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Forest corridors vital for conservation

10 February 2011

A curious long-tailed macaque caught on camera (courtesy: Andrew Hearn/WildCRU)A curious long-tailed macaque caught on camera (courtesy: Andrew Hearn/WildCRU)

A collaborative project involving researchers from Cardiff University’s Danau Girang Field Centre in Malaysia has shown the importance of forest corridors to the survival of mammals in Borneo.

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The Kinabatangan Carnivore Programme (KCP), launched recently with funding from four American zoos and private donors, uses camera traps to build a picture of Bornean carnivore ecology and develop species distribution and habitat suitability models.

The Programme involves the Danau Girang Field Centre (run by the School of Biosciences and Sabah Wildlife Department) in conjunction with the Sabah Wildllife Department, HUTAN, a non-profit organisation working to conserve orang-utans, and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), part of the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology.

Dr Benoît Goossens, School of Biosciences and Director of the Danau Girang Field Centre, said: "This project is crucial to help wildlife conservationists understand what dispersal opportunities exist for these carnivores and other mammals within the fragmented landscape of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. This will lead to a better understanding of how dispersal corridors might be protected, enhanced and restored."

Rob Colgan and Rodi Tenquist setting up a Reconyx camera trap on a trail in a forest corridor near the Field Centre (courtesy: DGFC)Rob Colgan and Rodi Tenquist setting up a Reconyx camera trap on a trail in a forest corridor near the Field Centre (courtesy: DGFC)

Dr Goossens is joined on the project team by Rob Colgan and Rodi Tenquist, two undergraduates from the School of Biosciences, who are providing field assistance to the project as part of a professional training year at the Field Centre.

The students’ preliminary data has shown that although carnivores are still present in the Kinabatangan floodplain, forest fragmentation and habitat destruction are resulting in declining numbers. The images captured by the camera traps show that many species rely on forest corridors for moving around forest patches.

Dr Goossens said: "Without these corridors, most populations will decline further and go extinct. We are collaborating on this project in the hope that we can help understand the conservation of these diverse carnivores."

Danau Girang Field Centre is a collaborative research and training facility managed by Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department. Funding from Cardiff allowed the establishment of a research laboratory, a computer room, a library, the acquisition of research equipment and the employment of a Director.

It is situated in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, Malaysia and is surrounded by a mixture of lowland dipterocarp forest types, ranging from primary forest to disturbed secondary forest, in a matrix landscape with significant human impact including villages, small scale agriculture and oil palm plantations.

The photograph of the female sambar deer used on the homepage is courtesy of Andrew Hearn/WildCRU.

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