1. The Kenyir Wildlife Corridor Project
Lead Researcher: Reuben
Collaborators: Distinguished Professor William Laurance, Dr. Susan Laurance and Dr. Miriam Goosem
Government partners: Economic Planning Unit, Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Terengganu State Forestry Department and Public Works Department
Project description: Several highway viaducts termed as ‘eco-viaducts’ have been built by Malaysian road authorities along highways with the intention of helping mammals to cross highways safely.
Several studies that have quantified the effectiveness of highway viaducts as wildlife crossing structures have only been conducted in temperate countries such as Canada – none have been conducted in the tropics so far. As such, we do not know whether underpasses in tropical countries such as Malaysia can help reduce mortality, nor have any telemetry studies been conducted locally to characterise animal movement patterns through these viaducts.
Unfortunately, roads and viaducts can also provide encroachers greater access to adjoining forests. The East-West highway in Perak is currently the subject of increased anti-poaching effort due to numerous access points found along the highway. In fact, a possible hunting camp was found beneath one of the eco-viaducts.
This project will evaluate the effects of highway viaducts on large mammal movement in Peninsular Malaysia. The hypothesis is that highway viaducts are utilised by all large mammals in the landscape and landscape factors influence their effectiveness more than structural factors. The focal taxa will include six large mammal species: Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni; Fig. 4), Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), Asian Tapir (Tapirus indicus), Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjak), Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor) and Wild Pig (Sus scrofa).
The project will have strong field ecological and applied conservation policy components, with the latter contributing to Outcome 4 of the National Tiger Action Plan for Malaysia and the Central Forest Spine (CFS) Master Plan for Ecological Linkages. Fieldwork will be conducted within priority areas for tiger conservation in Peninsular Malaysia, as well as the primary ecological linkages identified in the CFS Master Plan. Suggested improvements will also be proposed to build more effective wildlife crossings if current highway viaducts are ineffective.
If you wish to support the Kenyir Wildlife Corridor Project, you can download a proposal here to see how you can help.
Lead Researcher: Ahimsa
Project description: The ‘Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants‘ — or MEME — is a research program that aims to (1) assess the effectiveness of current elephant management policies in Peninsular Malaysia, (2) develop a practical long-term management strategy based on scientifically sound knowledge of elephant behavior and ecology, and (3) build local capacity to produce a new generation of wildlife researchers and managers of high scientific caliber.
Lead Researcher: Sheema
Collaborator: Dr. Sara Bumrungsri
Project description: This preliminary project is still in its infancy pending further funding. It aims to investigate whether declines or extinctions of Malaysian fruit bats have any consequences for ecosystems and economies. We know that fruit bats such as flying foxes provide important ecosystem services through pollination and seed dispersal. However, not enough research has been conducted on this aspect, and we need to start identifying and quantifying their specific benefits to humans. We also need to start investigating claims that flying foxes and other fruit bats cause economic losses by feeding on fruit in orchards. This is particularly urgent as flying foxes are under severe threat in this country due to hunting (for food and medicine) and extermination (as pests, especially in agriculture), and still do not have total legal protection. See here for further information on these issues and how Rimba has been involved.
We are conducting some preliminary field surveys to assess the situation in Tioman Island for the Island Flying Fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) and in Terengganu for the Large Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus). Hopefully this will allow us to collect further information to be developed into a larger PhD project, which we hope to secure funding to carry out. If you would like to help or fund this project, please contact Sheema (sheema AT myrimba DOT org) for a copy of her preliminary PhD proposal.
Lead Researcher: Liew
Project description: We have set up a ‘Lifedesk’ on Malyasian terrestrial molluscs under the Encyclopedia of Life Program. This online database contains information on Malaysian terrestrial molluscs from literature and reference collections. In the end, we hope to complete a corpus of literature for each land snail species from Malaysia for public access on the internet. This endeavour will allow scientists and the public to better understand molluscan systematics through the development of identification resources and tools to manage molllusc classifications and synonymies.
In addition to the assembling of photographs and literature database, general species descriptions, ecological information and taxonomic status will be provided for each species. We welcome suggestions, participation and any information that will enrich this database.
Lead Researcher: Giam
Project description: Peat swamp forests are one of the most unique, but at the same time, one of the most critically imperiled ecosystems on Earth. Despite being rich in fish species — many of which are strict endemics found nowhere else — Southeast Asian peat swamp forests are being lost at unprecedented rates. While previous studies have surveyed the fish communities in the peat swamps of Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak, the ecology of peat swamp fishes with respect to their spatial/temporal species richness patterns, community structure, and response to habitat degradation remains unknown.
In this project, we hope to fill these knowledge gaps by studying fish communities across different land use types across flooded rivers of peat swamp forest (commonly known as blackwaters) in Sarawak and Sumatra. First, we examine the environmental factors that structure fish communities in intact peat swamp forests in both dry and wet seasons. Second, we will examine if species richness and community composition change across blackwaters in different stages of the peat swamp forest. Third, we will evaluate the impacts of logging and oil palm plantation conversion on peat swamp fish communities. Finally, we explore options such as buffers to mitigate any negative impacts of land use on those fish communities.
Our study represents the first attempt to understand the impacts of land use change on the unique fish biodiversity of peat swamp forests and elucidate how fish communities are structured across different stages of a peat swamp forest. Our work on mitigating the impact of oil palm agriculture will also help to inform policy aimed towards preserving biodiversity while fulfilling concomitant human development goals. As peat swamp forests are underexplored, it is likely that new fish species will be found in our project especially given recent discoveries of the world’s smallest fishes in the peat swamps of Sarawak and Sumatra. By advancing the hitherto limited ecological and conservation knowledge of peat swamp forests, we hope our study will contribute toward the continued preservation of this highly imperiled habitat and its unique fishes.