By Silvia Bor, August 24, 2017

Situated in a remote corner of Indonesia, Raja Ampat’s reefs lie at the epicenter of marine biodiversity, in the heart of the Coral Triangle. The region is home to 75% of the world’s known coral species, and more than 1,500 species of fish.

According to Dr. Mark Erdmann, coral ecologist and VP of Conservation International’s Asia-Pacific marine programs, “There is greater biodiversity — that is to say, a larger number and greater diversity of fish, coral, and mollusks — on these reefs than anywhere on earth. A single football field-sized patch of Misool’s reefs has nearly five times the number of coral species as the entire Caribbean Sea.”

Misool’s reefs remain remarkably intact, providing a sanctuary for manta rays, sharks, sea turtles, whales and pristine coral reefs. However, overfishing, destructive fishing practices, sea turtle egg harvesting, shark finning, manta hunting and even dynamite fishing threaten to destroy this unique ecosystem.

Misool Foundation helped create the Misool Marine Reserve to protect this pristine habitat from exploitation. An important part of this work is ensuring the well-being of the local communities and encouraging a conservation mindset in all citizens. The local village of Fafanlap had reported low student retention and anecdotal interviews with teachers indicated that the students were not suitably prepared to benefit from their classes.

Misool and WildAid created a Community Education Program that prioritized early childhood education in local villages. In 2011, in partnership with Seacology, the two organizations built a kindergarten in the village of Fafanlap. The kindergarten helps kids ages 4-6 prepare for school through a curriculum that increases student literacy and subsequently reduces class dropout rate.

The Kindergarten now has 44 registered students and employs 3 teachers who focus on learning through play and teaching the children about the environment. Misool continues their work by supporting teacher salaries and school supplies.