This is the latest (dramatic!) blog post from the MYCAT team in Malaysia, one of the wonderful projects we support.
Text and photos by Ashleigh Kivilaakso Seow, MYCAT Citizen Conservation Specialist
“Tolong, tolong (help, help)”. I hear the cry and, as the closest, immediately relay it to the others. We look around to see who is missing – Zack and Helen.
It came from the river and we quickly run that way. The Batek tribesmen soon overtake us as they glide like elves through the forest understorey. The river is visible through the trees. I reach the top of the bank and join the Batek.
Looking down, we see a prone form – Zack – lying twisted on some tree roots and the stony beach. Helen is crouched over him. As the others join us we start scrambling down the large roots and slope of the river bank to the bottom. We are shocked at the sight.
“What happened?” is on everyone’s lips.
“We were going down to the river. A snake lunged at him and he slipped and fell down the bank”, Helen told us.
We look at him. Blood on one arm and some on his face and head, legs twisted slightly.
Getting to work, the guides start to examine him.
“We will need a stretcher”. Three or four start cutting saplings while others ask Helen questions or check his vital signs.
I see he is breathing and someone confirms a pulse but he is unresponsive. A laceration on the head. Lots of lacerations but we look for sign of a snake bite: no obvious puncture wound but there is a single bleeding narrow pin-like scratch wound. The tip of the snake’s fang?
We start searching for the snake. Helen’s description is vague but the coloration suggests it may be a krait as the forest vipers are all green in this area. It must have struck as he fell down the bank.
Assuming the worst, we start wrapping an Australian compression and immobilisation bandage to slow the circulation of this neurotoxic venom.
Zack remains pale and unresponsive but the pulse is steady. The stretcher is soon ready, improvised from saplings, cordage and a utility rope.
We struggle up the bank taking care not to drop him and walk back to camp and give him a hot drink.
Even though I, as lead trainer, knew that a scenario was happening, the realism of Zack’s acting and Helen’s improvisation had me wondering if we had a real accident within an “accident”.
We were with the Green Badge Guides, Malaysia’s nature guides, doing wilderness first aid training, missing person drills, column safety and management, emergency abseils and safe lowering of people on steep slopes, stream crossing techniques and improvised shelter building.
So we ‘lost’ people, made palm tepees, fell into swift water, slid down slopes, made fire with wet wood and sat for hours in a rainy rainforest; feeling very alive and thrilled, all to ensure that our leaders would learn to avoid any situation but if anything ever happened, be ready to manage it.
The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) is providing further skills training to the government-certified nature guides, who lead climbs to Gunung Tahan (Mount Endurance), who have volunteered to be trained as Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT) Walk leaders. Helen is a trained CAT Walk leader who is a former combat medic with the Royal Malaysian Regiment and a make-up artist with the Education Ministry’s videography unit (hence the very realistic ‘blood’).
Learn more about CAT and MYCAT at www.citizenactionfortigers.my.