Opening My Heart to Nature
I spent my childhood growing up in an oil palm estate in Sandakan, Sabah. The only thing that I saw outside in the morning and where I spent my time playing with my friends was the oil palm plantation. Growing up, I had zero interest in environment. To make it worst, I accepted an offer for a degree programme in Conservation Biology by University Malaysia Sabah while having zero knowledge about conservation. During my first year, I had doubts about the choice that I had made by pursuing something that I did not like.
Our first fieldwork trip was in Tawau Hills Park and the first research we conducted was on frogs. Every night for five days, we went in to the forest, got ourselves covered in mud, being bitten by mosquitoes, leeches and even dipped half of our body in the water while walking along the stream and enduring the cold. On my first night, I murmured a lot because I did not like the mud, sweat, cold and walking around the forest with half my body being wet. For me frogs were just frogs! I see them everywhere, even in the drain in front of my house. There was nothing special about it.
The next day, I woke up early in the morning to check on our catch the night before. To my surprise, I was so amazed looking at different colours of frogs. Some were black, green, red and even orange. Their head structure was also different and one of the frogs actually had horns! It was the Bornean Horned Frog that can only be found in Borneo. It was an amazing catch! I was very much blown away by the varieties of frogs that we had.
On our second night of catching frogs, I had a new kind of feeling within me. I enjoyed walking along the stream and was eager to look for frogs hiding under the rocks, on the trees and spotting them through their eye reflection with a torchlight. We also spotted the giant toad “Bufo juxtasper” (as in picture) that can only be found in Southeast Asia. It was the largest toad I had ever seen!
From this experience I began to look at nature differently and always feel excited to uncover what we have in our rainforest. I changed from a person who did not know anything about nature to someone who enjoys nature and now working to conserve the world’s unique species, the orangutan.
If you are interested to create your own nature experience in Sabah, feel free to visit any of our conservation areas like Danum Valley which is also nominated as the world’s heritage site, Tawau Hills Park where the tallest tropical tree in the world can be found, Maliau Basin or also known as the “Lost World of Sabah”, and many more other exciting places.
Donna Christine Simon is a Field Biologist, Orangutan.
WWF-Malaysia (Sabah Office)