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SEARCHING FOR THE GUARDIAN OF THE COASTS, A WETLAND TOUR AT BALIK PULAU, PENANG, MALAYSIA

Wong Yun Yun Water Watch Penang email: byfy83@yahoo.com Wong Yun Yun. 2012. Searching for the Guardian of the Coast, a Wetland Tour at Balik Pulau, Penang, Malaysia. Wetland Ecologist (Wetecol). 23-04-2012. (online)

plants and mangrove trees during the guided walk along the sandy shore. They were amazed by the structural and behavioural diversity of these plants as well as its many uses to people. The common coastal inhabitants such as mudskippers, crabs, water birds, and monitor lizards were also found on the way of exploring the wetland.

A group of 20 students (A-level Biology class) and 1 lecturer from Penang KDU College were joining an educational trip to Balik Pulau, Penang under the programme namely Nature Classroom Forest, Water and Us. The programme is run by the environmental based NGO Water Watch Penang (WWP) and is supported by UNEP Eco-Peace Leadership Center (UNEP-EPLC) for one year basis. A special mission was given to these participants who were first visited a coastal wetland searching for the guardian of the coasts. They would need to find out more about the guardian from this trip!

With the fascinating nature and wildlife, it was very upset to see tons of rubbish accumulated on the beach. Therefore, the participants were encouraged to clean the beach on their way back. The group worked very hard to collect the washed up rubbish especially the non-biodegradable type. After beach cleanup, it was a short break. The WWP guide took the opportunity to discuss the important roles of mangrove forests and healthy water resources in ecological, environmental and economical aspects. Finally, the participants learned that the mangrove forest is truly the guardian of the coasts!

In the early morning, the group arrived at Kuala Pulau Betong under the guidance of the organising members of WWP. The participants exposed to various coastal

WETECOL (Wetland Ecologist). Knowledge Sharing Network. http:wetecol.bogspot.com

After lunch, the group set off to Kampung Ku Art Gallery and Guest House for attending herbarium workshop. Mr. Ng Hong Jing, the biology lecturer from INTI International College Penang volunteered to teach the students on how to make a herbarium collection. Slide show on the botanical technique and samples of herbarium were presented to the students. Before leaving, the participants posed with a bunch of collected garbage for a group photo. They were exhausted but very much satisfied with the result where a total of 52 kg marine debris was cleared from the beach. After that, the participants properly disposed the collected rubbish at the nearby fishing village.

Pulau Betong fishing village is a lovely village surrounded by flourishing mangrove vegetation. With the assistance of the guide, the students sampled specimens from different mangrove trees for their herbarium project. It was followed by visiting a 50-year-old shrimp paste (belacan) factory. This factory as a living heritage of Balik Pulau, is showing that how the locals and their ancestors rely on the natural resources from the coast. In the picture, the factory owner, Mr. Lo was explaining the way of producing good quality belacan to the KDU lecturer, Mr. Chow Chee Kit.

After the lecture, the students worked together and carefully handled the mangrove plant specimens that collected from the field. They spent less than one hour to complete the specimen pressing process. It would take one or two weeks time for drying and mounting processes before a nice herbarium can be produced.

It came to the closing ceremony, where a certificate and a mangrove book were awarded to KDU College. Besides, all participants were given small souvenirs as a token of appreciation. It is definitely a good experience to have an educational outing with the KDU friends. Hopefully, by conducting such educational tours, more and more students and teachers will get involved in the efforts of protecting our mangrove forests and water resources.

WETECOL (Wetland Ecologist). Knowledge Sharing Network. http:wetecol.bogspot.com