Sime Darby Foundation to assist conservation of bantengs in Sabah
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah -- (ReleaseWire) -- 12/18/2012 --The Sime Darby Foundation announced new support for the conservation of the banteng, a species of wild cattle, in the Malaysian state of Sabah. The new funding of USD$350,000.00 will go towards a project that is being carried out by several stakeholders including Cardiff University of the United Kingdom, the Sabah Forestry Department and Sabah Foundation.
The funding from the Sime Darby Foundation is a long term commitment to its “Big9 conservation programme,” which is to protect and conserve nine endangered animals, most of which are indigenous to Malaysia. These are the sun bear, orangutan, Asian elephant, Sunda clouded leopard, hornbill, banteng, proboscis monkey, Sumatran rhinoceros and Malayan tiger.
Bantengs were once widely distributed across South East Asia but in the last 20 years, its population in the wild has plummeted by an alarming 80% across its entire range. The number of banteng remaining in the wild across its range countries is estimated to be 3000-5000 individuals today.
The species Bos javanicus lowi is found only on the island of Borneo and will be the subject of this study. Small populations of Bos javanicus birmanicus still exist in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in increasingly fragmented habitats but has been declared extirpated in its former range countries of India, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, and Peninsular Malaysia.
"The banteng project aims to increase the knowledge and awareness of this extremely endangered species of wild cattle in Sabah," explained Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department.
"It will be a three-year project during which we will try to locate the remaining populations of banteng across Sabah and assess their conservation status and longevity in their current locations," said Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of the Danau Girang Field Centre and leader of the project. "To achieve our objective, we will use the only record of banteng distribution available in the literature, an unpublished report entitled "A Faunal survey of Sabah" that was compiled by WWF in 1982, which includes a distribution map of banteng in Sabah and estimated population sizes," added Goossens.
"Recognition of remnant banteng populations is critical to identify the extent of their decline in Sabah which has probably occurred over the past 30 years as a result of deforestation, land conversion and human population expansion. It is also crucial for identifying connectivity issues compromising the genetic integrity of the species," explained Goossens adding that camera trap grids would be set up on in those areas to capture banteng photographs and estimate habitat occupancy.
"Education and capacity building have always been a priority for the Sime Darby Foundation, and as such, the project will also include training of one Malaysian master student and two local field research assistants," explained Goossens.
"At the end of the project we will organise an international workshop on the conservation status of banteng in Sabah to highlight the current status of the species, and discuss mitigation possibilities and launch an action plan for banteng in Sabah," concluded Ambu.
The foundation’s long term commitment is estimated at USD$40 million with close to $26 million already committed towards the program.