Which species is that?
Steve has been cocooned in his tent for the last few weeks working on the analysis for the WWF / TRAFFIC shark survey. For several months in 2014, we collected data on all the sharks and rays we saw at the fish markets in Sabah. The travel all over Sabah to fish markets was the easy part, we counted and measured sharks and rays, made notes and took photos and now Steve is trying to make sense of it all. He comes out for meals and food plus tea on a regular basis but has not been diving or doing anything fun. We snuck into his tent office the other day to see what is going on.
What did we find – Books on sharks everywhere plus 2 computers and a very large monitor all with pictures of sharks. Steve explained – The sharks we surveyed at the market generally have no fins and even with fins they all look very similar. He is clearly tearing out his hair trying to make sense of all the confusion. It was obvious to anyone that there were many many endanged species being landed, I mean even us students can recognise a hammerhead or a white tip.
Green Turtle hatchling
Last week while doing a nest inventory in the turtle hatchery we found little Tofu, a critically endangered Hawksbill turtle that had been underground in her nest far too long. Her brothers and sister turtle hatchlings emerged about 50 days before we found her so she had been in her nest, a hole in the ground for all that time with no food or water. She was severely dehydrated and starving, weighing only about 10.9g with a carapace length of 3.35cm.
Five days later and she’s doing well! She’s eating and swimming around from time to time but she still has a long way to go.
UPDATE – after several months of training how to catch and eat crabs and other marine life living in Sagassum, a fit and healthy TOFU was released into the deep blue sea so she can make her own way in the world.
Yes we understand that turtle hatchlings cannot be sexed at this age so tofu could be male.
Being a Conservation center TRACC tries to be right at the heart of everything affecting the marine environment that goes on in the Sabah region. So when we we’re asked about an initial environmental impact assessment for an unknown area of reef we jumped at the chance! Our lucky divers got to experience more dive sites in one week than I have in the last 6 months.
Many of the sites had probably never been dove before. In under two weeks we racked up over 20 new dive sites. Why did we dive? Basically we undertook RACE (rapid assessment of coral ecosystems) surveys. They are exactly what they say on the tin. In a 30 minutes dive at a set depth we dive along the area , taking note of things like coral diversity, fish diversity, size and abundance, water turbidity and general health of the ecosystem. With this data we have an overall idea of the ecosystem health for the region and overtime we can see if coastal development such as aquaculture is having an effect. Also diving is rather fun, so its win win!
Whilst undertaking these RACE surveys around the Sabah region we also came across a possible new site for the TRACC project. Large expanses of forest reserves (thus no people, no settlement and no oil palm run off) with healthy reef ecosystems around the Pulau Bait area. A truly beautiful and unique area. The reefs there also aren’t as degraded as the reefs around Pom pom island. In fact you can see some very distinctive bomb craters, a chance for TRACC to set up a long term project upon the recovery of coral after a bomb crater. No surprise that our results show that there is a lack of fish due to over fishing, but with our presence I’m sure, like on Pom pom, that fish numbers would sky rocket!
Turtle tracks at the lighthouse, Tip of Borneo
Green turtle tracks at the Lighthouse sand bar at the Tip of Borneo, Kudat Sabah.
TRACC volunteers have been searching for turtles at the Tip of Borneo, near Kudat since May 2014. The numbers have clearly fallen a lot. We know from local villagers and a previous volunteer project that there were regular nestings only a few years ago. The Kudat Turtle Conservation Society was formed to help protect the local turtles and KTCS have been doing a great job of patroling the beaches and clearing away the trash. Unfortunately even with all this effort there have been very few nestings on any mainland beaches. TRACC volunteers have spent many hours focussed on turtle searches on offshore islands, reefs and on the seagrass beds. (Thanks to all volunteers who have shown us just how rare turtles are in this part of Borneo.)
The number of Green and Hawksbill turtles is unfortunately very low. There are a few juvenile green on the seagrass beds to the East of the Kudat Peninsula and we have seen a very occasional hawksbill on the reefs to the West. We have seen mating green turtles on an offshore reef and there are clearly females around which are trying to nest on the very small amount of sand at the lighthouse. The tracks come out of the water. cross the sand – reach the water – turn around – cross the sand – reach the water and repeat many times. The sand patch is really too small for nesting. The beautiful white sand beaches on the mainland are clearly not as attractive as a small speck of beach which has no barking dogs to disturb the peace.
turtle volunteer snorkelling with green turtle
Turtle poaching is clearly a big issue, there have been newspaper reports of many slaughtered adult turtles on nearby islands and the fishermen say the Vietnamese boats will buy any turtle for good money. Turtles are protected in Malaysia and yet there seems to be little we can do to stop the continued decline in this part of Borneo.
Turtle conservation in Kudat is clearly very important but it is really frustrating since there are only a few turtles. Fortunately we have another project on Pom Pom island which has lots of nesting turtles. For more information on how you can become a turtle volunteer –> click here <–
The Cambridge Marine Science A level course which we teach as a residential course is also being taught as a online marine science course using the Internet – a distance learning package with examinations in May 2016 or 2017. This requires 12 -18 months of weekly lessons studied at home (about 8-10h each week) plus a trip of 2 weeks (last week March & 1st week April 2015 or 2016) to the TRACC Camp at the Tip of Borneo for practical skills and an optional trip for the examinations. Learning to dive can be arranged in the week of March before the practical trip.
We seriously recommend that any potential marine scientists also stay for at least 2 weeks after the exams to learn underwater survey skills. Learning to dive and underwater skills are not required for the A level but are invaluable should you wish to pursue a career in marine science. All TRACC students registered for this couse must learn to dive since many practicals are conducted underwater. More details here.
Bird watchers wanted
Birds are an important part of the natural heritage and ecology of the Tun Mustapha park and yet very little is known about the bird diversity or the migration routes. The tip of Borneo is the first stop for birds flying down from China and Korea across the South China sea or from Palawan in the Philippines. There are several large mangroves and these are host to an increase in bird populations in autumn and spring as the flocks assemble before they fly onwards. We have resident big raptors, Brahminy kites, sea eagles and ospreys but little is known about the smaller birds.
We are looking for non diving – Birdwatching with optional snorkelling volunteers to help with our understanding of the bird populations and diversity.
Birdwatchers –-> email email@example.com
Multimedia volunteers are available to anyone with experience or skills in art, video, writing, communications or marketing. Typical multimedia vols pay a discounted rate for volunteering on any of our projects. They produce video for youtube, magazine articles or text for blogs about their experiences and we pay for this media output. The intern proposes a level of multimedia output and we agree a reimbursement rate which can be upto the total amount that was initially paid to come as a volunteer.
We have a wide range of projects, environments and interesting people. We want you to express yourself and create something artistic.
We especially want media that helps raise awareness of the issues facing marine biodiversity and ecosystems, especially if it is targeted to local communities. However, everything from an art installation to a powerpoint presentation will be considered. Contact us to discuss how your media skills could raise awareness about TRACC and the issues we care about.
English for our future
Teaching village children is its own reward
The schools in rural Sabah do not manage to teach good English and yet there is a huge and growing demand for young people who speak English to work in many sectors of the tourism industry. The school teachers often do not have the capability or training to teach more than the basics. We increase the vocabulary, improve the speaking confidence and help the children with reading and writing.
We have a curriculum, schemes of work and books. The children come to classes in halls in the various villages and they need to practice and learn speaking, reading, writing. Our volunteers who do not speak Malay (national languge) or Rungus ( local language) can manage with the help of our staff who speak both languages and by our easy to follow teaching aids and programme which does not require the teacher to speak in the childrens language.
English teaching volunteers please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Adventure @ Tip of Borneo. Coastal trail trailblazers wanted.
Coconut crab ( rare and andangered) one now lives in our compost pile.
We are looking for fit, adventurous people to help develop a coastal walking trail around the Tip of Borneo. We want to link local communites with a walking trail so that more tourists stay with the villages in the homestay programmes. Ultimately, we want a trail which links villages at about 1 days walk apart. The scenery is fantastic, the beaches beautiful and this project will bring sustainable tourism to benefit local families.
Our trailblazers stay at the TRACC coconut cove – TOB camp and go diving or snorkelling with other volunteers at the weekends. During the week, the trailblazers work with experienced local guides to forge a path through the forest, they build bridges, make steps and scout routes to waterfalls and lookout points.
Opportunities start first monday each month from Jan 2015.
If you want to be an adventurer then click here for more details. email email@example.com