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DR DIANA ANGELES RAMIREZ SALDIVAR: AN UNSUNG WILDLIFE HERO

On behalf of the Ramirez Saldivar and Goossens Salgado families, I am taking the opportunity to commemorate Diana at almost two months of her passing.

I met Diana for the first time when she came from Mexico to Sabah eight years ago, invited by my wife, Milena Salgado Lynn, also Mexican, to work as a wildlife veterinarian for the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit. Milena tells me of the feisty, hard-working and committed woman with whom she shared a bedroom almost 20 years ago. Back then, Diana had dreams of always working for wildlife, something she had already volunteered for, even as a teenager, in a couple of zoos in Mexico. ‘Tia Dianin’ (my son’s nickname for her) was 28 years old when she arrived in Kota Kinabalu, full of hopes and still determined to make a difference for wildlife conservation. For administrative reasons, she obtained a work permit under Danau Girang Field Centre, as a wildlife anaesthetist, although she was always under the leadership of Dr Sen Nathan, manager of the Wildlife Rescue Unit and Assistant Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department.

Diana was the most amazingly vibrant, feeling, loving, creative force you could imagine. She was full of passion for animals, domestic and wild. Unfortunately, she was also feeling very lonely in a world that is, most of the time, very unfair and brutal for someone fragile like Diana who could be manipulated and abused. After many years of suffering of severe chronic depression, borderline personality disorder, anorexia, and a toxic relationship with a person I won’t mention here, she decided to end her days because she felt hopeless, disappointed by those she trusted the most, and to finally find peace in her mind and heart. My honest expression of the pain, anger and guilt her suicide leaves behind will not bring her back, but it could help others facing the same kind of loss know they are not alone.

I want to honour Diana’s struggles because they are struggles that many people around us traverse. I would like to make a strong call for greater awareness and conversation about the often-forbidden topics of mental illness and suicide, especially in Malaysia. For the past eight weeks, since Diana passed, I have been blaming myself for not being there for her, wondering what I missed. When persons kill themselves, they leave a body behind, they leave broken hearts behind, and they leave a question behind: why? “Why?” is the great mystery of suicide and for many people, like me, that question can haunt and torment them all their lives, robbing them of any chance of peace. Twenty-three years ago, my father committed suicide and until today, I’m still asking myself the question: why?

No matter how challenging our relationship with Diana was, it also held moments of joy, friendship, compassion, happiness and achievement in wildlife conservation that deserve to be remembered and that I will be cherishing the rest of my life. I will always remember the first proboscis monkey we darted and collared, the massive elephant bull named Gading we tracked for hours in the forest in the Kinabatangan, finally darting and collaring him, the crocodile we restrained in order to set it up with a satellite tag, the Sunda pangolin we released back into the forest, the many discussions we had about wildlife poaching and trade, something we fought hard together and wanted to bring to an end. I will personally continue the fight in her memory and for the future generations.

Even after her passing, Diana continued to save lives through the gift of organ donation. Her liver was transplanted to a 29 year-old lady who has been diagnosed with congenital hepatic fibrosis with portal hypertension since the age of 7. One kidney was given to a 44 year-old gentleman, another kidney went a 34 year-old lady. Both recipients suffered end stage kidney failure and had been put on dialysis for 18 years. Her right cornea was received by a 74 year-old gentleman with pseudophakic bullous keratopathy and the left one by a 34 year-old gentleman with impending perforation corneal ulcer. Diana’s heart valves are kept in the homograft bank at the National Heart Institute (IJN, Malaysia), and her bones at the Hospital University Sains Malaysia’s (HUSM) bone bank to be used when there is a patient in need. To this date, Diana already saved three human lives, restored the sight of two people, and her remaining tissues will benefit at least another 9 patients.

Diana is a real unsung wildlife hero, a true Sabah’s wildlife warrior! She deserves respect and recognition for her achievements in wildlife conservation, for her fight to save animals, wild and domestic, in Sabah. To this end, I have decided to set up the Diana Ramirez Conservation Fund in her memory, aiming to support meaningful local conservation initiatives in Sabah, especially for the elephants that she loved so much.

Diana, Sabah will not forget you!

Benoit Goossens
Director of Danau Girang Field Centre

 

IMMEDIATE VACANCY: WILDLIFE VETERINARIAN

Position Description:
Danau Girang Field Centre is seeking to hire a wildlife veterinarian to work in scientific projects carried out within the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah. He/she will join all projects where anaesthesia is needed and/or biological samples are required to be taken from wild and domestic animals, and will play an important role in research projects on clouded leopards, small cats, sun bears, civets, pythons, pangolins, bearded pigs, crocodiles, and other Bornean wildlife.

Reporting to DGFC’s Director, Dr. Benoit Goossens, the veterinarian will be responsible for coordinating with each project leader in executing the following procedures:

  • (a) Anaesthetising: darting or injecting anaesthesia, monitoring vital signs and reversing anaesthesia;
  • (b) Sampling: collecting blood, faeces and any other samples needed according to each project’s protocol;
  • (c) Collaring: participate in the elaboration and review of the trapping protocols along with the project leaders, assisting the project leader deploy GPS or VHF collars on suitable individuals and monitor the health status and performance of the collared individuals during the tracking period.
  • (d) Re-capture: Re-capturing collared individuals to retrieve the collar when necessary.
  • (e) Perform post-mortem procedures on animals found within the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • (f) Organise and manage the on-site laboratory, including liaising with the Kota Kinabalu laboratory staff for supplies.
  • (g) Aid, or act as, an on-site Health and Safety Officer, by attending the human health care dispensary and advising on health issues with staff and students (not exclusively).
  • (h) Be on standby for the projects that require assistance and liaise with project leaders on daily work schedules.

Position Requirements:
This position is open to Malaysians, and also to non-Malaysians (subject to approval of a work pass). Applicants should hold a degree in veterinary medicine with reasonable work experience, and be proficient with anaesthesia protocols.

He/she must be physically and mentally fit, able to hike long distances daily in a tropical forest environment. The candidate must be proactive, creative and able/willing to improvise and act under pressure and unpredictable situations as well as flexible on time. Field experience (GPS usage, navigation, trekking) is an added advantage, but not mandatory as training can be provided.

A strong proficiency in written and spoken English is compulsory. The veterinarian should be able to work with an interdisciplinary and international team, while residing at an isolated rainforest field centre with basic living facilities.

Closing Date:
28th December, 2018. Position remains open until vacancy is filled.

To apply, please submit (1) a letter of interest stating why this position satisfies your interest and future career or education goals, explaining your suitability for this position, plus availability date; (2) a CV or resume detailing relevant experience; and (3) contact information for at least two references, preferably at least one academic reference.

The subject heading of the email message should read:
“Application for Wildlife Veterinarian”.

Please email your application to Audrey A. Umbol (audrey.dgfc@gmail.com)

 

We’re TEN years old!

DGFC is celebrating its tenth anniversary. The centre opened its doors in July 2008 and we’re marking the occasion with a scientific seminar focusing on the themes: “Landscape Ecology”, “Genetics, disease, ecotoxicology and trade”, and “Partners from research and community”. Presentations will be on the results of scientific projects that have been led by or in collaboration with DGFC, as well as on conservation activities carried out with a few of our partners.

The DGFC’s Tenth Anniversary report can be consulted here.

Conservation in Action

State action plans for three species (proboscis monkey, banteng and clouded leopard) will be launched within DGFC’s tenth anniversary celebrations. In 2017 DGFC organised three international workshops focusing on each of those species with the aim of gathering all possible knowledge on them and promoting discussions among relevant stakeholders. The discussion from those workshops translated into 10-year management plans that have been supported by the Sabah Wildlife Department. It is expected they will be adopted by the State Cabinet next year.