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Partnership protects Borneo’s endangered species

13 July 2020


A conservation project which preserves some of Borneo’s most endangered species by working closely with government to protect rainforest habitat has been recognised for innovation.

For over a decade, Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department have joined forces to identify and preserve species and habitatsin the highly fragmented and oil-palm dominated landscapes of the Kinabatangan floodplain - the largest wetland in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

The project began as field survey and ecological work on endangered animals - including the Bornean banteng, the Bornean elephant, the proboscis monkey and the Sunda clouded leopard -  leading to ten-year State Action Plans and acclaimed rainforest protection policies.

Led by Professor Benoît GoossensSchool of Biosciences, the partnership centres on the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah, where Professor Goossens is now Director.

“We have been closely involved with the development of 10-year State Action Plans, with the aim to secure the continued existence of viable populations of the Sunda clouded leopard, Bornean elephant, proboscis monkey and Bornean banteng – all of which are threatened by a combination of habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and road development.”

“Initial species population surveys led to international workshops and conferences, which in turn led to direct work with government on rainforest conservation, most notably Regrow Borneo - the UK’s first carbon balancing project – in October 2019.”

“Back in 2014, the growing influence of the partnership allowed us to plant 20,000 trees in collaboration with local NGO KOPEL, generating ten local jobs,” added Professor Goossens.

This year, a collaboration with Cardiff University’s Sustainable Places Research InstituteRegrow Borneo has already raised nearly £20,000 for tree planting in the Lower Kinabatangan which will balance carbon created from air travel, improve biodiversity and support conservation of local ecologies as well as sustaining local livelihoods and culture.

Mr Augustine Tuuga, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, said: “No other state within Malaysia has launched such high profile, delivery-based initiatives to protect some of the world’s most endangered species. The action plans that have been able to flourish thanks to this partnership provide guidance and a structure for the management of wildlife in Sabah, including an elite team of enforcers on the ground - a pioneering method to protect vulnerable animals from poaching.”

Danau Girang Field Centre has welcomed 55 students from 30 international universities, hosted over 82 field courses, secured £3.5m in grant funding, produced 16 PhD studentships and generated over 120 academic publications.

The project is one of six partnerships recognised for innovation impact by Cardiff University in 2020 – and is being showcased as part of Cardiff’s growing work on innovation nationally and internationally.

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