Helping conserve orangutan through art and English


Yin (second right) engaging with the older pupils during the storytelling session.

Yin (second right) engaging with the older pupils during the storytelling session.

KUCHING: In its latest conservation education programme, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia Programme considers the questions of what makes orangutan conservation successful in the long term and how it can contribute to the communities living within protected areas.

Its Using Art and English for Conservation workshop, organised in partnership with Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus, was held for 35 pupils from SK Nanga Delok, a primary school near Batang Ai National Park.

Christina Yin, a senior lecturer from Swinburne Sarawak’s language and communication faculty, and local artist Angelina Bong led the two-day workshop in the school while eight WCS Malaysia staff facilitated the workshop. The pupils split into two groups of Years One to Three and Years Four to Six.

In the art sessions, the older pupils learned drawing and colouring techniques whereas the younger ones were taught how to create an orangutan collage from old magazine pages. They were encouraged to use their creativity and imagination and not restrict themselves to actual images of orangutans.

The first stage of the English workshop involved describing orangutans and naming items in their habitat and the animals’ actions.

SK Nanga Delok and WCS staff in a group photograph with the workshop participants.
SK Nanga Delok and WCS staff in a group photograph with the workshop participants.

Pupils were then encouraged to tell stories they had heard from their elders in their longhouses or villages or to describe their sightings of orangutans.

In the next stage, the pupils as a group created a story about an imaginary orangutan.

In the final stage, they were encouraged to use their imagination to write individual simple poems on the themes of orangutans and forest conservation.

Yin said working with the pupils of SK Nanga Delok was a rewarding experience.

“I learned a lot from interacting with them. They were shy at first but they were eager to learn and when they opened up, their responses and ideas were truly thought-provoking,” she said.

Bong noted a number of emerging artists from the workshop and hoped they would continue to develop their talent.

The pupils looking at sketches of orangutans with Bong (second left).
The pupils looking at sketches of orangutans with Bong (second left).

“Working with the passionate team from WCS deepened my knowledge and understanding of our wildlife, especially the orangutan. I hope people will be more aware and support conservation efforts, especially in these days of climate change and rapid development,” she said.

WCS Malaysia Programme director Dr Melvin Gumal commented: “It is wonderful working with such passionate young people in the area.

“As witnessed from our previous interactions with passionate folk from the communities, these young folk can be the heartbeat of a new generation of potential conservationists working on and protecting orangutans in the future.”

Sarawak , Family Community , orangutan