With Ronald back on track after having been ill in the week proceeding the start date, our first group have arrived and are fully in the swing of the first slot of this expedition.
With the first two days of training (on navigation, datasheets, camera traps, machetes, etc) taken care of, we set out to find our data in the field. Working in two groups, boarding long boats in the morning, on the Subayang River, to get to our daily destinations, which start along its banks. With our scientist Febri and lots of input from the park rangers who’ve accompanied us into the forest, we’ve collected signs of animals in the area (sun bears clawing trees, wild pigs frequenting the rivers, otters, muntjac deer, etc.) and spotted the odd one or two in the flesh (monitor lizards and water buffalos crossing the rivers swimming, a fearless wild pig staring us down, macaques performing aerial acrobatics, siamangs and agile gibbons singing for us at all times of the day). There’s human impact too with clear signs of illegal logging and legal or semi-legal rubber plantations seemingly everywhere close to the settlements.
The biggest hardship for the group is getting used to the climate, a day out in the field is thirsty business. We’ve also had lots of great interaction with the locals along the way, finding out their views on the tiger situation.
The tiger, alas, is, as expected, elusive. We have only scratched the surface of the reserve with a handful of cells surveyed near the rivers and villages, which obviously attract human activities. The tiger will avoid those and the few interviews we have conducted are anecdotal evidence of this.
One team ventured (or rather waded and swam) deeper into the forest today, along a smaller stream. A day’s journey away into the green produced the pig sighting, illegal logger camps, but also more mature forest with buttressed tree giants towering above and shading the forest floor below. The pigs were everywhere (as the local Muslim population does not eat them for religious reasons) and we logged our first track of the shier muntjac. The highlight of the day was a spectacular waterfall spewing out of a black stone bowl with wet moss and greenery at the end of a small stream. The power shower was, well, powerful!