As we have been doing for the past 4 years, Green Living again coordinated our annual Turtle Volunteer Programme at the Turtle Information and Conservation Centre in Masjid Tanah, Melaka, during the turtle nesting and hatching season. This took place last Saturday, 27th August 2016. 32 participants turned up for the event, including new MNS members and families with young children. This is a good 'tenderfoot' programme for new volunteers and those who are unable to take long breaks from work to volunteer at turtle sanctuaries in Pulau Redang and other conservation sites. It's good for members of the public to be able to volunteer for one day and still be able to see the enormous difference they have made.
I managed to persuade my parents to join me on this trip so that they would be able to see a little of what I do as a volunteer. Besides, neither have released turtle hatchlings before. This turned out to be a good decision because we all enjoyed ourselves immensely and we have come a full circle of sorts. When my brothers and I were children, our parents taught us about wildlife and conservation and took us on trips all around the country to learn more about historical sites and places of natural interest. Now it is my turn to take them on trips and get them involved in my conservation work.
We arrived at the Centre in the afternoon and sat through the usual educational talk and briefing in the auditorium.
Then it was time to clean out the turtle holding pool. There has been changes to the Centre and the smaller pool at the side of the building has been closed up and the turtles have been transferred to the large pool at the back.
The volunteers put a lot of effort into scrubbing the pool and polishing the carapace of the turtles. It was especially encouraging to see how hard the children worked 'to make the turtles clean and healthy'.
The hatchery did not need any cleaning this round, as there had been another group of volunteers who had spruced and tidied up the hatchery, so we proceeded straight to the beach for the beach cleanup.
Everyone worked hard at picking up litter. Most of the litter consisted of cigarette butts and styrofoam food packaging. There has been some heartening developments in the state. The Melaka state government has implemented a styrofoam ban and is taking steps to phase out foam food packaging. Hopefully this will translate into less foam packaging on beaches and in the sea.
Look at my parents, working hard. I am so very proud of them.
Green Living's youngest committee member Zhang Hui and I climbed into a deep, stagnant drain to fish out all the horrible plastic bags, bottles and foam cups and clamboxes clogging up the drain. It was awful but necessary work. This girl didn't even flinch one bit. She really is a dynamo. Her sense of responsibility and discipline set a good example for the other young participants. I really could not have done without her help.
Earth Heroes, each and every one. We managed to collect a remarkable amount of rubbish, which is quite outstanding considering that approximately 12 out of 32 volunteers are young children, and 2 are senior citizens. I am glad they dived into this task so enthusiastically and understood the importance of beach cleanups.
We then had our usual souvenir presentation ceremony. The Turtle Information Centre presented each participant with a turtle-shaped keychain made of polished coconut husk, while Green Living presented each family with a stack of turtle postcards packed with natural history information. The children were especially thrilled with the physical acknowledgements of their hard work.
By then the sun had gone down and it was time for the highlight of the programme -- hatchling release! We went down to the beach and squatted or stood in 'V' formation for the release. I invited the first-timers to tip the boxes gently to release the hatchlings.
We bade the turtles goodbye and good luck as they made their way to the sea. It was, as always, an emotional experience.
My parents got to witness their first turtle hatchling release.
When the final turtle hatchling entered the sea, I announced the end of the Turtle Volunteer Programme 2016 and thanked all the participants for their time, effort and resources. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged.
Then it was time for me to tidy and pack up, thank the staff of the Centre, and drive my parents and myself to our hotel, Baba House, in Melaka Town.
This is my third stay in Baba House and I haven't grown tired of it yet. My parents were positively charmed by the quaintly decorated and restored hotel.
We had a lovely supper of street food in Jonker Walk. I had no idea my stomach could hold so much coconut ice cream and fresh pineapple.
Breakfast the following morning was at the courtyard / dining area of Baba House as usual. My parents loved the old photos and architectural details and of course a photograph for posterity is in order.
We had a nice walk around Jonker Street in the morning, bought durian crepes and other treats from Durian Cottage and admired the architecture of some of the older buildings.
The drive home was smooth and uneventful except for a coffee break. It has been another successful Turtle Volunteer Programme and I hope it has increased our appreciation of nature and the marine ecosystem.
For more information on visiting and volunteering at the Turtle Conservation and Information Centre, contact the Centre at:
Pusat Konservasi dan Penerangan Penyu
(Turtle Conservation and Information Centre)
Pantai Padang Kemunting,
Phone/Fax: 06 384 6754
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/#!/hawksbill.ecoclub.3