Conservation and Environment in Cambodia: Monthly Updates
Cambodia Conservation Monthly Update: January – February 2014
Over the January and February period, we managed to survey 41 new sites of our study area (15 in January and 26 in February), which contains 648 sites. On these surveys, a higher than usual number of seahorse were observed (26 in January and 22 in February), which was very exciting for the volunteers.
Training also continued, with our more experienced divers and surveyors taking our new volunteers out on identification dives to teach them the different habitats we record on survey, and what to do if they encounter a seahorse on a survey.
Training also occurred on land, where new volunteers attended presentations on the survey methodology, and seahorse identification, which details the habitats and aspects of seahorse morphology covered on the identification dives. However, being on land allows it to be discussed in further detail and permits volunteers to ask more questions.
It is hoped that in March, with the weather getting better, we will be able to reach, and hopefully exceed, our target of 30 new survey sites per month. With a number of well- trained long- term volunteers, and a keen group of newcomers, we are very optimistic that this will occur.
Within the next few months, we will be moving to a new project site on Koh Seh, an island based off of Kep, a small town on the Southern coast of Cambodia.
Commencing research on the new project site will not only include work examining the seahorse population, but will also involve collecting baseline data on the current state of all the reef sites around not only Koh Seh, but a number of the surrounding islands in Kep waters.
Therefore, over January and February, diving work has also involved teaching volunteers about the fish, invertebrates and substrate common to Cambodian waters. As the main goal is for the volunteers to be able to participate in Reef Check surveys, we have also been giving presentations on Reef Check methodology and next month, will begin surveys around a few of the most commonly dived reef sites of Koh Rong Samloem and our neighbouring island, Koh Koun.
The River Clean Up Project
Over the January and February period, increased winds carried a lot of rubbish into the junction where a freshwater river meets the sea water. As this river runs through the back of the village in close proximity to a number of houses, the water can also be quite polluted, not only by rubbish, but also by run-off of cleaning products, gasoline and engine oil from boats, and sanitation systems.
This inspired a new project which included making scoop nets, etc. out of recycled products found on clean up dives and in the village, in order to remove the rubbish from the river without having to enter the water.
So far the project has been very successful, with the river, and the connected sea, looking much better. However, the next step of this project is to tackle the sources of pollution through prevention methods, such as education, and physical barriers or filter systems to stop the pollution from reaching the sea.
Teaching on the island in January and February has involved two components; English/ Khmer classes and environmental lesson plans
I am pleased to say that lately we have had a lot of interest from volunteers who would like to learn Khmer while they stay with us. We have found that those who learn some Khmer while here, often feel more integrated in the village, and often leave with a better understanding of the day-to-day lives of those who reside in the village, and the struggles that might lead to the illegal fishing practices that affect our marine projects.
This interest fits in nicely with a number of the Khmer staff who are keen to learn English. As a result Khmer- English lessons are now held in main bungalow a few nights a week, using picture dictionaries and lots of hand gestures to get by.
The second teaching activity volunteers are participating in at the moment is environmental lesson planning. In Kep there will be opportunities to visit local schools and deliver environmental conservation themed lessons to children of different age groups. In preparation for this, volunteers have brainstormed topics and appropriate ways to get the message across for different age groups.
Lesson topics have included climate change, water cycle, marine organism food chains, fishing practices, marine creatures, waste and recycling, and shark conservation to tie in with Projects Abroad’s Global Shark Campaign.
Khmer School Refurbishment
The work continued on the village school over the January- February period, with both classrooms now fully renovated, the volunteers focused their efforts on the biggest job of all, the former kitchen. The volunteers spent their time tearing down the old building and helping a trained carpenter with some light construction duties. For those not keen on construction work, the children’s school desks also needed to be sanded and painted with some fun designs.
Towards the end of February, the construction was finished and work shifted towards painting both the interior and exterior of the new building.
Over the next few weeks in March we will help finish the painting, and the school will once again be fully functioning.
Conservation Coordinator, Cambodia