Written by Maddalena Visentin based on an interview with Clem Carroll.
Clem Carroll is a 23-year-old girl from Bristol, UK who spent some weeks volunteering with the Perhentian Turtle Project in Malaysia. In the past, she volunteered at the Bristol Zoo and the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation in Greece. Whether you are an experienced wildlife conservationist or not, the Perhentian Turtle Project can give you the opportunity to help protecting turtles in these beautiful islands and start your career in wildlife conservation!
Why did you choose the project?
I volunteered with this project because first of all, the ethics and motives surrounding it seemed really genuine. Secondly, the real concern for the planet, the environment and conservation of the turtles. I really appreciated the fact that the project didn’t seem to focused on getting volunteers in. The overall work looked really worthwhile and true. There were a wide range of activities and I had the opportunity to get involved in everything turtle related.
What kind of work and activities did you undertake?
My team and I were able to assist on kayak surveys, snorkel surveys and some volunteers got the opportunity to participate in coral implanting/creating artificial reefs. At some point during the week, we were giving talks and presentations to other travel groups, schools and dive shops in the local area about the project and how they can do their part. I learnt how to assist in data analysis and turtle facial ID thanks to information gathered from surveys. We did weekly trips to two turtle nesting beaches, divided into small groups. We worked in different shifts for turtle patrols all night long. During my shift, I had to safely collect the eggs from any females that came to lay eggs into the beach. Additionally, my team and I had to check the hatchery for babies and if so, released them back into the ocean.
Do you feel you have made an impact there?
I feel I made an impact from delivering the talks to locals and schools. The local community will be a huge part of helping out the turtle population in the Perhentian Islands. I think that villagers and local shops need to make an effort and take part on these kind of activities. Furthermore, I made an impact from doing the turtle patrols and ensuring that the nesting females eggs were every night safe from poachers and predators.
What have you gained from this experience?
I gained confidence in talking to people from different cultures and background during the presentations and in terms of spreading awareness about the project. I have never done any photo ID of turtles before this project. That’s why it was useful to gain experience and understand how much work goes into monitoring current turtle populations. In general, I experienced the extent of the project’s efforts and the commitment that goes into a conservation project.
Which were the most challenging aspects?
The most challenging aspect was seeing people so unaware of their own incorrect behaviours towards environment. The project and volunteers are trying to help them change (e.g. a lot of people stand on coral and try to hug the turtles) in a tactful way.
Highlights of the trip? Most rewarding moments?
When we saw poachers on the night patrols it was really rewarding to know that we helped to keep the turtles eggs safe. The first time we released babies into the ocean was a huge highlight! I took part to a few other projects and not been lucky enough to see many animals. So it was amazing to see the turtle project’s positive effects and people understand its efforts. I believe that local shops, hotels and tourists want to be more and more involved in conservation efforts.
Would you recommend this experience to others?
Yes! I feel like as a volunteer I got a really good insight into the conservation efforts and felt as I was able to participate in everything that I wanted to (it wasn’t strictly reserved for permanent staff members). The volunteer schedule is really well run and ensures you get to everything advertised on the website. So when I was booking my expectations were completely fulfilled.