Take only memories, leave only footprints

by Dusky Yi Sheng

The success of nature awareness campaigns in the past few years has incited interest in the general public towards nature and its wildlife. Hence, enthusiasts of nature, like us in the Langur Project Penang (LPP) are growing significantly in numbers. Likewise, the popularity of ecotourism is increasing at the same pace. However, the possible negative implications could out shadow the achievements accomplished by this change. So let’s explore the ways in which we can eradicate them and make ecotourism an entirely positive experience by distinguishing our responsibilities. 

What to take

The most valuable things that we can take home after a nature expedition would be our memories and experiences. These eye-opening endeavours are truly magnificent as the vast information obtained from them continually benefits us. For example, my past encounters with macaques have taught me to stay calm under pressure and treat wild animals with respect as these wild animals can be extremely intimidating at times. Another way for us to perpetuate our experience is to take photos or videos of the wildlife we come across. Not only are they useful for striking up conversations with family and friends, but they also make for great decorations in our homes. Despite that, it is crucial for us to take these photos in a safe distance as we would not want to disturb or distress these animals. This prevents both the animals and us from any unnecessary conflicts which are usually disproportionately unfair towards the animals involved. 

Utilize our senses to appreciate nature, where the memories and experiences are valuable.

Not to take

On the contrary, there are certain things that we must not take from nature. Well, the most apparent one would be the wildlife. However tempting it may seem to have them as pets due to their cute demeanour, we should abstain from such acts. This is because more often than not, they thrive with the absence of human intervention, and are well suited for the wilderness. Unwarranted passion towards them may sometimes create devastating effects. An illustration of that would be the story of Twinkle, where a dusky langur was severely abused by humans. Another major concern of keeping exotic animals is our safety as in actuality, they are wild animals with natural instincts. Therefore, unforeseeable consequences may erupt from keeping them in close contact. In addition to that, we prevent ourselves from contracting possible diseases by abstaining from keeping exotic pets. To put it simply, wild animals are to be left alone and not being made as pets. 

Can you see what i see? A dusky langur above a reticulated python. This is what you may encounter during a forest walk. Always respect wildlife and let them be wild and free in their nature habitat.

What to leave

During an expedition into nature, an inevitable mark that we leave behind is our footprint. Despite that, they are in no way intrusive and are often being washed away by the next shower of rain. The subtleness of our footprints is fascinating as it reminds us of our minuscule existence and how we should coexist with the environment, rather than changing it for our benefit. Not only physical footprints, but we can also leave non-literal footprints behind. An example of that would be a good impression on the locals or people we meet during an ecological expedition. This is significant as it would catalyse the process of improvement by establishing a positive community in which its members complement each other. Sometimes a simple praise or an amicable greet is sufficient to result in such change. What I’m trying to convey is that the impact that we inflict on the environment needs to be subtle, and we should do our best to preserve the natural world. 

A positive community, is what we need. Where nature education strengthens the local knowledge of the community.

Not to leave 

Lastly, nature is not our personal rubbish bin, hence, we should not treat it as such. The ongoing pandemic has surely generated an unprecedented amount of garbage as mask pollution has been getting serious by the day. Yet, it is our utmost priority to keep the environment clean by not polluting it. This is easily accomplished if we just put ourselves in the shoes of these animals as we too would not want others to contaminate our homes ignorantly. Apart from that, we must not leave food for wild animals to consume. This is due to the fact that it might build their reliance on humans, causing them to become aggressive when no food is provided. Not only that, the reliance formed might also cause them to lose their ability to gather food independently, harming them in the long run. Essentially, we have to make our presence subtle, and not disturb the lifestyles of wildlife during our visit. 

Remember, nature is not our personal rubbish bin. It is mind-blowing to see disposable face masks along the forest trail.

In a nutshell, I believe our existence in this world should be similar to that of the persona in Xu Zhimo’s Saying Goodbye To Cambridge Again, which is “lightly I leave, as lightly I came”. Through small yet persistent efforts, we humans can establish a mutually positive relationship with other species of life and make ecotourism sustainable in the many decades to come.

Signing off,

Yi Sheng

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