Malaysian Tiger Trip- Wildlife Crossing Hike


This is the 4th 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 what felt like only a few hours of sleep, it was time to get up again and go back into the jungle. I wolfed down some bread with peanut butter and got in the van that would drive us to a new viaduct that acts as a wildlife crossing. We walked up the steep embankment that overlooked the highway to get a good look at the area. Along the way we noticed a patch of woods that was illegally burned down to plant rubber trees.

Along the Viaduct
As we hiked along the viaduct, we saw firsthand the importance of this crossing and realized why conservation groups like MYCAT fought so hard for it. Traffic moved very quickly around us and if wildlife wanted to cross here, their only hope would be to use the viaduct beneath the highway. Conservationists are working to get the old road which runs under the viaduct closed; the more roads you have, the easier it is for poachers to get in and out. Poachers don’t like to hike any more than they have to, so today’s assignment was to hike along a few ridges that ran parallel to the highway. We would be checking both for signs of endangered animals making a return to this once heavily poached area and looking for snares.

Snare traps are a common way to catch wildlife. Poachers dig a hole several feet deep and place sticks over it. They run a wire around the hole and attach it to a small tree. When an animal’s leg falls into the trap, it snaps up and catches the animal’s leg. If the animal isn’t dead by the time the poachers check the trap, they will often shoot the animal point blank. The area we were walking in is frequented by poachers coming in from other Asian countries and locals who hope to supplement their income or their diets.

In the thick of it
It was another extremely hot day. Langur monkeys watched us from the trees above as we hiked through the tall grass and under the forest cover. It was nice to see some wildlife, our presence is loud to let poachers know we are there, but it also alarms wildlife and they scamper away before I can get any photos. While scouring for signs of poachers or the wildlife we hoped was returning to the area, we found more bear clawing marks on a tree and what appeared to be tapir fecal. We found other tracks that showed wildlife was coming back to the area. It seems that the viaduct was working in providing a safe crossing point! Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news. We saw multiple dug out holes that were most likely once used for trapping. We refreshed some camera traps we passed and went further into the forest for another three to four hours. After crossing a small river we slowly made our way back to the van. We covered just over seven miles of forest in a little under six hours. It felt so much shorter than yesterday’s hike!

End of the Day
At dinner we listened as Dr. Kae Kawanishi gave a presentation on the Malayan tiger’s current situation, MYCAT, and the importance of the tiger walks we were participating in. She shared one slide with the results of the tiger walks thus far and it really stayed with me. It gave us all, as tired as we were, a sense of accomplishment to be a part of such a positive effort to help endangered species like the tiger.

We needed that lift. Tomorrow promises to be yet another hot day, and we won’t be returning to the house and its ceiling fans. Tomorrow, we’re sleeping in the jungle…

Posted: 7/5/2016 11:42:30 AM by Bryan Todd Oakley

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