Dr. Chen Pelf Nyok

Releasing a river terrapin into the Setiu River. 2008.

Dr. Chen Pelf Nyok was born in Kuantan, Pahang and she received her primary education in Ipoh and Melaka. Unbeknown to Pelf, she has had a strong affinity towards turtles when she was a little girl. However, she was only formally introduced to turtles in her undergraduate studies in Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT).

Upon receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology in 2004, she landed herself a job as a Research Assistant in a new river terrapin project on campus. In was in this job that she had the opportunity to learn the ropes in turtle research and conservation. One event led to another, and Pelf decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Biodiversity and Conservation. Throughout her Master’s research, she raised more than 800 river terrapins, and determined the best feeding practices to raise these river terrapins in captivity. In 2017, Pelf was awarded the first Ph.D. in the field of non-marine turtles in Malaysia.

In 2008, Pelf became the first Malaysian to be awarded a turtle conservation scholarship from the Asian Scholarship Program for in-situ Chelonian Conservation to the United States. Through the scholarship, she had the opportunity to learn about and participate in various turtle research and conservation projects that her hosts were involved in, e.g. at the University of Tennessee of Chattanooga, Behler Chelonian Center in California, and the Wetlands Institute in New Jersey.

In addition to turtle research and conservation, Pelf is also experienced in public outreach campaigns. She coordinates and conducts various turtle education programs and fund-raising events, as well as participates in exhibitions and carnivals. For example, in 2010, she conducted Turtle Awareness Camps in 15 primary schools in Terengganu, with the help of volunteer facilitators, successfully reaching out to more than 500 students.

Apart from nurturing her passion in turtle research and conservation, Pelf is also an avid blogger and a social media enthusiast. She started blogging in 2005 but since realizing the power of blogging and social media in advocating the cause that she so strongly believes in, she has been tirelessly promoting awareness in turtle conservation through her blogs, social media sites and to anybody who would listen! As such, she has been featured in magazines such as Singapore Women’s Weekly, Malaysian Women’s Weekly and I.M. Mag in Malaysia. She has also been invited to give talks about turtles and conservation, and in 2011, she was given the honour to speak at TEDxKL.

In 2011, Pelf co-founded Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia (TCS), a non-profit and non-governmental organisation dedicated to turtle conservation in Malaysia.