A Growing Country

Technology plays a big role in conservation nowadays. While I was in a field trip for Biodiversity Conservation, I found that camera traps were superior in detecting mammals than live trapping methods. This use of technology has been heavily contributing to wildlife surveys for conservation purposes (Garden et al. 2007). From the data collected on the field trip, camera traps are efficient in detecting individual mammals, a variety of species and at the same time gives you the ability to deploy for period of days without then need to be present.

I did a bit of research on my own and found that camera traps are essential in identifying presence of threatened species back in my country (Malaysia). Malaysia is located just above the equator and is one of the biodiversity hotspots in the world. No doubt it is home to many unique native species, including the largest flower on earth, Rafflesia arnoldii, the Bornean orangutan, clouded leopard and Bornean elephant. Yet conservation is still greatly undervalued in our society.

Malaysia is divided into West Malaysia( Peninsular Malaysia) and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) which  is also part of the island of Borneo (Source: World Atlas)

Malaysia is divided into West Malaysia( Peninsular Malaysia) and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) which is also part of the island of Borneo (Source: World Atlas)

Using camera traps, Mohd Azlan & Sanderson (2007) identified the distribution of the Endangered Bornean bay cat (World’s only video of the elusive cat) and any threats to its persistence . These rare cats are threatened by hunting and land use changes.

Captive bay cat. Photo by: Jim Sanderson.

Captive bay cat. Photo by: Jim Sanderson.

Camera traps recently revealed the importance of wildlife corridors.The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) photographed wildlife using a corridor connecting two fragmented forests in the lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. The images reveal the importance of such linkages for Borneo’s mammals and birds to move between surviving forests.

“Interestingly, we captured a lot of pictures of arboreal primates such as orangutans, proboscis monkeys and langurs (including the very rare Hose’s langur) on the ground. It probably demonstrates that there is a lack of tree connection,” explains Benoit Goossens, Director of DGFC.

A cheeky long tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC)

A cheeky long tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC)

 Malaysia is still a developing country. Thus most attention is given to the economy and development of the nation, instead of conservation. Oil palm plantations and deforestation are being prioritized over conservation, diminishing habitats for threatened species. In Sarawak, forests are heavily fragmented by oil palm plantations along the Kinabatangan River, making it difficult for animals to move between surviving forests.

Even so, the state governments of Sabah and Sarawak have been negligence in managing National Parks. After pledged to build wildlife corridors especially in the Kinabatangan Sanctuary, the palm oil industry and Sabah government has made little progress in mitigating deforestation. Forestry officers are often paid when no work was given to do. Our lush green forests had not been properly maintained and there had been lacking in law enforcement. Furthermore, an investigation has vindicated a timber corruption case in Sarawak where the Chief Minister personally profited immensely from destruction of Borneo rainforest through logging and oil palm plantations (Find out more). This shows how lowly the government thinks of biodiversity.

The sun bear (Ursus malayanus) is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC)

The sun bear (Ursus malayanus) is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC)

   Still the question remains, why should people care about biodiversity when money, technology advancement and politics are the main concerns? In Malaysia, most people are still financially unstable, let alone putting an effort into conservation. This however is not where the main problem lies, but the public awareness itself, of the importance of biodiversity. Ultimately, biodiversity provides important ecosystem services and other benefits to the society.  The solution I strongly encouraged is to instill biodiversity conservation into primary education and the local consciousness. These spectacular images can hopefully capture not just the eye of the public, but also the heart of government and the locals in protecting our national treasures.

The Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), Vulnerable . Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

The Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), Vulnerable . Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

The Borneon OrangUtan (Pongo pygmaeus), Endangered. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

The Borneon OrangUtan (Pongo pygmaeus), Endangered. Photo by: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

By Wei Cheng Tan ( Bachelor of Sciencce )

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About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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One Response to A Growing Country

  1. Thanks for the insight to biodiversity conservation in Malaysia. It’s wonderful that something you learned during this course (camera trapping) has placed a focus on your own thinking about biodiversity in your own country. As with other blogs in this series, it’s clear that the challenges are immense, and it’s a wise conclusion you draw about how we begin to address this problem.

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