Jungle heroine: Ranger's award exposes bias, celebrates nature's guardians, and urges action for forgotten apes

01 Jan 2024 02:00pm
Mariani's fight for gibbons exposes bias, inspires hope for change - Photo source: Mariani Bam's Instagram page
Mariani's fight for gibbons exposes bias, inspires hope for change - Photo source: Mariani Bam's Instagram page

SHAH ALAM - Gibbon Conservation Society (GCS) founder and recent recipient of the World Female Ranger "Resilience" Award Mariani Bam Ramli knows firsthand the challenges women face in conservation.

She said beyond tackling wildlife threats, they must battle misogyny and stereotypes that underestimate their strength, skills, and leadership potential.

"There are stereotypes about women in conservation, such as doubts about their strength and fitness for construction work, building enclosures, catching poachers, dealing with wildlife traders, and performing high-risk tasks.

"Male and female rangers work together in the jungle, tracking wildlife and apprehending poachers.

"In the evenings, women are expected to cook and wash the pots and pans," she told Sinar Daily.

In addition to gender-related challenges, working in a high-risk industry exposes Bam to life-threatening incidents while serving as a ranger.

"There was a day when I almost stepped on a cobra while looking for a spot for a toilet.

"A tree almost fell on my head, I slipped and slid into a ravine, and what saved me was my haversack that got stuck between the roots," she recounted.

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When asked about building community relationships and trust, Bam highlighted the importance of two-way communication and learning about the community's needs.

"I don't decide what is best for them.

"The community knows what kind of programmes or workshops they're interested in and are beneficial for them.

"I try to make information related to conservation and sustainable living more accessible to the communities here.

"These are some things that I do to nurture and maintain our relationship with the local communities, and express my appreciation to them," she explained.

Recently honoured with the World Female Ranger 'Resilience' Award, Bam's journey began in 2013 when she encountered 'Ellek,' a confiscated infant gibbon.

Despite lacking expertise, Bam volunteered to care for him, immersing herself in learning about gibbons.

"I was only 20 years old when I started getting involved in wildlife conservation, and I was only 25 when I decided to focus on gibbon rehabilitation.

"My work also involves fighting illegal wildlife traders and poachers and organising protests to advocate for policy change in this country," she shared.

Expressing gratitude for the prestigious recognition, Bam hopes more Malaysian women working in wildlife conservation will be highlighted internationally, inspiring others to get involved.

"If not as a conservationist, at a more personal level, doing what they can to advocate for changes that can have a significant impact on wildlife protection.

"We need more people to understand that wildlife are not pets, actively talking about it, and taking action, such as reporting those who sell gibbons or other wildlife, are just two of many things we can do to support conservation work.

"This kind of award helps push our cause to wider audiences.

"Gibbons are the forgotten apes – they don't get the same attention or recognition as orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas, even though they are in the same family.

"So, gibbon conservation work is always challenging as this species is still less known all over the world," she added.

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