It's with sadness this evening that we learn of the death of the expert tracker Sahar Dimus.
The CFZ's zoological-director, Richard Freeman, writes these words:
February 3rd 1969- November 14th 2011
I first met Sahar in 2003 on the first of my trips to Sumatra in search of the orang-pendek. He was to be our chief guide and had been personally recommended by Debbie Martyr. I was surprised upon meeting him at hoe unassuming he was. A smiling, be-spectacled little man he could have easily passed for an accountant if dressed in a suit. A great example of how looks can be deceptive Sahar was a master of bushcraft and the most impressive guide I ever had in the jungle. He could tell what animal had passed and how long ago simply by the slightest disturbance of leaves that no one else would have noticed. He was immensely strong and fit and could carry huge weights up the steepest and most treacherous hills like an ant carrying a leaf up an anthill.
Not only that, he was a tiger shaman. His people held the tiger as a sacred animal, according to their tribal tradition the man who founded their tribe lived to a huge age before walking into the jungle and becoming a tiger. Tiger shaman are supposed to be able to call down the tiger spirit in tribal ceremonies. They are said to be able to look through the eyes of the tiger, observing far off things in the jungle and to become possessed by its spirit. Debbie herself had witnessed this and seen the happy, inoffensive Sahar turn into a feral, snarling dervish unrecognizable as himself.
He proved not only to be a great guide in the jungle but a great friend too. He was patient with slow bumbling westerners who found the terrain hard and the food harder. He held us spellbound around camp fires with stories of the jungle and the experiences of both himself and his late farther. He was a mine of information on both Sumatran folklore and wildlife.
So good was Sahar that we used him as chief guide all of the CFZ expeditions to Sumatra. We often stayed in his house at the foot of Gunung-Tuju with his lovely wife Lucy and his sons. Over our many trips we watched them grow up. His eldest Raffles was training to become a guide and accompanied us on our last expedition.
Sahar had lived and worked in the jungle for 14 years and had come across orang-pendek tracks and heard its call but never saw the creature until 2009 when he and Dave Archer encountered the creature in the clod forests of Gunung-Tuju. After the sighting he wept for a quarter of an hour due to the fact that he had no camera to capture an image of the beast on. Plans were afoot in 2011 to plant permanent camera traps in Kerinci Sablat National Park and had to pay Sahar to check the pictures each month.
On our last trip he seemed a little tired and slower than usual. His leg was hurting him. We all thought that in was nothing but age catching up with him and the rough terrain. I came home from the Fortean Times Unconvention 2011 to the news Sahar had died on 11th of November. He had been taken ill and was unable to walk. He was taken to hospital were apparently he was finding it hard to recognize people. He died shortly afterwards of what appears to be liver failure.
To me Sahar was Sumatra. He was just as much a part of Kerinci National Park as the lake, the mountain and the jungle. Sumatra and Sahar Dimus are inextricably linked in my mind; they are one in the same. Now he has gone it feels like a piece of Sumatra has died. The island can and will never be the same. He leaves behind him four children and a wife.
Goodbye old friend.
Sahar Dimus: Jungle guide, tiger shaman, orang-pendek witness and researcher.