“Disneyland: a people trap operated by a mouse”

My friend Keong (from Sepuh Crafts) organized a very interesting day-out last weekend: the focus was on setting up camp in the jungle, with Raman demonstrating the traditional Orang Asli way, while Keong and I covered some of the modern camping equipment alternatives.

Watching the unhurried ease with which Raman turns the jungle into a home for the night – sourcing everything he needs from the forest – may beguile you into thinking that you could easily do the same.  For most of us we could do the same, but not easily and, like any technique that relies on natural resources, it usually takes a lot longer to achieve the desired end, be it building a shelter or finding food.  Not only that, but using natural resources depletes the forest.

Nevertheless, the techniques Raman demonstrates are useful to know (in case of emergency/survival situations) and fascinating to watch and, as he said himself, a lot of the new generation of Orang Asli have lost some of these skills that were common place amongst their parents’ generation.  For example, I have only met a few Orang Asli who still know how to make fire using friction (and usually this is only done as a tourist side show) – everyone else simply uses a BIC lighter and some rubber inner tube.

Camping equipment is certainly easier to use, quicker to set up and offers a greater degree of comfort than using natural resources – the downside is that you have to lug the bloody stuff around – strapped to you like a monkey on your back.  The trick, of course, is to get a balance – to take in the minimum amount of equipment possible without compromising too much on comfort and safety.

However, knowing some basic survival techniques means that you don’t have to carry as much back-up gear as you would otherwise and gives you more peace of mind: should your pack get lost, it isn’t the end of the world (as long as you kept your parang!).

In the video, Raman demonstrates some of the traditional Orang Asli snares.  I should point out here that Raman does not use snares himself and has given up hunting altogether.  For many of us who have spent any time in the rain forest here, the desperate plight of the wildlife is only too evident and I, for one, have absolutely no desire to add to their woes by hunting them (there are too many people doing that already).

The use of snares (and animal poisoning) in the rain forest is a travesty – I have even come across unchecked wire snares near where I live and who knows what is going on deeper into the forest?  The demand for exotic animal body parts seems to grow and grow, and poachers have no qualms about shooting any endangered animal if the price is right.

The situation is more dire than most people realize, particularly for tigers, and, if you are interested in knowing more, check out this video from Save Our Species.

Malaysia has recently enacted updates to the Wildlife Conservation Act (read the 716 Act here) – there are heavy penalties for the use of wire snares (even if they are only found in your possession) and tough measures for anyone involved in the illegal animal trade.  The problem, of course, is that setting such laws is the easy part, enforcing them is something altogether more difficult, particularly in the rain forest.

So how can the poachers and the illegal snaring be stopped?  Obviously the government has its part to play, but so also do we.  I imagine that it is very difficult for poachers to operate in complete secrecy – they need to buy provisions from local shops for starters and, in my experience of living in the country, locals usually know pretty quickly when strangers are around and find out what they are up to.

Malaysia operates a Wildlife Crime Hotline (tel: 019 356 4194) – so if you come across illegal wildlife activity, report it.  All it takes is a phone call.

What sort of activity might you come across that should be reported?  Anything from restaurants serving wildmeat (e.g. pangolins, bear claw soup etc) to shops selling ivory or tiger parts, or even selling protected wildlife as pets.

The other way we can all get involved is as ears and eyes in the rain forest itself – the more people who visit the rain forest, the less easy it is for the poachers to operate.  In this field Mycat is doing a superb job; encouraging members of the public to go on Cat Walks and trailblazer trips into areas where illegal activity is suspected.

I have never understood the concept of hunting as a sport – killing animals isn’t something that is fun to do, at least not for me  – and yet there are many people who seem to enjoy it.  I have a suggestion for these people – hunting animals is all too easy (all you need to know is the animal behaviour, what it likes to eat and a way of killing it) – now a real challenge would be to hunt for the poachers instead….

but be careful, poachers can shoot back!