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One Hot Afternoon in the Lower Kinabatangan Valley

It is now the month of May and the rains had stopped for a month now. It is getting hot and dry. Baby Orang Utan, SiMat is very restless. He was jumping about and pleading with his mother. "Mak, Mak, Please take me down to the River for a drink, I am really very thirsty.". "SiMat, there is no way you can drink the water from the river. Look at it. The water is all brown like ‘kopi susu’ (Coffee with milk)." , "Mak, that will be alright, after all I like milk very much.". "You stupid boy,the brown colour of the water is not milk but MUD and silt." . "Mak, how come the silt gets into the water and makes it brown in colour.?"." Mat,you are asking too many questions." "Dear" said Father Orang Utan, "we must not stop the child asking questions. It is by asking questions that he will learn.". "Well, dear, Simat is your son too. I am sleepy and tired. You answer his questions." "Some how I always feel that the man of the house must do some thing about his child’s education! Do not tell me I am not doing my part to bring up the child."

"Well. Simat – about 8 years ago, you can actually see the bottom of the Kinabatangan River. The water is so clear that you can see fishes and prawns swimming at the bottom of the River.. The water was good for drinking. You know the early Chinese who came with Admiral Cheng Ho in the Chinese Armada in 1403 A.D. actually called the Kinabatangan – the River with the fresh water ! (Tham Swee Ho). Till today, the Chinese still call the Kinabatangan by its Chinese Name, Tham Swee Ho.". "Ayah, you have still not explain why the water in the River is ‘kopi susu in colour." Said the impatient Simat.

"Simat, do you hear the sound of the chain saws going the whole day long and also at night? What do you think the human beings are doing?" "They are cutting down the trees that is what they are doing.". "Yes, they are cutting down the trees – to sell the logs and also to make plantations.". "Pak, I thought all the animals in the jungle had said that the jungle is their home. By cutting down the jungle, where are we going to live?". "Simat, do you think the human beings care for us animals – they do not care for us a single bit – all they want is to get rich.. Getting rich is alright as long as no harms come to others who make their home in the jungle. See, you do not have clear water to drink now. The land after it is cleared of jungle will be exposed to the elements of the weather and soil erosion will take place, and before long the land lost so much of its fertile top layers, that what is left is no good for growing any thing. Serve the humans right if they cannot grow any food – but we. The animals will also lose our food supplies too. Logging is bad for the land and bad for us the wildlife. Destroying our habitat is as good as destroying us."

"Here, Here! – that is good that you are teaching your son, a little about environment awareness." Said Father Beaded Pig who happened to be sleeping at the base of the tree where the Orang Utan family was on. "Do you know some thing more about the harm caused by cutting down the trees? Well, without a forest cover, the rain drop directly on the soil and cause erosion. As there is no roots or plants to slow down the flow of the water flowing down the slopes of hills – the water simply rush down and cause flash floods. My Grandfather told me in the old days when the floods do come they come slowly and not in a rush. Now there is yearly flooding of the Kinabatangan. The level of water rises very fast and very high causing great damages and lost of human lives. Well, we do not care much for the lost of human lives, it is their own faults and they have to suffer from their foolish deeds. We get drown too, and with water covering all the land we will have no way of searching for food."

"I say, I say, May I join in your discussion? " asked Payau (Sambar Deer) who happened to be passing by. "I over heard some "white tourists at Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Camp, saying that the uncertainty of the weather nowadays and the lack of oxygen in the air is caused by the destroying of the green in the leaves (Chlorophyl). It seems that plants take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen which is needed for all living things to breath. The World is warming up and there will be little oxygen to breath if the humans do not slow down on the destruction of the jungle."

"Sorry for interrupting" said the Oriental Darter who was sitting on a branch up the same tree as the Orang Utan Family. "Do you notice that the air is difficult to breath and we can hardly see when we fly around. I think the human called the smoke that suspends in the air as haze. How come you get haze – well after chopping the jungle trees, the plantation workers set the whole area in flame. Don’t you all notice it, the jungle around Danau Ushu was cleared by a plantation Company who wanted to start a Oil Palm Plantation in the area. The humans thought it will be easy to get rid of the forest by burning. I think this fire which had been burning for the last week had got out of control. No water to drink, not enough food to eat and now they are trying to rob us of fresh air to breath too!" Oriental Darter sounded disgusted.

"I feel, I have no right to join in the talk, as I am only an migratory visitor to this area," said the STORMS STORK. A few years ago my grandfather and his friends decided to fly south to make our home here. The Kinabatangan Valley was a pleasant place for us to live in. Plenty of virgin forests, clear rivers and lakes teeming with fish and prawns. My grand parents decided to make our home here and not fly all the way back to Khasmir during the summer. We are multiplying in number. It is not surprising to hear some bird watchers at Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Camp saying that – the Kinabatangan is one place where they are sure to sight us, STORM STORKS and they need not spend plenty of money to go to Khasmir to see some Storms Storks.. But how long are we going to continue to live in the Lower Kinabatangan area is everyone’s guess. The loggers and the plantation companies are cutting down all the trees by the river and shores of the lakes where we roost each night. They are burning the weeds around the lakes –destroying our nests and killing our youngs. The people here can make money on a sustainable way by creating a wildlife sanctuary in these parts. Open it for bird watchers and wildlife observers to visit. The spending from the tourists coming into the area will be able to support and give the local community some sort of income. Cut down the trees and destroy the home of the wildlife and the animals will be gone and no tourists will come."

"Talking about eagle eyes . Do you know we Brahminy Kites are a bird of prey. We have good eyesight and are able to see fishes swimming the water high above the river. We can just dive down and pick up a fish or two for our lunch. But what is the use of good eyesight when you cannot see the fish in the water because of the mud and silt in it which make the water brown in colour, I hardly ate any things since this morning. I just cannot see the fish in the water to catch them. I am sorry I join the discussion without your permission. I am flying off now to look for something to eat. Selamat Tinggal."

"Hi! Hi! Can you all see me – I am on the river bank." Cried the Hairy Nose Otter which is with his family. The Braminy Kite talked of nothing to eat – do you all see this thick mass of dead fish and prawns in the water. Well, some stupid local fisherman had poured an insecticide – Deldrex 15 into the water this morning to poison and then catch fish and prawns. The human collected the bigger fishes and prawns for sale and left the smaller ones to rot away. We cannot eat this dead fish – we will be poisoned too. The fisherman did not care whom he sells his catch to – as long as he gets his money. I am certain – there will be some human families in town who had eaten the fishes and prawns caught with poison – having stomachaches and being admitted to hospital tonight! We will go hungry and slowly our population will get smaller. We have no choice – the human beings had everything under their control."

"Ho! Ho! Ho! – talking about having nothing to eat. I almost got you between my jaws, Mr. Otter!" said Tok Buaya – an old crocodile who had been living in the Kinabatangan for a very long time. " Why don’t you Tok?". Asked Otter. Well for this one time when all us beasts can gather round to talk of things which concern our future and that well beings of our descendants, I believe, we should gather here as friends and discuss what we can contribute to for the very survival in the Kinabatangan. I do not depend on the jungle for my meals – I eat you fellows! But how can I get food to eat when you get slowly threatened and slowly be extinct. My motive to get involved in your discussion may be selfish – but you must know when the jungle got get destroyed, you fellows will not be around to be my food chain! Selfish no doubt, but a deep concern to me for my future depends on me getting enough food – that is you. If you are no more around I will starve to death. So please let me join in your discussion.

As a matter of fact, as much as I had wished just now, I could never catch Mr. Otter and make him my dinner this evening. Look at me – I am all covered with the used motor oil thrown into the Kinabatangan just a moment be I got here, by that tugboat you see across the River. The crew of the Tug boat was waiting for the timber barge to be loaded, so to get ready for the trip down river with the long "Rakit" of logs it was a nice thing to get the boat ready for the trip. Change the engine cylinder oil. Of course the most convenient thing to do was to dumped the used oil into the River and that was when Yours Truly was passing by. As a matter of fact, my eyes are still sore from the used oil. Getting Mr. Otter for dinner – no way – I can hardly see as it is."

Pak Orang Utan asked, "So how are you going to have your ‘Makan’ when you cannot see to catch your prey. We are all too fast for you to Catch".

"No. Problem lah! Man – ‘Manusia" will provide me with the food I need to eat to survive lah!" said Tok Buaya.

"You cruel and merciless creature. Don’t tell me you are going to catch some innocent children or women who come down to the River to wash for your dinner?" exclaimed Mother Orang Utan, "You merciless creature."

"Well, Madam Orang Utan, I hope you can understand, the law of Nature -"Survival of the fittest!. Each and everyone are created by the CREATOR with some special qualities in us. You are meant to live in trees and can climb from tree to trees to search for food. I am supposed to hunt for my food in the river – I am NOT suppose to climb trees to catch you. But if you are foolish enough and leave your safe branch and come into the river – than it is fair game for me to catch you for my dinner – that is the law of the Jungle!".

"Actually, what do you mean when you said MAN = "Manusia" will provide you with your makan? Don’t you expect to be fed with thrash fish and dead chicken as your relatives are being fed by the Manusia at the Sandakan Crocodile Farm! Ha! Ha! Ha!. Asked Pak Orang Utan.

"I am really serious when I said "Manusia" will provide me with the food I need. The whole trouble with you fellows is that you do not travel up and down the length of the Kinabatangan much. I am certain I am very much older than any one of you and I go up and down the Kinabatangan very regularly. Don’t you all know that the Western Countries are all boycotting Tropical Timber. They are not buying Tropical Timber – with a hope that their action will save the Tropical Rain Forests – the Western Governments and Industrial people are trying to tell their citizens that they are goody-goodies and want to protect the and Conserve the Tropical Ran Forests! They are "Penbohong Besar lah!" said Tok Buaya.

Father Proboscis Monkey asked, " What has the boycotting of Tropical Timber by the Western World got to do with your dinner? Are you trying to build up a good political image and be our "Wakil Rakyat‘ in the next General Election?

"The trouble with you gays are that you do not think and use your brain a little bit. You see, when the Western countries are boycotting Tropical Timber, that will leave some other countries ( countries who cares a damn for the Conservation of Tropical Forests) a wide open market with plenty of timber to chose from and at a price they can control. The timber prices are now being forced down. Buyers from these timber buying countries are all now going into the logging concession area to pick and choose the logs they want. The most disgusting thought is that most of the hard Tropical Timber are not used for making high class furniture to be admired and kept. You will not believe me – most of the timber are used to make plywood. The plywood are often used for mouldings in the constructions of high raised building in the developed countries – to create Concrete Jungles – whether we like is or not – our Tropical Rain Forest are destroyed so Concrete Jungles can spring out in Developed Countries!".

"You know after building the high raise building– the plywood moulding are all burnt and not reused. This burning also adds to the pollution of the Atmosphere. Of course I do not expect you people to know that much of our Tropical timber are used for disposable chopsticks and also for tooth picks." Answered Tok Buaya.

"You have still not answer my question , How are the "Manusia" going to provide you with your dinner" asked Father Orang Utan.

"Be patient lah, let me tell you slowly lah. When buyers get a chance to pick and choose the logs they want – what happened to logs that no body want to buy. The slightly crooked one, the ones with a hollow center and the one which are felled but of a wrong spices. Well, in the middle of the night when there are no witnesses – the logging companies just dump these logs into the Kinabatangan River. Go up River – from Kuala Lokan right up to Tongod – both sides of the River is lined thick with"DISCARD" logs. When the River gets flooded – these logs will not be seen by the local villagers who speed by - now in high powered out board engines ( money for the engines is said to have come from illegal logging – news from the Jungle Telegraph.). In the last few months there are so many cases of small boats knocking half submerged logs and capsizing. Many "Manusia" got drowned. The corpses are not being found yet. I expect these corpse will be flowing by soon – so that is my Dinner problem solved. Less efforts on my part to go and hunt for food – you beasts are too fast for me now – especially now I am very much older. Human meat taste better too and it is actually served to your dinning table – you do not have to hunt for them. Thanks to the thoughtful loggers! My Dinner problem is solved. So excuse me – I am going to wait by the whirl pool slightly up river – the lobok Buaya and hope my dinner will flow by."

"We. Long Tailed Macaques seems to appear to be stupid, sitting on the branches of trees and scratching ourselves the whole day long. But we know that whenever we are sick, we just need to get into the Jungle and eat some special plants and we will be well again. Do you all know, all the modern medicines even for humans are derived from plants and herbs. Out here in a Tropical Rain forest the are many many plants whose properties as medicine or drugs have yet to be discovered . It is said that there are more species of plant life in an acre of Tropical Rain Forests than the whole of the British Isles. Who knows here in these Tropical Rain Forest, there may yet be plants which may provide cures for many of the illness that is found in the Human World. Aids is killing millions of people World wide yearly – out here in the Tropical Rain Forest there may yet be a cure for Aids. But the stupid humans in their earnest to make money by selling timber and creating plantations are destroying so many plant life that had not be researched upon. We hate the often used expression of the Human Beings – "You Stupid Monkeys! Little do they know, they are more stupid than us. We know the values of the Tropical Rain Forests, for their many uses – controlling the climate, regulation water flow, help to conserve water, help to provide more oxygen, provide home for men and beast, food, materials for building and also a place for healthy recreation – and our Pharmacy to provided Medicines and cures for all sicknesses. Some of the selfish humans can only think of the number of ringgits they can get for a cubic feet of timber. Monkeys are NOT STUPID. We, Long Tailed Macaques, are also very fed up – because we are often known as the common monkeys as we are found every where – that MAN thinks we are too many and can be spared. Do you know that many of us are trapped and shipped to developing countries as Laboratory animals – for scientific experiments? We do not mind this much because we feel by sacrificing our lives many human beings will live. But are the Human grateful. No – they want to destroy us all by destroying our habitat. They are cutting down all the Jungles if there is no one to stop them. Monkeys being stupid? No, it is MAN. He is slowly killing himself by destroying the very things that help keep him alive. Sorry, we have no more time to talk. Come on family – let us climb up the next tree and scratch ourselves. Cover our eyes, ears and mouths so we will see no evil, hear no evils and speak no evils even of the Stupid Human Race."

"How can we save the Rain Forests – our Home" Moaned Mother Orang Utan."

" I once saw a Stupid German Gentleman in the Balat area hammering small pieces of iron wedges into some big trees in the jungle," Said Payau

"When he was asked why he was doing it he said it is to protect the trees. Any one trying to cut down the trees will have the chain saw damaged and the trees will be safe! How many trees in the Jungle can he saved. Little did he knew when the chain saw breaks on contact with the steel wedge – the handler of the chain saw will be injured – maimed for life may be. What happened to his family – his wife and children how are they going to survive."

" Actually, I do not know if you all had observed. Almost all the Chain Saws used for cutting down the jungle in Sabah are the "STILTH" Chain saws made in Germany. " Said Father Orang Utan. I think the German Gentleman would have saved more Tropical Rain Forest if he goes home and put a TIME BOMB and blow up the chain saw factories in his country."

Everyone present cheered and for this sound suggestion.

An old Owl was on the next tree. He had been quiet and sleepy. He suddenly woke up and spoke," These developed countries in the World are all yelling their heads off - telling the whole World to stop the destruction of the Tropical Rain Forests. Whom are they going to bluff lah. Twenty years ago, it would have taken more than 15 days for a tree to be felled and dragged down to the River. Today, with all the machines invented by the developed countries – chains saw, "Kapitang", long Timber trucks, Big Bull dozers other heavy machinery. The giant forest trees are dropping every second in the World. Are the Developed Countries sincere in wanting to preserve the Tropical Rain Forests. If they are sincere they should stop manufacturing machines that will help the destruction of the Tropical Rain Forests. Have high export duties for these machines which are used for logging - and channeled the money collected to carry out financial Reforestry Programmes in underdeveloped country. These Developed

Countries – "SEMUA DIA MAHU" tetapi bayar tidak Mahu. (They want everything but with held paying the price). These developed countries claimed that it does not matter where the Forests a situated – they belong to the World ! They also have a share and rights to insist on Developing Countries to conserve the Tropical Rain Forests. But who is to pay for conservation projects. If the Forests Belong to the World – let us GOTONG ROYONG – let the whole World Contribute to up keep of the Tropical Rain Forests."

"Congratulations, Mr. Owl – You have spoken very wisely." Exclaimed Mother Orang Utan.

" Thank you. You need not say it – we OWLS are always wise."

"I do not see the reason for the fuss you're all getting into. Do you not realised that we PROBOSCIS MONKEYS are only found on the Island of Borneo and nowhere else in the World. The Sabah Government is trying to protect us and promote us as a Tourists attraction. There is a bright future ahead for us PROBOSCIS MONKEYS in the Kinabatangan Area – the Lower Kinabatangan Valley will be gazzetted as a Wildlife Sanctuary. Be patient my friends and we will have happy days ahead. We are a spices well above you lots." Said, the Chief of a troupe of Proboscis Monkey. Hardly had he spoken.

" Bang, Bang, Bang!"And the family of Proboscis Monkeys all dropped dead. All the other other animals ran in all directions to escape from the guns of a boat full of "SPORTS HUNTERS"from the towns. The Hot afternoon turn out to be an excited afternoon for the animals – an afternoon in which they have to race off and fight for their survival. Too bad for the PROBOSCIS MONKEYS – the local Chinese from the town believe that the male Proboscis Monkey can hold an erection of his penis 365 days a year – so if you eat the meat of the Proboscis Monkey cooked with certain herbs –You will also be able to do it like a proboscis monkey, have an erection any time. "One person eating the meat and two people need not sleep that night!" is the saying for those who eat the Proboscis Monkeys. As long as guns are available easily illegal hunting will take place. Hunting is not carry out for subsistence– because the people needed food to eat but for fun and getting some exotic food to help with the sexual lives of the human beings. More patrolling by Game Rangers along the Kinabatangan will help a long way in the conservation of the wildlife in the area. To the gun totting goons who called themselves "SPORTSMEN" a heavy fine and a long term in jail will educate them a little to understand the Fauna Laws of the State.

Later in the deep jungle and late at night – the Orang Utan family sat on a tall tree and ponder over their future– that is if they have a future.

At the bottom of their tree a lone elephant was singing the ELEPHANT SONG by the Malaysian Singer – Kamal . "Tell me why said the Elephant, tell me brothers if you can. Why should we live in fear of men, who fly in Jambo Jets and yet kill with their rifles and knives without regrets. Why can’t we, men and beasts learn to live in peace! The elephant kept on asking Why, Why, Why? Like the day before, some one shot at him – definitely not for food. A shot gun with small pellets was used. The shot did not kill but a nasty wound is now getting septic on the shoulder of the elephant. The people who shot at him were hunting from a 4 WD and was using spot lights to daze him before shooting. The opening of plantations also give access into the jungles easily for yahoos to get into the Jungle easily to hunt. The Kinabatangan Valley is very luckily is populated mainly by ORANG SUNGAIs who are mainly Muslims. The first recorded conversion of a man from the Indahan Race was in 1409 in the Kinabatangan area. Muslims have their strict HALAL LAWS on food. Only species of the deer family are hunted. But the pressure on hunting is not great at all. A local indigenous tribesman will have to hunt on foot and using the simple single barreled shot gun. Once he successful in his hunt – he could only carry out part of the carcass for feeding his family. He will tell his neighbours and friends not to hunt any more as there will be enough meat for the whole village. It is the "SPORTMAN HUNTERS" who get into the Jungle and shoot at anything and everything. Some using automatic Riot Guns to go hunting. There were incidents where carcasses of elephants were observed to be shot with high caliber rifles – small hole in and a big hole out – M 16 Rifles! Whom but the Government Forces are issued with M 16 Rifles! Surely these high caliber rifles are for the protection and defence of the country and not for Sport hunting! As the Elephant sat and ponder – he wonder when some one will see his carcass flowing down the Kinabatangan River with his tusks cut off with a chain saw. The picture is too gruesome for him. He changed his thoughts and starting singing the ELEPHANT SONG!

Simat, asked his father a last question before falling to sleep, "Ayah, we are in hot trouble and our future is not bright at all. Who can help us?".

Father Orang Utan half sleepy answered," The Government of Sabah can if it enforced the laws and be strict. It must stop logging in the area immediately. Tomorrow will be too late. It must be done today and now. Let those in authorities understand our plights and listen to our pleads. By stopping logging in the area, it will not only help us animals, but also the local communities living in the area. Educate the people to be aware of the environment – a heritage which is entrusted upon those living today to protect and conserve for the future generations to come. Come on Simat, go to sleep and dream of better days to come – if the Government takes some immediate action NOW!

Father Orang Utan said a silent prayer –" by the will of Allah, let our hope and expectation come true – The Low Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary will be a reality and not just a mere thought. If it is made a Sanctuary for Wildlife we hope there will be dedicated and committed people to enforce all the laws to make this region a real Haven for Wildlife. Insallah. Amen!

This story was told on WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY by Uncle Tan at the Wildlife Camp in 1997.

© 2003 Copyright Uncle Tan Wildlife Adventures