Parents to the wild
Singaporean Dr Ashok Segar and his wife, Mariates Martinez Segar, migrated here and built their home from scratch not only for themselves, but for more than 20 animals too.
Just five years ago, Singaporean Dr Ashok Segar, 57 and his wife, Mariates Martinez Segar, 49, bought over an empty farmland at Mile 16, Kuching. According to Mariates, the three acres of land was nothing but a wild forest. Nonetheless, the couple built from scratch not only a home for themselves but also a home for more than 20 animals.
Calling their home ‘Tes Paradizoo’, the couple did not expect to be parents to the wild. “I felt happy because it is amazing how we get attach to them and they become part of the family,” said Dr Ashok.
He revealed that the love from an animal is unconditional, “They do not know how to pretend. Take our macaque for example; when we give her food, she will sometimes share it with us,” he added.
A place to retire
Wanting to retire after working for more than 20 years as a general practitioner in Singapore, Dr Ashok and his wife decided to settle down in Kuching.
“In 2013, I was browsing the internet an article showed up saying that Kuching is the number one place to retire,” recollects the doctor.
Wanting a life in the countryside, Dr Ashok and Mariates migrated from Singapore and settled down in Kuching the following year.
Surrounded by the greens, Dr Ashok enjoyed his retirement in the village despite a being a city boy.
“It is cooler here, the air is fresh, and it is very different here. Here we have a slower pace of life, and people in Kuching always have time for you.”
Overall Dr Ashok described his current lifestyle as wonderful, “You can go out for a walk, you see the animals, see the fish. If you feel like eating fish, you just go to the river and catch the fish.”
Asked how he sustained the lifestyle, the doctor said that he was blessed with enough retirement funds for him and his wife. “And we share it with the animals.”
According to him, the domestic animals are fed with a special feed, while the dogs and cats ate cooked food three times a day. “Otherwise, everything itself sustains itself. The macaque and hedgehogs eat the fruits from our farm, and the otters eat the fish from the river.”
Mariates’ love for the countryside
Growing up in a farm before her father’s death when she was five years old, Mariates reminisced her days back in the Philippines living on a farm, “And we have lots of animals too such as dogs, horses, cows, and bulls!”
An animal lover, Mariates remembers that she used to ride the bull and the horse.
“But when my father passed away, we do not know the basics to care for the animals so we sold everything. And I felt extremely sad,” said Mariates.
Hence, wanting to relive her memories, she told Dr Ashok that she wanted to retire at a place with a stream, “So that can we can rear ducks. But from there, our family of animals grew!”
Mariates said her friends had inquired why she prefers to stay in the countryside instead of the city.
“I told them I am happy here. They asked what if I became bored, I answered them that there is no chance to be bored because even 24 hours is not enough for me to finish my work.
“I need to have pets and gardens!” stressed Mariates.
When asked what she learned from having a large family, she said, “I learned from them that they can be like humans. I adopted a stray dog and if I do not kiss him in a day, he will become stressed and grumpy. His whole day will be gone.”
Starting her day as early as 6am, Mariates would use her all-terrain vehicle (ATV) to make rounds around the three-acre farm.
“I would feed them and clean them.”
She would also bath the animals regularly to avoid the smell and fly infestation. “I love to hug and kiss them, so if they are not clean, how am I to hug them?”
Henceforth, her time with the animals could go as late as midnight, or as early as 9pm if she does not feel well.
Every day, Mariates would be with each animal at least twice a day. And that includes talking to them, cleaning, bathing, and playing. That explains why the animals at ‘Tes Paradizoo’ are tame.
“They look to her as their mama,” said Dr Ashok.
Rescuing animals from the wild
It was always an animal in trouble that brought Mariates to rescue them. “When we moved in, we heard cries from the stream and we found the otters’ home had collapsed and injured them. When I first took them in, they were both bone skinny.”
Over time, the nearby villagers who had associated the farm as an animal rescue home had brought injured animals to them for help.
‘Tes Paradizoo’ has 17 rescued dogs, a dog the couple brought over from Singapore, cats, four wild boar, goats, sheep, birds, peacocks, hedgehogs, otters, a macaque, porcupines, a pony and many others. Not only that, when the couple bought over the land, it was rich with durian trees, papayas and kedondong, to name a few.
A visit to the farm
On December 10, Minister of Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Sri Fatimah Abdullah visited ‘Tes Paradizoo’ with a group of officers under her ministry.
The visit was an eye opener for her and the group as they were amazed by the different animals that lived there. Not to forget, under the care of Ashok and Mariates, the group got to experienced playing and feeding the animals without fear of getting bitten.
Overall, it was an exciting adventure for the lot as they were exposed to the wildlife.