#SeastainableStories - Rafid Shidqi, Thresher Shark Project Indonesia

#SeastainableStories – Rafid Shidqi, Thresher Shark Project Indonesia 
#SeastainableStories is a series Seastainable will be launching to feature amazing ocean conservationists and advocates! We believe that everyone can play a part in contributing to healthier and happier oceans.
For our third week of sharing #SeastainableStories, we are featuring Seastainable Team’s seabling through SEA Camp, Rafid Shidqi. He is the Co-founder and Project Leader of the Thresher Shark Project Indonesia (TSPI). During the 3rd quarter, Rafid’s organization got a Seastainable Grant worth $ 1,305 SGD to bridge conservation and community livelihoods for mutual benefits. TSPI has opened new doors for the different stakeholders to work together on this common goal.
At present, Rafid is taking up his Master of Science Degree in Coastal Science and Policy at the University of California Santa Cruz. Read on to know more about his works and views on conservation!
What sparked your interest in conservation?

My work in conservation started since my internship opportunity with Lamakera Project in 2016 when I helped in work to transition the biggest manta hunter into alternative sustainable livelihoods. I was inspired by the way people worked on the ground in solving the livelihood conflicts between resource-poor communities and trying to achieve the conservation of endangered species. For most people in Indonesia, there are so many communities that depend on endangered marine animals, yet have little to no capacity to shift away from this practice - this threatened their livelihood security and the population of the animals itself. This has become my motivation to work in conservation that both works for the species and for the communities who depend on it.

What do you think is important in pursuing conservation?
I believe in consistency and resilience in working in the conservation field. This type of work can be very draining, especially when you have to view the heartbreaking scenes every time in the field such as dead sharks, dead manta rays, bombed coral reefs, etc. Oftentimes at the stage of your work, you feel very desperate and feel small that your work would not give any significant impacts. And that, drawback, contemplate and being able to regain the motivations of work is important to persist and keep going.
What do you think is important in pursuing conservation?

I believe in consistency and resilience in working in the conservation field is the key to continue doing what I am doing. This type of work – you know, conservation - can be very draining, especially when I must view the heartbreaking scenes every single day. Every time I am in the field, views such as dead sharks, dead manta rays, bombed coral reefs, are becoming very common to see. Oftentimes at the stage of my work, I feel very desperate and feel small that my work would not give any significant impacts. Or that I would not have enough time to save the species.

 I often feel so many setbacks, and think multiple times that I would maybe pursue something else. You know, like something with better payment, or something with little pressures? Maybe when I stop thinking about it, my life would be happier? Why should I bother to think about the sharks that do not think about me? I think the freedom of working in conservation is when I already feel like I don’t need to prove anyone anymore. When reaching the state of desperation in the work, I feel like I need to drawback and contemplate. Sometimes just being alone and seeing the sunset at my field work site, it helps me to regain my strength. And I realized that I just need to “pause”. I am doing this work is because I believe that my work is still important, no matter how slow the process would be.

What/Who inspired you to start your organization?

I think the process of starting Thresher Shark Project Indonesia itself has already become the inspiration. At first, we were not sure if we could do this conservation work as a team. We have very little experience of working together. But the experiences have taught us many valuable skills, such as being compassionate, understanding and flexible in the field. Thresher shark project Indonesia is like a baby to me now. Sounds very ringe, I know, but It is very inspiring to see people - from Alor people itself, diving communities, and other large communities around the world who shared their stories and concern about thresher sharks – who have helped us behind the curtain. They are supporting financially and emotionally, communicating our project results to broader audiences, and it has become the drive for many people to care about thresher sharks, and I want this project to continue to grow.

What/Who inspired you to start your project?

As I said, working in conservation can be very draining. No matter how early or how late you have worked in this sector. There is always a push to stop believing in what you are doing. For me, finding great teachers, supervisors and motivators to stay on this lane has become a key. My working supervisors, Dr. Mark Erdmann and Sarah Lewis are the people that have been supporting me since the beginning of my working journey in conservation. It is from them that I always find my way back and regain my motivation. I also feel very grateful that I am being surrounded by people like them in my career, and so many others who have been there supporting throughout my journey. There is one quote that I remembered from Terry Crew during the Audition of America’s Got Talent, “All it takes is only one person to believe in young man or woman to reach their dream.”


How did you meet the members of your team?

Dewi (my team member) and I were met as colleague during our internship experiences in Lamakera, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. At that time, both of us were very motivated to solve the livelihood conflicts of communities who are depending on manta rays as livelihood. Dewi and I worked on help to design the livelihood alternatives program during our internship. We have very meaningful interaction with communities, and driven to solve the conservation problem. Several years later, we decided that we would like to work together in a conservation project, and we decided to start Thresher Shark Project Indonesia from the funding by Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP). We are very lucky until now we still friends and given this opportunity. Funding from Seastainable has also helped us through this process!

Give us a fun fact about yourself!

I am a big fan of Pokemon since I was 8 years old. I have played all pokemon games every season, starting from pokemon yellow, blue, green, crystal.. etc to pokemon Sun and Moon. For me pokemon is also the inspiration in my work for conservation. For which we are traveling and discover the world’s species (I could also memorize all species of pokemon and their special abilities in the game!)

What is your advice to people who want to pursue a career in conservation, but may not have the ‘conservation’ e.g. science/research related background?
Choose conservation work that keeps you motivated, talk to people, network, stay motivated and persists in the work that you do. 
A piece of advice you would like to give to our readers about the future of our planet?

Even though you still see dead manta rays at the beach of your working area, or dead sharks in the harbor. Do not lose hope for when you think there are no more hopes. Even the word “hopeless” is not void of home. In fact, there are still so much worth fighting for. So many people are working tirelessly on the ground, who may not have social media or anything to share about how our state in conservation moving forward. Just don't stop at doing what you believe in, eventually, your hard work will pay off!

What are the next steps that you want to take to save our ocean?

I really wish to continue the work with Thresher Shark Project Indonesia. Even though the population of the species is keep declining, I still believe that we still have time to turn the tide. I am very inspired by the people who keeps pushing and motivating me to enlarge my impact in conservation.


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