Malaysian Tiger Trip- Jungle Stay

This is the 5th 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. 


After another quick breakfast it was off to the jungle again.

Today we would be staying overnight in a Batek camp. The Batek people are one of the indigenous peoples of Malaysia. They still practice their traditional nomadic way of life, but due to encroachment, they live primarily in Taman Negara National Park.  But before we made it to their camp we had over four hours of hiking. The area we covered was once a hot spot and we were told that over 90 snares had been found in this area alone. It was an area that one could easily reach by motorbike hence the increased frequency of poaching. Even though it has been cleaned up now, conservationists needed to maintain a constant presence so poachers wouldn’t return.

Into the Jungle, Again…
During this six mile hike which was thankfully under the forest canopy, our group stopped walking single file and went side by side to cover more ground. Our guide told us a few years back a sun bear was found dead in this area caught in a snare. The tree next to it was all scratched up from a desperate attempts to free itself. As we walked by the tree with the claw marks still visible, the thought of that bear and many like it struggling for its freedom helped hit home the importance of covering as much ground as possible.


The jungle was playing tricks on us today. We had to stop several times to filter out the sounds of nearby siamang and gibbons to make sure there weren’t humans around. We came across a deactivated snare that was kept for a visual. It is frustrating that such a small piece of wire is helping wipe out such a magnificent predator like the tiger.


The Batek Camp
As the late afternoon approached we reached the Batek camp. After a quick swim, we joined the Batek people for dinner. We were unable to communicate with them, but Alex, a MYCAT staff member has been working with them for a few years and was able to translate. Through him I was able to talk to one of the men. I told him I was sorry for all the poaching in their forest. He replied that the poachers are stealing the tiger, taking it away from all of us not just the Batek people.

I spent the night sleeping, or trying to, in a hammock that wasn’t quite tied up high enough between the trees. My lower body was still on the ground and I hoped an animal wouldn’t come by and bite me for being in its way. It was my last night on the cat walks and I was sad to see it come to an end so quickly.


There was a part of all of us that wanted to catch some poachers or deactivate 100 snares on our walk. But looking at the big picture, we were pleased that we had covered so much ground. With conservationists like us making our presence known, we hope to keep the poachers out of this area and allow the tiger population to grow to a point where they can be removed from the critically endangered list. It really does take a global village to make sure the jungle is safe, not only for the tiger but all wildlife.

Posted: 7/11/2016 12:23:46 PM by Bryan Todd Oakley

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