Stay put when you find you are lost, says Sabah forestry officer who found missing Singaporean

The Singaporean had gone alone for a hike in Malaysia’s Sandakan forest reserve when he got lost. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE — “Do not move” was the first instruction Sabah Forestry Department officers gave to a Singaporean man who got lost in a forest reserve in Malaysia on Sunday.

After receiving a call for help from the man’s friend when the man failed to return to their lodgings from a solo hike, regional officer Janius Ebin and his team sprang into action, Mr Janius told The Straits Times on Tuesday.

Twenty-one people were activated after the man, who did not want to be named and who The Star newspaper said is in his 50s, was reported missing at about 7.15pm, the Sabah Forestry Department said.

He had gone alone for a hike in the Kebun Cina Forest Reserve, which covers an area of 148.7ha, or about 200 football fields, near the port city of Sandakan in Sabah, East Malaysia.

Fortunately, the man’s cellphone was still working, so the rescue team could tell him to stay put, as well as get his location via GPS, said Mr Janius, 55, who is from the indigenous Kadazan Dusun ethnic group.

Mr Janius, who has been working with the forestry service for 34 years, said: “He (the man) said that after walking in the forest, he forgot the way out. He walked back and forth as the day passed, and it became evening and got dark, and he eventually lost the trail.”

The man’s friend – a Sandakan local, with whom he was travelling – reported him missing later in the evening.

On receiving the report, Mr Janius gathered a team from the Sandakan District Forestry Office and they headed to the point nearest to the man’s last known location.

They found him safe but a little anxious at around 9pm, after about 15 minutes of searching, Mr Janius said.

To Singaporeans and others unfamiliar with forests, Mr Janius has five pieces of advice: Get a certified tour guide, allow for travelling time, do not hike late in the evening, do not leave existing trails, and take along a cellphone and power bank.

He added that if a person gets lost, he should stay calm and not panic.

“Don’t walk around, stay still and call for help. Take along a supply of water and snacks as well as a torchlight,” he said.

The rescued man has since flown back to Singapore but declined to reveal his identity, said Mr Janius.

Other than rescue missions, Mr Janius and his office mostly work to manage the forests.

There are two hiking routes in the reserve, one concrete and the other, natural. The area is open to the public for recreational purposes free of charge.

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