Kia ora! My name is Claudia, and I am one of the Educators at Wellington Zoo and I am Lynne, one of the Wellington Zoo health and safety team members. Thanks to the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund Lynne and I have made it to Malaysia, via Singapore! We are here to work with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network for the next three weeks. We will be working on updating their educational resources as well as assisting with some of the volunteer training manuals.
We have been with TRAFFIC for a few days now and it has already been an eye-opening experience, especially in contrast with Singapore where we were able to spend a few days at Wildlife Reserves Singapore.
We touched down in Singapore to an impressive storm. Singapore, as we found out, is incredibly lucky in regards to its environment. Sitting beneath Malaysia, and nestled between the islands of Sumatra and Borneo it is a safe haven from earthquakes and tsunamis, it does not experience landslides and due to the humidity, fires are rare. In fact the only natural events it sees is lightning storms, and heavy rains of which we were able to bare witness to on Tuesday.
At Singapore Zoo we had the opportunity to meet with members of their Health and Safety Team as well as their Education Team. Due to COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, we had to make a few changes to our initial plans.
The effects of COVID-19 have been clear here in South East Asia. You are temperature screened upon entry to the airport, the Zoo, and even temples. Bus drivers and passengers alike wear surgical masks to minimise the risk of infection. Most notably at the Zoo however was the lack of school children. All school trips and learning sessions have been cancelled in the wake of the Singapore government raising the ‘Disease Outbreak Response System Condition’ (DORSCON) level to orange. This did mean that the original plan of watching and shadowing a Learning Session at the Zoo was no longer possible, but our gracious hosts did not let this trouble them and met with us over our two days at the Zoo. With the novel coronavirus originating in an illegal wildlife market in China, it is a timely reminder of the danger the illegal wildlife trade poses not only to wildlife and wild places, but also to people.
One of the highlights of being in Singapore was seeing a wild Smooth Coated Otter in the Marina Bay. Otters are frequent victims of plastic pollution, and Singapore Zoo incorporates messages around fighting the most dangerous monster in the wild – plastic! Otters are also falling victim to the illegal wildlife trade, with their cute faces and adorable high-pitched squeaks, people around the world are demanding these wild animals as pets. TRAFFIC is at the forefront of monitoring and preventing this trade.
Wellington Zoo is lucky enough to look after four Asian Small-Clawed Otters. The boisterous brothers; Eko, Jambi, Si, and Bhutan are the first animals many visitors and staff see every day. However with the IUCN classing these Otters as vulnerable and with a decreasing population, it is important that we act now and protect these incredible animals and the wild places they call home.
Thanks to Wellington Zoo and the Conservation Fund we have been given this incredible opportunity to find out first-hand what TRAFFIC is doing to help protect not only Otters but other frequently trafficked species here in South East Asia.
At the end of every year TRAFFIC staff along with a number of volunteers head out to two schools in Gerik Hulu Perak, a Reserve in Northern Malaysia, to spend a morning with school students in the area. This is an important opportunity for TRAFFIC to talk to children about the impact the illegal wildlife trade has on their local species and to excite them in to changing the future for the better. Thanks to Wellington Zoo’s ongoing support, TRAFFIC was able to visit an additional two school in 2019.
Every time you visit Wellington Zoo, you are contributing to the work our conservation partners, like TRAFFIC, are doing every day.
That's it for now, stay tuned for our next blog updates!
- Claudia & Lynne