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The job does carry risks, especially when the rangers conduct patrols and come face to face with illegal poachers, who carry guns. It is truly dangerous, he said, recounting an incident that happened while patrolling the highway, which runs alongside part of the park.
Face to face with lawlesnessHe came across a Thai native stealing some gaharu wood, which is highly prized by many cultures for its distinctive fragrance and use as incense and in perfumes.
“I chanced upon him suddenly, coming face to face with him. Then I saw he had a gun. I screamed at him, and then ran for my life. That’s how it is. It’s scary because they have guns and we don’t have guns,” said Khairul.
The Royal Belum State Park is part of the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex, an important tiger habitat on the border with southern Thailand. Its close proximity to Thailand means it is not uncommon to have people from across the border coming into the park.
Besides patrolling, Khairul also performs guard duty at the checkpoint on the lake that surrounds the park. He checks on visitors entering the park to ensure they have valid permits. There are times when he has to give chase with the park’s speed boat to those who refuse to stop at the checkpoint.
Learning from the localsKhairul learnt how to steer a boat from an Orang Asli, the indigenous people of Peninsular Malaysia, who are very knowledgeable about the area's forest and nature.
The park hires several of them to assist the forest rangers. Due to their lack of minimum formal education, they cannot be hired as forest rangers. Life without these colleagues would be difficult, said Khairul, as they are the experts in the area and know all about the wildlife here having grown up in this environment.
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As a forest ranger, you must love the forest, you must be interested in protecting the forest, interested in all the wild animals. You must love the environment.