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Mathilde Chanvin, Tangkoko Conservation Education

Mathilde Chanvin is an experienced educator born in France, now living and working in the UK. Mathilde was working for an NGO in Greece educating young members of the community when she fell in love with environmental teaching. In 2008 Mathilde went to visit her partner who worked as a research assistant for the Macarc nigre Project in the Tangkoko Nature Reserve, Indonesia. The experience inspired her to set up an environmental education programme in the area. And so Tangkoko Conservation Education was born!

Mathilde has answered some of our questions to allow us to learn about her story and the work being done in the Tangkoko National Park.

How did you end up in your current job?

When I came back from his first trip to Sulawesi, I suggested to the MNP team that I would like to create a long -lasting conservation education programme for children who live around Tangkoko. MNP already implemented some conservation activities but didn’t have the time or staff to implement more education work. I spent two years in Indonesia between 2011 and 2013 to run the project with local coordinators, and now manage it remotely while my local team coordinates it on site. I return to North Sulawesi once a year for a few weeks to check on the team and the programme.

What steps led you to where you are today? Did you study or get straight into the field?

I didn’t have a conservation or biology degree, so before I created the TCE programme and travelled to Sulawesi in 2011, I learnt many skills “from scratch”. I spent hours reading papers and books about conservation education, attending training from friends in the conservation education field. I spent a lot of time meeting people and organisations with similar aims, and communicating with the NGOs already on site to try to establish connections and partnerships, and of course... learning Bahasa Indonesia!

Then I went straight to the field by the end of 2010 to meet with the local communities, partners, and teachers, hire a local coordinator, and finally start a pilot project for schools in the village of Batu Putih, situated at the edge of the Tangkoko Reserve.

In 2017, I obtained a Master of Research in Science (MRes) at the Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth. This Master helped me to gain skills and competence in assessing the impact of Tangkoko Conservation Education on the participants’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards their local environment, and thus helped me to improve certain aspects of our programme.

What is your favourite aspect of your job?

Meeting the pupils and teaching them about conservation education and accompanying them on trips to the Tangkoko forest was definitely what I loved the most when I was in Indonesia. This is also what I miss the most now that I manage the programme remotely! Their enthusiasm and motivation to learn when we enter their classroom is priceless.

What was your proudest moment in conservation so far?

The proudest moments are when we hear stories from the children. I especially treasure the story told by a child who lived in a village near Tangkoko: One day, his father came back with a dead cuscus from the forest in order to cook and eat it. The boy told his father that thanks to TCE, he knows that this species is endemic and endangered, and that he won’t allow him to cook the animal under his roof.

This story gives me hope about the future of Tangkoko and how children are now acting to protect their forest and wildlife.

What gives you hope for the future of conservation?

How local children and young people are more concerned to act and protect wildlife. We know some “TCE children” back in 2011 who then became research assistants at MNP research station.

Why do you think people should care about conservation and the environment?

Nature and wildlife can live without us, we can’t live without nature and wildlife. They are so important for our survival, but also our health, wellbeing and happiness. I truly believe that if we would spend just a few minutes per day immerged in nature, looking at a tree, the sea, the countryside, and just pausing our busy life by listening to what is around us, we feel connected to nature and want to protect it.

Can you give us a brief intro to your organisation and its aims

We develop school interventions and awareness campaigns for the local population for them to protect their local wildlife, and especially crested macaques (Macaca nigra).

TCE aims at helping local communities of North Sulawesi to acknowledge the highly endangered status of the local wildlife as well as its ecological and economic importance, and to take action to protect it.

In 2020, we started a “Science Camp”, which trains ten high school students to learn about crested macaques research and conservation, through a week training in the Macaca Nigra Project research station.

What conservation issues are your organisation dealing with?

Crested macaques’ population has declined by more than 80% since the 1970s. Their primary threat is hunting and habitat destruction. They are now critically endangered and listed in the IUCN 25 Most Endangered Species List. Tangkoko hosts the biggest most viable population but the forest also has seen a reduction in size over the last decades, mostly due to logging for timber, agriculture and illegal mining. If nothing is done, crested macaques will completely disappear from their natal range by 2030.

What are the organisations biggest achievements?

The fact that we have reached 3,600 children so far! We are also proud that many teachers are now implementing our environmental lessons as part of their biology class at school.

What are the long-term goals for the organisation?

We hope that TCE’s lessons will be included in the curriculum of North Sulawesi primary schools so we can reach many more schools and pupils in the future.

How can people help support your organisation or get involved themselves?

We are always looking for volunteers who would be able to help us with our website design and updates, with the design of our future lessons, or translation. Any help is very welcome! 😉

To find out more and how you can help please visit TCE are always looking for volunteers who could help with website design and updates as well as helping to create and deliver environmental lessons.


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