A Hunt in Malacca

Summary: A hunter travels to the Malaysian jungles to track a rare Malayan tiger, trying to find it before poachers do.

I stepped off the boat onto a muddy shore, eager to embrace my boots. My guide handed me my rifle, modified for this job. On all the places I've hunted, from the Amazon rainforest to the Siberian taiga, I've always wanted to make it a challenge. Taking game is far more than shooting anything that moves. The most dangerous game required the most dangerous care.

I was accompanied by a guide and two Malaysian soldiers, each as sharp and aggressive as the M4 assault rifles they carried. They were not here for the tiger, but in case we encountered the poachers that plagued the region. I traveled ahead of the others, since I traveled faster by myself. This was not my first time in the jungle, but it was in this region. The jungle was broken up by plantations and some other development closer to the coast, but here, the carnivorous cat was king.

I was under no illusion what would happen if I encountered my quarry in the dense foliage. The tiger could lunge at me if it felt cornered, but it could just as easily bolt off into the brush. If it attacked me, I worried my escorts would feel inclined to unload on the poor, fearful animal, in spite of their orders not to. We had enough pressure as is.

As we descended into that green vortex, it was apparently we were not alone in following the tiger's trail. Sloppily concealed campfires, shallow latrines, discarded cigarettes, and spent bullet casings all hinted at our opponents, and their own disregard for nature. As much as I perspired and drank my canteen, I kept up my march through the humid jungle. The fetid air itself seemed pregnant with disease, but I did not stop. My prey deserved a better fate than being slaughtered for parts.

A week after we set out, we encountered the tiger in a valley. It was pursuing a deer when I saw movement on the hillside opposite us. Two poachers were struggling to line up a shot with rusted, homemade rifles. I did not have time to wait for my escorts, so I had to take my shot earlier than I thought. After the first shot, the poachers would know they had company. I suspected they would flee, but they could also turn on me. Nevertheless, I raised my Paxarms M24c rifle and fired.

The Malayan tiger looked in my direction, as though accusing me of some unspeakable crime. Its deep, black eyes turned on me like obsidian spheres. It staggered for a moment, and then ran off. I heard shouting from across the valley, and the two poachers traced the muzzles of their weapons up the hill towards my position. Unable to take another shot, I sprinted for cover behind a thick tree trunk and shouted for help.

My call was answered by the immediate appearance of my guide and escorts. The soldiers shouted orders at the poachers, who took a spiteful shot at us before vanishing into the jungle. The soldiers gave chase, while I focused on the tiger. I needed to confirm the regal, majestic animal was brought down. I reloaded and continued the chase.

The tiger's tracks continued for a dozen more meters before it collapsed. Its eyes were closed, and it laid in a muddy ditch beside a fallen log. I cautiously extended my rifle muzzle towards its neck, and I saw that my shot had done its job. With a surgeon's precision, I had planted the tranquilizer dart in its carotid artery. I took steps to restrain the animal, for safe transport back.

After some brief care, the tiger was taken to a special breeding program before its re-release in the national part at Taman Negara. I was well-compensated for the job, and the poachers were apprehended. There, it would hopefully be better off than where we found it. Such a beast was a royal hunter, and thus deserved a domain better suited to it. Like a royal courier, I was proud to have delivered it to a more suitable dominion.