As the Team Leader for WWF-Malaysia’s Terengganu Turtle Conservation, my work broadly involves ensuring our team delivers the project outputs and activities in accordance with the agreed work plan, time frame and within the prescribed budget. We also update our funders regularly either in writing or personally, and sometimes both, on the status of our project.
Apart from that, I also “keep my ear to the ground”, meaning, I communicate regularly with the local community we work with, to get the latest information on the use of illegal fishing gear that entangle and drown turtles, egg poaching activities, turtle deaths, any turtles that need to be rescued, to keep a lookout for any signs of nesting beach encroachment, etc. We also monitor and provide technical inputs to proposed development plans near nesting beaches, and monitor the same. In some instances, we also lobby the relevant authorities for legal protection of turtle and terrapin nesting beaches and the surrounding areas which are needed as buffer zones.
I also make it a point to visit the night markets to monitor the sale of turtle eggs. Since the law does not ban the sale and consumption of turtle eggs (with the exception of the leatherbacks eggs in Terengganu), there is nothing I can do but sit down and talk to the seller and try to educate him/her as well as the potential buyers on why it is important to stop selling and eating turtle eggs. I do the same whenever I go on personal trips to the wet market in Kuala Terengganu (no, I am definitely not a favourite among the egg sellers!).
Sometimes I also have to do things that I am not comfortable doing, for example appear on television, radio, and get interviewed by the print media. But we still have to do these – all in the name of conservation – because this is one of the ways the conservation message can be spread out far and wide.
Occasionally I get invited to give turtle awareness talks to visitors at the sanctuary, to schools and university students, and even to professionals and the business community.
Last but not least, I also upgrade my knowledge regularly by reading up journals and literature on turtles, and keeping in touch with other “turtlers” from within the country as well as outside. Turtles go global, and so must we.
Rahayu joined WWF-Malaysia in 2003 as a Programme Officer working closely with the local villagers and fishermen around Kerteh and Paka on turtle conservation. Through sheer grit, sweat and tears, a local community group called Persatuan MEKAR was formed which has since established itself as the first and an exemplary community based organisation that advocates for turtle protection in the country. Her work scope has since expanded to include turtle and terrapin conservation in Setiu, and she now supervises 2 different project sites in Terengganu. Her hobbies include off the beaten track travels, photography, cycling, scuba diving and birdwatching. She shares the field house in Kerteh with her colleague and a fat cat.