by akoo on 14/09/08 at 3:05 am
My first experience in deep jungle tracking.
In 2002, I joined a “non-government-organization” majoring in wildlife protection in Eastern Sabah which is situated in Borneo Island in Malaysia. Our job was to do a population survey for endangered species like rhino and elephant. Wild rhino was our focus and the reason how I got this unforgettable experience. I’ve never venture into deep elusive rainforest jungle, and this was the first one and the most exciting.
According to Sabah Wildlife Department, less than 100 rhinos are still alive and prowling in this jungle. Because of its natural life system, large area is needed to accommodate its food consumption. Therefore, we’re told to walk 10-20 km jungle tracking per day to seek any rhino existence within one week survey.
My group consists of three persons and I was the team leader. We decided to take the lower terrain along the river bed. I thought, it’s the best way for our safety and convenience. Other groups decide to follow the abandoned path according to the given map.
Day one was devastating, leach and thorn were all over our body. We reached at the foot of the highest hill at noon that day. I walked in front and lead the team to climb the hill. Suddenly, my friends yell frantically. I’m surprised to see a large elephant staring at me at the peak of the hill and it’s only 10m away from me. My body freezes, all I could do was praying for my safety. Fortunately, the elephant didn’t interested on me and gone within a second. I learn a lesson that day, keep your eyes ahead and watch where you’re going when you walk in the jungle.
At 3pm, we setup a camp for a night and build our own bed. Mine was so terrible, I slept only 3 hours because my bed was not flat and we experience the sudden flood in the middle of the night.
Day two was the day that full of adventures. We carry 20-30kg bag each person, my bag loaded with food, the other members carry survey equipments and some rare species that we picked up for further research. Walking in rainforest jungle is so challenging but after we discover 15 scenic water falls, my energy fills up and makes me fresh again.
We then came across a herd of youngster and teen elephant. We captured some pictures and follow them quietly. We’re not aware that the old elephant were sneaking behind us. Once again we’re in dangerous situation. This time we ran as fast as we could. One of my team members ran toward the hill. I’ve already told them not to climb any hill if this situation happens. I learn this from National Geographic Channel, it says elephant are really good when running over high terrain. But they’re slower to descent steeply hill.
I couldn’t imagine how he climbed that 65 degree slippery and muddy hill with 30kg bag. To make thing even worst, he jumped into 20m water fall and nearly drawn.
As for me and the other team member, we hide behind a large dipterocarp tree. We wait until those elephant move away and look for our pity friend.
We found him one kilometer down the river stream, he wounded badly. His leg broke and in shock, we need to get him to nearby hospital urgently.
Our communication equipments vanish into the river and we didn’t know our exact location. Frankly speaking, I’m not sure what to do, this was the first time I’ve been in this situation. All I could think was to look for any help as fast as we can.
We build a raft using root and young Turcz tree. Although we’re told not to cut any commercial tree but that’s only option we have. Turcz have great value market nowadays, but also light trees and grow well at river bank, it’s also suitable for rafting materials.
Luckily, the river flows outside the forest and reach nearby fisherman village. We’re rescued and went home safely.
Next morning, our bos was upset to hear the news and blame me for this. We failed to find any rhino evidence and cost him large cash to replace the loss equipments. But, who care! Our lives are the most important thing and the only one we have. Besides, the other group also found nothing.
Now, I’m not working for him anymore but still looking for another real life adventure. For me, the expedition was not a failure but a great experience that taught me the value of my life and appreciates what nature has to offer to humankind.