2018 Winners and Honourable Mentions

Day 1: Alive
12 November 2018


Govind Anil Nair


As she trod through the bush coverings, she kept her ears open for unusual sounds. It was a tough summer and she had barely managed to feed her three children. The predators on two legs were always on the prowl. She lost her mate two days ago while scavenging for food in a field nearby, caught in an ambush by the two beings hiding behind a giant bush.  She heard a loud bang and saw her mate fall to the ground. She sprinted into the dense foliage, hoping they wouldn’t follow her to her children. The survival of her children would be impossible without her. Desperation had driven her out from hiding, today, and she was alive to the danger she might encounter. Her children were starving and she was getting weaker each passing day. For her children to stay alive, she had to come out from hiding. As she scans the dense forest cover, she notices some movement. She inches cautiously positioning herself for an attack.

As Kabir scanned the surroundings through his scope, he notices the rustling of the  bushes. He scans the area meticulously as his fingers caress the trigger. He crouches and settles himself into a comfortable position as he takes a moment to compose himself. Kabir was a cattle farmer in the outskirts of Pahang. As years passed, the corporations started taking over the vast pasture his cattle used to rely on for feed. Initially, he fed his herd with commercial feed. Eventually, Kabir could not afford it anymore and had to sell off his farmland and cattle. The money from the sale ran out quickly. A chance encounter with an old friend introduced him to the world of tiger skin trade. With the last of his savings, he purchased a rifle and met with traders who offered him money for every kill. Kabir was aghast when he witnessed the killing of a majestic adult tiger. The poacher skinned the animal, while stepping on the carcass, as his blade ripped through the skin of the fallen beast. Kabir simply couldn’t fathom the demand for this luxury item, sought after by  the upper classes of society, and the ignorance of the suffering experienced by the voiceless beasts. Kabir was hesitant to join these poachers, but his circumstances dictated otherwise. His desire to keep his family fed and alive were greater,and so,he took up the rifle. 

As she emerged from the bushes, she heard the sound she feared the most followed by tremendous pain in her chest. As she roared in pain, she spotted the rustling of the bushes. She charged towards the bush as she saw a two figures run away from her. As she neared the bush, she saw another two legged predator cowering behind a tree stump. She lunges towards Kabir, her claws sharp and her jaws open. 

He feels her teeth sink into his neck as her claws pierce his chest.

The struggle to stay alive had claimed two more lives.


Never more alive
Selena Yap Feng Ling

My mother always told me that our chances of having been born in a different form were a million to one. She also said that we would never feel more alive than we were in the minute we are brought into this world. I had the pleasure of growing up with a mother. On my twelveth birthday, my mother bought us a small old-school television. The small black box-shaped contraption was carried in by our kind neighbours. Astounded by this foreign object, we were shocked when the power to it was turned on. The television roared to life with imagery of a speech being given on a local news station. The news anchor looked mournful as she announced the news of poachers who had crippled African elephants of their beloved tusks. 

As my mother made a move to put out the laundry, I intently stared at the gruesome scene that followed, far too graphic for viewers my age at the time. I watched as the poachers ripped the beautiful tusks off the mother of a young African elephant. Looking back, the show allowed viewers to make an emotional attachment to the species by giving them names. This young little fellow, no taller than his mother was given the name Henry. It looked worriedly as it tried to decipher what had taken place. Seconds had passed before young Henry was sent into a frenzy of outrage as it realized the harm these men have caused its caretaker. The scene was then cut off and had returned to the news anchor narrating the news about attempts to reduce poaching and the many difficulties that surround a viable solution. The look in her eyes remained the same, solemn and heartbroken. Years later, I found myself unable to forget what was witnessed on that little box in our home. I remember the pain I felt in regards to losing someone as important as a motherly figure. I remember the trauma my empathy had caused me every time I left my mother to attend kindergarten.  I remember every 'goodbye, I love you' and every 'see you later'. I remember the way it felt, so secure and sure of the very fact that I will indeed see her again in a few hours. 

A decade later, I looked at the application form I held in my hands for a wildlife management degree to a local university, bursting with rage. "How could such an enriching feeling be ripped of anyone the same way it was done to the young of this species?" I thought to myself. That was the day I realize my mother was wrong. I first took off my rose-colored glasses when I joined my first trip to Africa as a volunteer. I never got the chance to tell my mother but I stand to tell readers the truth I have learned. "We are never more alive than the moment we fight to keep others alive", I spoke confidently at a podium upon returning.

Last One Standing
Rowena anak Ringkai

"The 2040 United Nations Conference has called for urgent measures to conserve our remaining acres of forests across the globe and to protect red-listed endangered species,” The newscaster reads from the teleprompter. “And now for our sports news-”


The same broken record is played every year; a string of faux concerns, indifferent news coverages and the same greedy politicians vowing to set up more nature reserves and start campaigns- just for a different election.


Ara was barely a year old when she escaped through the claws of the violent wildfire that had wiped out her entire community; only four years old when she became the last living Bornean orangutan in existence and six years old when she became the last living orangutan in the entire world.


Luck was on their side when Ara and her mother was resued from the fire by volunteers but although Ara escaped unscathed, the same could not be said for her mother. She died at the conservation centre not long after, spending her last days suffering from the severe burns all over her frail body and leaving her baby at the very peak of her nursing stage.


Ara refused to be fed for four days after the loss of her mother. Perhaps if humans knew how grossly they underestimated orangutans’ capabilities to discern and feel emotions or their cognitive complexity, they would feel more remorseful for their actions that have caused the orangutans’ demise. Perhaps they would not be so quick to devalue their lives and consider them mere animals, void of pain or any trace of sentiment.


Animal (noun) is defined as a being that is cruel, violent or repulsive or without human attributes, which by social convention promises kindness and consideration. Ara knows that she is more human than all of mankind put together. The living things in the forest know better what would benefit their community, each action a significant moving gear in creating harmony within them. They never became extinct through any symbiotic exchange or as a result of a faulty food chain. The wildlife acknowledge their co-dependency. It is the action of humans, their failure to recognize needs above their own that destroys.


“Poor little Ara is the last of her kind.”

Ara can only listen quietly in the background. She is washed, fed with a bottle and is made to engage in physical activities according to a strict schedule to ensure that she grows optimally. Every day she longs for the familiar cool of her forest, the chaos of her elders fighting over food, the symphony of nature ringing in the atmosphere- bubblling streams, buzzing insects, birds chirping harmonizing with the cries of frogs; home.


Ara was saved, but she does not feel so. Ara is healthy, but she is not happy. Ara is breathing, but she is lonely. Ara is alive, but left in the hands that will bring her death.