No, this is not an update on the fortunes of Malaysia’s youth football team, affectionately named Harimau Muda.
Instead, this is the first update on one of Rimba’s youngest (‘muda’ in Bahasa Melayu) projects – Harimau Selamanya!
This newest project only hit the ground running in February and is still very much in its infancy. However, it has been a challenging and eventful last four months!
At the beginning of April, this project began with a one-week tiger sign survey workshop conducted by Panthera (Drs. Joe Smith and Rob Pickles) for research officers (Hakim, Khairul, Fauzi, Alim, Hafiz, Amirul) from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and researchers (Wai Yee, Laurie, Jasdev and Reuben) and field assistants from Rimba.
The aim of this workshop was to train researchers to sniff out (literally!) tiger signs in order to find suitable locations in the forest to maximise detections of tigers. Because if you place the cameras at bad locations, you get bad population estimates of tigers.
After being certified by Panthera as ‘tiger detectives’, the same researchers from both DWNP and Rimba spent a month scouring 600km2 of primary rainforest in the project Core Area encompassing Kenyir/Taman Negara for suitable camera trap locations.
Conducting the sign surveys was no mean feat considering the undulating terrain! There were mountains to climb…
And rocky rivers to negotiate…
After close to 2 arduous months of sign surveys, the DWNP-Rimba team was finally ready to deploy 200 Panthera camera traps at strategic locations within the Core Area in June. While this process looked pretty straightforward on paper, it wasn’t!
On June 2, one of our field assistants, Tuleng, got bitten on the calf by a Hagen’s pit viper (Parias hageni) while crossing a log.
He had to be carried down a hill and across rocky streams to our boat, which delivered him from the project site to a jetty before he was ferried by car to the local hospital for antivenin treatment. This combined team effort took 8 hours. Many thanks to Wai Yee, Pak Salleh, Wee Siong, Ki, Edi, Prof. Dr. Faizah Sharoum, Dr. Arnie, Dr. Azli, Laurie, Jasdev, Rasul and Con McAfee for helping Tuleng get back on the road to his recovery.
Tuleng spent the next 2 weeks recuperating, but he is now able to walk, albeit with a limp. The doctors said if all went well, his leg should be fine after a few weeks. However, this wasn’t the only medical incident during the camera trapping surveys.
Over the duration of the last 4 months, we have had bouts of illnesses befall the team. Apart from Tuleng’s incident, the honour roll of major medical problems include: Reuben (scrub typhus), Wai Yee (stomach infection), Laurie (dengue), Jasdev (dengue) and Dollah (dengue). Thankfully, everyone has recovered.
Despite the ordeals, the camera trap surveys were eventually completed by the end of June. Everyone is currently enjoying some well-deserved down-time. We cannot wait to see what our camera traps have photographed. Stay tuned folks!