What a monumental month March has been – on so many levels! We kicked off our 2013 Bangkok school tour at the end of February and over the next 10 days presented at 9 different International schools, targeting over 2,000 children, 50 teachers and 50 parents in 13 full presentations and 10 breakout/discussion/question and answer sessions!
We also released our new Shark Guardian tshirt at the start of the tour and it seems everybody likes it very much.
The tour started at The Thai Chinese International School where Jalal Tarazi arranged for us to speak to the Year 7′s from his school and some from the nearby Wells International school. We were really glad things got off to a great start with lots of interesting questions at the end and many new Facebook friends.
On to Patana the following day to present to the Year 7′s and 8′s and then a different crowd in the afternoon at Harrow – 3 classes of year 2 children!
Both of these visits were arranged by avid divers and now firm friends of Shark Guardian (Helen Thew at Patana and Mike Williams at Harrow) since this was the second time we visited each school. We are already in discussion with Helen about future visits to Patana to speak to the younger children and our visit to Harrow was the start of a big ‘Fin Free’ campaign.
We really enjoyed the small sessions we had with the Harrow children after the main presentation. They asked a whole range of questions and it was so interesting to hear their views on what had stuck in their mind following the presentation.
In a few weeks we will be back at Harrow supporting their ‘Shark Expo’ where they try and get as many teachers, children and parents to take the ’no to shark fin’ pledge. We are really proud to have stimulated this positive action and hope Harrow can be an inspiration for many more schools.
Our third day of the Bangkok tour was a very busy day as we presented to the whole school at St Stephens International School, arranged by the principal David Taylor, a big supporter and friend of Shark Guardian. We started with a big presentation to all the lower years and then had smaller sessions with each year so the children could ask questions.
We even did a smaller session with the ‘early years’ meaning we had our youngest audience yet, only learning afterwards that some of the children were only 2 years old!!
The afternoon was just as busy with another upper school presentation and then more breakout sessions for questions. And by the end of the day we had been given lots of posters as the first of our competition entries had been completed already by the lower school. Our competition is for all of the Thai schools we visited over the tour and asks for students to come up with an idea on how to stop or prevent people from eating shark fin soup.I think we managed extremely well to keep this young group engrossed in our work (although Brendon is clearly more comfortable surrounded by great white sharks than he is with unpredictable 2 and 3 year olds!!), and our respect goes out to the teachers and support workers who have to look after these children every day!!
So a great end to our first week in Bangkok with some amazing feedback, made even better when we attended our first CITES event held by PEW. It was great to finally meet some of the other Shark conservation groups who we have been in touch with over the internet, and awesome to get a positive vibe going about CITES which was due to start over the weekend. 5 shark species and 2 manta rays were due for proposal on to Appendix 2 and nobody was quite sure which way it would go. More on that later!!!We’ve already had lots of poster entries and cannot wait to see the final results over the next few months. The winners from each school will spend some time with Shark Guardian to work on conservation activities before a final winner is selected and their idea is converted in to a real or large scale format.
Week 2 of the tour started with the year 10′s at The New International School (NIST) of Bangkok, another return visit to a great school with a fabulous auditorium. Onwards to Shrewsbury for the next 2 mornings and some time with another friend, Jacqueline Munnings.
It was time for the year 10′s the next day with another great result. And feedback from the Year 12′s who saw the presentation 2 years previously and who were educating others in their class about us and our mission, as they did not manage to see us this time.Firstly we presented to almost 600 children covering Years 6 – 9 in the most amazing hall we have ever presented in! And such a fantastic response from the children as well as the teachers.
Another session at KIS saw us spend time with the early years, kindergarten and year 2 as we visited our good friend Sarah. So much talking and excitement we are unsure how we ever got through our ‘younger’ version presentation!! But it was so pleasing to see this enthusiasm and feel the passion the children had for sharks. We could have taken questions from the children all afternoon but we had to let them go when the bell rang!! This group had all continued never to eat shark fin since the presentation 2 years ago and have been spreading our message since – proof that the younger generation really can make a difference and are so important to educate.
Time to head to Pattaya on the Wednesday afternoon of the second week for 3 presentations arranged for us by Paul Crouch, head of the Round Square department at Regents, Pattaya. In the evening we were the feature of ‘Regents presents’, a time for the community to come together and see presentations by various organisations on current global issues. A small turn out with positive outcomes as parents and children saw what Shark Guardian is about and a glimpse of our presentation.
The following day we presented to the 7 – 10 year olds of the lower school in the morning, then the 11 – 14 year olds in the afternoon. We also had an impromptu session with a year 3 class as teacher Emily Kay was really excited to have us in for 10 minutes to chat to her excited children.
So, the main Bangkok school tour was over but we still had a busy week ahead, starting with more presentations and education sessions at the Global Issues ServICE conference. We answered questions and generally talked about our experiences in the oceans. Since the presentations at Regents, Emily has been a strong campaigner for us and our work and has been continuing conservation efforts with her class. We cannot wait to see the competition entries she has for us and hope to return to Pattaya in the coming months.
The second day of the conference involved us presenting to another group of children in an unconferenced session. We showed them our presentation and discussed ideas on how they can all get involved in shark conservation, and that anybody can make a difference in life if they put their mind to it. A great weekend overall and we were so honoured to be a part of it, sharing information with another 50+ children and more adults and children at the NGO fair – Shark Guardians’ messages spreading further afield again.Arranged once more by Jalal at the Thai Chinese School we had a stall at the NGO fair and then had 2 simulation sessions with children from a mixture of schools (NIST, Patana, Regents, ICIS, ISB, ICS). The conference is about inspiring and empowering our next generation of young adults so these 12 – 14 year olds we worked with us are hopefully our next group of shark activists. We now have a project with them to create letters to take to some Bangkok restaurants to get shark off their menu. More on this in the coming months!
On to Monday the 11th and time for Shark Guardian to be a part of some monumental events happening at the Queen Sirikit Convention Centre in Bangkok. 3 species of hammerhead shark, porbeagle and oceanic white tips were being voted on by representatives from around the world, to get better protection in their trade.
We were in the building as oceanic white tips were accepted on to Appendix 2 and then in the actual room as the hammerheads got a resounding yes too. Great to be a part of this. Unfortunately we had to head off for our night bus as the porbeagles were voted on to the list also, but we were again happy to hear their success.Of course we would rather that no shark fins are traded and that all finning is banned, that is our hope for one day. But there is evidence that these selected species are declining at a faster rate that others so to get on to Appendix 2, this is a massive step in their conservation and protection for their future survival.
It took until Thursday for all these votes to become official and now countries have 18 months to work out how to monitor and enforce these new laws. Having protection now for only 8 species of shark is so very very small when we consider there are around 500 shark species. We must now continue to fight for more protection for more sharks. The campaign is endless and for the next CITES meeting in 2 years time, lets hope we are getting even more shark and ray protection. The next afternoon in Khao Lak we were once again thrilled to hear the manta ray success. This is the first time ANY species in CITES has made it to Appendix 2 on the first attempt. For all these successes it shows how sharks and rays and being talked about worldwide and how the public will not sit and watch any of these beautiful, amazing species slide in to extinction.
So with Khao lak as our next location it was time to visit dive shops and then present to an audience at Walkers Inn. A 50 strong crowd watched our presentation and we had some great discussions after.
Straight to our final school of the Thailand tour the next morning – the British International School in Phuket. Paul Wheatley had arranged for us to speak to years 7 – 10, over 100 children who provided a very warm welcome and brilliant response. Once more we could have answered questions all afternoon, such was the enthusiasm and desire for more information. Later that day Paul phoned us and gave us the great feedback from the parents, teachers and children. We look forward to visiting again in the next few weeks and hope to arrange a presentation for the parents and community in the coming month.We announced the ‘Get Sharks off the Hook’ campaign being run by SeeandSea and are really happy to be a supporter, as well as, now, leader of this. We will be working with people on Koh Lanta to get this project under way there soon and then Krabi and Phuket will be the goal later down the line. We are proud to be helping and working with the crew at SeeandSea – watch this space for more information.
Finally, Koh Lanta was our destination and last weekend we had a small audience at The Southern Lanta Resort in Klong Dao. Divers, professionals and holiday makers enjoyed our presentation and we are now working closely with Hidden Depths Diving for more Shark Guardian Projects.
With the Thailand tour of presentations over we visited Phuket to make contacts and find out about other conservation efforts in the area. That rounded off almost 3 weeks of Shark Guardian on the road in Thailand, 10 International Schools, 2 diving locations and nearly 3,000 children and adults seeing our presentation!It was great to return to an island both of us at Shark Guardian have a special place for, and we look forward to returning very soon.
Then finally as March draws to an end, time to head to Kota Kinabulu, a new location for both of us and a presentation at the Kinabalu International school at the start of the week. Alun Rendle who arranged for us to present to all the secondary students loved our newly adapted presentation! The children were really receptive and we hope to inspire some conservation efforts, including a widespread acceptance of the no shark fin pledge.