Wildlife tourism pioneer Danny dies
Published on: Saturday, March 10, 2018
Kota Kinabalu: A crowd of relatives, friends and tourism players paid their last respect to the late wildlife adventure pioneer Danny Chew, 83, at the funeral service held in KK Tionghua Funeral Parlour, Friday.
He was cremated following a Buddhist rite funeral service.
Among those who mourned Danny’s passing at Thursday’s wake and Friday’s funeral service included a slew of well-known tourism figures from the 1980s such as veteran hotelier Thomas Moore Willie, Labuan hailed war tourism expert, Willie Teo, adventure and Death March tourism big name Tham Yau Kong, Francis Liew, former Deputy Director of Sabah Parks, Gabriel Sinit , former Chief Ranger of Kinabalu Park, Noredah Othman, Deputy General Manager, Sabah Tourism Board, Ismail Martin Kong of Sabah Tea, Chloe Lee, editor of Sri Pelancongan magazine Malaysian Borneo and many others from the new generation of tourism players.
“For Danny, wildlife adventure tourism came naturally because he was a planter before who used to see these animals,” said Thomas Moore.
” Danny also pioneered the training of Sabah tour guides by setting up Borneo Tourism Institute to get them licensed, first by Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) and later under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture,” added Willie, who used to give lectures at BTC on the hotel industry.
Tham, the seventh batch of tour guides who went through Danny’s courses said he remembered his “fantastic” lectures.
“He shared facts about wildlife, orangutans, elephants, sun bears, snakes and adventures by drawing from his unmatched wealth of experience in the field not from books and this ‘sifu (master) of sifus’ is hard to replace,” said Tham.
” I think he took his experience as a former planter who had seen a lot of jungles and converted it to adventure ecotourism, a classic comment is if you offend an elephant it will always remember you because they have long memories,” Tham remembered.
“He would say if you encounter fierce animals, don’t trouble them.”
“One time I drove out of Danum Valley and there was this huge bull elephant on the side of the road.
So I stopped to take picture from the back of the van and suddenly it raised its ears and started charging at us at a furious speed and chased my car for several kilometres!”
“I found out later that this bull was Tunggal which demolished a guard house in a fit of rage because a guard had done something offensive to the bull. So the story told to me by another guard confirmed Danny was talking facts from his experience with elephants.”
In class, his tips to guides in the jungle were to be sensitive to smell or ordour, avoid it rather than get close, Tham remembered.
Danny used to take this writer to various nature destinations across Sabah.
One time, I remember Danny took me to a cave several kilometres upstream Batu Putih, Kinabatangan.
Outside the cave there were a raft of wooden coffins strewn all over the place with creepers growing over.
Curious, I tried to ply open one of them to see if there were human bones.
All of a sudden an overpowering whiff of foul ordour filled my nose.
I thought it might have come from a newly buried decomposing dead.
I called Danny in and asked: What is this smell?
Wasting no time, he ordered me to flee and we fled to the river bank quite a distance away.
So what was that bad smell?
“A very big python was tracking you,” he said.
How far was it from me because I didn’t see it, I asked.
Danny said: “Very near!”
Who knows that was one hell of an intimate jungle knowledge from this affectionately called ‘Jungle King’ who had saved my life from a known ambusher serpent which strikes with rapid speed and kill by constriction.
Others remember Danny in different ways.
Noredah said: ” I called him Daddy Danny Chew because he always called me girl or daughter. ”
“He is a man who doesn’t go for riches. For all the 27 years that I knew him, he always was very honest and spoke his thoughts. No ‘angkat kaki’ but always stood his ground in what he believes to be true on what will work for tourism. He always told me to work hard but with an honest mind,” Noredah concluded.
Among Danny’s guests back in the mid and late 1980s include a slew of top notch scientists from Oxford and University of Cambridge such as Professor Whitmore – a world authority on tropical rainforest , Prof Ian Douglas of Cambridge University and Dr Tony Greer etc.
Danny is survived by wife Cecilia Poon, son Johnny, daughter Yvonne, brothers Chew Tee Swan, Tee Kim, Tee Wong, sisters Tee Ngin and Tee Ling. – Kan Yaw Chong