Face to face with a tiger… in Australia?

First of all, thank you to Kerinci Seblat Tiger Protection & Conservation (PHS KS) and all our friends in the team who helped us prepare to go to Australia Zoo and thank you, an unlimited thank you to Australia Zoo who invited us to come and see, first hand, the activities and work you do.

We – as members of the Tiger Protection and Conservation team of Kerinci Seblat National Park – are so proud to have been invited to visit Australia Zoo which has for so long supported our work in the protection and conservation of wild tigers in Sumatra.

We were given the chance to walk on Australian soil, and to visit other places too – Dreamworld, Underwater World, to see Australian rainforest and attractions like Mooloolaba and Noosa beach and to see Brisbane city at night! This was something beyond our wildest dreams. We had never ever dared to dream we might go to Australia. Only two of us had ever been on an airplane and none of us had ever been abroad or dared dream we might.

The Tiger boys hit the beach in Queensland. Photo: Mark Turner

The Tiger boys hit the beach in Queensland. Photo: Mark Turner

In Australia we found that people were so nice and so friendly; everybody was so polite too – even on the road, all the car drivers were polite to each other. We met the families of our friends from Australia Zoo and enjoyed evening meals with them and it was like we were with our own family. It was so nice to talk with them even though our English is a bit limited but we did and they understood. I know I keep saying this, but Australia was so good! So good! I liked Australia! Our eyes were wide open with the beauty… and especially the beauties on the beach at Mooloolaba and Noosa where one of my colleagues learned to say ‘’Hello beautiful…’’ (oops, sssssh).

They have good forest in Australia too – which we didn’t know about before – and so many birds, free, flying around people’s gardens. Salute to the community who protect them, and yes, we saw kangaroos and wild koalas!

Sunshine and sand on the Sunshine Coast. Photo: Mark Turner

Sunshine and sand on the Sunshine Coast. Photo: Mark Turner

I’ve been a member of the Tiger Protection & Conservation team for 12 years but this was the first time I was able to touch and to be close to a Sumatran tiger, I was so happy! And we were so impressed by the care given by our friends at Australia Zoo to their tigers. Their quarters were so clean, everything was so carefully managed, we really liked how our friends cared for and loved their tigers!

Maybe for us, the most difficult bit of our visit was learning to eat their Food. Of course, the menu was full of energy and I think very expensive and for the first time in my life I got to try to eat pizza… but it did take a bit of time for us as we are Indonesians and normally we eat rice and chilli but it seemed like in Australia there is no rice and chilli, or perhaps we were not allowed to eat rice and chilli! But we enjoyed it too even though for a week we ate no rice or chilli and that was a really unique experience for us.

We had not understood, before we went to Australia, just how hard our friends at Australia Zoo were working to raise funds to help us in Kerinci Seblat National Park.

On top of all their routine work to care for their tigers they were also fundraising every day. We simply didn’t realise. Every day, they do a Tiger Show, they work to sell souvenirs to raise money for wild tigers, encourage visitors to buy car stickers,  wristbands, photographs, footprints on canvas, models of tiger footmarks and more, much more. They are  doing this to help us on top of their daily routine work and it made us feel humble; they are real conservationists, fighting for tiger conservation and we are so proud to work with them and know them.

We also had the experience of feeling what it must be like to be a celebrity! All the visitors to the Tiger Temple seemed to have heard that there was a team of forest rangers from Kerinci Seblat National Park, and of course they could spot us because we were wearing KSNP t-shirts and lots of people approached and talked to us, and there were people who wanted to be photographed with us! Most of all I will always remember a little kid with his parents. He came up and talked to me and then said “tiger protection is good job,” and you know, I was really proud to hear that, they were beautiful words, and true, from the mouth of a little child.

The tiger protection rangers get a close encounter with a Sumatran tiger. Credit: Ben Beaden/Australia Zoo.

The tiger protection rangers get a close encounter with a Sumatran tiger. Credit: Ben Beaden/Australia Zoo.

We learned so much and had so many new experiences so that while we were only there for a few days this visit was something that we will remember and treasure for all of our lives.

As well as learning how our friends worked at the zoo and being able to work with and be close to their tigers, we also got the chance to try a self protection training from Japan called Ju Jit Su with Geoff – one of the tiger specialists – and his Big Teacher who is a woman who has spent 24 years studying the world of Ju Jit Su and has taken part in competitions all over Australia.

Geoff and his Big Teacher were very enthusiastic about Ju Jit Su and we learned some Ju Jit Su but we reckoned that Geoff’s Big Teacher is a nice but very dangerous lady! We hurt all over after trying it out.

We really want to say thank you to all of our friends at Australia Zoo: they have done so much and worked so hard to help the Kerinci Seblat Tiger Protection and Conservation team and have become part of our bigger family. Thank you to Giles, Geoff, Mark, Mat, Che, Kassie, Dave, Elise, Shane and their families – for your support for us. Thank you, Australia Zoo! Thank you for this experience and what we learned and saw, we will be talking about this for the rest of our lives! And I hope it won’t be too long before we meet again.