Thanks to the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund, Educator Claudia has spent three weeks working in Malaysia assisting Wellington Zoo’s conservation partner, TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network. Claudia has been working with Health and Safety Advisor Lynne on updating TRAFFIC's educational resources as well as assisting with some of the volunteer training manuals.
My experience of Malaysia has been that the people are kind, gentle, generous, and curious. I was lucky enough to go to a number of community events over the past few weeks and meet people who had all of these qualities.
Our first event was a science expo at Matriculation College in Banting. We were able to set up a stall with numerous activities. The most popular one was searching Aloysius the mannequin for smuggled wildlife and their parts.
Faril, their Design and Communications Officer also gave a talk in Malay to a lecture theatre of interested 17-19 year olds. Despite not being able to speak Malay myself, the students’ engagement and interest in the presentation was clear. They would gasp and scowl when they saw images of animals that had been trapped or snared, and smile and squeal at the success stories.
The following day we went to the Church of Divine Mercy where we set up a stall again with even more smuggling techniques and information. This drew a really diverse crowd, from toddlers all the way through to grandparents. The final service was held in Malay for worshippers from Sabah and Sarawak, states on the island of Borneo, and an area with astounding levels of illegal wildlife poaching and trade.
The engagement from the community was incredible, and even more amazing was having the opportunity to chat to members of the public and hear their personal experiences with the wildlife trade. One man recognised the smuggling techniques, having been a smuggler himself before getting married. Another told us about how they had rescued a baby Gibbon before taking it to a sanctuary, and another had treated pet Servals at their local vet clinic and was all too quick to assure us that Servals are absolutely not pets.
Our third event was at the AirAsia offices on World Wildlife Day where Renee, TRAFFIC’s Training and Capacity Training Officer, gave a talk on the severity of the illegal wildlife trade and what the aviation industry can do to disrupt it.
Being involved in these outreach events was fabulous as it gave me the opportunity to see TRAFFIC’s conservation education in action.
To assist with the schools programme, I had great fun teaching the TRAFFIC office some new games to play with the schools. These games all have strong conservation messages and if your child has ever been on the School Holiday Programme or done a Learning Session at Wellington Zoo, they may have even played some of these games themselves. I worked with the TRAFFIC Communications team to design some brand new games as well, and held a workshop with staff on how to do awesome and easy face painting.
I am excited to try some of these new games back at Wellington Zoo, and hopefully will continue working with TRAFFIC upon my return to create a new education resource that we can both use for school programmes!
This experience would not have been possible without the help of the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund. This trip has taught me so much about the threats many of the species we care for at Wellington Zoo are faced with, like our Otters, Tigers, and Sun Bear.
Wellington Zoo contributes to TRAFFIC’s schools programme each year which is their only opportunity to speak to children who are indirectly and even directly involved in wildlife trade. Education is a powerful thing, it can open up the world to children who have never had the opportunity to travel. It can even excite them in to taking action to make a better world full of wildlife and wild places.