by Maganjeet Kaur
The mounted head of the seladang (Malay for bison) gracing the entrance hall of the Royal Malaysian Police Museum at Jalan Perdana speaks of an era of bold hunters when big game was plentiful in the jungles of Malaya. This particular seladang met its end after it had mortally wounded Captain Harry Charles Syers, the first Commissioner of Police of the Federated Malay States (FMS).
Captain Syers arrived in Klang in March 1875 under instructions to build a police force in Selangor. Efficient and capable, he built a formidable force leading to his appointment as the first Commissioner of Police of the FMS in 1896. Outside work, his passion was big-game hunting. He formed the Selangor Pack with Dr. E.A.O Travers which went on hunting expeditions to the jungles of Selangor, Pahang, and Negeri Sembilan. Closer to home, he would shoot snipe at, what is today, Dataran Merdeka. Syers was also the prime mover behind the formation of a group that started a collection of natural history specimens which they kept at the house of John F. Klyne, a surveyor with the Public Works Department. He was also its biggest contributor. The collection was eventually moved to a building at Bukit Nanas and this building became the first Selangor Museum. Syers was President, for a time, of the Committee appointed to manage the affairs of the museum.
In July 1897, he went on a hunting expedition in central Pahang with Robert Meikle, a planter friend. Coming across a solitary bull seladang, they promptly fired at it. The wounded seladang retreated but Syers and Meikle tracked it down. The seladang charged Syers but, upon being shot at by Syers, turned around and charged Meikle who also opened fire. It then charged Syers a second time. Although Syers managed another round of fire, the enraged seladang was unstoppable. It knocked Syers to the ground, gored him, and tossed him into the air to a height of 35 feet. Syers somersaulted three times before hitting his head on the branch of a tree. After Syers landed on the ground, the seladang tossed him a second time, to about 18 – 20 feet. Meikle fired at the seladang which retreated and fell to the ground, bellowing in pain. Syers too lay in pain (for about an hour and a half) while Meikle organised help from the Orang Asli at Padang Ali. Syers was insistent, though, that Meikle kill the seladang before transporting him by boat down the Pahang River. Meikle complied and the seladang took another five shots, for a total of fifteen, before finally breathing its last. Syers died just after midnight the next day while still on boat to Pekan. He was initially buried at Pekan but Dr. Travers arranged for the body to be disinterred and brought back to Kuala Lumpur. It was reinterred at the Venning Road cemetery (located where the Department of Islamic Affairs at Jalan Perdana currently is).
The seladang’s head was brought back to Kuala Lumpur, mounted, and hung at Selangor Club. James Meikle (son of Robert Meikle) took it to Scotland in 1931 but brought it back in 1936 and presented it to the FMS Police. The mounted head was hung at the police mess.
Jalan Syers, located at Taman Tunku, honours the memory of Captain Syers.