For Scuba Junkie, conservation is not something on the sideline to engage in now and again – it is a core purpose. From cleaning up beaches and reefs to tagging sharks, Scuba Junkie gets involved in an array of activities, working with the government, NGOs and local communities.
Following from their recognition as the “Dive Centre of the Year” at ADEX 2017, Scuba Junkie is keeping up the momentum with more conservation-related events. Below is the report from their latest success – Turtle Week 2017.
Turtle Week 2017
Sabah is world renowned for its amazing biodiversity and the presence of endangered species, such as sea turtles. In the Semporna region, sightings of green and hawksbill turtles thrill divers and snorkelers alike on a regular basis. However, sea turtles face numerous threats worldwide – all efforts to aid their conservation make a valuable difference.
The award-winning dive operator Scuba Junkie has taken this to heart and has just held its wildly successful 4th Annual Turtle Week. The event, which ran in all of Scuba Junkie’s locations, promoted the importance of Sabah’s marine ecosystems, particularly sea turtles, and the pioneering work of Malaysian efforts in their conservation.
The resounding success of the week was down to the mix of practical efforts, such as sick turtle rehabilitation and turtle hatchery work – mixed with outreach and awareness activities with both the local community and tourists to the island.
“Conservation is at its most successful when a wide range of people are engaged – which is what happened during Turtle Week. From school children right through to tourists to the island – everyone was involved.” said David McCann, Conservation Manager for Scuba Junkie. “More importantly, everyone enjoyed themselves and brought something away with them.”
Informative talks from a range of experts kept guests to the Mabul Beach Resort engaged in the evenings. Dr Nick Pilcher, one of the world’s leading sea turtle experts, spoke about his research on turtles in Sabah – which spans over 15 years. Dr Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam from the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit enthralled guests with stories of the Wildlife Rescue Unit’s ceaseless work to protect the wildlife of Sabah.
“We really enjoyed the presentations” said Lisa Anderl, a guest at Scuba Junkie. “It gave us a new perspective on the biology of turtles. Dr Pilcher’s work was so fascinating, especially how he tracked turtle’s migration patterns. His research has directly led to conservation measures too, for example, new legislation requiring the insertion of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on all trawl nets in Malaysia.“
Scuba Junkie’s Turtle Rehabilitation Unit has two patients, ‘Trasher’ and ‘Raphael’, green turtles who were found on Pulau Mabul in unhealthy states. Dr Pakee was on the island to treat the turtles – and was called on to elaborate on the work of the WRU to both guests and local students, who were fascinated by tales of rescued animals.
“I know that Sabah is well known for rare species of animal, but I didn’t know how much work goes on behind the scenes to protect them.” said Nurul Saat. “Their dedication is incredible”.
David McCann, Scuba Junkie SEAS Conservation Manager, agrees “We would like to say a massive thanks to the Wildlife Rescue Unit for their work with Scuba Junkie over the past couple of years – their advice and guidance has been invaluable, they are always available – and work tirelessly to save every individual they can. Hopefully these two turtles will also be successfully released into the wild. That is always the best part!”
However, for the staff of Scuba Junkie, the best part of Turtle Week itself was working with local schools, colleges and youth groups. Turtle Conservation Workshops were held with Kolej Komuniti Semporna and Project TRY from Mabul. Green Semporna, Scuba Junkie’s partner in many environmental projects, ran outreach activities with school children from Mabul Kids Education Society.
“There were so many students, from so many age groups – all activities were tailored to their needs, so every group brought something away with them,” stated McCann.
A Bukharie Md Said, Lecturer on Water Recreation Course at Kolej Komuniti Semporna, agreed. “My students loved the marine conservation workshops held on World Turtle Day. David is so passionate about conservation, it shines through in his lectures. He engages them in both classroom and in the water – inspires them to want to learn more. We are already looking forward to SJ Marine Week in December!”
More practical conservation efforts during the week included numerous beach and reef cleans at all SJ locations – as plastic and rubbish in the oceans has been implicated in marine animals death.
“Every little effort, every thing a person can do to aid conservation makes a difference,” said Rhena Binti Ismail, Chairperson of local conservation group Green Semporna. “Action against rubbish, passing the message on to others – everything matters. The straw you refuse in your drink won’t get thrown into the ocean and won’t get eaten by a marine animal and cause sickness. Everything adds up.”
Ric Owen, Director of Scuba Junkie, supports this stance. “Scuba Junkie is committed to making a difference for conservation, in any way we can. It is our belief that dive operators have a responsibility to carry out marine conservation activities. Not only to protect the beautiful life on Earth, but also to protect our lifestyle. Our businesses rely on healthy marine ecosystems, so any conservation efforts we make ensure the sustainability of our business into the future.”
At Scuba Junkie, conservation is at the heart of all activities, the company recently winning ‘Dive Operator of the Year” at the recent ADEX Dive Expo. Owen continued, “The success of Scuba Junkie as a business shows that conservation and business can work hand-in-hand as a viable business model. The success of Turtle Week – and our other conservation programmes – are important examples of how dive operators can bring people together for conservation and assist conservation in a practical manner”
Lisa Anderl agreed, “We had a mix of incredible diving during the day, then evenings engaging us in marine conservation efforts. It really enhanced our experience – I look at reefs in a different way now. And I’ll take the message with me when I go diving in other places. I’ve already sworn off straws!”