Saturday, 16 June 2012

Pom Pom Positively Turtle Heaven

By Danielle Lancaster

Pom Pom Island is an idyllic paradise.

Relatively unknown, this tiny tropical island around 45 minutes by boat from Borneo’s coast, is picture perfect postcard material. White sandy beaches, turquoise waters teeming with tropical marine life and on land, lush vegetation with brilliantly coloured flowers provide a safe habitat for birds, their feathers as vividly tinted as the flowers that their bills pierce seeking nectar.

For Melissa Mangalis, Pom Pom Island’s Resort Marine Biologist, it’s a perfect office.  Melissa is working hard for change. Not unlike any other island in the world, rubbish is a problem even on this uninhabited (except for the resort) island. Years of plastic use has caused a never ending rubbish problem. And here on Pom Pom its item like plastic bottles and bags washed up on the sandy beach. While yes an eye sore, the foremost problem this plastic waste presents is for the sea turtles. For them it’s a killer. And for Melissa a war that must be won. 

 Melissa at the turtle hatchery on Pom Pom Island

Working hand in hand with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Melissa is an advocate for change. ‘If we can educate the children, we and the turtles have a future,’ she told me today as we sat in the shade by Pom Pom turtle’s hatchery.

Behind us school children from three schools (two from the mainland and another island) are playing games on the beach. Each game has a deep message. Along with their teachers and WWF staff they are being taught through fun the effects of plastics and illegal fishing practices such as dynamite and cyanide fishing have on the environment.
‘Some of these children’s father’s may be fishermen, they all use plastic and the children are our key for change. It’s how we can work for change together, and save our precious environment,’ explains Melissa.

Children from schools on the mainland and a nearby island play games to learn
about the impact of rubbish on marine life.

In one afternoon I counted 12 sea turtles just outside my bungalow on Pom Pom. Green and Hawksbill turtles regularly use the beaches of Pom Pom to lay their clutches of eggs. In the water Melissa is just as active and so is the diving team at Pom Pom. 

There are regular reef clean-ups and work removing Crown of Thorn Starfish, coral painting and the team works closely with the Marine Police in Semporna for any breaches in fishing protocols they see or hear. Dynamite fishing is still being illegally undertaken and a group of divers told me over lunch today of a large blast they heard while diving far off Pom Pom this morning.

 A green turtle in the shallows of Pom Pom Island.

Back on land the team on the island are every bit as proactive. Daily beach clean-ups keep Pom Pom’s beaches as pristine as they can be. Visitors are encouraged to join in and there are regular talks and activities aimed at educating.

It’s a great case of every little bit helps, and with people like the young and energetic Melissa coming up through the ranks we can feel positive these magnificent ancient sea mariners the turtles, will be visiting Pom Pom for many more generations to come and its beaches have a chance of staying white and not becoming just another rubbish dump.

1 comment:

Aly Marie said...

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