The much-loved education boat, MV Kalabia (the local name for the walking shark), was officially launched by the governor of West Papua on September 30, 2008. Since then, this colorful 34 meter reincarnation of a tuna-trawling ship has been touring the islands of Raja Ampat spending a few days at each village to deliver highly-interactive experiential conservation education programming to the communities.
During the start-up phase of the program, the Conservation International Education Team focused mainly on youth activities and lessons, but now the program is three-pronged: extending its reach to adults, including fishermen and women, as well as incorporate a teacher-training program to ensure the longer-term sustainability of the initiative, and have a lasting impact on the conservation of these precious islands. The program hopes to soon also host volunteer doctors and nurses to bring improved health-care to remote communities in a concurrent program.
The 3-day comprehensive marine conservation education program has been designed from the ground up – developed to build community knowledge, awareness, and a sense of pride and ownership of their marine natural resources, while urging conservation of these unique ecosystems. The program itself is a highly-interactive series of activities and lessons in which students learn about basic marine biology, ecology, and conservation.
Through exploratory hand-on activities, students will gain basic knowledge about coral reef, mangrove, and seagrass ecosystems and their functions, as well as an understanding of concepts such as habitats, webs of life, ecological connectivity, and carrying capacity. Most importantly, the education team has carefully crafted the module to address the issue of threats to marine conservation in Raja Ampat. The critical issues, which were identified with stakeholders, include destructive fishing using dynamite and cyanide, consumption of sea turtles and their eggs, throwing garbage into the ocean, coral mining for construction, pollution from mining activities, and over-fishing of certain species (e.g., shark-finning, groupers, and anchovy). Nothing could be more effective than participants learning to snorkel and seeing with their own eyes the difference between bombed reef, and reef which is still intact and healthy!
The marine conservation education program is delivered to the 100++ remote villages of Raja Ampat by a dedicated team of locally-hired, charismatic conservation educators from Yayasan Kalabia Indonesia (YaKIn) who have received intensive training. Yayasan Kalabia Indonesia is a new NGO, spun-off from Conservation International to focus specifically on the Kalabia program. Headed by executive director, Bram Goram, and supported by Canadian Education Advisor Angela Beer, YaKIn continues to be supported extensively by Conservation International. YaKIn is thankful to all their generous sponsors, including the Indonesian Port Corporation (IPC), Pindito dive liveaboard, and others! Please consider supporting the Kalabia to continue to bring its critical program to the people of Raja Ampat who safeguard the global epicenter of marine biodiversity – You can make a donation on Kalabia’s website (www.kalabia.net).
Feel free to contact Yayasan Kalabia Indonesia if you are interested in obtaining more information, or supporting the program!