Beast master, eco evangelist, green fingers … take your pick. Chuan Ah Kau can be recognised for any one of these environmentally-friendly roles. The 73-year-old PJ-ite is also a photographer with a keen eye for wildlife. And contrary to popular belief, a trip to the Belum-Temengor isn’t even necessary.

Why, he finds his wildlife so close to an urban hub like Petaling Jaya, scouring the Taman Rimba Kiara for a variety of animals. On his Facebook page is a dramatic image of a black cobra and monitor lizard (on opposite banks of a drain) about to face-off.

“It’s my nature of loving nature,” he said, providing a quotable quote right off the bat. The septuagenarian was born in Taiping, Perak, where the pastimes of the day for young ones included kite fighting (kite lines were soaked in a concoction of glue and broken glass to slice a competitor’s line), catching haruan fish in ponds and swimming in rivers. “I learnt how to swim in a river,” Chuan proudly revealed.

His miner dad had five children and a wife to feed, and with RM6 for daily wages, there was little luxury in the Chuan household. Possession of a bicycle was considered a statement in his neighbourhood even. “We played with cows and buffaloes, and got very excited when mobile cinemas sponsored by Ovaltine and Planta (margarine) came to our village,” he said, painting a quaint image of a simpler time.

Once he moved to the Klang Valley and began working in a tyre plant, it was not uncommon for him and his friends to drive to Kuantan to relive their youth.

“While I was working, I asked to be sent for the OBS (Outward Bound School) course. My friends thought I was crazy to subject myself to 25 days of torture, but I loved it, and earned a cert with merit.”

Chuan Ah Kau

Though Chuan has taken many pictures of both flora and fauna, the photography bug only bit him a few years ago.

Chuan was taught the art of survival by causing minimum disruption to the environment, a life’s lesson he has carried with him to this day.

The photography bug bit rather late in life. In fact, it was upon his friend’s insistence that he picked up a Panasonic Lumix for RM650 from Cash Converters.

“I became a birder (bird watcher) and have been enjoying going to Rimba.” Chuan heads there nearly every day, and says the best time to catch the animals in action is in the late morning. He says that one needn’t even go to Rimba for their wildlife kicks; “It’s amazing what you can see by just walking in the neighbourhood.”

He subscribes to the philosophy of growing his own produce, having grown brinjal, lady’s finger, pineapple and a variety of other fruits and vegetables.

The retiree is also a musician of an Elvis persuasion. “I have a number of videos on YouTube where I perform Elvis songs. I’ve even sung at functions, like gatherings at my old school (Hua Lian High School).”

And as if his sense of humanity and culture, and talent don’t already tip the scale, he also sings Tamil songs. “M. Karathu (former Perak, Negri Sembilan and Kinta Indian Association football coach) was my neighbour, so I was exposed to all these things. In fact, he also encouraged me to play football.”

The world could do with more people like Chuan – they are the true assets to us all.


The Paper’s People is a weekly column which introduces Malaysia-based everyday folk, doing what they love. If you have any person to recommend, e-mail us at star2@thestar.com.my.