Project Orion IX - Rovering with Turtles
Project Orion IX – Rovering with Turtles
I first heard about Project Orion from my friends who went for past project Orions. From what I knew at first, Project Orion is a turtle conservation effort which really got me intrigued because it is not something that I hear people do all the time. I really wanted to know more so, I decided to go for the Scout of the World Discovery Workshop where I learnt more about the Betterworld framework and how we, being scouts or even ordinary people can do our part to tackle some of the world’s problems stated in the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Learn & Decide
After the Discovery Workshop, I wanted to find out more of what Project Orion really is and what people do so I went to ask those who went before to learn more and found out it is way more than just turtle conservation, it is a series of projects that are done at a village called Kampung Mangkuk at Setiu, Malaysia, and it has been going on for 9 years. That’s when I decided I really wanted to go because it is not something I get to do any day any time I want. I saw an opportunity for me to be able to do such a project, so I signed up for Project Orion IX.
Project Orion IX – Rovering with Turtles is the ninth project in the series of annual project collaborations with our host organization, World Wide Fund for Nature – Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia).
Date: 10th June 2018 to 24th June 2018
Location: Kampung Mangkuk, Setiu, Malaysia
Project Orion IX includes:
- Night Beach Patrolling & Turtle Nest Excavations
- Mangrove Seedling Planting
- A series of construction projects
- Laksa Stall
- Provision Store Expansion
Beach Patrolling & Turtle Nest Excavations
During Project Orion, we went on night patrols to find nesting turtles which we then dig up and transfer the eggs over to the hatchery. The eggs are transferred to the hatchery instead of being left in the wild due to high risk of poaching, so the hatchery is a safer place as it is constantly monitored.
In the hatchery, after the hatchlings emerge from the nest, they are collected and released into the sea. After that, we had to dig up the empty nests and account for the eggs that hatched and those that did not. A stick on top of the nest will tell how many eggs are supposed to be present. Sometimes, we even found live turtles that did not make it out of the nest and in this process, I excavated more than 100 turtle eggs.
Accounting for the eggs is necessary because it ensures the effectiveness of the hatchery by finding out the percentage of eggs that hatch successfully and if there are any elements affecting them, like the temperature and the suitability of the sand.
A hatchery also needs to move from time to time because having a hatchery at the same place for an extended period of time will result in buildup of bacteria which are harmful to the eggs and releasing the hatchlings at the same place will tend to attract predators.
By doing these, it helps to increase the chance of the turtles hatching, which is the first step in green turtle conservation. Through these activities, we have fulfilled SDG Goal 14 – Life Below Water.
Mangrove Seedling Planting
We went to Pak Mi’s (a villager) house, to his backyard garden where he showed us his different ways of fertilising the mangrove seedlings and found that the most effective way so far was using bird droppings which he collects from the nearby bird house. This is one of his main sources of incomes as he sells mangrove seedlings.
The first construction project was the construction of a shelter, which is an extension of the villager’s house, to used to run a laksa stall, which he can earn a living from. Then, we helped another villager to build a wall which he can install a grill on and expand his provision store, which is near the pink house.
The last construction project was the building of a toilet outside Kak Ta’s house, which will be used by future Project Orions or other volunteer groups. With this toilet built outside her house, future volunteer groups will no longer need to invade Kak Ta’s home just to use the toilet.
During the course of this project, we occasionally updated the Project’s social media pages and also had a blog, where members of the Project Orion Team submit daily reflections and updates on the Project.
We also had a post-project sharing session with some Scouts and Cub Scouts, where we shared with them what we did there, and the importance of turtle conservation. There was also a part where we had them go through a mock beach patrolling and turtle nest excavation, where we used ping pong balls as eggs. The Cubs and Scouts got down and dirty as we taught them proper ways of digging a turtle nest and handling of the turtle eggs. The session was ended off with a beach clean-up, to show them how much pollution is impacting the environment and the marine life, and through this project, we have fulfilled SDG Goal 14 – Life Below Water.