The Habitat Foundation believes that transformative experiences in nature are an important foundation for future leaders and changemakers. For this reason, we were excited to partner with GreenSmiths, a leader in outdoor environmental education for young people. For three activity-filled days in November 2018, 16 young people were supported by the Foundation to join a GreenSmiths expedition to the Ulu Muda Field Research Centre, in the heart of the Greater Ulu Muda Rainforest in Kedah.
GreenSmiths expeditions are unique as they are run by young people who are themselves on an internship to develop their leadership abilities in addition to conservation, eco-engineering, and education skills. The group travelled by boat up the Muda river to Earth Lodge, at the Ulu Muda Field Research Centre. The Centre hosts local and international research on the biodiversity and ecology of this remarkable forest. Earth Lodge is operated by local villagers and the expeditions use local boats, equipment, food and materials. Maintaining sustainable, non-destructive economies for Malaysia’s forest is vital to ensure their long-term protection.The Ulu Muda rainforest has so many incredible sites to explore. Students had the opportunity to visit a natural hot spring and hike through the jungle to collect data from camera traps that have been installed to monitor wildlife in the area. This was an amazing way to appreciate the wonder of the Malaysian rainforest which is brimming with life. The group saw lizards, snakes, and many fascinating insects and spiders. They even managed to see the fresh tracks of wild pigs, deer, tapir and elephants!
In the evening the group went back onto the river with the hope of seeing elephants, but despite waiting for a long time only tracks and elephant dung hinted at the presence of these forest giants. At night, as the forest came alive with different creatures and sounds, the group set out to see scorpions, reptiles and amphibians.
Each day would begin at the crack of dawn as the sun was rising and the group would float gently downriver in boats. The wonderful call of agile gibbons would echo through the trees and it was possible to spot a diversity of birds including several species of hornbills. After returning for breakfast, the students who are studying at local colleges and universities, discussed how to create a sustainable planet through the career paths they have chosen. Engineering students were encouraged to imagine how to power our lives more sustainably, banking students were challenged to consider ways in which the financial world can foster green options, while scientists were encouraged to make their research compelling and accessible to the public.
Through expeditions like this one, GreenSmiths is committed to enabling young people to have this immersive experience at a time when it can powerfully shape their thinking. Activities like this are a way to nurture future-leaders who will have a role in steering society towards more sustainable options. During the expedition, along with learning about the forest, young people were asked to make a short video to record their experience and to share it with others. All participants on the expedition had an incredible time with new friendships made and experiences that will last a lifetime.
It is our hope that these will lay a strong foundation for these decision-makers and future leaders of Malaysia.