KUALA TERENGGANU, 21 — “I am still a ‘Budok Kuba’ (buffalo boy). This ‘tsunami’ has strengthened my will to continue what I have been doing because I am sure that it will give me better rewards,” said Muhammad Syukur Khamis, fondly called Malaysian Mowgli, after losing 56 of his family’s 110 buffaloes due to HS, a contagious bacterial disease.
Looking at his sad face, it is hard to know what is going through the 15-year-old’s mind, but the youngster did admit that it has been really heartbreaking for him to have lost his ‘good friend’.
Unlike other teenagers who usually preoccupied with various gadgets and online games, he preferred to spend time around the animals as it has a calming effect on him even though his feet and hands would get dirty in mud at times.
Muhammad Syukur is also known as the ‘Kampung Boy’ due to his ability to interact with the animals since he was only six years old after accompanying his father, Khamis Jusoh, 64, tend to the family’s buffalo herd and over the years he has had several favourite buffaloes, including ‘Semek’ and ‘Tongkol’ – both dead now.
He said the unfortunate incident has made him aware of the importance of vaccines and be sensitive to the environment to prevent the same infection from recurring.
As for Khamis, his children’s strength in facing the ordeal has motivated him to pick up the pieces, with seven of his eight children working hard to ensure that the carcasses were disposed of properly and ensuring the remaining ones stay healthy.
He said that the recent loss was his biggest since becoming a breeder 50 years ago.
“All my children returned home as soon as they were informed of this sad news and they have always given me encouragement. Before Muhammad Syukur became popular, we were insulted because it (the animals) were said to smelly, but we carried on,” he said when met by reporters at the animal enclosure in Kampung Kubang Bujuk, here.
Khamis said the outbreak had hampered his plan to switch to the feedlot system, but he was confident that Muhammad Syukur, the youngest of eight siblings, would realise the dream one day based on the youngster’s deep interest.
His plan now is to increase the number of buffaloes and he wants his children to continue to work similar to his early days in late 1970s where he started with only three buffaloes he inherited from his father.
Bernama’s visit to the farm found that apart from Muhammad Syukur, his three other siblings – Muhamad Kamil, 31; Muhamad Alias, 30 and Norain Solehah, 21 – were working hard around the enclosure.
Apart from feeding the remaining 54 healthy buffaloes, they were also installing fences around the compound to stop the animals from wandering out of the enclosure during the 14-day quarantine process.
The one-acre area also looks sadly quiet unlike before where it had been the focus of attention of many professional photographers, locals and foreigners alike, to record actions of Muhammad Syukur with his more than 100 ‘playmates’.
Previously, a unique photo of the teenager with his pet taken by professional photographer Mohd Nazri Sulaiman clinched the grand prize for the Street/People category at the Asian Geographic: Images of Asia 2018 awards and it also earned Nazri the Remarkable Award at the 2018 Siena International Photography Award in Italy.
Most recently, his picture taken by Yusuf Madi was uploaded as Asia 2020 Image for August by Asian Geographic for the People/ Street category.