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In search of the Bornean Banteng

14 June 2011

Banteng 1 WEBA female banteng and two adolescents photographed in the Malua Forest Reserve by camera trap

A new collaborative project involving researchers from the University’s Field Centre in Malaysia is aiming to protect the Bornean banteng, potentially the first large mammal to go extinct in a near future.

The Bornean Banteng Programme has been launched to aid understanding and conservation of the banteng, a relatively unknown species of wild cattle.

Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), said: "Years of poaching and recent forest conversion to vast areas of oil palm plantations have induced a drastic decline of banteng numbers in Borneo. If nothing is done to reverse the situation, this species could be the first large mammal to go extinct in a near future.

Banteng 2 WEBA female and male banteng photographed in the Malua Forest Reserve by camera trap

"Ecological information is crucial to the conservation of the banteng, however its elusive behaviour, remote inhospitable habitat and small population size preclude investigation."

To overcome these problems, researchers will use satellite telemetry, remote camera traps and genetic analysis to study the banteng population in two forest reserves. The project aims to increase knowledge of the mammals by identifying their home ranges and habitat use, as well as estimating their genetic diversity.

Penny Gardner, PhD student at the School of Biosciences and funded by Houston Zoo, is working on the project, carrying out her research in the 122,000 hectares of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Penny said: "We’ve been setting up camera traps here at Tabin and also at Malua Forest Reserve, and have already managed to collect some wonderful pictures of healthy adult males and females, as well as juveniles."

banteng 3 WEBPenny Gardner (second from left), with Rodi Tenquist, volunteer at DGFC, and two field assistants next to one of the camera traps

DGFC’s collaborative partners will include the Sabah Wildlife Department, HUTAN, the Sabah Forestry Department, New Forests Asia, the Malua Biobank Project and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research. Additional funding is provided by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and Woodland Park Zoo.

Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, said: "The results of this programme will assist our department to develop a State Action Plan for banteng, and will hopefully increase awareness and appreciation of the wonderful wildlife that Sabah is blessed with and that we should protect against poaching, habitat degradation and habitat loss."

Danau Girang Field Centre is a collaborative research and training facility managed by Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department.

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