American student on a mission to save terrapins in Malaysia

Posted on May 23, 2011. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star-

SETIU: An American’s passion to save endangered river turtles has led her far from home, all the way to Kampung Mangkok in Penarik here.

Margaret Leigh Perry, a student researcher from North Carolina, said the plight of the turtles, better known as terrapins, had often been her concern.

Research material: Perry studying turtle skeleton for her research in Kampung Mangkok.

“I am passionate about turtle conservation, especially the river terrapin, as it is the most endangered in the region.

“That is why I am here in Terengganu, where the number of river terrapins is decreasing,” she told The Star yesterday.

Perry, 25, said her nine months in the village had helped her understand the terrapins better as well as spread more awareness among the villagers on activities that might affect the terrapin population.

She has placed trackers on terrapins to determine their habitat, growth, population as well as factors that could lead to their extinction.

“I spend most of my time at the river, researching the terrapins. The villagers love to collect turtle eggs. Some of them eat the eggs while others sell them. Thus, it is important to educate them on the negative effects of their actions,” she said.

Staying with a local family, the American popularly known in the village as Meg said the key to conservation was finding a balance between the people’s needs and the needs of the environment.

Aside from her research, Perry also teaches English to the local children.

In the midst of it all, she has picked up a bit of Bahasa Malaysia.

“I started with zero Malay to being fluent in words such as tak faham (don’t understand) and tak tahu (don’t know).

“My favourite word is boleh (can),” she said.

Perry has taken a liking to the food, too, especially lempeng (Malay pancake), which can be eaten with curry or sugar.

“Although we are from opposite sides of the world, people are universal in their traits. Harmony can be seen everywhere,” she said.

Perry, who is in the last month of her research, said she was looking forward to going home to see her parents and two younger sisters.

“However, this place and the people will forever remain in my heart,” she said.


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