain. "First, four legs, then two legs, then no legs" is a good way to start. What it means is that you start by eliminating beef, mutton, pork and venison from your diet, and once you are able to do this, move on to eliminating poultry, and finally, eliminate seafood, fish, eggs and dairy from your diet.

4. Mark 'cheat days', for example, parties and holiday dinners, into your calendar so that you will not feel deprived if you are accustomed to enjoying meat. Make a conscious effort to go vegetarian on all the other days leading up to the 'cheat days'. Allowing yourself 'cheat days' makes the transition easier. Over time, you will find that your body no longer craves meat or animal products and you can go without 'cheat days'. Don't feel guilty about relapses or occasional cravings. You need to feel positive, confident and joyful about the decision you are making to eat less meat for the environment and animals, and guilt and negativity are unproductive. If you do relapse, just get back into the groove of meatless meals as soon as you can.

5. Keep healthy, satisfying vegetarian snacks and ready-to-eat meals at home and at work so that you will not be tempted to relapse. Many people believe that vegetarian foods are not filling or nutritious, because they tend to choose processed food filled with carbohydrates and sodium or sugar, or fruits and vegetables without a protein component to fill an empty belly. Have a variety of sweet and savoury snacks at hand, for example, nuts, hummus, high-fibre crackers, roast soybeans, air-dried noodles, vegetable soup stock, frozen vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, carrot and celery sticks, and peanut butter and other spreads. 

6. Prepare vegetarian food to bring to parties and gatherings so that you will have something meatless to eat. It is also a good way to introduce others to vegetarian food. Chances are, there will be at least one other vegetarian there. Don't be afraid to make the same dish for every gathering if it very popular the first time around.

7. Identify good sources of vegetarian protein, calcium and iron that do not involve supplements, powdered shakes, and mock meat. Reduce the consumption of processed foods and mock meat, as the latter is filled with sodium and empty calories. Hummus, chickpeas and edamame beans are rich in protein. Kale, alfalfa, spinach, broccoli, beetroot and kailan are rich in calcium and iron. Find something you like and don't be afraid to eat it often, as it is preferable to making something you hate and having to throw the leftovers out.

8. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to get your minimum of five-a-day. Use sauces, dressings and other hacks to train yourself to like fruits and vegetables you would not usually eat. Grind or chop up vegetables to add to pasta sauce or soup. Blend beetroot or kale with chickpeas to make delicious and addictive hummus spreads. Add vegetables to smoothies and disguise their flavour with lots of fruits (e.g. carrots with oranges, beetroot with strawberries). I have also found that hardly anyone would turn down a colourful and vitamin-laden salad if you chop everything up finely and dress the salad with sesame dressing for an Oriental-style salad, or with salsa and corn chips for a Southwestern taco salad. 

9. Visit websites such as Happy Cow (www.happycow.net/) or download apps such as Kindmeal.my (http://www.kindmeal.my/) to make the search for vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants easier. Set yourself goals such as to try a new restaurant or a new food each week.

10. Visit websites such as Vegan Richa (www.veganricha.com/) and One Green Planet (http://www.onegreenplanet.org/) for easy vegetarian and vegan recipes. Don't be afraid to try new foods and recipes, and at the same time, don't be afraid to keep repeating a handful of recipes that you do like. Keep a few staples in your pantry and stock your refrigerator so that you do not run out of fresh produce and vegetarian ingredients.

11. If you are just starting out as a vegetarian and want to try a meatless meal, go for vegan versions of your favourite meals, e.g. lasagna, pizza or curry. This will increase the chances of you liking the vegan version, and there will always be a go-to dish you can rely on when faced with a menu full of things you are uncertain about.

12. Don't expect substitutes to taste like meat. They usually don't. Mushrooms will taste like mushrooms and chickpeas will taste like chickpeas. If you expect any different, you might develop the impression that a particular meatless dish tastes 'weird', 'fake' or 'inferior to meat'.

13. People often claim that vegetarian meals are unhealthy and expensive. They are not. Going vegetarian isn't unhealthy -- eating mock meat and processed food is. Vegetables and fruits aren't more expensive than meat, even if you are buying mostly organic -- but eating out in restaurants all the time or buying imported and processed foods (especially substitutes such as vegan cheese and almond milk) can be! Make wise choices according to your budget and nutritional needs.

14. Make your meals attractive so that you will look forward to eating them. A bento box filled with colourful sliced vegetables and neat sandwiches is easy and inexpensive to prepare and pack, and fun and convenient to eat.
15. Find other ways to green your meals. Buy local, seasonal and organic whenever possible. Choose products with the least plastic and packaging. Go for fresh or frozen instead of processed foods. Choose products with no vegetable oils that are linked to deforestation and environmental destruction.

16. Be a joyful vegetarian. Prepare and eat meals that make you feel good. Don't isolate your friends who are not vegetarian. Don't preach or brag about your choice to go vegetarian or shame others for what they choose to eat. Join friends for meals out and parties, but choose the vegetarian option or bring a dish you can eat, so that you will not feel left out. Most restaurants have at least a few vegetarian options, or are happy to customise a dish for you. Be positive and optimistic, for many others like you are also making a conscious effort to consume sustainably, responsibly and compassionately!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Letter to the Editor: Get Serious Against Turtle Egg Consumption

At least once a year, volunteers from the Malaysian Nature Society assist local turtle conservation and management centres by cleaning up the premises, sprucing up turtle quarantine ponds and hatcheries, carrying out beach clean-ups and releasing turtle hatchlings. Our volunteers include children as young as two, in the hope that our efforts will go a little way towards ensuring the continued survival of these amazing and gentle marine animals. A lot of resources have gone into educating the local communities on the need to protect turtle populations, and discouraging littering, poaching and turtle egg consumption.
And this is what makes the incident in which Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Beluran UMNO Division Chief Datuk James Ratib were photographed dining at a restaurant in which large quantities of turtle eggs were served all the more disheartening and disappointing. More dispiriting still are the excuses made expressing ignorance, firstly of what type of eggs were on the table, next, of the menu and the decision to serve turtle eggs, and then, of the law prohibiting the sale and consumption of turtle eggs in the state of Sabah. At no point did the Minister express regret or outrage that the turtle eggs were served, or support for conservation laws protecting endangered species such as turtles. The Minister’s dismissive responses and claim of ignorance of the law further reflect poorly on the mindset of those in a decision-making capacity in relation to issues of environmental and wildlife conservation and animal protection.
As a Minister with such an important portfolio, his plea of ignorance – that he was not aware of what eggs they were, that he did not know turtle eggs would be served, and that he was not aware it was illegal to sell and consume turtle eggs – is unacceptable. Not only is it clear from the photographic evidence that the Minister did not object to the fact that turtle eggs were served and consumed, it is also a matter of concern that he repeatedly attempted to deflect blame, first to the organisers of the event, then to the restaurateur, and most recently to unknown and unnamed “outsiders” without acknowledging that a wildlife crime had been committed, that he had been a party to it whether intentionally or otherwise, and that he has a duty to cooperate with the authorities and wildlife NGOs to ensure that action is taken against those responsible for the offence. Whether or not the Minister had himself consumed the turtle eggs due to his claim of high cholesterol levels is less important than the fact that he had witnessed a wildlife offence and did not feel that it was his responsibility to address or stop it. Malaysian citizens do not need to know if a Minister has high cholesterol levels. We do, however, need to know that when an elected representative witnesses a crime, he or she is willing to call out the guilty parties, stop the crime, prevent a reoccurrence and do whatever it is within his or her power to ensure laws are enforced expeditiously and fairly.
Malaysia already has a reputation, internationally, as a hub for wildlife trafficking, trade and exploitation.  Marine pollution, coastal development and erosion, destructive fishing methods, deliberate poaching and turtle egg consumption have all contributed to a drastic decline in turtle populations. According to WWF Malaysia, leatherback turtle populations have declined by more than 99% and Olive Ridley turtles by more than 95%, while Hawksbill and Green turtle populations have decreased since the 1970s and only recently appeared to have stabilised in certain states thanks to concerted conservation, education, awareness and enforcement efforts. Even with the best of intervention measures, turtle survival rates remain low, with only an estimated one in a thousand hatchlings surviving to maturity and breeding age.
I believe I speak for all concerned citizens when I urge that the state wildlife authorities investigate this matter thoroughly, that all elected representatives take a firm stance against the exploitation of and trade in wildlife and endangered species, including but not limited to the consumption of turtle eggs, and that the sale and consumption of turtle eggs be removed from state jurisdiction and be made a Federal offence.
The matter at hand is not a political one. The offence is not less heinous or more easily condoned had it been associated with someone linked with another political party, or individuals with no political affiliations at all. The trade in and exploitation of endangered species and the destruction of Malaysia’s natural heritage should be the concern of all rational and responsible human beings as denizens of the planet, and not merely the concern of ‘environmental organisations’ and ‘conservation groups’.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Holiday Gift Exchange Alternatives

By Wong Ee Lynn
(wongeelynn@yahoo.com / gl.mnselangor@yahoo.com)
The end of the year is approaching, and with it comes Christmas, End-of-Year and New Year parties and family reunions. It is great to be able to spend time with family and friends, but having to buy gifts for everyone is rough on the pocket and the environment! Too often, we end up buying cheap trinkets because we have run out of money and ideas. This year, instead of buying more unnecessary gifts that will end up in landfills, do consider some of these alternatives to the traditional holiday gift exchange:

Whether it's to provide Orang Asli families with Nokero solar light bulbs (https://www.facebook.com/ProjectLightAHome/) or to raise funds for the endangered sun bear (www.bsbcc.org.my/), announce your chosen cause ahead of time, put up posters and buntings explaining your cause, and put out a decorated money tin or jar to collect contributions for your chosen cause. Each guest anonymously contributes what she or he can afford to. To make things for fun, organise one or two themed games such as a solar lamp treasure hunt in the dark or Pin-The-Yellow-Bib-On-The-Sun-Bear's-Chest.
Instead of making waste, make memories! Gather supplies and get your guests to sit down for an after-meal session of repairing and covering books for a community library, writing postcards to senior citizens or children in hospitals, turning old t-shirts and cardboard tubes into toys for shelter animals, sorting clothes and toiletries for the homeless, collecting and packing food for the underprivileged, baking pet treats for an animal shelter, making bird feeders or making a meal for the homeless and underprivileged. If you live near a park or forested area, have an after-meal walk and give out garbage bags and cotton gardening gloves to get your guests to help clean up the area. Planting trees and edible plants to provide food for birds and wildlife would be a good idea as well. Some guests might find this initially less exciting than receiving a wrapped gift, but they will change their minds once they look back on the photos in months to come, and think of the positive difference they made.
Inform your guests in advance what supplies you wish them to purchase, or what equipment (baking trays, rolling pins, scissors) you want them to bring. Ensure you have all the items, equipment and instructions you need. Guests then work together to make crafts for each other, and extras can go to charity. You can bake cakes and cookies or make sweets and jellies, and if crafting, you can make soaps, rainbow crayons, Perler/Pyssla bead ornaments, handmade cards, bracelets, lanyard keychains and other items to give to each other, sell to raise funds for charity, or give as gifts to women and children in shelter homes.
Each guest should bring 1-2 books that are in good condition. School books, text books, magazines, anything outdated, and colouring/activity books that have been used/scribbled in, and diaries/notebooks are ineligible for the book exchange. The books should ideally be story books or non-fiction books that you have yourself enjoyed and are ready to pass on to someone else. At the end of the party, each guest chooses a book to bring home, and as such will have reading material that is new to him or her. Books that are not taken at the end of the day can be donated to a community library.
Do you know the names of the cleaners, security guards, librarians, gardeners and cooks at your school, apartment or neighbourhood? What about the postmen, road sweepers, rubbish collectors, and people who cut the grass and unclog the drains? Often they live far from their families and work hard for very little pay, doing work that no-one else wants to do. Inform your guests that you will be making gifts for these special and hardworking individuals. They can also add other worthy recipients to the list. Each guest brings a little something -- snacks, baked goods, fruits, toiletries and practical or fun items, and adds them to bags for each recipient. Go out and deliver your gifts together to your chosen recipients and wish them a happy holiday.
If your gift exchange is traditionally restricted to family, you might want to consider giving your loved ones a gift of time by offering to do certain chores for them, e.g. walking and bathing the family dog, cleaning the cat litter trays for a week, cleaning the interior and exterior of the family car, spring cleaning the storeroom, babysitting a younger sibling or packing school lunches for a younger sibling. Again, while this might not seem as exciting as receiving a wrapped gift, your acts of kindness and service can be of immense help to a loved one during a busy and stressful holiday period and will be more deeply appreciated than another plastic trinket or coffee mug.
If you and your friends enjoy baking, hold a cookie/baked treats exchange where you each bake a large tray of goodies and then trade with your friends so that each one goes home with a variety of treats. If baking is not your thing, have a snack exchange where you bring your favourite snack and attach a note to it informing others why you like this treat (e.g. it is a traditional snack from your hometown, or eating it reminds you of a beloved aunt or cousin) At the end of the party, each guest brings home someone else's favourite snack. It is a good way of learning more about a friend and the things he or she likes. Although some snacks may come in plastic packaging, a snack as a gift is still less wasteful than a plastic trinket.
If you are able to give your guests at least 2-3 weeks' notice of your party, get everyone to grow something in a pot, either from seed or clippings. On the day of the party, exchange your plants so you will each have something new to green your home with. Be aware, though, that some plants can be harmful to pets and young children, so do look it up online to ensure that your chosen plant is safe to be given away. Mint, pandan, lemongrass, spider plants, orchids, ferns, air plants, jade plants and most succulents are all reported to be safe for pets and young children.
Instead of a store-bought gift, give your friends the gift of love and validation. For each guest, you need a pen and a thick sheet of colourful construction paper. You can cut the construction paper into shapes of trees or stars for a more festive touch. Use double-sided tape to stick the construction paper to the back of each guest. Guests go around writing nice things on each other's construction papers, either noting someone's good qualities (e.g. "You are generous with your colour pencils") or thanking them for specific kind gestures (e.g. "Thank you for being my first friend when I moved to this school"). At the end of the game, guests carefully peel their cards off their backs and read all the nice things written about them. This can be a very empowering and encouraging game to play, especially in a classroom environment. This is a gift most people would love to look at over and over again, especially when they are feeling blue.
Spending time with and on your loved ones is far more meaningful than spending money. It is sad to see gift recipients shutting themselves up in their rooms with their new electronic gadgets, isolating themselves from the rest of the family, on a day when you should all be connecting with one another. Instead of material gifts, organise an experience gift for your family or a group of your best friends. Paddleboarding, parasailing, ice skating, laser tag, paintball and concerts are all fantastic experience gifts if you can afford it, but if you can't, you can always go camping, jungle trekking, birdwatching, stargazing and volunteering. If the Great Outdoors isn't your thing, have a challenge where you and your friends go on a day-long LRT/bus ride to photograph yourselves at a predetermined list of 50 famous landmarks. Material gifts can increase isolation and resentment (i.e. from not getting what one had asked for, or from comparing gifts with those received by others) but spending time together will bring you closer together. 
Have an environmentally-responsible holiday season and a very Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Letter to the Editor: Shark Fishing Neither Accidental Nor Negligible


It is with incredulity that Malaysians responded to the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Dato’ Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek’s statements that there was no necessity for a ban on shark finning in Malaysia as it is not a domestic industry, and that sharks were not caught on purpose (Oct6).
This flies in the face of statistics supplied by wildlife conservation organization, TRAFFIC, which reports that Malaysia has the eight highest rate of shark catch in the world, with 231,212 tons caught from 2002 until 2011. For an ‘industry that doesn’t exist’, this number is alarmingly high.
For an ‘industry that doesn’t exist’ in Malaysia, finding sharks and shark fins being sold openly also seems to be a worryingly common sight. In fact, a feature story in The Star in Oct 2014 even tries to pass off the sale of a juvenile shark as ‘ecotourism’.
To conclude that there is no need for a ban on shark finning because ‘sharks are not caught on purpose’ shows a grave lack of awareness on the Minister’s part on environmental issues in Malaysia. Once this excuse is made on behalf of poachers and fishermen, there will be no shortage of individuals catching endangered species for profit and consumption and claiming that sharks, turtles and other protected species were accidental by-catch.
There is also no logic to the argument that there should not be a ban or restriction on a destructive activity simply because it was unintentional. Whether the sharks were caught by fishermen on purpose does not detract from the fact that shark populations in Malaysia are under threat.
A 2014 study published in conservation journal eLife reports that 25% of all shark species are under threat of extinction. Blacktip reef sharks and spot-tail sharks, found in Malaysia and frequently sold and consumed, are listed as near-threatened on the IUCN Red List.
Despite being portrayed in popular culture as merciless killers, sharks actually have a vital role to play in the marine ecosystem as top predators at the pinnacle of the marine food pyramid. As sharks usually hunt old, weak or sick prey, they help to keep the prey population healthy and strong, enabling these more naturally fit animals to reproduce and pass on their genes. Sharks also trim down many populations of marine animals to the right size, and therefore mitigate the harm these species cause to the marine ecosystem through overpopulation. Sharks regulate the behaviour of prey species, and prevent them from over-grazing vital habitats.  The effects of removing sharks from ocean ecosystems, although complex and rather unpredictable, are very likely to be ecologically and economically damaging.

Sharks are an incredibly fragile 'keystone species', partly due to the fact that sharks are slow-growing animals that mature late, live long, and have a low reproduction rate. The depletion of shark populations may cause the entire marine food web to collapse, resulting in the loss of commercially important fish and shellfish species as well.

It is clear to anyone from the high rates of shark fishing in Malaysia that sharks are a targeted and not accidental catch, and that there is a market in Malaysia for shark meat and shark fins. A ban on shark fishing would therefore go a long way towards protecting shark populations. From a human health point of view, heavy metals and other environmental toxins accumulate in plant and animal tissues through the well-documented process of bioaccumulation. Sharks are prone to bioaccumulation through diet, as they incorporate metals very efficiently and eliminate them slowly. Eating shark meat exposes the consumer to these potentially dangerous toxins, in particular, high levels of the methyl mercury. While a certain amount of mercury in the environment is natural, growing worldwide pollution of our oceans is increasing the risk of high mercury levels in the fish we eat, particularly fish at the top of the food chain like sharks. Consuming sharks will increase the level of mercury one ingests, which will in turn increase one's risk of neurological disorders, coronary heart disease and other serious health issues.
It is critical that there is legislation to monitor fishing vessels and their fishing methods to prevent overfishing, and to ban shark fishing and enforce penalties for the capture of and trade in sharks. Apart from targeted fishing, sharks are also threatened by pollution and habitat destruction. As such, marine protected areas must be established to protect marine ecosystems and habitats to mitigate the effects of pollution and habitat loss to shark populations.
As a concerned citizen, I hope that our ministers will demonstrate clear thinking and good judgement in addressing environmental and other issues, and work together with credible advocacy groups, including conservation organisations, to obtain verifiable data and information that will assist them in making the best decisions for the country.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Green Living's Annual Turtle Volunteer Programme 2015

The following is a pictorial report of MNS Green Living's visit-and-volunteer session at the Turtle Conservation and Information Centre in Pengkalan Balak, Melaka. If you are a participant of the said programme, please feel free to save, copy and reuse any photo you like. If you wish to have any of the photos removed or hidden for privacy/confidentiality reasons, please contact the admin of this blog to have the photo removed.
Briefing session in the exhibition room/gallery:
Our very excited and noisy kids attempting to help sell merchandise. Apologies to the researchers trying to listen to a talk in the auditorium!
Cleaning the first turtle holding pond and gently cleaning algae off the carapace of the quarantine turtles:
Cleaning the second turtle holding pond:
"Look at me, I'm a pinecone! I'm just a small floating pinecone!"
(Note: These hatchlings were found by the fishermen and local folk and brought in to the Centre. They will be released at a safe time and place at the earliest opportunity).
Video session in the auditorium:
Cleaning up the hatchery and pulling out weeds:



Beach cleanup session:
Turtle hatchling release session:
Many thanks to all our participants and volunteers for your contribution, hard work and support.
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: https://www.facebook.com/#!/hawksbill.ecoclub.3