November 20, 2013, by Malvika Johal
Malaysian Rainforest Project
Biology student James Mudie took part in a trip to the tropical rainforests of the Krau Wildlife Reserve, Malaysia this summer. While he was there he assisted with research into the agriculture carried out by local people and its impact on forest regeneration. Funded thanks to donations from alumni and friends to the Cascade fund, James tells us just why this was such an unforgettable trip for him.
“During the summer of 2013, a fellow student and I were given the opportunity to spend 6 weeks in Malaysia, assisting the work of Saifon Sittimongkol, a PhD student. We were part of a team consisting of five undergraduates, a PhD student, a Masters student and a WWF volunteer. Saifon’s project took place in Krau wildlife reserve, a protected area of rainforest about 2 hours away from Kuala Lumpur. The project aimed to assess the impact of subsistence agriculture, carried out by the Orang Asli (indigenous people living in the reserve) on rainforest structure.
Our trip began with three weeks at the Malaysia Campus, where we spent time analysing camera trap footage for Elephant conservation group Management & Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME). It was a privilege to experience and be a part of such an important conservation effort. As a Biology student I found it very interesting to gain an insight into the world of conservation, and how organisations such as MEME operate on a day-to-day basis.
At the beginning of our fourth week in Malaysia we headed to the forest to begin fieldwork. During our time in the forest we stayed either in Orang Asli villages or in tents. Our work took us to a number of different parts of the forest. We spent a lot of time trekking around the forest, often spotting evidence of animal activity, such as tiger pugmarks and bear scratch marks. During the course of Saifon’s work I learnt many practical skills, which be very useful in future fieldwork. Meeting and living with Orang Asli families was amazing, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. From living in timber huts, to observing ingenious bush craft skills, it was a pleasure spending time with them. We were able to get to know three Orang Asli particularly well, as they were our forest guides. Scaling trees in seconds and building bridges in minutes, our guides were a constant source of amazement. Using the little Malay I had picked up we could make basic conversation, which was very rewarding.
This trip, made possible by funding from the alumni and friends has provided others and me with invaluable experience both in and out of the field. My time in the forest has deepened my interest in wildlife and conservation and provided me with memories which I will never forget.”