How fast time flies – the one month I’ve spent in Malaysia (Gerik and a little bit of Kenyir) with Rimba has passed, and I am back in sunny Singapore. (Not that Malaysia is any less sunny. It’s just an expression.)
This was certainly no holiday, and I have brought back many experiences, lessons and thoughts from this short volunteering stint.
Of the tangible things I did, it would mainly be helping Reuben with his wildlife corridor project, understanding the objectives and methodology, carrying out the fieldwork and looking through the photos for animals. It was probably my first time trekking in forests on unpaved trails (so Bukit Timah/Macritchie trails are not counted), experiencing leeches (to the point of paranoia, that when I feel an itch I think of leeches) and listening to the calls of wild birds, gibbons and langurs. Didn’t quite dare to drink from the stream, though I really should have tried.
Listen to a gibbon call here! Possibly a hybrid between the White-handed gibbon a.k.a. Lar gibbon (Hylobates lar) and the Black-handed gibbon a.k.a Agile gibbon (Hylobates agilis) cos Gerik is at a zone where the ranges of the two overlap. It’s a little soft, but can still be heard lah.
Of course, on the side, I also had fun picking durians straight off the ground in a durian plantation, taking a boat ride on Tasik Temenggor (Temenggor Lake) for an overnight stay at Belum Eco Resort, and joining the MEME team in tracking down collared elephants.
But perhaps, the takeaways come mainly from the intangibles, from the discussions and sharing of stories by the older and wiser people in the field. I learnt about what wildlife conservation on the ground is really like (having to deal with poachers, bureaucracies and politics etc), about indigenous peoples and the effect of our encroaching “civilisation” and development on them. Resulting in my blogposts.
You might think that listening to all these stories would make me more jaded and cynical. But like what they say, it is important to know what’s really happening on the ground, to be aware of the grim realities. And not live in la-la land, thinking that all is fine and dandy, which can happen to those too far removed from the groundwork (yet hold the greatest power in decision-making).
One thing though, not what I learnt but what I realised from this trip, is that one mustn’t be shy or afraid to ask questions. Ask, and talk. Discuss. Share your views, listen to those of others. If you don’t, no matter where you go or what you do, you’ll never learn as much as what you would have if you had just opened your mouth a bit more. Helps I guess, that I’m a fairly talkative person (heard my fair share of people calling me that), that I have never been afraid to talk and raise questions in class.
So all in all, it’s been a wonderful month spent there, my greatest appreciation to Reuben and the rest of the Rimba team for letting me volunteer there for a month. It’s a great experience, and really, if you have some time to spare, why not volunteer your time as well? Or if you have no time but some cash, sponsorship for camera traps or an Orang Asli ranger are more than welcome. The Orang Aslis are Amazing People, better than a Global Positioning System (GPS). You can never get lost with them around, and they can retrace the trail taken 2 months before with perfection!
Who knows, I might, just might, work in Malaysia next time.
Argh, forgot to take a parting photo! Ah wells.