Taylor’s CAT Walk
The village of Merapoh turned into an outdoor classroom recently, when 18 students studying for a degree in International Tourism Management joined the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) on a Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT) Walk.
The students were from Taylor’s University and were taking a course in Recreation Application Management, focusing on Nature, Adventure and Ecotourism.
These students planned not only to make a difference, but to be different. Not only did they want to experience a CAT Walk, they were also intending to assess the area as an eco-tourism product. The plan was to interview local residents on the impact of eco-tourism in the Merapoh area.
Fanning out in the late afternoon sun, they went to the nearby villages – Merapoh Lama and Merapoh Baru, to speak to the villagers and shopkeepers. The good people of Merapoh were videoed by the students and interviewed. If the villagers hadn’t heard of MYCAT before this, they now have.
The students went on a night walk in the evening, exploring the border between Taman Negara and the oil palm estate, before descending on the local restaurants to conduct yet more interviews.
The next day, they entered the forest on a CAT Walk and saw the signs of poaching – elephant bones; wild boar and porcupine left to rot in traps simply because they were the “wrong” prey. It was a sobering reminder of the threats facing our wildlife. Along the way, these ‘green’ students collected rubbish which they brought out of the forest.
Upon returning to their campus in the city, the students exhibited photographs from the trip to share their findings with fellow students. While some improvements in terms of facilities will be needed to turn Merapoh into a popular eco-tourism destination, the students found that villagers were receptive to the CAT programme which brought in additional visitors to the area.
They also spoke to their peers about the threat of poaching and of the work that MYCAT is doing at the Sungai Yu Tiger Corridor in Merapoh.
These international and local students were an adventurous and enthusiastic group, and we hope that we will see more of them.