From The Straits Times    |

Would you dedicate your life to conserving the planet and the creatures that inhabit this planet? In this five-part series from our June 2022 print story ‘Call Of The Wild”, we spotlight five inspiring women who are championing wildlife conservation efforts in Singapore.

Andrea Leong, 36, Programme Director, Marine Stewards

When Andrea started diving 10 years ago, her life changed.

She ditched materialism for a more sustainable lifestyle, specifically in marine conservation and sustainable seafood sourcing. Part of her motivation to do her bit for the environment stems from her need to educate her two sons – aged one and four – about the importance of protecting the Earth.

“It pains me to think that they won’t be able to enjoy the sea and marine life as I did. I totally believe in the saying that we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. So my biggest motivational factor is to do what I can to protect the planet for my children and the future generation,” she muses.

Andrea on a Reefx diving trip. Image Credit: Andrea Leong

The ex-advertising executive also wants her children to be more mindful about what they use and consume. “It’s very important for today’s generation to know where their food comes from. I wish someone had told me growing up that there was a limit to all our food sources on Earth. That’s been something I’ve been trying to teach my children – don’t waste food, water or electricity. Turn off everything when not in use,” shares Andrea, who joined Marine Stewards, a non-profit that runs marine conservation programmes, about a year ago.

She now plays a key role in its outreach programmes, like Reefx, a citizen science programme that trains recreational scuba divers to collect reef survey data for long-term marine conservation purposes.

A fragmented coral nubbin, a technique used to stimulate the growth of corals by breaking them into smaller pieces. Image Credit: Lawrence Teo

“We particularly focus on sea sporters because they will have the desire to protect what they love – the sea. We started out with the anglers and now we’re into scuba divers. We also engage the kayakers and will start speaking to the stand-up paddlers. Reef X has clearly shown that there is a latent desire in a lot of people to want to do something. It is all about giving them the opportunity,” says Andrea.

She is heartened to see that the tide is slowly changing in Singapore when it comes to marine conservation, especially with the Blue Plan underway – a ground-up initiative that presents the vision of the marine community – and the nation’s first marine park set up on Sisters’ Islands.

“I believe that every place has challenges, because everyone shares the same ocean, and so the ocean shares the same threats. Having a healthy coral reef can help to mitigate the impact of things like flooding or drought. I hope that humans can respect marine habitats, so that we can all thrive side by side.”

Andrea Leong. Image Credit: Lawrence Teo

HAIR & MAKEUP Benedict Choo