KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — “If an elephant chases you, run in a zigzag pattern because they are too big to turn but they can go very fast in a straight line,” said Rasidi Rahman or “Burn”.
An Orang Asli guide from the Jakun tribe living in the Endau Rompin area, he was sharing the knowledge and wisdom that has been passed down to him from his grandfather and father.
Rasidi has lived most of his life in the area and a walk through the jungle is a walk through his home or even a natural hypermarket as it provides everything he needs from tools and building materials to sweet snacks, food and medicine.
“I’ve been going into the jungle since I was three. It was my kindergarten,” says the 28-year-old Rasidi, who speaks fluent English despite never having had any formal schooling.
What annoys him is people who leave their rubbish in the jungle and over the past 11 years as a guide, he has seen it happen quite often; lamenting that it is usually done by Malaysian visitors who don’t appreciate the pristine nature of his home.
“How would you like it if I came to your house and threw rubbish all over the place?” he asks a group of students.
Like Rasidi, these students are all the hope we may have for preserving the future of the environment.
Coming from three schools — SM Lok Yuk (Sabah), SM St Michael (Sabah) and SMK Seri Indah (Selangor) — the 12 students and their teachers were in the Endau Rompin National Park for a three-day nature camp.
Teeming with flora and fauna, but increasingly surrounded by large oil palm plantations, the Endau Rompin National Park is one of the oldest rainforest ecosystems in this part of the world with plant fossils around 140 million years old (late Jurassic) having been found here.
The environmentally conscious students had the opportunity to explore nature at its finest as their reward for championing water stewardship in their communities during the recent Coca-Cola Malaysian Nature Society Water Vision contest.
The nature camp is one of the most anticipated parts of the annual Water Vision programme for the winners of the contest which is managed by the MNS — the country’s oldest environmental NGO — with full support from the Division of Co-Curricular and Arts, Ministry of Education, in partnership with Coca-Cola Malaysia.
Shortly after arriving at the MNS Nature Education and Research Centre located within the park, the students had a quick briefing to prepare them for their first activity, tubing down the Endau River.
As they floated down the wide river, the students learnt about how important a river is as a source of life for the flora and fauna as well as communities along its banks.
They then got out of the river at Kampung Peta where Rasidi lives and were shown how the Orang Asli use traps and blow pipes to hunt.
“You need a pencil to learn in school. All we need is a machete to survive in the jungle. But these days, it’s easy to get meat and we don’t need to hunt so much,” he said.
Over 20 years ago, he said his family also ate elephant meat, which takes about six hours of boiling to become tender but is very tasty.
“We would smoke the meat first so that it can keep longer and share it with everyone in the village. And every part of the elephant would be eaten because if we kill an animal, it is because we need to eat. We don’t waste any part of it because food is very precious.”
The next day, the students set off on a long trek that would take them through jungle trails with hornbills flying overhead. Elephants had also recently used the trail judging from the fresh droppings. They visited a fish conservation sanctuary and the mystical Upeh Guling waterfalls with a clear blue pool to swim in.
For Clarissa Ann Chong Hee from SM St Michael, one of the youngest participants, the trip was a real eye opener and the first time she had ever seen a real monkey in the wild.
“There are so many trees and it’s so alive here. Taking part in the Water Vision contest has increased my awareness of the environment so much. I’m also very happy to have had the opportunity to study and do something about the environment.”
The school’s teacher, Claris Hee, who led the project team, said one of the biggest challenges they faced during the contest was to change the mindset of the community living along the banks of the Moyog River.
Cikgu Tunsiah Rais from SMK Seri Indah, said the Water Vision contest was a fantastic opportunity for students to become aware of the environment.
“A lot more students and their teachers should be encouraged to take part.”
For Cikgu Juliana Yuni from SM Lok Yuk, the Water Vision contest is one that has brought a lot of benefits to the students as well as the community as it requires the participants to engage the community in water stewardship.
“In the future, things may get worse if we don’t stop the destructive ways now and we are glad that the community is now continuing what we began.”
Now in its 10th year, the Water Vision contest is open to all Form 3-5 students in schools with an MNS Kelab Pencinta Alam with the objective of creating awareness and continuous education to youths on the importance of water conservation.
The contest is part of the Coca-Cola MNS Water Vision project that aims to engage and educate Malaysian youth on the importance of water conservation by asking them to identify and propose a solution to water issues which impact their community.
The schools also won rain water-harvesting systems, which they can use to save the amount of water the school uses from the municipal system, while some schools have previously also donated the systems to the local community.
MNS Executive Director I.S. Shanmugaraj said, “Through the Water Vision project, we have been able to promote awareness on water issues particularly in the school and immediate community through observation and participatory methods, while encouraging students to participate actively in environment conservation efforts. By empowering them to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development, we can promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues.”
“Bringing the students to Endau Rompin, which is a sanctuary for wildlife and home to many rare, unique and possibly some still undiscovered species of plants and animals, will give them a sense of how important it is for us to conserve this national treasure,” added Shanmugaraj.
“This year marks MNS’ 75th anniversary of conservation efforts in Malaysia but we cannot do it alone. We need everyone to be part of the effort and getting students to appreciate Nature is a very important part of that effort.”
Public Affairs and Communications Director for Coca-Cola Malaysia Mohamed Kadri Mohamed Taib said “The Water Vision project is designed to instil a sense of responsibility and proactive attitude among young Malaysians and help them make a connection between their future and the environment; to drive home the importance of protecting water as a resource, which many people take for granted.
“Responsible water use is very important to The Coca-Cola Company and we are committed to identifying solutions to improve the lives of the communities in which we do business. This commitment and partnership with MNS to help protect and preserve water resources through education is one of our many initiatives to engage the present generation on an issue that will impact their future.”
As Rasidi pointedly puts it, “Young people need to appreciate and protect Nature. Nature is disappearing, the jungle is shrinking because of greedy humans.”