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The Human Zoo

By Forest Ang

......it became obvious and a big surprise when I saw orang asli using electric shock fishing....

We were camping along a small river near Kuala Gandah, Lanchang, Pahang. We heard the engine of a motorboat coming from downstream. We heard laughter and playing children callings. As the voices and motor engine got nearer, we saw a group of orang asli wading up stream along our campsite. From a far, we saw a boy pushing a small look-alike sampan. Two adults leading the pack were holding long poles. Fishing rods I presumed. The bunch of kids were following behind with much youthful carnival atmosphere. They were wading up stream. And suddenly, it became obvious and a big surprise when I saw orang asli using electric shock fishing.

The motor engine I presumed earlier was a generator. The sampan was actually a plastic drum cut into half and used as a small floating boat. The engine was running continuously. They stopped near the deep water corner. The two adults would put their long poles with wire attached on the tip of their poles into the deepen water. You can hear the engine stress when the poles were in the water. Instantly, fishes started to float to the surface. Small fishes about the size of 4 inches were collected and placed inside a plastic bag. God knows how many other creatures beside the small miserable catches were killed. At some spots there wasn't any fish. And then, a toad floated to the surface struggling away using the usual "frog stroke". The children shooed the toad away. It swam toward our campsite river bank and hid under some bushes.

orang asli and electric shock fishing
The Orang Asli and Electric Shock Fishing

With the small catch and the rising cost of petrol, I wondered the viability of catching fish using this destructive method. There are poisonous tuba fishing and dynamite fishing. All these fishing are illegal and outlawed in Malaysia. Somehow, there are people who would continue to disregard the destruction of ecosystem. Killing the very source of food for a quick gain.

Orang asli are no more primitive. On a trip to a village deep into the jungle, I saw tall TV antennas. Most villages have been in contact with modern civilization. There were junk food wrappers everywhere. These were the influence of outside culture - the cultures that degrade lives and the ecosystem. In national parks, orang asli are always considered as part of the ecosystem. They were allowed to hunt and search for food in the parks. With modern influences, orang asli should be treated as any ordinary citizen.

There were many tours in Taman Negara to see orang asli. These aborigines were being turned into human zoos. They were housed in primitive way but enjoy easy cash from tourists. They became lazy. They demand money for photograph shots. They were supplied with junk food and alcoholic drinks. Business men have exploited them. It is for these reasons; I always advise my fellow explorers not to patronize touristy orang asli villages just to take pictures of them in primitive way of life. Visit them if you are giving them job as guides but not visit them because you think that they belong in the zoo! It�s time for eco-tourists to heel these concepts. Are you an eco-tourist?

treating orang asli as human zoo
Are you treating orang asli as Human Zoo?

At Kuala Gandah, a big sign written on the tarmac road which read, "NO CAMERA. RESPECT OUR PRIVACY".

Note :
1. Pictures of the illegal electric shock fishing were sent to a local who manned a farm near the vicinity. He told me that he will make complaint to the fishery department.
2. No offence intended to my brothers of orang asli origin. I highlighted these to let the world know that you and me are just the same - WE ARE HUMAN and NOT ANIMALS that belong in the ZOO!

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