My first trip to something as close as calling it a zoo visit was the Sunway Lagoon animal park back in high school. I remembered going to the park in Sentosa Island when it first opened but did not recall much about it except the pink dolphin show. It was the ‘not so’ huge cage belonged to two tigers that got me hooked as I passed by to enter Sunway Lagoon theme park. It was my first life experience being close to a wild animal, fascinating yet wrong in so many ways. The tigers are beautiful creatures, I figured what was shown on TV were indeed true and more I was a mix of excitement and awe to see something real and right in front of my eyes. But, a part of me was curious about the whole picture.
Why is the tiger so quiet and lazy?
How do people feed them?
Aren’t tigers supposed to be running around?
Growing up in the city, I don’t have the luxury of seeing animals as often as I liked and because my hometown is also a city, I don’t have that countryside home to go back to during the holidays. What I knew was limited to the information I obtain from books and what I see on TV. So, it was a bit odd to see two passive tigers in Sunway Lagoon right in the middle of an urban place. So many questions popped in my mind and I was telling myself over and over again this is not how it is based on the TV shows I watched before this.
It was since then I started having interest in animal protection, specifically tigers. I loved them when I was young, I love them still but now that I’m older I learned there’s so much more about them, especially the importance of protecting instead of using them as a profit-making tool. Because tigers were the animal that first got me into thinking about animal protection, it’s only natural that they hold a special place in my heart. I wouldn’t call myself an environmentalist or an eco warrior, but I do believe in the cause and all the efforts to protect nature. I didn’t start acting on it though until only recently. In fact, it was back in college when I visited Malaysia’s National Zoo for the first time in my life and while I left feeling dazed about seeing them in such close proximity, the feeling that it’s all wrong became stronger.
Even then, I wasn’t too sure what I could even do.
I know I couldn’t go out there and be a volunteer to protect them or physically participate in movements as I was restricted by many rules at home. I read and keep on reading and on days where the news reported animal abuse or yet another death caused by humans I can’t help feeling disturbed and helpless. The urge to help was boiling but I didn’t know what to do, where to start, who to talk to or how do I even help.
I believe that many of us would feel the same way, especially when we weren’t exposed to animal protection awareness campaigns , organizations or education about it.
It was when I studied in the UK that I saw ways I could help and contribute within my capabilities. I started reaching out through fundraising activities, hoping that with the little amount that I collect, I would create a ripple effect in instilling awareness among my friends and family. Raising money was a way I could help and it’s something I enjoy doing too so I focused on that, putting whatever experience I had to good use and hoped that it would have eased the struggles of volunteers in the front line who actually go out of their way to protect the nature.
Along the fundraising journey, I also realized many other things about the effort to protect and conserve our environment. I think it’s easier to give up than fight for the cause because often, you meet a dead end or you hardly see any actual impact. There are so many barriers it almost feels like it’s impossible.
You’re not only going against people who sees the environment as a mean to make profit but also tradition and culture.
For example, when I visited Phuket I was so difficult to convince my family not to go to the elephant show because their argument was that it’s part of the culture and so many other people go as well. There’s also the other side of the argument that elephants and the people there have a long history of relationship. The Thai people worships elephants and take good care of them according to the history and bond they have between them for centuries. But there are also cases where the animals are abused while in training. I would say that it is probably a similar case to how our farmers use buffalo to plough their plantation field. Back in those days elephants too were used as a mode of transportation in Thailand.
The concern here is that today, some people are abusive towards their animals and we don’t have to use wild animals such as elephants or tigers, it can even be our pets.
So, yes despite only exploring a small part of this fight, I find myself giving up many times, defeated in arguments and it was almost useless when majority’s voice was not on my side.
But this also made me realize that the cause of this issue is mostly due to lack of awareness. Education in this area is not enough, it’s probably out there but it’s not reaching to everyone in the community. We read an article today about an animal being abused or a forest burned down due to the impossible hot weather in some area but it stops there for us. We would be sorry, feel sad about what happen, wished things didn’t turn out that way, we got angry and frustrated, grumbled to our friends about what we read in the article but we weren’t taught on what we can do to stop it from happening again. We don’t see ourselves being involved more than just reading it and that, I believe is where education comes in. When we educate ourselves about our surroundings, about our rights, our law and country we also learn how we, as part of a bigger society could act on situations like this. We may not realize that we were being ignorant which is why education and awareness in this area is very much needed to be emphasized and instilled.
Which is why, despite seeing more dead ends than impacts I still want to fight with those who believe in this cause. Because I feel that it’s a responsibility we carry as part of the society. Creating an environment that is livable, isn’t that something that involves us the primary users of Earth? How we manage it reflects our ability to remain in existence and I think that duty lies in everyone. I know I can’t do much, but I also know that continuously changing, educating and improving our lifestyle will eventually lead to bigger impact.
I started from the most famous organization that’s available in almost every country which is WWF. But there are also many non-profit environmental organizations that we could refer to. Some do research work, some focus on certain areas such as government policies and many other specifications. Here are some websites I usually check to get updates on environmental issues and learn more about the nature in my country.
- Websites of environmental NGOs in Malaysia
- Malaysian Nature Society
- Environmental Protection Society in Malaysia
- WWF Malaysia
Sometimes, we are aware of all the environmental issues happening around us. Social media and the news update us regularly. But it is taking that next step is what’s important here. Most of the time, we don’t know what we can do. Believe me, we can do so much more if we take one step further. You can change what you are angry about. Work within your capabilities. Just because you can’t go down to the field or be at the front line to protect nature, that doesn’t mean you are not capable of contributing to the cause.
We can’t all be farmers or fishermen. Some need to be seller, some as buyers and many more. Only then the economy will be moving forward. This concept applies to this cause as well. You could be working in terms of changing policies, becoming an eco ranger, promotes recycling, a trendsetter for green lifestyle and many more other options. You just need to act on it. It may be late as we have so much to work on, but it’s never too late and you’ll never know what you can achieve unless you try.
So try, and bring positive changes. You can play a role in this too.
p/s: I’m already all pumped up about crowdfunding for my tigers. Hopefully I will have the time as I wish to make it an annual affair rather than just a one time thing. Hope this write up will make you explore on how you can personally contribute to this cause too 🙂