On September 9th, we left for Sekolah Kebangsaan Penarik at 2pm.
When the entourage from KUSTEM arrived, the students were already very hyped-up and they all look so pretty with the same T-shirts. They were sooo excited that it was almost impossible to control them. We had to distribute the hand-held fans and the program and a motorbike sticker on each chair in the school hall so I thought it was best if we could enlist some bigger kids to help us. WRONG move. Because everybody wanted to help.
We brought the terrapins into the room instead of leaving them in the car because the weather was very hot. But once they were brought into the room, the students surrounded them, everybody wanted to touch the terrapins. I had to put on a very fierce face to get them out of the room so that the terrapins could breathe! And once I retrieved my camera from my pocket, they came back.. *smacks forehead*
The opening ceremony started at 4pm, on-the-dot. The VVIPs gave their speeches, which was followed by the prize-giving ceremony. Students who have won the colouring, drawing, essay and poem writing contests were given presents that we frantically wrapped in the morning. I’m sure the kids would say those “kakak dan abang” in the university do not know how to wrap presents nicely *winks*
Part of the audience. Most of them are egg collectors and we have invited them as well because we gave those who sold us eggs a hamper each. The more terrapin eggs one sells to the project, the bigger the hamper he will receive – this is a tactic to get them sell us more eggs, you know..
Before we adjourned to the exhibition room for some light refreshments, the school children gave a very colourful performance. They sang a specially-written song on the plight of the terrapins. And the amazing thing was that they only practised for a few days before the event! (We later learned that the Standard 6 students had just sat for their UPSR)
No prizes for correctly guessing what we did next. YaY! We all proceeded to the release site about a kilometer away from the school, which is also the MAJOR river terrapin nesting site in Setiu River (there are two other smaller nesting sites nearby). The students all got there before us because they rode their bicycles when we were still starting our cars *smiles*
I was busy taking pictures (in the river) of the VVIPs releasing the critically-endangered animals when my Supervisor signaled that it should be our turn – MY turn, since I raised them since DAY 1. Tears were welling up my eyes but I managed to avoid eye-contact with the many cameras facing our direction *blushes*
The release of the 40 animals happened too quickly. In less than 10 minutes, all the hoo-haa was over, and the kids were now standing by the riverside looking out for river terrapins that surfaced to breathe.
It had been a memorable day, despite the chaotic preparations before the release. But then again, we had it easier this year because we had experience managing a bigger crowd last year. We released 150 terrapins last year and managed about 300 guests, including 2 bus loads of Buddhists from Selangor and another bus load from Terengganu.
Here’s to the 190 released terrapins – Cheers! :)
P/S: More pictures here.