Malaysian Tiger Trip- Homeward Bound

This is the final entry from Brookfield Zoo’s Brian Czarnik, Senior Keeper Large Carnivores journal about his trip to Malaysia in conjunction with the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) to learn more about tiger conservation in the wild. 


I woke up early and walked around the camp area listening to the beautiful morning sounds of the jungle. The Batek people were already taking down camp- it was time to move on. We had a quick breakfast and started our journey out of the forest. I laughed at myself as I realized on my first hike a few days ago I was covered from head to toe in hiking boots, long socks, pants, long sleeved shirts, and multiple layers of bug spray and sun screen. Today, I set out in swim trunks and a T-shirt. I went with the Batek, they had a faster pace that I enjoyed. I was glad they stopped for a few water breaks, but I think this wasn’t typically their habit.

Time for Good-byes
A few hours later we were at the entrance to the forest. The Batek left and the zookeeper group came out; we hopped into our van and went back to the base. At the base we presented the wonderful people of MYCAT with money for a new camera trap in honor of a fellow keeper that was tragically killed by a captive Malayan tiger just a few months before. It was an emotional moment. After a teary final good-bye, we got back into the vans and headed to our hotel in Kula Lumpur, five hours away.

A Visit with the Ambassador
After reflecting on our walks and saying some more good-byes, Dr. Kae, four other keepers and I were invited to the U.S. Embassy. It was my first time going to an embassy and I was excited to get to meet Joseph Yun, the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia.

During our visit, we discussed the roles of zoos in the future, as well as the importance of conservation. He brought up an excellent point: when zoos support conservation outside its own gates they have the opportunity to highlight important efforts. He liked the idea of a group of zookeepers coming to Malaysia with the blessing of their institutions.

The ambassador spent over 45 minutes with us discussing our ideas on the future and how we could further improve our field. Every keeper there was interested in wildlife conservation and it made quite an impression on him knowing that our passion for tigers doesn’t end with the ones we help care for at home. I left feeling great about the whole experience; he was so impressed he wanted to introduce MYCAT to other ambassadors with the hope of further support.


On the way Home
On my return flight, the meaning behind every mile started to sink it. It was the most physically demanding hiking I have ever done, but by far also the most rewarding. I felt proud to be a zookeeper and lucky to be working at an institution that values conservation so highly. Please visit the MYCAT page and learn more about this amazing conservation group and the work they do.

Posted: 7/15/2016 1:10:18 PM by Bryan Todd Oakley

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