Yusuf Abdulwahab is pursuing his BA in Economics and Politics at Durham University, UK. This summer, Yusuf took part in a six-week conservation expedition to Malaysian Borneo sponsored by Durham University, along with 15 other students. Prior to their departure, the group managed to fundraise over £20,000 which they donated to three conservation charities there.
Yusuf recounts his experience:
“Every year, Durham University students set out on charity expeditions around the world. This summer, I had the opportunity to take part in a six-week conservation expedition to Malaysian Borneo with 15 other students. Having done environmental conservation work in the past, I had certain expectations of the experience to come. However, not only were we astounded by the severity of the situation in the places we visited, but we were also amazed by the dedication and resilience of those doing all in their capacity to better the situation. I came back from the expedition with a better understanding of issues faced by conservationists in that part of the world, what they are doing to solve them and how we as students can help. Our interaction with the local peoples and exposure to their distinct cultures also made the experience truly fascinating.”
“For the first three weeks, the team was based at a wildlife conservation center in the rainforests of Sarawak, Malaysia. The center’s main function is the rehabilitation of various species of endangered animals that have previously been in captivity. The eventual goal of the volunteers at the center is releasing as many of these as animals as they can back into the wild. The team worked with everything from orangutans and sun bears to Bornean clouded leopards.”
“We then travelled to Pompom, a small Island of the coast of Sabah, Eastern Malaysia. There we worked with the Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC) based on the island. Alongside TRACC volunteers, we helped with the planting of artificial coral reefs in places where the coral was damaged by blast and cyanide fishing. There were also regular nightly patrols of the island; as sea turtles would come to lay their eggs on the beach. Green and Hawksbill sea turtles are both listed as endangered, so volunteers would collect their eggs and place them in a protected hatchery, thus reducing the risk of poaching or predation. We also did regular underwater surveys of both the state of the coral reefs and the population of sea turtles around the island.”
“In addition to the conservation work we were involved in during our time in Borneo, we also got the chance to immerse ourselves in the local cultures of the areas in which we were working. We had regular incursions into Malaysian villages, towns and cities exploring local cuisines, markets and festivals. The group also visited various national parks around the country and climbed Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia at 4,095 m. The trip was concluded by a visit to Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian metropolis was in sharp contrast to the rainforests of Borneo and the tropical islands of its coast.”