After graduated the animal husbandry and vet program, Prof. Kurtis Pei, a wildlife professor at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, recruited me as his research assistant. It was then I started my career as a field biologist/research assistant doing wildlife survey, camera trapping, radio collaring and tracking large mammals, taking care of endangered species at Pei’s wildlife rescue center, and all of goofy stuff people seen in Discovery Channel.
In 1994, I came to University of Montana to seek a dream that was considered as “difficult task” for many people from ordinary Asian family. The dream, which put me on a right track of my career, was to pursue a bachelor degree in Wildlife Biology. The same year, I met my then future academic advisor, Dr. Christopher Servheen, who was looking for a Malaysian student to conduct an ecological study on sun bears. In 1998, I began to study the ecology of Malayan sun bears in a rainforest of Malaysian Borneo as a project for M.S. thesis. For the first time, the study revealed the mysterious life history of this little known bear and many ecological aspects of Bornean rainforest. In 2002, I started my doctorate program at the same university. In view of there were so much unknown about sun bears, I decided the effects of logging on sun bears at the same study area where I did my MSc study in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo. Because of the conservation achievement from the project, I was appointed to co-chair the Sun Bear Expert Team for the IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group, from 2002-2005.
Most wildlife like the sun bears is forest dependent species. They simply cannot survive outside the forest. My experience working in Southeast Asia shows desperate situation for the continuation of local forests. Much more work is needed to ensure the long-term survival of the native wildlife and forests. In many parts of Southeast Asia, the tropical forests are disappearing rapidly to a point where too late to do anything. In contrast, due to the economy and political stability, Malaysia still has a chance for conservationists to save the last stronghold of Southeast Asian rainforests and wildlife. We need distinguished biologists to train local students as conservationists and biologists, to educate public and government on the importance of conservation, and to study the flora and fauna in order to understand better its functions. I am and I was, trained as an “animal expert” or wildlife biologist for all these years. I hope to use these knowledge and training to do a great job in my career to conserve wildlife and forests.