Conservation Education for Youth in Sarawak

26 October 2010 | News story

An outreach event for youth at a Salvation Army Home in Malaysia combined talks, fun and games with a focus on wildlife, forests and conservation. CEC member Cynthia Chin conducted the event with John Mathai and Joshua Pandong of the Wildlife Conservation Society Malaysia Program.

It is often thought that troubled youth from dysfunctional homes will not amount to much in life and have constant problems with authority. However, it must be remembered that if kids such as these are given just a nudge in the proper direction and a spark of interest generated in them towards something new, a whole new world could be opened up to them and they can very well be leaders in whichever field they choose.

To generate that spark and interest in conservation to a group of troubled youth from the Salvation Army Home, Kuching, Sarawak, an evening of talks, fun and games was organized by three biologists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia Program, on 27th June 2010, in line with WCS Malaysia’s continuing strategy to engage youth in conservation awareness programmes. The audience was a spirited group of young people aged between 13 and 25.

The session kicked off with short video clips, introducing the work of both WCS Global and WCS Malaysia to the young people. For the next 2 hours, the biologists took turns sharing with the youth the importance of forests and wildlife, and how conservation is not just a science, but also a way of life based on moral, religious and ethical values.

Interactive games were played, such as the “Web of Life” where each individual was given a role, whether a tree, bird, deer, hunter, logger, etc. Through this, the young people were made to understand that all life on earth is connected and held in a delicate balance. Once this balance is upset by our actions, the whole fragile ecosystem collapses and we will ultimately have to pay the price for this.

Talks were given explaining the carbon and hydrological cycles, stressing how forests are vital for clean oxygen and water. The role of wildlife in keeping the forests alive through diverse and myriad interactions such as seed dispersal, pollination, predator – prey interactions and how some of these interactions could affect, and be affected by, climate change, opened the eyes of the youngsters to the wonderful and fascinating world of ecology.

The young people were also reminded of how closely local culture and wildlife are intertwined, and how by destroying our forests, we are essentially destroying our very heritage.

It is hoped that this fun-filled evening generated that spark of interest in the hearts and minds of these young people from the Salvation Army Home, Kuching. If conservation ethics are instilled upon all young people, and they understand the value of forests and wildlife not just as key players in the web of life, but also, as fellow beings who share this world with us, there may yet be a chance for this planet we all call home. 

For more information, contact John Mathai, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia Program, johnmathai11@gmail.com