Losing your head in Sarawak

5 January, 2012

Filed under: Everything else — admin @ 2:07 pm

In December 2011, this clouded leopard lost its head. Keeping one’s head in Borneo is not as easy as one would imagine. And I mean this figuratively as well as actually! You could lose your head whilst simply going about your everyday business of strolling to the rainforest you call your home, or sitting quietly in a tree waiting for some prey to pass by. Whichever, losing one’s head is permanent.

As a Sarawakian who deeply loves and treasures the wonderful wildlife my State possesses, it is increasingly easy to lose one’s head too. When this picture arrived in my inbox, sent by an anonymous friend from kapit, I lost my head. I felt a deep welling of anger rise within my body, from the depths of my stomach rising to my throat, and upwards to my head. It made my head swell, and tears came.

Decapitated Head of a Clouded Leopard

Yes, I cried. But interestingly, I found myself crying not for the unfortunate leopard that met its fate in this gruesome manner. No, my tears were for myself, for my fellow Sarawakians, for my state I love so much. I was crying for the loss. The un-necessary loss we all suffer. The leopard has passed on. Its flesh was eaten, and provided (hopefully) a nice meal for someone. It time had come, and it has passed like so many others before it, and so many others yet to die in our forests.

Hunting is the bane of Sarawak. It is a curse we have upon ourselves. It is our shame. I know each and everyone of you reading this right now knows of someone who hunts. This person thinks himself some kind of hero, some kind of brave macho type who can take a gun, go into the forest (or wherever) and shoot a wild animal. Its cool….

Well, my friends, it is not. Human beings have progressed. Today’s big-game hunters are those who bring those inspiringly vivid jaw-dropping images we watch with awe on television. These days, we can watch them in high definition. Wild animals in all their glory, titans of the oceans brought right in front of our eyes like never before. These hunters use cameras of every form, harnessing every bit of technology and skill to stalk these wild animals, and capture them for us to see. These are the hunters we respect. They do not kill.

Body of a Bornean Clouded Leopard

Let us explore some of the myths about hunting in Sarawak.

Hunting is in our culture. It is our way, our Sarawakian way. – Rubbish! For 10,000 years, the natives of Sarawak lived in the rainforest. They were adept hunters, able to live off the forest. They had skills that allowed them to do this, and this is their tradition. This is their pride and glory. They hunted to live. And they had rules. They had adat. There was always, always, this underlying rule of law between the forest and the people. Hunting today respects none of these adat. Hunting today is solely for sport and profit. It is no longer cultural by any definition.

There are plenty of animals in our forests, hunting a few has little effect. Wrong! Our forests are shrinking faster than you can read this. And the wildlife that used to be there has all but gone. All our big game have been hunted out. Yes, we used to have rhinoceros and wild cattle… used to… even our hornbills have lived out their long years and are dying out, and no young hornbills are being added. We are indeed the former land of the hornbill. The Rusa (or Payau) is the largest mammal still living inSarawak. Ask any tour operator, and they will tell you: “If you want to see wildlife, go toSabah.Sarawak’s forests are empty”.

Our National Parks are protecting our wildlife, so we are okay. Wrong again! Today, if you are a hunter of any repute, you will be hunting inside Sarawak’s national parks. Why? Because there is nothing to shoot outside these last refuges. Sneaking in is simple, because boundaries are vast, and patrols are non-existent. If you’re not aware, Samunsam Wildlife Sanctuary west of Sematan, was set up to protect wildlife strictly. No tourism, no visitors of any sort. Only for wildlife… today, illegal loggers have had their way throughout the sanctuary, logging every single part of it. Hunters have free range within the sanctuary, shooting bears, leopards and proboscis monkeys to extinction. And that is a wildlife sanctuary in Sarawak.

Indigenous people depend on wildlife for food. Depends. You first need to define where an indigenous person lives, and what he does for a living.Sarawak’s indigenous peoples are mostly part of the economy these days. Only a small minority depend on the forests for their protein. These people rightly co-exist with the forests, and hunt for a living. However, how many of the hunters inSarawak fit this bill?

Eating wildlife is something special, it is good for us. Rubbish again! Contrary to the boastful claims of those who regularly consume wild animals, wild meat does not taste as good as the beef, chicken, duck or lamb we buy from the markets. Neither does wild meat have any special medicinal properties. It is all in the mind. People like to eat something special, something different. In the past, when we had a special guest, we would go out and hunt some animal to honour our guest. The honour was in the effort to serve him meat, not in the providing wild meat.

Restaurants serving wild meat – if I don’t eat it, someone else will. How about this: if we all don’t eat it, they will stop serving it. Once they stop serving it, they will stop buying it. Once restaurants stop buying wild meat, hunters will stop hunting far more than they need to eat themselves. And, once they stop hunting for commercial gains, our wildlife will begin to recover. Once our forests are full of wild animals, people will stop going toSabah.

Lastly, this animal that lost its head in Kapit is a Bornean Clouded Leopard. It is found only on Borneo, and is the largest cat inSarawak. It is a very rare animal, and in great danger of being hunted out. It is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful of the world’s large cats, and lives most of its life up in the trees.

If this article makes just one of us Sarawakians decide that you will stop eating wild meat, this leopard would not have lost its head in vain.



  1. This is outrageous. How can this still be occurring in the 21st-century? Thank you for bringing this image into the public arena and hopefully the ignorant morons responsible for this atrocity will be suitably dealt with.

    Comment by John Le Fevre — 05/01/2012 @ 2:50 pm

  2. they should put a more heavier sentence on illegal poachers… they have no respect to mother nature.. STOP THE KILLING! might as well take their heads off, lets see how they feel! 🙂

    Comment by Primus Kiob — 05/01/2012 @ 4:03 pm

  3. This is a shame. Another great loss to wildlife. I am wondering where are the visible signs of gun shots wound on the clouded leopard. I believed from the picture, the hunter was not interested in the precious tooth for decorative items. As the animal was decapitate, only goes to show, the animal does not have value to the hunter, only meant for meat. The leopard claws are intact. Being rare, the claws can fetch good prices by collectors. Nonetheless, in this age of technology, these rare species are killed without mercy. If the animal was caught alive and sold to syndicates, the hunter would be richly rewarded. This gives time and millage for enforcement agencies to zero-in on the hunter, apprehend the sellers while the animal rescued to be released back into the wild where it belongs with secure GPS device. There must be continued public education on why this rare animal should be protected and not killed merely to satisfy the stomach.

    Comment by Frankie Lian — 05/01/2012 @ 6:33 pm

  4. A tragic end for a magnificent animal!

    Comment by Nazeri Abghani — 05/01/2012 @ 7:01 pm

  5. I feel extreme sadness… And I have only one question..WHY?? This is a beautiful creature that should be safe in its habitat. Thank you for the images and expose this cruelty to the world.

    Comment by Amy Strange — 05/01/2012 @ 7:10 pm

  6. I’m absolutely sadden n disgusted by this act!When will we humans ever learn before it is too late to save anything?Only when we cleared all the forest of animals will we be happy?Imgine a forest without animals sound from the smallest to the largest..What kind of world is that?We MUST STOP/ACT now..We MUST.. time is not on our side no more..if we choose to delay…it will be too late.Our Earth,Our Nature,Our Animals..think abt this.

    Comment by azlimi 'snowflake' yaakop — 05/01/2012 @ 8:47 pm

  7. weird that people like to watch Discovery to see wild life but maybe this same person that watch discovery still kill and hunt these animals. Soon next genration will only know wildlife through tv and zoo’s

    Comment by Cynthia Lobato — 05/01/2012 @ 9:53 pm

  8. Why Why Why Why ????? What is the matter with some of the human race. What is in their hearts that brings them to do this. What happen to them to be so heartless, cruel and sick ?????
    Hunting for sport is for the insecure human that needs to fill some hole in themselves !!!! Seek therapy you sickos !!!!

    Comment by Joy Weidner — 05/01/2012 @ 11:52 pm

  9. OMG…the photo was taken in Kapit?Isn’t in the market or somewhere at the longhouse?

    Comment by ylilofthevalley — 06/01/2012 @ 2:45 am

  10. This is such a horrible incident that I have no words to describe my feelings. Just give me a Machete & the killer of this Clouded Leopard & I will give them the best show of Devil’s Carving skills.

    Comment by Vijay — 06/01/2012 @ 6:20 am

  11. How about granting park rangers the rights to shoot at any hunter found hunting wildlife to death + rewarded and promoted handsomely?

    Comment by kc boo — 06/01/2012 @ 9:20 am

  12. Shocking!!! This breed of humans who carry out this type of hunting will stop at nothing. The issue of banning guns and weapons should be re-considered while regulating the use of certain traditional ones. If someone can translate this article into several languages used in Sarawak, and publicize in the media and longhouses, this leopard will also not have ‘given away’ its head vain.

    Comment by Joe k Charles — 06/01/2012 @ 9:56 am

  13. This is just beyond words but still typical human cruelty and ignorance! these will continue unless we as a human species extinct !! then all other species will find rest.

    Comment by Amal — 06/01/2012 @ 12:54 pm

  14. I so hope fellow Sarawakians heed your heartfelt, and very important words.

    Comment by Kashmira Kakati — 06/01/2012 @ 4:08 pm

  15. Hi,
    these terrible things are happening all over the world and especially in so called “protected” areas and even more though with animals, which are to be “protected”, as they are only “protected” in Washingtton, Kyotos, Bruxellas, etc. but NOT in their native habitat. This is really unbelievable but true.
    The problem we have worldwide is, that no one wants to hear about the truth, but everyone wants to “protect” from their office, living room and in high society meetings and gatherings. Just to show off … And especially those organizations with want to “save” the planet.
    This human cruelity is based and done by:
    1. Mostly none-natives, as those who lived for thousands of years with nature do NOT destroy their basis of live. Nor do they destroy their forests nor their animals. And if they hunted animals, they ALWAYS hunted selective and only what they needed.
    2.It is mainly done by poshers because there is always a very high price on “protected” species heads … (If they were not “protected” there would be a much lower head-price … and would not be of much interest).
    3. As these (or most of) the “protected” animals cannot be llegally captures anymore, and one cannot have them alive in their home, they are killed to be eaten (as most of such “protected” species live in areas of very poor people/natives.
    4. We (humans) are by far to many on this planet and therfore is less and less space available for animals to protect/hide/disappear/save themselfs. Less and less they can avoid humns…
    What to do? These are facts no one wants to see – nowhere ….
    Heiko Bleher
    Exploreruthoer, Writer, Researcher, Filmmaker, Photographer, Lecturer world-wide, Publisher and much more http://www.aquapress-bleher.com and http://www.aqua-aquapress.com and Wikopedia

    Comment by Heiko Bleher — 06/01/2012 @ 11:23 pm

  16. It is very sad to see a clouded leopard killed by poachers.It should be investigated by the authorities and arrest the poachers.I spent two weeks in Bakun with the rescue teams and more than 2000 animals were saved.It was very well done in view of the rapid rising waters of the dam.There were interesting animals like the banded civet,tasier,large mouse deer,porcupines kijang and binturong.What we need is a great leader to head the wildlife field.The fate of wildlife is very dependent on good leadership.

    Comment by Mohd Momin Khan — 07/01/2012 @ 8:24 am

  17. This is one of the most horrible things I have seen. I am a lover of all animals but mainly big cats, These animals are so magnificent. This world in which we live is so full of monsters.

    Comment by christine price — 07/01/2012 @ 1:20 pm

  18. Wow. Seriously wow. It’s like Africa in the last century all over again, but worse really, because we know better now don’t we? Even as a non-resident Sarawakian it feels searingly painful to see these photos, but not as painful as the clouded leopard felt as its head was being severed. If the national park service is not protecting the land or its indigenous inhabitants…who will? We need to re-earn the right to call humans civilized and animals wild. Seems like the names are interchangeable.

    Comment by Aileen Sebastian — 11/01/2012 @ 10:54 am

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