Borneo rainforests, destruction and conservation

This video from Indonesia is called Protecting a Forest — and a Way of Life: Watching over Wehea.

From Wildlife Extra:

As Borneo deforestation reaches critical level a new protection area is established

According to data published by the Indonesian Forestry Agency, the deforestation in Borneo that occurred between 2000 and 2005 topped 1.23 million hectares, reports ProFauna, the Indonesian organisation for the protection of wild animals and their habitats.

This means that every day around 673 hectares of forest disappeared during that period.

Land conversion into palm oil plantation, timber concessions, industrial plants and mining activities are among the major triggers of the loss.

Despite the threats, there are moves afoot to halt the decline in East Borneo, 450km away from the provincial capital of Samarinda.

The Wehea Protection Forest encompasses an area of 38.000 hectares, 250m above sea level on the eastern part and up to 1750m above sea level on the western part, which means the vegetation varies from lowland forest to montane forest and supports 19 mammals species, 114 birds species, 12 rodents species, 9 primates species, and 59 invaluable types of plants.

One of the most valuable aspects of this forest is its importance to the lives of Bornean orangutans. In 2012, the head of the local environment agency, Didi Suryadi, stated that there were approximately 750 individual orangutans whose lives depend on the sustainability of Wehea forest.

Wehea Protection Forest was established in 2005. The governing board consists of government agencies, indigenous people, educational institutions, and NGOs.

Local people have also formed a ranger team, the members of which are young men of the Dayah Wehea tribe who take turns every day to secure the forest.

Recently, a team from ProFauna visited the Wehea people to establish ties to help with the conservation work.

The secretary of the village, Siang Geah, said: “We are very glad to have ProFauna in Wehea and hope that we can establish a positive partnership in protecting our dwindling forests.”

Conservation of orang-utans in Malaysia

This video says about itself:

8 May 2014

Whitley Award for Conservation in Ape Habitats, donated by the Arcus Foundation, Melvin Gumal – Protecting Borneo‘s iconic great apes: Conservation of orang-utans in Sarawak, Malaysia.

See also here.

New spider species discovery in Malaysian Borneo

This video is called Giant spider in Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia at the Cultural Village.

However, there are also much smaller spiders in Malaysian Borneo.

From Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands:

Students on field course bag new spider species

Posted on 07-03-2014 by Menno Schilthuizen

Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Danau Girang Field Centre, Sabah Wildlife Department, Pensoft Publishers

As a spin-off (pun intended) of their Tropical Biodiversity course in Malaysian Borneo, a team of biology students discover a new spider species, build a makeshift taxonomy lab, write a joint publication and send it off to a major taxonomic journal.

Discovering a new spider species was not what she had anticipated when she signed up for her field course in Tropical Biodiversity, says Elisa Panjang, a Malaysian master’s student from Universiti Malaysia Sabah. She is one of twenty students following the course, organised by Naturalis Biodiversity Center in The Netherlands, and held in the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. The aim of the one-month course, say organisers Vincent Merckx and Menno Schilthuizen, is to teach the students about how the rich tapestry of the tropical lowland rainforest’s ecosystem is woven.

Besides charismatic species, such as the orang-utans that the students encounter every day in the forest, the tropical ecosystem consists of scores of unseen organisms, and the course focus is on these “small things that run the world”—such as the tiny orb-weaving spiders of the tongue-twistingly named family Symphytognathidae. These one-millimetre-long spiders build tiny webs that they suspend between dead leaves on the forest floor. “When we started putting our noses to the ground we saw them everywhere,” says Danish student Jennie Burmester enthusiastically. What they weren’t prepared for was that the webs turned out to be the work of an unknown species, as spider specialist Jeremy Miller, an instructor on the course, quickly confirmed.

The students then decided to make the official naming and description of the species a course project. They rigged the field centre’s microscopes with smartphones to produce images of the tiny spider’s even tinier genitals (using cooking oil from the station’s kitchen to make them more translucent), dusted the spider’s webs with puffs of corn flour (also from the kitchen) to make them stand out and described the way they were built. They also put a spider in alcohol as “holotype”, the obligatory reference specimen for the naming of any new species—which is to be stored in the collection of Universiti Malaysia Sabah. Finally, a dinner-time discussion yielded a name for this latest addition to the tree of life: Crassignatha danaugirangensis, after the field centre’s idyllic setting at the Danau Girang oxbow lake.

All data and images were then compiled into a scientific paper, which, via the station’s satellite link, was submitted to the Biodiversity Data Journal, a leading online journal for quick dissemination of new biodiversity data, which is currently considering it for publication. Even though thousands of similarly-sized spider species still await discovery, Miller thinks the publication is an important one. “It means we provide a quick anchor point for further work on this species; the naming of a species is the only way to make sure we’re all singing from the same score,” he says.

Field station director Benoît Goossens adds: “This tiny new spider is a nice counterpoint to the large-mammal work we’re doing and having it named after the field centre is extremely cool”. The Danau Girang Field Centre is located in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, a strip of rainforest along Sabah’s major river, squeezed in by vast oil palm plantations on either side. Despite intensive search, the students could not find the new spider in the plantations.

The notion of spiders using ants as bodyguards seems a bit contradictory, but that is exactly what occurs on the tropical forest floors of the Philippines. The jumping spider (Phintella piatensis) strategically nests within the vicinity of the aggressive Asian weaver ant (Ocecophylla smaragdina) as a defense tactic against its main predator, the spitting spider (Scytodes species): here.

Borneo is losing rainforest faster than anywhere else in the world: here.

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Namibian, Indonesian wildlife news

This video from Namibia is called Bwabwata National Park.

From Wildlife Extra:

Two new Ramsar sites

January 2014: Two new Ramsar wetland sites have been designated in January; Bwabwata in Okavango, Namibia, which will be the country’s fifth, and Tanjung Puting National Park in Indonesia, the country’s seventh.

Situated in Bwabwata National Park, the site covers the lower Okavango River, part of the Okavango Delta Panhandle and permanently or temporarily flooded marshes and floodplains bordered by riparian forest and open woodland. It supports IUCN Red-Listed species, including the vulnerable African elephant, hippopotamus, lion, slaty egret and the endangered grey crowned crane. The site supports one of the highest diversities of species in the Zambezian Flooded Savannas ecoregion. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded, the highest number of any site in Namibia.

While Tanjung Puting National Park is one of the most important conservation areas in Central Kalimantan, acting as a water reservoir and representing one of the largest remaining habitats of the endangered Kalimantan Orangutan Pongo pygmaeus. The site consists of seven different types of swamp, including peat swamp forests, lowland tropical rainforest, freshwater swamp forests and as well as mangroves and coastal forest. It supports large numbers of endemic species of flora and fauna adapted to the predominant acidic peat swamp environment.

Sites are recognised by the Ramsar Convention Secretariat as a Wetland of International Importance and that the country’s comitment [sic] to maintain the ecological character of them.

This video from Indonesia is called Orangutan Odysseys Tanjung Puting National Park tour.

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New Borneo wasp discovery, named after naturalist Wallace

The newly discovered wasp, photo: Natural History Museum

From the International Business Times:

New Wasp Genus Discovered, ‘Wallaceaphytis’ Named After Evolution Naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace [PHOTO]

By Zoe Mintz

November 07 2013 10:34 AM

Named Wallaceaphytis after Alfred Russel Wallace, one of the “forgotten heroes” behind the theory of evolution by natural selection, the insect was collected in 2012 during a trip to the Danum Valley. A description of the unusually large parasitoid wasp is described in a new paper in the Journal of Natural History.

“Wallaceaphytis is so unusual that one of my volunteers called me over to the microscope saying, ‘This looks really strange’,” Andrew Polaszek, head of the Terrestrial Invertebrates Division at the Natural History Museum in London, who was part of the team that found the insect, told the BBC. “Not only is it a new species but also a completely new genus. And we found it in Wallace’s old stomping ground.”

While Charles Darwin set out to the Galapagos Islands to observe natural selection, Wallace went to the islands of south and east Asia, including Borneo. He describes thousands of new insect species he collected from the Indonesian island between 1854-56, including the Rajah Brooke’s birdwing butterfly, which is now a protected species and the national butterfly of Malaysia.

“The beauty and brilliancy of this insect are indescribable,” wrote Wallace in his book The Malay Archipelago.”On taking it out of my net and opening the glorious wings, my heart began to beat violently, the blood rushed to my head, and I felt much more like fainting than I have done when in apprehension of immediate death.”

The Wallaceaphytis is a parasitoid wasp that lays eggs inside other insects and spiders. While these kinds of wasps are typically less than a fifth of a millimeter in length,  this new wasp is just under a millimeter, making it “a bit of a whopper,” according to the Natural History Museum.

DNA confirmed that it wasn’t related to a known species. Entomologists have identified about 130,000 species, but Polaszek predicts there are thousands yet to be discovered. “I’m going to stick out my neck and say the true number is closer to a million species in total,” Polaszek told NBC News.

Polaszek said his team plans to return to Borneo to collect more insects in a different area of the island. “There’s still this remarkable hidden biodiversity in Borneo as well as right under our noses here in England,” he said.

Small mammals in Gabon, new research

This video, recorded in Malaysia, says about itself:

Hose’s Civet and Small Carnivore Project, Borneo: Covert Eyes, Part 1

27 Aug 2012

Video footage obtained by camera traps from a logging concession in the Upper Baram region of Sarawak, Borneo from May to July 2012. Includes rare footage of Bornean endemics: Hose’s Civet; Tufted Ground Squirrel; Crimson-headed Partridge.

And here are parts 2 and 3 of that series.

From Wildlife Extra:

First survey of the small mammal predators of Gabon

Mongooses, genets and civets

September 2013. Working in the rainforest of Central Africa-a region known for its diversity of wildlife-a team of researchers from Panthera, the Wildlife Conservation Society, University of Stirling, CENAREST, IRET and others has completed the first-ever survey in Gabon on a previously overlooked animal group: small mammal predators.

Camera traps, bushmeat and observations

The team compiled information from camera-trap surveys, direct observations and bushmeat studies, mapped the country-wide distribution of 12 carnivore species, including mongooses, genets, and civets, in the first comprehensive assessment of such animals in the country. The study appeared in the July edition of Small Carnivore Conservation, the journal of the IUCN small carnivore specialist group.

“Many previous studies have focused on the larger species of Gabon’s rainforests,” said Laila Bahaa-el-Din, lead author of the study. “None of these efforts have focused on the country-wide status and distribution of smaller predators, species that could be disappearing due to the bushmeat crisis sweeping through the region.”

The research team collected images and data from 33 wildlife surveys and 16 camera trap studies for the study. Other methods used in the research included bushmeat hunting records with information on specific locations, and fecal DNA records generated from research in Moukalaba-Doudou National Park.

First records for Gabon

Of the 12 small carnivores detected in the study, a few-specifically the Cameroon cusimanse and the common slender mongoose-were previously undocumented in Gabon. The study also produced a range-extension for the Egyptian mongoose. All 12 species are currently listed as “Least Concern” in the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

“This first comprehensive assessment of Gabon’s small predators is an important step in understanding the needs of these overlooked but important animals,” said WCS researcher Fiona Maisels, a co-author on the paper. “It appears that these species are widespread and not currently threatened, but the proximity of many small carnivores to human settlements and the growing bushmeat trade could potentially impact these populations. These new findings will help inform future management.”

The authors include: Laila Bahaa-el-Din of Panthera, Oxford University, and the University of Kwazulu-Natal; Philipp Henschel of Panthera; Rostand Abaa formerly of the Wildlife Conservation Society and now with the Gabon National Parks agency; Kate Abernethy of the University of Stirling and the Institut de Recherche en Ecologie Tropicale; Torsten Bohm of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research; Nicholas Bout of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Aspinall Foundation; Lauren Coad of Oxford University; Josephine Head of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology; Eiji Inoue of Kyoto University; Sally Lahm of the Institute de Recherche en Ecologie Tropicale; Michelle E. Lee of Oxford University and the Institute de Recherche en Ecologie Tropicale; Fiona Maisels of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Stirling; Luisa Rabanal of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology; Malcolm Starkey of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Gemma Taylor of Oxford University; Hadrien Vanthomme of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; Yoshihiro Nakashima of Kyoto University; and Luke Hunter of Panthera.