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26 July 2011

Living The Dream - Part 3 (Tomorrow Never Dies)

23 days come and go and i finally come back again to civilization. But not just that, more than 200 species of mammals, big and small, flying and not flying, nocturnal and diurnal, i already 'record' them in my head. now i am ready!!!, wait the sec... but ready for what? are we missing something?? After touching down the ground of Bintulu town, i was told by my superior, Mr. Rob Stuebing, there was scientist came from Conservation and Research Center that was interested in collaborating with us by doing camera trap survey. What the heck is camera trap anyway?? I tried to brainstorm but it was useless. I all i knew was that i will be going back to the forest. New technology. New idea. New survey. New people. But as expected, i was not nervous anymore. without any comment, i accept the task. That is really the turning point of my life. Turning point of my career. Peak of my career in other word. When i first met Dr. William J. McShea from Wildlife Conservation Society, USA, he was nice person. Very tall, big and discipline. I am forever grateful to him. He taught me a lot of interesting process, procedure, methodology in trapping, managing and conserving Bornean wildlife. He's the real expert! you can say that if you want to. 
Approximately 15 remote automatic Deercam© cameras were brought from States been used to document any or maybe all species of mammals inhabit gently rolling, Acacia mangium plantation of Bintulu, Sarawak. The DeerCam©  uses a 28mm Olympus Trip 505 camera combined with a built-in infrared / motion sensor that detects heat from an animal passing in front of it. Deercams are mounted on trees at about 50cm above ground, at least 2.5 m from the lure. All camera trap sites were marked using a Global Positioning System (GPS). Several types of commercially available scent lures were used to make the camera site more attractive to carnivores, e.g., Magna Glan, Midnight Mist and Powder River. Lure was smeared into a split made into a small stick near the center of the detection range for the camera. Each camera location was surveyed for 25 – 40 traps night. Habitat, forest age and site description was noted and all camera data were placed in excel file and GIS for further analysis. Each camera was positioned adjacent to game trails, pathways, or natural salt licks. Generally productive sites were assumed to be trails (especially where two trails cross), natural corridors, drinking sites, and underneath fruiting trees. Animal signs were noted, e.g., tracks, footprints.

That was a brief introduction of my study and what we been used. Interesting hah!.

After finishing almost 3 and a half years of study period, we managed to come up with very solid evidences that some animals can reside in such environment providing that, natural forest should be kept or set aside to act as wildlife reservoir.

After gained all the experiences, motivations and enthusiasm from various fieldwork, i myself, for the first time in my entire life, was selected, no no... officially invited to United States of America to gain more capacity building through short-term scholar project in National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC and Conservation and Research Center, Virginia, USA. Can you believe that?? I may be a daydreaming. But this is real. So real. So damn real. Finally........ i get to see what i have dream off for a long time. What should i do next.?? Now i am nervous again. Doubly worried.

In the last chapter of Living The Dream - Final Part (The World Is Not Enough), i will share all of my interesting, funny and sad moments during the 2 months period of working and living in the USA.

See you all soon. Adios!

to be continued.....

25 January 2011

Living The Dream - Part 2 (Learned From The Best To Be The Best)

Who would know bats are such a gentle and amazing creature without touching them by yourself? Who would know bats and swifts can co-exist or share the same environment together without hurting each other although they are from different species and origin? Who would know there will be hundred of species of mammals wandering around in such a small place sharing same habitat and foraging area? Now i know how lucky i was that i managed to learn all this stuff from experts voluntarily helping us to conserve wildlife in our own yard. Not many people out there have the same opportunity as i was and i know my time has come. No traffics. No politics. No civilization. All i have was just an eager spirit to learn and grab all the knowledge as  much as i can. 
That day, I promised myself that, it will be the greatest journey ever in my career as a wildlife researcher, finding and studying new and old species of mammals particularly, and biodiversity as a general. 
What will you feel when you're holding the skin of rats that you peel by yourself for the first time? Honestly, i feel  the blood of satisfaction runs through my veins. Initially, it was scary and kinda weird. And guess what?? my wife was 2 months pregnant!. You know what i mean right? in my tribes (Iban) belief, it is prohibited for both husband and wife during pregnancy to peel animals skin (and many more but i will not talk about that here) because it will cause a very bad omen to your born (child) later. It happened before to others. But, i forgot. I really, really have forgotten what my ancestor had told me about bad omens in our tribe perspective. 
Days after days i managed to 'adapt' to the new environment and style of working especially under experts. They really helped me a lot to become who i am today. I chew every details of the subject that they had told and explained. The enjoyment of working with them and all the new stuffs i learned overcame all the tiredness of working almost all day and night. During a day, we try to catch diurnal (active during a day) mammals and  at night, we catch bats. and imagine how many specimen we had. Hundreds of them waiting to be analyzed and measured. What are the species? You name it!  
Catching bats is always challenging to me. Mist nets and harp traps were used and set all over their possible flying pathways. Patient is always the key. During the process of removing them from mist nets was always a memorable one. I've been bitten for countless of time but i never complaint. Finally i managed to master it. There's a technique on how to hold them that makes them calm and not become aggressive and stressful.

To be continued in Living The Dream - Part 3 (Tomorrow Never Dies)

Living The Dream - Part 1 (23 days of uncivilization)

Sometimes there isn't much words to express your feeling toward something that you really want to achieve, finally you manage to get it in style. 

Living The Dream is a simple story, or yet called a brief journey of an eager and enthusiast young field researcher follows his dream to become one of the greatest Mammalogist in the history of Borneo world has ever known. :)
In early 2005, I joined my first fieldwork with United States National Museum personnel and experts studying the composition of volant and non-volant mammals  in disturbed area in Borneo (Bintulu, Sarawak). God knows how excited I was during that time. But, as a new person in this field (conservation) and with experts working around, can i managed to 'squeeze' in? what if i were a liability to them? what if i did something stupid and ruin this whole trip? I know this is a massive project and it was not just for the study but a long-term collaboration between my company and research partners. Now i'm really nervous.
It took us approximately 2 hours to reach field station and there was a lot of birds we managed to see during  that period of time. The combination of limestone forest and riparian forest is absolutely stunning with hundred thousands of swift flew around trying to catch countless insect wandering around near the caves. What an amazing experience!

To be continued in Living The Dream - Part 2 (Learned from The Best To Be The Best)

24 January 2011

The Real ' Orang Utan' of Sarawak - Part Three (Final Chapter)

People said, every step starts with a very first step. Are they? What if you fly? is that considered as a first step? What if i can jump from initial point to the middle of my journey (maybe already over a thousand steps already)? can that really happen? 

Suddenly, i heard the interviewer say something to the second interviewer (Mdm. Ivy Wong). "This is the guy that we are looking for". And my heart beating faster than before. But i know i have to remain calm and conscious. Almost there i guess. :)  
Sixth Question: Are you married and have family? 
Replies: yes and i have 2 beautiful kids. (that's easy and pretty straight forward)

Seventh question: How much can we pay you? (oh no!)

I'd quiet for a while. Tried to think how much i worth. My mind tried to calculate accordingly based on my zero experience. All i know was i like animals and i am an outdoor kind of person. How much would that be? That was a hard decision, i guess. But i have to answer. And my answer was...

Replies: Sir, i think i would let you decide for me. In this field, you know better than me.

(*sigh* + *relieve* ) that was the moment when i felt i was making a big mistake. i should at least, have an experience before enter this nature kind of career. But, i have faith in God. :) I prayed for this interview. I prayed for this job. I have to change the way i live. The way my family live. I have to get this job!.
Eighth question (final): Any question you would like to ask before we ended this interview? (is it done?)

i was not asking them right away. i have to ask something that they would remember me for after this interview. Suddenly, one simple phrase of question and i myself believe, was the most unexpected, bizarre yet risky to ask, came across my mind. And that question changed my life forever. 


To be continued in Living The Dream - Conservationist Style

The Real ' Orang Utan' of Sarawak - Part Two

"Have a seat young man" A promising smile expressed out from one of the best known living Conservationist i have ever met. Mr. Robert B. Stuebing. 

The first question: How are you? 
Replies: I'm good and ready when you are. 
That's a pretty confidence answer for the first question. 

Second question: Where are you from?
Replies: Betong. But now living temporarily in Bintulu.
I'm good, am I?
Third question: Where did you work before? (now that's a serious question). :)
Replies: I'm tapping a rubber for a while. (is that consider an experience too? i am sooo dead!)

Forth question: Can you work in the jungle and going outdoor?
Replies: Yes sir. And that is what i love to do. (easy and unexpected)
Suddenly.... The best part happened...
Fifth question: Do you like frog?
with overwhelming confidence without thinking of the consequences later...
Replies: Yessss, and i ate frog sir. (am i stupid or what?)
** i didn't know that the interviewer, Mr. Rob Stuebing was a herpetologist. Confident but stupid huh! 
No wonder he looked stunned with my answer. Anyway, who cares?
hehehehe. Then the real deal began...

To be continued in The Real ' Orang Utan' of Sarawak - Part Three

The Real ' Orang Utan' of Sarawak - Part One

It is been a while since i last sharing stories and knowledge particularly on the great mammals of Borneo. But before we continue to the interesting part, allow me to tell you how i became what i called The Real 'Orang Utan' of Sarawak. Here once again i will take one step further to share with you what are behind the scenes and how pleased i am to one of the field researcher in an amazing Borneo Tropical Rainforest. It took me almost a year to finish writing this up and like I'd mentioned before, satisfaction plus determination is what keeping me motivated. Hope you enjoy reading this.

It began in late 2004, a quiet and shy man from a small division called Betong was called for an interview by personnel from Grand Perfect Sdn Bhd to fill in of what i called the most interesting and cool job on planet Earth, Conservation Officer. Before the interview, i never know what in the world was 'conservation'. During the most intense interview of my life and yet also my first interview ever, of course i have to keep my nervous away and try to focus and get ready of what will come across. I know i will be bombarded by anonymous questions and tricky problems. But who care, right? All i need to do is get this interview thing, done as fast as possible. The last few words my father told me were "Good Luck". Thanks dad, i really need it. At least for that moment. Black slack pants and blue formal dress without necktie, holding a folder of certificates slowly climbing up stairs one by one. God knows how my heart beats that time. With only a small pea of bravery and hope i opened the door and my life changed.

To Be Continued in The Real 'Orang Utan' of Sarawak - Part Two