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.

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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.

Sumatran rhino in Indonesian Borneo, video


This video says about itself:

Sighting of Critically Endangered Sumatran Rhino

4 Oct 2013

WWF Indonesia captured footage of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino. The footage — the first known visual evidence of the Sumatran rhino in Kalimantan — shows a rhino foraging for food and even captured a rhino indulging in a mud bath.

From Wildlife Extra:

Sumatran rhino confirmed in Kalimantan for the first time – Video

Indonesian Borneo rhinos confirmed for the first time for decades

October 2013. Using video camera traps, a joint research team that included members from WWF-Indonesia and the district authorities of Kutai Barat, East Kalimantan, have captured video of the Sumatran rhino in East Kalimantan. The footage of the rhinos, the rare Dicerorhinus sumatrensis, is the fruit of three months of research that collected footage from 16 video camera traps. The team is delighted to have secured the first known visual evidence of the Sumatran rhino in Kalimantan.

“This physical evidence is very important, as it forms the basis to develop and implement more comprehensive conservation efforts for the Indonesian rhinoceros,” said Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan upon unveiling the video at the opening of the Asian Rhino Range States Ministerial Meeting in Lampung, Sumatra. “This finding represents the hard work of many parties, and will hopefully contribute to achieving Indonesia’s target of three percent per year rhino population growth.” He emphasized that all parties need to immediately begin working together to develop a scientific estimate of all the remaining Sumatran rhino populations in Kalimantan, and to implement measures to conserve the species, particularly by strengthening the protection and security of the rhinos and their habitats.

Historical records

There were historical records of rhino in Kalimantan, but there have been few, if any sightings for at leat 50 years, though there have been occasional reports of footprints being seen, and a couple of reports of rhino being poached.

Wallowing video – Possibly several rhinos

The remarkable evidence from the camera traps includes footage of a rhino wallowing in the mud to keep its body temperature cool and a rhino walking in search of food. The rhino footage, captured on June 23, June 30 and August 3, is believed to show different rhinos although confirmation of this will require further study.

Nazir Foead, Conservation Director of WWF-Indonesia, said, “To ensure the protection of the species, a joint monitoring team from the Kutai Barat administration, Rhino Protection Unit, and WWF have been conducting regular patrols around the area. WWF calls on all parties, in Indonesia and around the world, to immediately join the effort to conserve the Indonesian rhinoceros”.

Commenting on the findings, the district head of West Kutai, Ismael Thomas SH. M. Si., noted “The local administration is fully supporting these conservation activities in West Kutai. We are drafting further laws to protect endangered animals — including these rhinos.”

The Asian Rhino Range States Ministerial Meeting is taking place in Lampung 2-3 October 2013, with participation of goverment representation from Bhutan, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, and Nepal.

Sumatran rhino filmed in Indonesian Borneo


This video is called Finding the trails of Sumatran Rhino in the Heart of Borneo.

It says about itself:

Monitoring survey team WWF-Indonesia, collaborated with Kutai Barat District government and Mulawarman University, have discovered Sumatran Rhino trails in the forests of Kutai Barat District, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. February 2013.

From AFP news agency:

Cameras capture Sumatran rhino in Indonesian Borneo

JAKARTA – Hidden cameras have captured images of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino on the Indonesian part of Borneo island, where it was thought to have long ago died out, the WWF said on Wednesday.

Sixteen camera traps – remote-controlled cameras with motion sensors frequently used in ecological research – filmed the rhino walking through the forest and wallowing in mud in Kutai Barat, East Kalimantan province.

The footage, filmed on June 23, June 30 and August 3, is believed to show different rhinos although the WWF said confirmation of this will require further study.

There were once Sumatran rhinos all over Borneo but their numbers have dwindled dramatically and they were thought to now exist only on the Malaysian part of the island.

Indonesia refuses permission for Sumatran rhinos to be shipped to Cincinnati Zoo: here.