Maggie Muurmans focused her work on sea turtle conservation in Indonesia. In 2006, she left her job in the UK as a zoo keeper and set sail to Indonesia, where she set up Yayasan Pulau Banyak, the only ongoing sea turtle conservation and monitoring programme in Sumatra. Her project protects the endangered sea turtles nesting and foraging in the archipelago by reducing the current anthropogenic (or human) threats. Together with the local community, she managed to completely stop the poaching of turtle eggs. Maggie has since left Yayasan Pulau Banyak to continue her conservation work with coastal communities in Australia and the Pacific. She is currently pursuing her PhD in community engagement in Queensland, Australia.
Maggie began her career in 2000 working as a mammal keeper at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. To get more involved in grassroot conservation efforts, she traded her job for fieldwork with sea turtles in Costa Rica. In the following years she worked as a research and project coordinator in Nicaragua, and helped set up management plans and sea turtle projects in three protected nature reserves. In 2006, she moved to Indonesia where she founded the Yayasan Pulau Banyak, a programme to protect endangered turtles, and the first of its kind in Sumatra. Since receiving the FFN Award, Maggie left Indonesia in 2012 and co-founded the organisation Ocean Connect Inc. in Queensland, Australia. She has since been continuing her community engagement work in Australia and is now pursuing a PhD on “tools for effective community engagement for conservation in developing countries”.
Vision and Approach
Maggie centres her conservation efforts in reaching out to local communities. With a strategic location between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Indonesia is an important sea turtle migration route. This area attracts six out of seven sea turtle species, all listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. When Maggie set up Yayasan Pulau Banyak, sea turtles were facing habitat and nesting site destruction, by-catch, illegal trade, and unsustainable exploitation. Due to close collaboration with the local villagers of Pulau Banyak, sea turtle conservation received full community support. Maggie combined beach patrols, environmental awareness campaigns, and turtle-friendly income opportunities for locals to curb local poaching of sea turtle eggs. Besides, her project provides the necessary education and tools to make ecotourism a suitable economic alternative to poaching. As a result, turtle egg poaching has stopped, and the area has seen an increasing number of tourists who visit Maggie’s project. Aside from this, Maggie developed environmental education programmes in developing countries, and teaches students in the UK, Malaysia and Australia. Through her subsequent work, she continues to invest in effective community engagement in conservation efforts in other coastal regions in the Pacific.
“The Future For Nature Award Crowned my conservation efforts in three different continents and provided international media exposure and acknowledgement for the project. This resulted in additional funding and partnerships. On top of that, I had the exceptional good fortune of meeting Sir David Attenborough, who has inspired so many people to conserve our natural environment.”Maggie Muurmans
Impact of the Future For Nature Award
- Yayasan Pulau Banyak received additional funding and new partnerships after Maggie won the Future For Nature Award.
- Maggie has since received additional awards and recognition for her community engagement efforts.
- Through the Future For Nature Family network, Maggie created collaborations and partnerships with other FFN winners working towards similar goals.
After seven years of working with the communities in Indonesia the Yayasan Pulau Banyak project has grown into a sustainable enterprise entirely run by local people and supported by government organisations. In 2012, with the Indonesian project handed over to the community, Maggie moved to Australia and established a not-for-profit organisation “Ocean Connect Inc.”, with a focus on marine education and citizen science. In 2014, she accepted a role to manage the coastal community engagement programme at Griffith University on the Eastern coast of Australia and delivering lectures for the University of Queensland. At the start of 2020, she initiated her PhD on community engagement in less developed nations, and began working as a research fellow and adjunct lecturer with the Griffith Yunus Centre. The latter has a focus on creating change for people, places and planet through social entrepreneurship and employment pathways. She is currently still actively involved in these five different roles.
"Maggie Muurmans has used her leadership skills to empower Indonesian local populations and strengthen existing local organizations in focusing on the conservation issues of sea turtles and coastal ecology. This strong emphasis on sustainability, building skills and leadership for conservation, is the only approach that will effectively have long-term impact.''Ms. Annette Lanjouw, International Selection Committee