The coral islands of the Semporna district represent one of the most biologically diverse coral reef ecosystems in the world, and being part of the ‘coral triangle’ they are considered a priority area for conservation activities. Although highly diverse and extraordinarily valuable, the coral reefs are also severely threatened. A heavy reliance on marine resources for food and livelihoods has resulted in the overexploitation and degradation of many reefs, and the use of dynamite and cyanide fishing practices are endangering the future of these reefs.
Activities to educate local populations to effectively manage, and prosper, from the sustainable use of their resources are essential in this area.
A particularly striking feature of the district is the very high proportion of children in each of the island communities, the majority of whom do not read or write, are not offered schooling opportunities, and have little or no leisure time or access to reading or creative materials.
In response, the International Coral Reef Action Network supported the efforts of the Semporna Islands Darwin Project, in conjunction with the Marine Conservation Society, to develop innovative education materials. A unique cartoon colouring book was produced as a teaching tool to capture the imagination of the local children and provide an opportunity for artistic expression, as a fun and effective way to develop responsible attitudes towards the marine environment.
The cartoon was subsequently adapted and translated for use across different coral reef regions in collaboration with local partners.