Finally, after 18 months the forest is drying out! We were beginning to think that we'd never see it again! It has really helped us in our goal of achieving five sleeping-tree to sleeping-tree follows for each month, as the lack of water makes moving around and searching the forest so much quieter and easier.
The last couple of months have seen some very interesting developments with four of the red langur groups here in Sabangau. We had a follow with the highly elusive and flighty Camp Group, yielding a more complete picture of their demography and more data about their home-range. We have also followed G8 and Tribe Dragon, as they are now known since the take-over of the group Tribe Nunzio by the adult male Dragon.
G8 have proved something of a conundrum, as we have followed them several times and have confirmed the absence of any young kelasi in the group, but the continued presence of the original adult male. Previously, we have observed two juveniles and an infant in G8. Perhaps the parasite project conducted by Harry Hilser can shed some light on the disappearance of the offspring? Watch this space...!
We've also observed about 12 new food items in the last couple of months, including specific targeting of the rotten fruits in Malam Malam trees to eat invertebrate larvae hidden inside. This brings our total food items up to 96 - fantastic! Lets hope that the dry weather continues to facilitate some fascinating data collection here in Project Kelasi world!
Hello, we are two of the 2011 volunteers and we’d like to tell you a little about the week we spent in Megarice.
Megarice was a project set up in 1996 by president Soeharto to convert 1milion Ha of peatland forest into rice paddies. Due to the acidity of the peat the rice never grew, and along with the canals draining the peat, this resulted in frequent forest fires and fragmentation of the remaining forest.
As we were the first group there, we did a lot of setting up at camp. The atmosphere was great, with evenings spent singing along with a guitar-the local guys joining us as well.
The guys lived in the pondok, while the girls slept in the newly constructed tent. Our beds were made out of logs and old rice sacks- and were still surprisingly comfortable!
During our five days at the camp, we did many things including plotting, orang-utan nest surveys, tagging new transects and setting up camera traps.
We had a really great time and two more groups of volunteers will be having the opportunity to go experience the Megarice.
The results of our colleagues’ and our recent work investigating the hunting of large flying foxes (Pteropus vampyrus) across Central Kalimantan and public perception of disease risk related to the trade has now been published online in Biological Conservation and can be accessed through thislink (the print version will be published over the coming months). These bats are eaten as a local delicacy and particularly owing to the belief that bat meat has medicinal properties as a cure for asthma and chest complaints.
Through conducting interviews with hunters and market traders in the major settlements in the province, we were able to confirm that hunting is widespread throughout the province, but differs in intensity between different areas, with the highest hunting rates seen in OuTrop’s base in Palangka Raya and the Buntok/Tamiang Layang areas. Sadly, declines in sales and hunting yields were reported by the majority of market vendors and hunters, indicating population declines (demand for bat meat is increasing). In addition to the obvious conservation concerns for the species, such a population decline is anticipated to have major negative impacts on ecosystem services provided by flying foxes, including pollination and seed dispersal: flying foxes are important pollinators of economically-important crops, such as durian.
Another concern related to this trade is the potential for zoonotic disease transmission from bats to humans: large flying foxes are known vectors of both Hendra and Nipah viruses, which have led to fatalities in humans and livestock in mainland Asia and Australia. Bat hunters and vendors in Kalimantan are exposed to live animals on a daily basis and appear to take no precautions against this risk, which could offer potential for disease transmission. Reducing the hunting and trading of flying foxes would provide a win-win solution to these problems – decreasing the threat to species conservation and risk of zoonotic disease transmission, and maintaining the important ecosystem services that flying foxes provide – but this will be difficult to achieve in light of the widespread belief that consuming these animals provides health benefits.
Citation: Harrison M. E., Cheyne S. M., Darma F., Ribowo D. A., Limin S. H. and Struebig M. J. (2011) Hunting of flying foxes and perception of disease risk across Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Biological Conservation. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2011.06.021.
Hello, I am Megan Cattau a PhD student from Columbia University in the US, and I'm working with OuTrop this summer to collect preliminary data for my dissertation. Two weeks ago, I took a speedboat south a few hours to Bangah, a small fishing village on the Sabangau River, with Cassie Freund (a masters student from Columbia University), and two of the field assistants from OuTrop. The purpose of the trip was to resurvey for orangutan nests (see picture) and to complete vegetation plots in the southern portion of the former Mega Rice Project (MRP). In 2009, I surveyed the MRP for orangutan nests in order to produce density and distribution estimates for the population. I found a fairly high density of orangutans (about 2.5 individuals / km2 as compared to about 2.0 in the Sabangau), suggesting that the orangutans are compressed into the remaining small forest patches and that the population may not have fully responded yet to the forest shrinkage. After I left Indonesia at the end of the 2009 dry season, there were large fires that further reduced the size of the forest fragments. Our aim with resurveying this year is to determine how the orangutans have responded to the forest loss that resulted from these fires. There are no results to report yet, but I can say that the data gathering itself was certainly an adventure! We stayed in a wood-plank house (pondok) on stilts over the river in Bangah, and took small boats on the Sabangau River and into the irrigation canals to access the MRP. The water level in the canals is pretty variable, and so we had to push the boats and / or look for a missing propeller on more than one occasion. From the water, we traversed on foot an obstacle course of brittle, burned logs, peat sink holes, etc., to get to the forest, where we gathered data on orangutan nests and surveyed vegetation plots, collecting information on seedlings, saplings, and adult trees. In the evenings, we would relax in the pondok by candlelight, cook fish caught literally right under the house, and play endless card games. Every night, we'd fall asleep to the sound of the river (and the neighborhood cat). All in all, I would say we had a successful trip, returning with a huge amount of data and our enthusiasm intact!
Hi, we are the new group of volunteers for 2011. We’re all having a fantastic time here, and so we wanted to write a couple of paragraphs about our first week.
We all met up in Jakarta at a luxurious hotel where we recovered from our jetlag and started our bonding!
We then negotiated Jakartaairport and finally made it to Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan. Here we were taken to the project house and had our first induction to the Indonesian bathroom experience (balance required…)
After stocking up on important necessities such as nutella and peanut butter, we piled into 3 orange bemos and headed for the river! After a thrilling klotok ride, and a terrifying lory (mini train) ride, we finally arrived at base camp. Since arriving at camp, we have ventured into the forest several times and all of us have been successful in seeing an orang-utan! And some of us have also had some great sightings of a sun bear, and gibbons!
A paper looking at the locomotion of the Sabangau orang-utan is now out. Research was carried out by Kirsten Manduell as part of her PhD.
The reference for the paper is: Manduell, K. L, Morrogh-Bernard, H. C & Thorpe, S. K. S (2011). Locomotor Behaviour of Wild Orangutans (Pongo Pygmaeus wormbii) in a Disturbed Peat Swamp Forest, Sabangau, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 145: 348-359.
At the beginning of June the other two interns and I went to Tanjung Puting for a coupe of days as a mini vacation. It was wonderful! After a twelve hour bus journey that arrived at three in the morning, we entered the boat that we would live on and that would take us to the national park!
The boat was amazing! Being able to sleep and have our meals on the deck to watch the wildlife on the side of the river as we rode up it to CampLeakey was thrilling. The shores were loaded with primates! We saw a couple of orangutans, one group of silver langurs, one gibbon, a slow loris, and a ton of Proboscis monkeys! It was also a great time to bird watch, where we did see a couple of hornbills!
At CampLeakey we were able to go to the feeding platforms where we saw tons of orangutans, mostly mothers with babies, up close. Also we walked around the forest there which was very nice, although it did have quite a few leaches. It was much drier than our peat-swamp forest, however, I would not trade our swamp for a dry forest with leaches!
Even though I was chased by a big, male Long-tailed Macaque, I still had a lovely time. It was sad to take the boat back to shore but I was excited to get back into my forest and start following my orangutans again!
Last month saw the first ever Bornean Carnivore Symposium: Road Towards Conservation Action Plans take place in Kota Kinibalu, Malaysia.
Over 100 scientists from around the world gathered to share data and knowledge about the 23 Bornean carnivore species. Data from over 4,000 species records were complied into models to predict the distribution of these rare and elusive species. The startling results were that for all of Indonesian Borneo, more than 75% of the island, we have virtually no data about these species.
This highlights the importance of the OuTrop camera-trapping project and biodiversity work to help learn more about the carnivores to better protect them.
Susan Cheyne presenting data on the otter civet
A plea for more data to help protect these species
The water in the river Sabangau and in the forest has really dropped and disappeared in the last couple of weeks. The water has receded leaving water only in the main river channel and meaning we now can no longer take a boat to the forest edge but must take out lori along the railway to get to camp!
We have had an eventful few weeks moving cameras to new locations in un-studied parts of the forest. We now have 22 cameras in the forest in 11 locations and many in areas where we have no data for the animals which we capture photographs of. This new survey will hopefully bring more information on the species of animals we have in the forest and also on movements of our known animals especially the known clouded leopards. We were also delighted to capture a photo of a mother sun bear and her cub.
My name is Cassie Freund and I’m a Master’s student atColombiaUniversity in New York City, USA. I’m here this summer with my friend Megan Cattau, a PHD student at ColombiaUniversity, to do research in the Mega-Rice project area. Megan has worked with OuTrop before but this is my first time here in central Kalimantan.
Our research is in full swing now, and it´s both fun and challenging. We are gathering data on seed dispersal in the Mega Rice Project area, which is a million hectare span of peat swamp forest, most of which was cleared in the late 1990s to make room for agriculture. The project was unsuccessful, and a lot of the forest has since burned in the recent fires. Megan’s dissertation will focus on the role of seed dispersal in forest regeneration, and w
e are here this summer doing preliminary research. I am also gathering data for my Master’s thesis, which involves surveying a lot of vegetation to try to assess both the composition of the remaining forest and regrowth in the burned area. Every day we set up plots to identify and measure the trees along a transect through the forest. We do the same thing along the transect into the burned area as well. Hopefully these data will help shed some light on the remaining forest in the Mega Rice and we will start to learn about how the forest is regenerating. Megan is also planning to set up a hide in the trees to see what animals are moving into the burned area, which should be really interesting! Well, more later – we are off on the expedition tomorrow!!!
Campaigning by Hannah Trayford, a PhD student from the University of Cambridge, Wildlife Research Group (an affiliate and long-term supporter of OuTrop) has resulted in a donation of fire hoses from the Cambridgeshire Fire Service to help support orang-utan rehabilitation projects in Sumatra. These hoses have been of great benefit to the centre's animals. Read more on the BBC here.