By Fergus Horspool –
Having been here almost 7 weeks I can’t believe it, it has just flown by. But when I think back it makes sense because I actually feel like I have achieved and done quite a lot.
Firstly what a great place to spend an extended period of time, although it is a reforestation project , to those unaware you could never tell. I am currently undertaking my undergrad research project basing it upon the plots that TRCRC have established with VJR Merisuli. I could have not have asked for a better site for them to be based in terms of the variation and diversity that they have displayed. I feel that every time I enter the forest I see a species of insect that I haven’t seen before! Which is always a nice surprise. But it is not just the small things that have kept me entertained, whether it is the pair of Hornbills that have taken up residence in the coconut tree next to where I sleep or the wild Orangutan that I was lucky enough to see. Having seen them in Sepilok previously I didn’t think seeing a completely wild individual would have such an effect on me (I was wrong as you can probably tell!). There is a truly staggering array of wildlife that I have never experienced before that would always leave me excited for the day and the prospect of what I would see!
This is my first ever field project that both I am solely in control of and 100% responsible for, it has been a completely new yet exciting experience to watch it progress. It seems like a lifetime ago that its initial ideas were being planned in the UK, now fast forward to Merisuli and I’m currently two days away from the final data collection. It seems crazy how it has all materialized and become a reality in the rainforest of Sabah and it feels me with much pride (and rather a lot of relief!).With all things it cannot run smoothly 100% of the time, this includes not being able to find Durian fruit for almost a month (the main focus of my study…), now nearing the end it is such a great feeling to have some real results . Even better than that so far they seem to actually indicate an effect, which is all that I hoped for!
The heat and humidity have provided a constant background struggle for me(who would have guessed that being English I would have struggled with the weather, unheard of right?!), whether that be struggling to sleep at night or just feeling like I’m walking through soup the whole time. Whilst I don’t think I would ever truly become accustomed to it, I’m sure that you’ll all be happy to hear that I’ve almost got used to it and my complaints regarding the heat have diminished rapidly! Part of this is due to the discovery that sleeping in a hammock is the only way to go in the tropics, so much cooler than any of the other sleeping arrangements I had tried (big thanks to Dr. Dzaeman there, I don’t know why I didn’t listen to your advice sooner!).
I must thank all of the people involved who have helped me with my project, firstly Raleigh International and their volunteers for helping me set up my study and recording the data, I question whether I would have been capable of doing it alone. Also for establishing Little England at their campsite and making it a rather obscure much appreciated home from home as well as the associated witty banter ensuring we had a laugh in some of the more testing environments out here in Sabah! I also need to give a big thanks to of the Merisuli TRCRC guys who are some of the most practical and hardworking people I have ever met, they are truly the factor behind my project becoming a success rather than a failure. Whether that be helping me with the plots or associated work required to make a project like this work. A special thanks goes out to Andi for tirelessly translating my stupid questions and not losing patience with a hapless 6”2 Brit trying to trek through the forest. Also to Wahirin for being my personal guide to all of the plots and only getting us lost the once! As well as never complaining about my slow pace trying to keep up with him! And not forgetting Ain purely just for being Ain and looking after me at all times, even when it wasn’t necessary! To Leon for just generally being a top bloke and keeping me company. Finally to Dr. Dzaeman who I’m aware that without him none of this would have ever been possible and am eternally grateful!