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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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