Yau Man’s commentary on the Sabah Rainforest.

This is from Yau Man Chan, one of my classmates from All Saint’s School.  He has graciously agreed to write a couple of words on the Rainforests of Borneo. For those who do not know Yau Man, he was in Survivor Figi, and is one of the all time favorites, self described “geek”.  Here it is:


One of the greatest discovery of modern science is the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.  But like many other important scientific work, Charles Darwin who was credited with the formulation of this theory, did not do it alone. He benefited from the work of many who came before him and contemporary naturalists of his day including one Alfred Russell Wallace. Wallace spent a lot of time collecting and cataloging specimens and making observations in what was then known as the Dutch East Indies.  In fact, he spent two years (1854-1856) in Borneo doing field work, gathering botanical and animal specimens to send to Darwin back in England.  One of the first thing I noticed on this trip back to my old home town of Kota Kinabalu was that Wallace’s seminal work “The Malay Archipelago” (dedicated to Charles Darwin) was prominently on display in many bookstores.  I had to buy a copy right away and started reading it.

While growing up in Borneo, we took our jungle backyard for granted.  We did not realize what treasures the “big clump of trees” held; how much they have contributed to the understanding of our world today and how important they continue to be for the survival of our species.  So, 40 years after leaving this forest, we had the opportunity to reassembled at the Kinabatangan Jungle Camp of our classmate Robert Chong to re-acquaint ourselves with our jungle heritage. http://www.kinabatangan-jungle-camp.com

When the British colonized North Borneo, it was for the hard-wood lumber and to grow rubber trees.  These ecologically disastrous economic activities continued after independence.  Renamed “Sabah” when it became a state in the Federation of Malaysia, the state continued to depend on forest-clearing hard-wood lumbering as the economic base when synthetic rubber made natural rubber plantations obsolete.  Then someone came up with the idea of growing Oil Palm for the oil – another unfortunately very successful forest-clearing agricultural activity which the Sabah government undertook with gusto.  Fortunately for all of us, some very concerned and smart politician in the government was paying attention as the world became very concerned with the depletion of the equatorial rain forests all around the globe and the effect this depletion had on global climate and wild-life.  About 20 years ago, with help from the WWF and NGO’s from concerned industrialized nations like Canada and Australia, a concerted effort was launched to stop the madness and preserve as much of the rain-forest of Borneo, and the wild lives in it, as possible.  Our classmate Robert was in the forefront of this activity with his Kinabatangan Jungle Camp.

So, yes, Virginia, there is still rain-forests left in Borneo.  The three days and two nights we spent at the Kinabatangan Jungle Camp was not just a memorable time for a bunch of old school buddies to get together to reminisce about our good (or bad) old school days – it was an amazing experience to see for ourselves jungle lives we only read about in National Geographic Magazine or watch on the Discovery Channel on TV.  Every boat ride down the Kinabatangan River and its tributaries gave us a front-row seat to view hundreds of species, including Orangutans, Proboscis monkeys, Hornbills and Borneo pygmy elephants in their natural habitat.  Yes, we have seen Orangutans in the zoos; we have see them in movies; we have seen pictures of them in magazines – but the joy of seeing one wild in the forest, swinging from branch to branch, from tree to tree is a moving experience like no others.  Sitting quietly on a boat by the banks of the river, watching a troupe of Proboscis monkeys grooming each other above our heads, one cannot but feel the awe and magnificence of their world, and yet feel like voyeurs into their lives.

That the rain-forest in Borneo and other regions are important to the survival of the human species cannot be over-stated. It affects global climate and its preservation is one of the key ingredients in our fight to slow the rate of global warming. Many botanical species hold pharmacological compounds yet to be discovered which may hold cures for many currently incurable diseases. Observation of animal behaviors in the wild, especially those of the great ape are still giving insights into human behaviors and our evolutionary past.  I applaud the Sabah government for taking a giant step to preserve this valuable and unique resource for the world at large. Transforming their economy from selling timber and agricultural products to eco-tourism must have been tough – but they did it, and did it with enthusiasm and grace. My heart felt thanks to Sabahans like our classmate Robert who have taken on the role as docent for the forest, to show us and the world what magnificence are held in their trust – we owe them an eternal gratitude.  If there is one place in the world you all should make a point of visiting before you take leave, it’s the rain-forest of Borneo.  Make your plans now.


2 Responses to “Yau Man’s commentary on the Sabah Rainforest.”

  1. Becca Wong Says:

    Yau Man:

    Well said, Yau Man. I will always remember the words you spoke in thanks to Robert for our time shared at his Kinabatangan Jungle Camp: “Thank you Robert, for showing us what the REAL world looks like”.

    And thank you Yau Man, for helping us to understand!!!


  2. tsen nelly Says:

    Without dispute, you will always remain the “geek” that warms our hearts and left the class of ’69 with fond memories. You’ve been a brilliant student all your life – one that strives for excellence. Good write!

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