As urban dwellers we often forget that we are so close to the incredible flora and fauna of Malaysia – something that most people experience only through books and nature documentaries. Environmental consciousness and conservation are a lot easier to grasp if you have actually seen the natural habitats – and sometimes the inhabitants as well – and I keep on reminding myself to make an effort to provide the kids with these nature encounters. Here are some of the interesting nature conservation initiatives and campaigns that you can be part of, some of them suitable for kids and youth, too.
MYCAT Tiger walks
Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) is a multi-party effort to save the Malayan tiger. Their flagship volunteering programme Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT) brings volunteers on guided hikes – CAT Walks – to protect wildlife from poaching at the Sungai Yu Wildlife Corridor in Merapoh, Pahang, about four hours away from KL. Volunteers look out for signs of poachers, snares, as well as tigers, elephants, sambar deer and other wildlife. Snares and traps found are recorded, deactivated and reported to the authorities. CAT Walkers also get to check camera traps to monitor wildlife in the area. Walks are usually conducted over a weekend, and volunteers need to travel to Merapoh by Friday night. Led by a trained leader, and sometimes accompanied by a Batek Orang Asli guide, CAT Walkers go on a full day hike on Saturday, and a shorter hike on Sunday. Hikes in the hot and humid rainforest often end with a nice dip in cool, clear rivers. Check their Facebook page on updates about the next CAT walk. The age limit for the walks is 18.
Adopt a tiger through WWF
WWF runs their own tiger conservation programme, where you can choose to become a monthly donor or do a one-off donation and receive a goody bag in return.
Raptor Watch and other activities with MNS
Different branches of Malaysia Nature Society have events throughout the year. One of the most impressive ones is the Raptor Watch, a festival to celebrate the return of the migratory raptor birds of prey on their journey back to their breeding grounds in the Northern hemisphere. This annual event aims to raise awareness on the conservation of raptors and their habitats. Raptor Watch is held on the first weekend of March in Tanjung Tuan Forest Reserve near Malacca. The spring raptor migration begins already in mid February and lasts till mid April – the birds can be seen during this period even if you can’t make it to the event.
Save our Seahorses
SOS or Save Our Seahorses is a non-profit group committed to saving the seahorse and its habitats. Their mission is conserving not only the seahorse, but the ecosystem they are dependent on, such as seagrass, mangrove and coral reef. Their popular seahorse tagging programme has been discontinued, but they continue to look for volunteers for awareness raising events.
Reef check: eco-diving and marine conservation
Reef Check was established in the USA in 1996 to raise awareness on the importance of, and threats to, coral reefs. Their local chapter, Reef Check Malaysia works with local communities to protect, restore and revive coral reefs in Malaysia. RCM partners with a global network of trained and certified EcoDiver volunteers to conduct annual Reef Check surveys to assess the health of reefs around the islands of Malaysia, conducts education and awareness programmes and coral reef rehabilitation programmes. Read more about the Reef check Malaysia’s Eco diver training.
The Cintai Tioman Program aims to improve the ecological and social resilience of the Tioman island. The programme’s goal is to reduce the impact of human activities on coral reefs around Tioman Island, and empower the local communities to get involved in the management and conservation of the island’s natural resources. Youths are encouraged to join in social media campaigning and joining as interns, read more here.
Photo: Reef check Malaysia
There are seven species of marine turtles worldwide, and all of them are listed as either endangered or critically endangered species by the World Conservation Union. Four species of marine turtles can be found in Malaysian waters: Leatherback, Olive Ridley’s, Green Turtle and Hawksbill.
Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia organises turtle and mangrove trips from Cherating. Once a year they release terrapins into the wild in Kemaman. There is also the small turtle sanctuary in Cherating, next to the Club Med, where you can release the hatchlings during the season. Even in other times the small information centre is a good stop, and there are always some turtles on site. Universiti Malaysia Terangganu conducts research and runs a volunteer programme (for this you need to be 18 years old).
I’m hoping one day I can take the kids to the Selingan Turtle Island in Sabah for a total turtle exprience!