By Fay West
The Deakin students are now home safely after an incredible and attitude changing experience in Sarawak. Following on from their jam packed first day racing around Kuching, meeting UNIMAS students and giving their presentations, the visit to the Sarawak Cultural Village provided them with an easy and relaxed way to learn about the history and culture of the area. Their work with the Sarawak Forestry Program and Sarawak Planted Forests challenged their ideas of conservation and management. Many commented that through this work they realised how similar the issues faced by Australia and Malaysia really are.
Seeing the captive orang-utans at Matang was confronting and whilst seeing the wild animals at Semenggoh was incredible and heartening, the students were able to really experience the issue at hand and the competing points of view that affect the habitats of these amazing animals. Getting up close to nature on the IBEC field trip was a highlight of many of the students. The UNIMAS postgraduate students taught them how to process the animals and they saw some truly spectacular examples of what Sarawak has to offer – check out the photos!
After a full on four days of fieldwork and homestay accommodation, the students were able to relax at the Floating House at Bakun Dam, which was considered as the favourite spot for most of the group. The study tour came to an end with a kayaking adventure, which allowed the students to unwind and process their experience whilst enjoying some more Sarawak wilderness.
Throughout the whole program the students took advantage of the opportunity to discuss the nature of conservation and management in Sarawak with locals, students, academics and industry leaders. This study tour helped expand their knowledge and appreciation for the similarities and differences between Australia and Malaysia, and between the classroom theory and reality of many conservation issues. They experienced the incredible hospitality of the people of Sarawak and came to see another perspective on the palm oil situation – a very challenging consequence for most.