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We Are All Tiger Keepers

Posted by Carolyn Sellar, Animal Keeper
Photos by Carolyn Sellar, Woodland Park Zoo


“So today was a glorious day, again it was HOT and my legs were tired, and I can’t wait to get a full 8 hours of sleep, but being in the forest is so... incredible. It breathes, it’s so alive, and there is just such an amount of peacefulness while I am in here.” With beads of sweat dripping down her face, animal keeper Carolyn Sellar records into her video diary after a day of trekking in tiger forest. She never wants to forget how it feels to be seeing firsthand the habitat and wildlife she works so hard to protect.

The heat the humidity, the fatigue, the trekking… doesn’t matter. There is something about being in the forest. All the life—being where tigers and elephants are just roaming in their own habitat—it’s so inspiring and it makes you want to help.”

Carolyn works with Malayan tigers and orangutans here in Seattle at Woodland Park Zoo, and is a passionate advocate for endangered species. With support from a ZooBright scholarship for zoo staff made possible by the Birnbaum Family, Carolyn was able to travel to Malaysia to visit with MYCAT, one of the zoo’s Wildlife Survival Programs.

Carolyn checks on a remote camera in the heart of tiger country.
MYCAT is an alliance of the Malaysian Nature Society, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society-Malaysia Program and WWF-Malaysia, supported by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia for joint implementation of the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan for Malaysia. Their mission? To protect and recover the tiger population in and around Taman Negara and to monitor the movement of tigers and other wildlife within the corridor linking the National Parks to the Main Range, which forms the world’s fourth largest tiger landscape.

One aspect of the MYCAT program which makes it so unique is its key citizen conservation activity called Cat Walk. Led by volunteers, A Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT) Walk is an anti-poaching, anti-deforestation surveillance walk. Cat Walkers participate in tiger conservation activities by exploring the forest, reporting signs of illegal activity, disarming snares and checking camera traps to monitor the presence of wildlife. These walks and other MYCAT citizen conservation efforts are empowering members of the public to help save forest habitat and Malayan tigers, whose natural range is found only in Peninsular Malaysia. 

Carolyn assists in replanting the forest.
There are only 200 tigers left and I’m with the people who are fighting every single day to make a difference. This experience, it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to have in my life and I got to experience it today. I want to help them, I want help them every single day for the rest of my life,” her journal continues.


Carolyn spent nearly a week with the MYCAT team, trekking through dense jungle to install and fix camera traps which are an integral part of monitoring the forest to better understand animal patterns as well as potentially spot illegal poaching activity. Although the trek is open to the public and volunteers, it’s hard work! Carolyn spent her days eating breakfast on the forest floor, hiking through thick jungle, wading in muddy rivers and streams (leeches, Eek!) and helped the MYCAT team plant trees, install new camera traps and watch the forest. The terrain near Taman Negara National Park is very hot and humid, but Carolyn’s experience in tiger habitat was a dream come true for this passionate conservationist.

“We have a chance to help save a species. In a place that I hope that other people can come visit and where future generations can have the same experience that I am having. To go to these waterfalls, to see this forest, to be immersed in a world that has been around for millions of years. This rainforest has made me feel small and also very connected all at the same time.  Together we can save this perfect forest that so many animals we love call home.”




While Carolyn encourages others to visit MYCAT and have that immersive experience, she also wants folks to know that they can make a huge difference for the heroes of MYCAT and Malayan tigers by taking actions right here at home.

To learn more about MYCAT (and plan your trip!) a Woodland Park Zoo Wildlife Survival Program, visit zoo.org/conservation


To learn more about actions you can take on behalf of tigers right here at home, visit zoo.org/tiger
We’re grateful for Carolyn for sharing her experience with us. Stay tuned for more from her adventures shadowing Rimba’s wildlife rangers and conservationists as they continue to fight to protect the remaining Malaysian tigers and later sharing her animal care experience and helping rehabilitate orangutans back into the forest with The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.


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