LUBOK ANTU – What makes orang-utan conservation successful in the long-term? How can we contribute to the communities living within protected areas? These are the questions Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia Program considers in their most recent conservation education project.
Thirty-five students from Sekolah Kebangsaan Nanga Delok, a primary school near Batang Ai National Park, took part in the “Using Art & English for Conservation” workshop organised by WCS Malaysia in partnership with Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak Campus. Christina Yin, senior lecturer and Associate Dean, Curriculum Enhancement and Accreditation from the Faculty of Language and Communication of Swinburne Sarawak, and local artist, Angelina Bong, led the 2-day workshop held in the school while eight WCS Malaysia staff facilitated the workshop. Both sessions were run simultaneously with students being split into two groups – Year 1 to 3 and Year 4 to 6.
In the art sessions, the older students were exposed to drawing and colouring techniques whereas students from Year 1 to 3 were taught how to create an orang-utan collage out of old magazine pages. They were encouraged to use their creativity and imagination and not be tied down to actual images of orang-utans.
The first stage of the English workshop involved eliciting vocabulary describing orang-utans and naming items in their habitat as well as the animals’ actions. Pupils were then encouraged to tell stories they had heard from their elders in their longhouses or villages or to describe their sightings of orang-utans. In the next stage, as a group, the pupils created a story about an imaginary orang-utan. Finally, in the last stage of the workshop, the students were encouraged to use their imagination to create individual simple poems that carried the main themes of orang-utan and forest conservation.
Christina Yin found that working with the students of SK Nanga Delok was a rewarding experience. “I learned a lot from interacting with them,” she said. “They were shy at first but they were eager to learn and when they opened up, their responses and ideas were truly thought-provoking.”
For Angelina Bong, working with the students was an enriching experience and even noted a number of emerging artists, remarking that she hopes that they will continue to develop their talent.
“Working with the passionate team of WCS deepened my knowledge and understanding of our wildlife, especially the orang-utan. I hope people will be more aware and support conservation efforts, especially in these days of climate change and rapid development,” Bong added.
“It is wonderful working with such passionate young people in the area,” remarked Dr Melvin Gumal, Director of Malaysia Program, WCS. “As witnessed from our previous interactions with passionate folks from the communities, these young folks can be the heartbeat of a new generation of potential conservationists working on and protecting orang-utans in the future.”
The United Nations notes that almost a quarter of the world’s population is aged between 10 and 24. Thus, it is only natural to engage with these future leaders and decision makers of the world and to encourage them to act at both local and global levels to protect endangered wildlife, and in the case of the Batang Ai region, orang-utans.