In May 2015, NEPCon and Copenhagen Zoo organised a nature conservation study trip to Malaysia for Grade 9 students from Greenland. The young Greenlanders had an eye-opening experience of tigers, tapirs and elephants more than 11,000 kilometres away from their homeland.
“I will remember this wonderful waterfall and the swimming until I get very old,” exclaimed one of the 24 youngsters visiting Malaysia for the first time.
In Greenland, water temperatures rarely reach more than a crisp 10 degrees Celsius. Swimming in lukewarm water was one of many highlights experienced by students from Ataufik Hans Lynge School from the capital of Greenland, Nuuk, during a three-week study trip to Malaysia in May 2015.
The trip was part of the “Sharing Our Planet” programme that aims at exposing students to a different part of the world, helping them to appreciate our shared responsibility towards people and the global environment.
Through games, presentations and field visits, the students became aware of the unique environment of the tropical rainforest and the services and goods it provides, and they learned how important it is to sustainably manage our natural resources.
They paid a visit to the Sungai Dusun Rescue Tapir Conservation Center dedicated to research and conservation of the Malayan Tapir - the largest tapir species in the world and the only species found in Asia.
Copenhagen Zoo and Malaysia's Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) have undertaken several research and conservation projects on this mammal, and Carl Traeholt of Copenhagen Zoo presented its biology and the efforts to conserve it.
The students were allowed to interact and pet some of the tame tapirs.
The students also visited Sungkai National Wildlife Rescue Centre taking care of captured, displaced or injured tigers. The Centre works to rehabilitate the animals and, if possible, release them back into the wild.
A trip was also made to DWNP’s Elephant Centre at Kuala Gandah, Krau Wildlife Reserve, where students experienced first-hand encounters with the animals and gained knowledge on how DWNP manages displaced elephants in conflict with humans, for example by capturing and translocating such individuals to other areas.
Going on a jungle hike, one student asked, “Isn’t it boring to look at green all the time?” A natural question from someone who is more used to looking at shades of blue and white.
“The jungle programme was an eye opener for the students. Many of them had never seen a real tree in Nuuk," reported teacher Nukannguaq Zeep after the trip.
The landscape around Nuuk is beautiful but treeless.
As it turned out, the trip into the green world of Malaysia's rainforest wasn't boring at all, but quite adventurous.The students were introduced to the tropical forest ecosystem through a “jungle discovery hike” in Krau Wildlife Reserve.
The hike provided an opportunity to observe giant trees and interact closely with the wildlife of the tropical rainforest for the first time in their lives.
Initially, many students were scared and repelled by the many strange creatures found in the diverse rainforests of Malaysia. But the fear slowly faded away.
In fact, some of the male students persistently tried to find leeches to place on their body and watch them drink blood from their hands and arms.
Sanusi, Copenhagen Zoo’s Malaysian Research Officer teaches Nivi from Greenland a new skill: how to use lianas to quench your thirst.
Following the study trip, the students received an environmental award from the Greenland Home Rule for their international outlook and hard work to raise funds for the trip.
Manager of NEPCon Malaysia Chris Schriver said, “I hope this is only the beginning of our involvement in educating young people about the importance of conservation and sustainable development. We are currently looking for various funding opportunities to help us do just that.”
NEPCon Malaysia supported the study tour, including a four-day jungle trip conducted in collaboration with Copenhagen Zoo’s Southeast Asia Programme. Before landing in Malaysia, the students had a stop-over in Copenhagen where Copenhagen Zoo opened its doors and provided an insight into the function of a modern zoo as well as its commitment to in-situ conservation in international countries.
The trip was also supported from the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), which NEPCon Malaysia currently assists in developing a management plan for the largest National Park in Malaysia, Taman Negara. The delegation was invited to some of DWNP’s conservation and rescue facilities.