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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Wei Cheng Tan ( Bachelor of Sciencce )