S'porean mum stuck in jungle for 40 days

By Tong Su Yee

She once saw a man shot at point blank while in Africa's Ivory Coast.

On another occasion, she wandered through a forest in Sulawesi, Indonesia, where human heads hung from the trees.

And she was bitten by a venomous snake while stranded deep in the jungles of Irian Jaya for 40 days.

She regained consciousness two days later after locals used herbs to treat her.

While her experiences on several forest expeditions may suggest that Dr Yasmeen Mohamed is a female version of Indiana Jones, her actual vocation is a lot more mundane.

She is a botanist.

"I never dreamed that it would be this exciting, not everyone gets to have such an exciting life while pursuing their passions."

"I was close to losing my life a few times but I'm still alive," said Dr Yasmeen, 52.

In her career as a botanist, she has travelled far and wide in search of plants with medicinal value, spending months at a time in the deepest, darkest forests in places like Africa, New Zealand, China, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Dr Yasmeen, a Singaporean who is now based in Malaysia, was in town earlier this week to give talks on healthy living and how to improve one's wellness.

"I believe that nature heals, and that it doesn't take a lot of money to find cures for any health problems," said Dr Yasmeen, who is affectionately known as "Forest Girl".

Her interest in plant ecology was sparked during her childhood when her grandmother healed her from fainting spells by preparing zero-preservative dishes and natural remedies.

Dr Yasmeen, who graduated with a masters in plant ecology and a doctorate from the University of Tasmania, spent about two to three months for each of her ventures into the forests.

They have led to many interesting tales that she has to share.

She said: "I've had to run zig-zag in the jungle to escape from a wild boar before."

But the experience that stuck with her most was the time she almost died from a snake bite when on an expedition into the jungles of Irian Jaya in 1996.

She was there with nine other members of her team and four locals. They were hired to help with replanting merbau trees for 30 days when heavy rains washed away the bridge that connected her campsite to civilisation.

Only girl in team

"I was the only girl in the whole exploration team at that time. I was very frightened, what if we ran out of food and resources?" said Dr Yasmeen.

They were stranded in the jungle for eight more days.

When food ran out, they had to rely on their surroundings to get food.

"We nourished ourselves with tea boiled with leaves found in the forest and ate coconuts and potatoes that we managed to find in the forest," she said.

To make things worse, she was bitten by a poisonous snake.

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