Commemorating 10 Years of Project Orion

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Project Orion – Rovering with Turtles is an annual conservation project which started in 2009 in collaboration with our host organization, World Wide Fund for Nature – Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia).

 

This project has allowed Scouts and locals from two shores to meet, make friends and work towards a common goal of protecting our common environment. At the same time, development of the local community – fundamental goals of the United Nations and also The Scouts of the World Award, which the project is a part of.

This year commemorates the 10th year of Project Orion in its series. 

Our Impact

We may have started from a small team, however, over the years we have gathered a big family with the hope of making a big change. Let us stroll down memory lane to see what are the efforts we have made to create a better world.

Turtle conservation

Every year, the Orion team will assist the locals in their turtle conservation efforts. Such efforts include protecting turtle eggs from being poached by building turtle egg hatcheries to store and raise the eggs safely, through performing night beach patrolling to stop poachers from getting to the eggs and also through campaigns such as roadshows to raise awareness of the endangered species to the public and how they can help stop its decline in population.    

 

The team also helps in nest excavations and releases when the turtle eggs are ready to hatch, which is one of the highlights of the project.

construction and maintenance

No Orion is complete without some hard labour. Over the years, our team has been assisting the villagers in their community development progress. 

 

Through this, our participants will gain service learning skills while doing conservation works whereby they will become more aware of their actions and be reflective of what they have at home.

Mangrove conservation

The objective of the mangrove replantation activity was not only to get villagers and students active in rebuilding the mangrove but also to raise awareness of how important the mangrove is to their ecosystem. The mangrove is a home for many wildlife species in the kampung.  By replanting and cleaning up the mangrove, it will help to maintain the wildlife’s natural habitat and to minimize any negative externalities (littering, etc) by human beings.

local interaction

Some of our Orion teams were invited to local schools to run activities for the students. Some of the activities included conducting English lessons, playing interactive games and also teaching them some campfire songs which never failed to bring smiles to their faces!

 

Other times we managed to interact with locals outside of the kampung was when we helped out in the World Sea Turtle Day Roadshow run by WWF-Malaysia in 2014. It was an interesting experience as we got to go out of the kampung and into the heart of Terengganu to see the city side of the local culture.

Mural Painting

Here are some of the murals our teams have painted in local schools and kindergartens to raise awareness for wildlife conservation!

Experiencing the kampung lifestyle

For many of us, who come from fast-paced and stressful environments, we do not have the luxury of time. However, stepping into Kampung Mangkok feels like time can actually slow down. With many activities planned for each day, it still feels like there’s so much time to spare.

 

Using this time, the Orion teams bonded with the locals through various sharing of activities and experiences. Such activities include Wau making, playing catching or even coconut bowling.

Local delicacies

At the kampong, we don’t only get to eat delicious local treats such as banana chips and keropok lekor. Instead, we are fortunate enough to have the local Perwanis masters to teach and guide us through step by step on how to make these humble yet amazing delicacies ourselves!

Lets hear from the PO Family

Having spent 14 days in the new environment and experiencing the different lifestyle in the wetlands of Setiu, there is no doubt that there will be memories made. Each and every member in the Project Orion family has their own unique memories and experiences from their respective years. let us hear from some of them!

Project Orion V was my first overseas project done in a kampong. Its an educational project for both our team and the villagers, working hand in hand to raise awareness for ourselves, the village's youths and for the public on turtle conservation through activities such as Awareness Booth during World Sea Turtle Day & Turtle Mural Painting at the Kindergarten.

Doing our part as fellow earthlings by helping out and participating in activities such as Turtle Nest Excavation, Beach Patrol for Turtle Nests and mangrove replanting.

With zero awareness of existing environmental issues initially. It made me realize the cause and effects of our very own action. PO V inspired me to be someone I have never imagined myself to be. A firestarter for me to embark on my conservation journey with my fellow peers.

John Ng - PO V

PO VI was an enjoyable experience for me. Our objective for this year's was to build a new activity house for Project Orion and Perwanis(Local women rights group). Even though we had quite a roller coaster ride due administrative delay with the local authorities, we learned that sometimes things may not turn out the way we wanted and we shouldn't feel bad so long we did our best. With the project based in Kampung Mangkok for a decade, a good understanding of local culture and norms will definitely help us to navigate through the challenges of turtle conservation.

The most memorable part of this project was enjoying supper at Kak Ma's roadside stall. I remembered that someone mentioned that our project contributed to the continuity of her stall. To enjoy great food at her stall is a reminder how our contributions to Kampung Mangkok directly impacts their way of life, allowing people to enjoy supper at her wonderful stall. I wish Project Orion all the best in the future!

Jacky – PO VI

Project Orion was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve ever had in my scouting journey. I was appointed as the Project Leader for Project Orion VIII and I was blessed to work with a great bunch of people from various units all over Singapore. All of which I still have connections to till this day.

Project Orion opened my eyes to how vast this world is and just by our doorstep, in our neighboring country Malaysia that there’s so many opportunities out there for change. Before Orion, I never knew about the Turtle Conservation efforts that Malaysia had, let alone know where Terengganu was on the world map. It was through Orion that my knowledge of sea turtle conservation effort in Malaysia was enhanced. On top of that, I was exposed to how true kampong culture and traditional Malay culture is like throughout my stay in Kampong Mongkok. I was fortunate enough to have my PO fall during the last week of Ramadan where we got to see the village fast and celebrate Hari Raya together with them.

Overall, Project Orion has taught me to be global smart and to open my eyes to understand that there is more to this world than just what goes on in your own country.

Andrew Toh - PO VIII
PO VIII logo

Project Orion IX was an especially memorable experience for me. It helped give my life a new perspective and also made me appreciate living in the remote countryside where the pace of life is slow. Most of all, it opened my eyes up to turtle conservation efforts in Malaysia.

Orion made me look at life differently as I bonded with people from different walks of life. Not only did I get to forge bonds with rovers from different troops and areas, I also got to know more about the villagers that inhabited Setiu. I saw how they lived their lives by rearing animals and selling food.

When we celebrated Hari Raya with them, I got to understand more of their culture as we visited houses in the village. Despite having a language barrier, we still managed to communicate with them effectively. Through this, I learnt to communicate differently to get my ideas across. All in all, I was able to bond with many people throughout the trip and I learnt their values. Turtle nest excavation was an eye-opening experience as I got closer to nature. Digging up for turtle shells was exciting and enlightening. One notable experience was seeing turtles emerge from the pit as we dug up their shells. This was a special moment as it was the first time I saw turtles hatching and crawling up the pit. It was thrilling to do night patrol as I felt the tranquility of the beach as we walked to find newly laid turtle eggs. It was relaxing as we spent the night observing stars in the sky and listening to the crashing of the waves.

Project Orion IX is an experience not to be forgotten as it has made me a more positive and environmentally aware rover. It is a one-in-a-million experience that I would willingly participate in again!

Han Wei – PO IX
PO IX Logo

10 years in retrospect

Through the activities that we have been carrying out in Setiu, Terengganu, we hope to continue to promote wildlife conservation to our peers and to the public. Catch up with us on our past 10 years worth of stories on our blogs below!

Project Background

The Setiu Wetlands are located in the northeast of Peninsula Malaysia, in the state of Terengganu. For Terengganu, approximately 51.6% or 670,000 ha of the state still remains under forest cover. Of this, 5,168 ha are designated as plantation (Krishnapillay & Ong, 2003).


The wetlands form part of the Setiu river basin and the region features:

    •  Estuaries and deltas 
    • Intertidal mudflats, sand flats and mangroves
    • Coastal brackish and saline lagoons and marshes
    • Melaleuca swamp forest (known locally as *gelam*) or freshwater swamp forests with vegetation comprising almost exclusively of Melaleuca cejeputi
    • Lowland dry forest with characteristic Dipterocarps and Nipah palm (Nypa fructicans). (Global Environment Facility, 1999).


This range of habitats provides a variety of floristic communities, which in turn support animal communities’ characteristic of tropical wetland ecosystems. Setiu Wetland is a unique place in the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia where it has national and international importance for conservation. The wetland is home to the critically endangered river terrapin, painted terrapin and also the important landing site for marine turtles especially the green turtles in northern Terengganu. It also has high biodiversity and an important area for fishery resources.

In the same time, Setiu is the poorest district in the state and even in the nation. Majority of the population in Setiu works in the fisheries sectors and living the subsistence lifestyle where they are highly dependent on the natural resources for generating income. As the government is pushing hard to enhance agriculture and aquaculture activities to increase the livelihood status of the local population, this move escalates the stress on the wetland ecosystems in Setiu due to the conversion of wetland for other economic uses.


Hence, conservation in Setiu Wetland is a great challenge where we need to balance the socio-economic development needs and the need to protect the ecosystems functions. WWF believes that by introducing the alternative livelihood to the local populations to pull away their dependency on natural resources for subsistence could in future lower the stress on the wetland resources consumption and create a more sustainable condition that enables the socio-economic development and conservation take place in harmony. This mean can be achieved by promoting Ecotourism. As ecotourism is a high conscience industry, the local population must be made aware of the non-consumptive value of the ecosystems and capacity build the local population to actively participate in the industry.

The project hopes to: 

      • Create awareness on the importance of Wildlife Conservation among the participants and Scouting community in Singapore
      • Provide opportunities to Youths to increase their self and global awareness based on the Service Learning Methodology and Scout Method
      • Provide a platform for Youths to be trained to be future leaders in similar projects
      • Impart the values of service learning to Youths

To find out more about Project Orion

Email your questions to [email protected]

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