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 Local

Proboscis Monkey Action Plan for Sabah

23rd February, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: International and local scientists, governmental agencies as well as industry players are aiming to draft a policy for the conservation of the proboscis monkey in Sabah during the Proboscis Monkey Workshop here from February 23 to 25.

The workshop, organised by Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), will see several experts propose recommendations to protect the proboscis monkey based on findings from a five-year extensive research on the endangered species conducted by DGFC and SWD.

A Proboscis Monkey Action Plan for Sabah will then be drafted based on the proposed recommendations gleaned from the workshop.

DGFC director, Dr Benoit Goossens said he hoped the action plan would be adopted by the state government for implementation so as to save the species endemic to Borneo, which is threatened by habitat loss and forest fragmentation in Sabah.

“For the past five years, SWD and DGFC have been collecting crucial information on proboscis monkey population in Sabah including demography, behavior, genetics, and health.”

“We carried out surveys along rivers, including the Kinabatangan, Segama, Klias, Sugut rivers to name a few, and collected blood samples from many individuals for genetic analysis.”

“Information on genetic isolation, lack of gene flow between population, risks of inbreeding and extinction will be discussed during this workshop,” he said in a statement here, yesterday.

Dr Goossens also said the workshop would see input from all relevant stakeholders namely government department officers; representatives from NGOs, tourism and palm oil industry; local communities; scientists and experts to formulate pragmatic solutions for the conservation of the proboscis monkey.

Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) has been supporting the DGFC since April 2011 with a total commitment of RM3.96 million over a period of six years.

The DGFC’s research on proboscis monkey is one of three crucial research projects being conducted by the research organisation on endangered, endemic species to Borneo found in the Kinabatangan area.

The DGFC’s two other vital research projects are on the Sunda clouded leopard and Bornean banteng. YSD governing council member, Caroline Christine Russell said the foundation was proud to sponsor important research projects on the three endemic species of Borneo – the proboscis monkey, Sunda clouded leopard and Bornean banteng – with the ultimate aim of developing actions plans for their conservation.

“DGFC under the SWD is our dedicated partner in achieving these objectives. The conference and workshop involving subject matter experts from all over the world is an important milestone achieved in our first project with DGFC, to save the proboscis monkeys,” she said.

Caroline also said DGFC’s research on the population of proboscis monkey in Sabah was important for the survival of the endangered endemic species, in view of large developments occurring in high conservation value areas such as the lower Kinabatangan area.

“An example would be the newly proposed Sukau bridge, which threatens to further fragment forest areas, increasing pressure on a species already under threat by human activities.”

“We hope that the state government will incorporate the recommendations proposed by scientists, experts and industry players who refer to scientific findings from our research, for action plan implementation to ensure that precious proboscis monkeys continue to exist in the forests of Sabah,” she added.

YSD’s funding is not only aiding the DGFC in its research on the demographics and ecology of the three species, but also helping to increase local capacity in conservation biology and wildlife management.

The foundation sponsored the PhD education of SWD assistant director, Dr Senthilvel Nathan and Master by Research of five local students.

“Thanks to the support of YSD and the DGFC, I have been able to enrol in a PhD at Cardiff University,” said Dr Senthilvel.

He said his work was instrumental in providing crucial recommendations to state wildlife and forestry authorities for better management of this flagship species, and especially in terms of mangrove protection – the prime habitat for the proboscis monkey.

DGFC PhD student Danica Stark said YSD’s support has aided DGFC’s research on the proboscis monkey as it enabled the collaring of several proboscis monkeys along the Kinabatangan River, Tempasuk River (Kota Belud) and Segama River.

“The information collected from the GPS collars allowed us to estimate the home ranges of proboscis individuals and provide vital information on their movements in degraded and fragmented habitat,” she said.

“We could also determine the carrying capacity of the available habitat in order to find out whether proboscis population in Sabah has enough space to survive,” Danica said.

Under its environment pillar, to date, YSD has committed RM130 million towards the protection of high conservation value ecosystems, vulnerable and endangered species as well as initiatives promoting the preservation of the environment and biodiversity.

   
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