1,000kg of Milk Powder Donated to Feed Bornean Elephants

KOTA KINABALU: The cost to feed the orphan Bornean elephants at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre has been eased with donation of 1,000kg of milk powder.

Following the increasing trend of orphaned Bornean elephants by being taken in by the Sabah Wildlife Department into the care centre, the biggest challenge faced by the government agency is to provide best husbandry care for the babies.

These baby elephants were rescued throughout the elephant habitat across the state by the Wildlife Rescue Unit. Currently these orphans are being cared for in the Elephant Care Unit, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) through the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) also has been working hard to reach out to the corporate bodies for possible collaboration in assisting the department to fund for daily care and feeding of the babies.

“Last year, WRU in association with the Rotarian Action Group for Endangered Species (RAGES) has been investigating the best milk powder food option for the endangered orphan Bornean elephants.  A few products were tested during the trials. After the trials, it was decided that the Unit is going to use Fonterra milk as the main product to feed the baby elephants,” said Dr Diana Ramirez, acting manager of WRU.

The first shipment came last year with initial donation by BCT-Japan towards the cost of purchasing 1.2 tons of milk powder from Fonterra New Zealand.

And after seven months, Fonterra and RAGES continued their support towards the plight of Bornean elephants through the second shipment of one tonne of milk formula directly from New Zealand. The milk powder arrived at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport on July 25 and sent to Sepilok. This will help to feed the orphaned elephants for the next six months and saving the department up to RM100,000 on the feed cost. All were made possible by continuous support of South East Asia RAGES’ Project Director, Debbie Mair.

“We at RAGES-SE Asia are committed to preserving and investing in the conservation of the endangered Bornean elephants and at the same time through the collaboration to boost eco-tourism and boost economic growth,” said Debbie.


Source: TheBorneoPost

Forests Outside of Protected Areas Critical For Orangutan

KOTA KINABALU: The Lower Kinabatangan has lost almost a third of its orangutan population in the last 16 years, following continued loss of forests outside of protected areas and further fragmentation of their habitat that is home to other wildlife, including the Borneo pygmy elephant and the proboscis monkey.

These forests outside protected areas – including privately owned and state lands – are largely composed of swamp areas that are increasingly becoming threatened in Borneo and which have poor or no economic value for oil palm due to daily or seasonal flooding events.

Long-term monitoring has revealed that the decline of orangutans has not stopped in the Lower Kinabatangan, despite this being identified as a high priority area for the primate in Sabah’s Orangutan Action Plan. It is critical to both address the future of these forests outside of protected areas and to recreate contiguous forest corridors.

The future is bleak for the Bornean orangutan, which last year moved to IUCN’s Critically Endangered category with numbers dropping from 4,000 individuals in the 1960s to 1,125 in 2001 to less than 800 today in the Lower Kinabatangan.

A study published this month in Scientific Reports indicates Sabah’s overall orangutan population has dropped by 20 per cent since the last comprehensive survey in the early 2000s, which had placed their number at 11,000 individuals.

Borneo Futures co-founder Dr Marc Ancrenaz said habitat fragmentation in Lower Kinabatangan remains a major issue with 11,000 hectares of forests outside protected areas lost in under a decade up to 2014, and over 20,000 hectares on alienated and state lands at risk of being converted for agriculture, primarily oil palm, further fragmenting the orangutan population and accelerating its decline.

Elaborating the value of forests outside of protected areas for biodiversity, Ancrenaz said a habitat suitability model developed for 13 mammal species in the Lower Kinabatangan revealed that 91 per cent of these non-protected forests were a good home for orangutan.

“Despite their degraded status in the Lower Kinabatangan, these are high conservation value forests and are key to supporting wildlife but further fragmentation would jeopardize the viability of animal populations.

“We need to recreate a contiguous forest corridor of about 52,000 hectares in the floodplain. One way of starting the process would be to address the future of forests that are not part of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and forest reserves,” he said.

However, acquiring privately owned lands and habitat restoration are both costly in a landscape that is about 82 per cent covered with oil palm, a crop that is important to Sabah’s economy and a trade imperative for Malaysia.

“The orangutan population in Lower Kinabatangan needs to be reconnected if Sabah wants to ensure its long-term viability. In a study on orangutans throughout Borneo, it was discovered that forest patches inhabited by this primate are the smallest in Sabah compared to other states and  in Borneo and the distance between patches is the longest.

“This latest information shows that efforts must be made to secure habitats in forests outside the current protected areas to ensure that the population of orangutans in this region does not further drop,” said Ancrenaz, who has spent almost 20 years in the Lower Kinabatangan.

Hunting, poaching and over exploitation of forests were historical threats that kick started the decline of the species. However, the species is facing new risks today, such as habitat fragmentation, emerging diseases and conflicts with domestic animals or snares that are set up to catch wild boars but also catch orangutans when they walk on the ground.

Ancrenaz had recently undertaken a case study named “Addressing the Impact of Large-Scale Oil Palm Plantations on Orangutan Conservation in Borneo: A Spatial, Legal and Political Economy Analysis” for the Environment and Development project with Ridge to Reef co-director Holly Jonas and Living Landscape Alliance founder and co-director Dr Nicola K. Abram. The study was funded by Arcus Foundation.

The case study produced an analysis of the geographical overlap between primate’s Bornean habitat and areas demarcated for large scale oil palm development, as well as the extent to which their habitat lies within existing protected areas in Sabah, Sarawak and Indonesia’s Kalimantan. An analysis was also done on how legal frameworks and political economies interact with the oil palm industry and orangutan conservation in Borneo.


Source: TheBorneoPost

Kerisha and The Crocodiles

THERE are few creatures in the natural world we have a full understanding of.

Far more often we impose grossly exaggerated reputations on our natural neighbours – fantasies of the wildness of wild animals, and the danger they pose to us. However, in the case of one predator – found at the apex of the food chain for over 90 million years – that reputation seems to be entirely deserved.

Crocodiles are a piece of living pre-history – and saltwater crocodiles, the principal species native to Sabah, has a true claim to notoriety. The largest living reptile, “salties” are found throughout Southern Asia and Australasia, with the rare ability to flourish in both salt- and freshwater communities. Their sheer size attests to the perfection of evolution over hundreds of millions of years.

Crocodiles have dominated tropical and subtropical ecosystems since the time of the dinosaurs, thanks to their natural hardiness and versatility. Their flexible diets, ability to adapt to and travel between habitats, and their fearsome physicality have meant that even human beings haven’t been able to totally dominate the crocodile.

However, that is not to say that crocodiles are not under threat. Their sheer potency makes them objects of desire, both to the tourist trade and the luxury goods market for their skins. And when crocodiles come into contact with humans, the results can be violent.

Saltwater Crocodiles are one of a very small number of animals known to be man-eaters, and individuals such as Bujang Senang, a Sarawak crocodile blamed for a spate of deaths in 1992, pass into local legend as monsters.

However, there is more to the saltwater’s crocodile and its millions of years of success at the top of the food chain – and it is this other face that fascinates Sai Kerisha Kntayya.

“There is no doubt that the crocodiles are ferocious and aggressive in their natural habitat, and in my opinion that solely has to do with their role as apex predators,” Kerisha tells the writer.

“Having said that, in my experience of coming into close contact with them in the wild, I consider them to be very shy, reserved animals”. Kerisha is a PhD student from Penang, who moved to Sabah as a child and has spent her entire working life in the jungles of Borneo. Her work is dedicated to building an ever-more accurate picture of Borneo’s crocodile population.

Kerisha is a young Malaysian taking the lead in issues of conservation and habitat management – topics crucial to the future of her country.

“Malaysia”, she says, with powerful conviction, “is a beautiful country. The diversity of nature here is unlike no other. It is our very own heritage. In the race to become a developed nation, we have sadly forgotten our fundamental values, one of them being to care for nature and acknowledge its importance in our lives”.

It is this disentanglement with nature that leads to our misunderstanding of animals like crocodiles.

Kerisha continues: “In my experience studying crocodiles, the one thing that has surprised me the most is my very own change in how I see them”. Are they not to be feared? I ask. Kerisha considers this.

“I admit, I used to fear them (and maybe still do) and it never crossed my mind that I’d one day be working so closely with the crocodiles. But as I gave myself the chance to rethink my understanding about them, I see them in a completely different view now. I now see the important role they play in their ecosystem and I’ve come to appreciate their existence”. Now, armed with knowledge and experience, Kerisha has a wider goal to motivate her studies.

In Borneo, Kerisha believes “there is an emerging issue of the human-crocodile conflict.

As a developing nation, people and crocodiles are moving into very close proximity with each other”.

If we want both humans and crocodiles – and the many other species that rely on the balance of the ecosystem – to survive, we need to reconsider how we do not merely inhabit, but cohabit. Kerisha has a bold vision: “We should rethink our understanding on these animals” she says, “and learn to appreciate its role in the environment”.

Kerisha’s contribution to the conservation and monitoring work has brought her to the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), on the banks of the Kinabatangan river.

“Danau Girang is distinctive and unique to me,” says Kerisha, “as it integrates two things close to my heart – nature and Sabah.” The river’s sheer size has lead to extraordinary biodiversity, including one of the largest crocodile populations in the world.

Over the course of her research, Kerisha aims to assess the population structure of all major saltwater crocodile populations in Sabah. “I will be conducting night spotting surveys in nine major rivers here,” she tells me.

As well as performing a basic measuring assessment on them, she will take a small tissue sample, in order to build a genetic model for the diversity of crocodile families in Sabah.

This technique is essential for the future of the crocodile in Asia. “Studying the genetic health of a population, it basically means studying its genetic diversity.” A decrease in genetic diversity, Kerisha believes, “would mean reduced fitness such as high juvenile mortality, poor immunity, and ultimately, higher extinction risk.

By applying this method with the crocodiles, I will be able to tell whether or not a [river’s] population is doing well or not and if not, to then come up with management plans (i.e. build a wildlife corridor) with aims to increase its genetic diversity”.

Alongside her PhD work, Kerisha is helping DGFC in their efforts to map the movements of various animal populations in the Kinabatangan. “Besides [my research], I will also be hand-capturing baby crocodiles and tagging adult crocodiles”.

By tracking their movements, Kerisha says, “I hope to get insights on their movements patterns and core habitat selection”; the kind of information that is crucial for informing local and national conservation plans.

“Let us not forget,” Kerisha tells me as we are finishing our interview, “that a developed nation not only looks into the interests of its people, but also the interest of its friendly animal neighbours.

We must consider it our duty as Malaysians to preserves the natural resources we have.

If not us, who?”

Source: DailyExpress

Sabah to Protect Another Four Shark and Two Ray Species

KOTA KINABALU: Four shark and two ray species are to be protected as endangered under federal fisheries regulations.

The state government, through its Fisheries Department, has proposed that the great hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, winghead shark, oceanic whitetip shark, oceanic manta ray and reef manta ray be covered.

According to the Sabah Shark Protection Association (SSPA) advocacy group, the move to include the six species under the Fisheries (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) Regulations 1999 was a major step forward in the conservation of marine life.

SSPA president Aderick Chong said it was important to protect the species, which were being fished in large numbers.

The current list of protected marine species includes whale sharks and sawfish, as well as several species of dolphin, whale, dugong and clam.

Under the regulations, no person shall fish for, disturb, harass, catch, kill, take, possess, sell, buy, export or transport any of the specified endangered species without written permission from the director-general of fisheries.

Chong said inclusion of the six, listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in Malaysian federal regulations should be finalised quickly.

“We are keen to continue our support for federal and state agencies to list these species within this year.

“We were present at the multi-stakeholder consultation to draw up this list and view this as a positive step to obtain protection for sharks and rays in Sabah waters,” he said in a statement.

The SSPA also hoped the scalloped hammerhead, silky shark, three species of thresher shark and nine species of devil ray – all listed in Appendix II of CITES – will be given similar protection.

“These species always feature high on the wishlist of divers, particularly scalloped hammerheads and devil rays. Many divers come to Sabah in the hope of encountering one of these incredible animals,” Chong said.

“Sadly, they are being landed on a daily basis so we need the Government to act now before they disappear forever.”

He said SSPA wants to work with the authorities to identify other species that might benefit from such protection, and on the enforcement of laws that regulate activities related to sharks and rays.

Based on Fisheries Department data, Sabah waters have 48 out of the 70 shark species in Malaysia and 65 out of 85 ray species.

Source: TheStar

Scubazoo’s new Borneo Jungle Diaries, airs tomorrow.

KOTA KINABALU: Scubazoo will be launching its latest online series, ‘Borneo Jungle Diaries’ tomorrow in conjunction with World Environment Day.

The series featuring 10 new episodes , will see each episode aired Monday.

It will highlight the efforts by researchers and scientists of Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), a remote facility in Kinabatangan, in their efforts to save Borneo’s wildlife.

The first episode will be made available on at 4pm tomorrow and DGFC facebook page.

This is the third series on Borneo by the Asian leading natural history filming and photography company based in Kota Kinabalu.

Borneo Jungle Diaries will feature Aaron ‘Bertie’ Gekoski and had hosted two previous series – Borneo from Below and Borneo Wildlife Warriors, said Scubazoo founder and chief executive officer Simon Christopher.

“We hope to create more buzz on the wildlife conservation efforts here not just globally but also locally as many Sabahans do not know much about their endemic animals, via the online tv series,” said Christopher during a press preview of the series.

Meanwhile, DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said the series aim to investigate life behind-the-scenes at the field centre, as researchers safeguard Kinabatangan’s most charismatic animals through monitoring, learning and understanding.

Amongst the interesting content are the tagging of Sunda pangolin for the first time ever, intimate insights into the behaviour of nocturnal primates, and tracking a herd of elephants.

“Four episodes will also showcase Malaysian students studying at the field centre; PhD students Nurzhafarina Othman, Elisa Panjang and Sai Kerisha Kntayya and Masters student Leona Wai.

“I believe that those students can become ambassadors for wildlife conservation in Sabah and Malaysia and are examples to be followed by the next Malaysian generation of conservationists,” said Goossens in a statement.

Source: New Straits Times