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Over-logged land impacts wildlife

16th April, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: The Bornean banteng (wild buffalo) is the most endangered large mammal in Sabah, highly threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation, and heavy poaching.

A recent study published last Friday by a team of scientists and conservationists used camera traps to study the behaviour and habitat use of banteng in three secondary forests in Sabah that have been logged.

The study was supported by Houston Zoo, Malaysian Palm Oil Council, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Woodland Park Zoo, Yayasan Sime Darby, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Zoo Leipzig, and now defunct SOS Rhino.

Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Cardiff University, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz IZW) conducted the study.

“We monitored locations created by timber harvesting (e.g. abandoned roads) and dense forest in reserves that were logged six, 17 and 23 years ago,” explained Dr. Penny Gardner, lead author and Programme Manager of banteng research at DGFC. “Over 500 captures of bantengs and temperature data were collected. We found that recently-logged forests were hotter (up to 44°C) for longer than a forest that had regenerated for more years. High temperatures can suppress plant growth, slow forest regeneration, and increase the risk of forest fires.”

“Logging and high temperatures are also affecting the bantengs; limiting their activity and influencing how they use the habitat,

“Bantengs reduce activity and avoid degraded areas during hot hours in the recently-logged forest, possibly to avoid thermal stress which can be fatal. However, bantengs continued to be active throughout the day in the forest with more re-growth because it offered more shade and refuge, but also because internal forage was probably limited.”

The study also found that bantengs in a mature forest were thinner. If forage is limited they may be drawn to forest boundaries that have more grass but also have a higher risk of mortality because they are encroached by hunters, said Dr. Benoit Goossens, Director of DGFC and Reader at Cardiff University.

“Steps taken to reduce stress upon bantengs could include limiting disturbance during key times of activity and maintaining blocks of mature forest. These types of recommendations will be outlined in the Banteng Action Plan, which is currently being drafted,” added Goossens.

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