Thursday, 25 August 2011

Study of Sg Ingei wildlife in videos

(Top) One of about 60 camera traps placed along suspected animal game trails and feeding grounds along the "furthest" of four trails scientists are using to study wildlife in Sg Ingei during a VIP visit of the UBD-led faunal biodiversity survey to Sg Ingei from March 25-27, 2011. (Above) Wildlife photographer and videographer, Hogg (R) in discussion at the Sg Ingei basecamp with members of the WWF Heart of Brunei project. Picture: BT file

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SEVERAL videos of the on-going study of wildlife in the remote forests of Sungai Ingei are anticipated to be produced by a professional photographer-cum-videographer whom the Universiti Brunei Darussalam-led scientific team invited to join the two-year expedition.

With about 40 years' experience documenting wildlife in the likes of Malaysia and Australia, Stephen Hogg of Kuala Lumpur-based Wildtrack Photography said that he has already managed to capture a number of animals that was "new to him".

The wildlife enthusiast told The Brunei Times that he has found at least two new tarantula spiders and "a variety of different bugs that I have never seen in my life before".

"The forests seems to be extremely rich," he said, adding that the loudness of the forests were an indication of its richness. "It's pretty blaring."

Speaking during an interview at the Sungai Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey basecamp, located some seven hours upriver from Bukit Sawat jetty, Hogg said that the diversity of the protected forests was evident also in the range of bird sounds heard there.

"Birds very rarely sing. Here you hear the song(s) of many different species," he said.

A freelance photographer who has been taking wildlife shots since his teenage years and has worked with the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) in the UK, Hogg has already produced at least one video for the expedition.

The video was shown to the VIP guests, which included the minister of Industry and Primary Resources, the British High Commissioner to Brunei and World Wildlife Fund for Nature officials, during a weekend excursion to Ingei last month.

The videos created by Hogg, who stayed with the scientists in Ingei from July 2-23 and also took part during the survey's first phase last year, were also planned to be used for future public education programmes.

"Our ideas are: we want to produce a general video, and short videos on specific techniques (to study fauna) hoped to be distributed and used in schools," Project Leader Dr Joseph Charles of UBD was quoted in a previous report.

Hogg was also supplying and assisting the scientific team in the use of camera traps, one of the technological tools they are using to remotely document the wildlife in Ingei.

The scientists has set up about 60 camera traps, which each have a "standard" compact camera fitted inside a Pelican case and was triggered by an electronic circuit board that emits a passive infra-red beam, in areas within the forest where animals were believed to frequent.

"It's a very sensitive beam, it can detect heat and motion at night beyond 20-25 metres. It's a long way down the (animal) trail."

"Anything that moves that's a mammal or a bird that's warm-blooded, crosses the path where the beam is pointing, although they can't see the beam, and that will trigger the camera to power up and take the picture," he explained.

Hogg has facilitated a number of "intensive training exercises" to advise the scientists on things to look out for when setting up the camera traps such as positioning the camouflage-painted devices to avoid glare from the sun, "reading" the wildlife trails and recognising certain fast-growing vegetation which can block the cameras as they were left there for several months at a time.

"Something it seems that they've never done (is) taking a look at the results that they get from the camera traps from the first time setting, and re-evaluating those results, and then changing positions of cameras," he said.

"For example, when they set the cameras, they are not taking into consideration where sun rise and sun set is."

However, despite the amateur attempts, Hogg said there were "some really awesome pictures" taken by the team.

The study, which concludes in 2012, is hoped to provide evidence for authorities to convert the 18,000-hectare Sg Ingei Protection Forests into a wildlife sanctuary.

The Brunei Times

New frog species expected at Sg Ingei

A Harlequin tree frog caught by UBD postgraduate student volunteer Hanyrol Hanyzan Ahmadsah (pictured) during the second phase of the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey. Picture: BT File

Saturday, August 20, 2011

ANY new finds of unrecorded species of frogs made during the on-going wildlife study of Sungai IngeiProtection Forest will be included into the national inventory of amphibians, members of the scientific team said yesterday.

Speaking over the phone while on a research trip in Labi yesterday, tropical ecologist Dr Ulmar Grafe said that although they have yet to make any "unusual" frog discoveries within the first leg of the two-yearSg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey, they anticipated such finds could be made in this final year of the study.

"The place is a mosaic of different kinds of habitats. As we go in more and more, maybe we will find more unusual species that we haven't got so far," Grafe said. "There might be several new species but we don't have any firm evidence for that yet."

The Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) lecturer said that the findings will be included into the national checklist of amphibians, which he said currently stands at some 83 species, about half of all amphibians found on Borneo.

"(From) all the species found on the third largest island in the a small section just in Brunei, (we can find) maybe half of the species that we find in the (whole) island. That's significant (and) puts Brunei on the map, with respect to amphibians."

The majority of the species were documented in Belalong of Temburong District and in Teraja, also inBelait, said a UBD Masters student volunteer who has been assisting Grafe with the research on amphibians in Ingei.

Hanyrol Hanyzan Ahmadsah, a Masters in Biology by Research student, said that a "limited" number of species could be found in Ingei when compared to Belalong due to the former area's terrain. She said, in a separate interview yesterday, that Belalong had a hilly, steep terrain giving rise to a greater diversity of amphibian species whereas Ingei was flatter.

Nonetheless, she said Ingei could still yield a different set of species than that found elsewhere in Brunei, further backing the scientists' efforts to come up with enough scientific evidence to turn the 18,000-hectare protected forests of Sg Ingei into a wildlife sanctuary.

When asked if the frog team has made any interesting finds so far, Hanyrol said, "for me, everything is interesting".

She shared that she would search for frogs at night, assisted by two staff from the Museums Department, at a pond "the size of a house" located nearby the UBD-led project's basecamp, some seven hours upriver of the nearest village of Kg Melilas.

"Every night we go there, we find different species around the pond," she said.

Frogs are taken back to the camp as samples, where they are identified and kept to be later preserved in alcohol and added to the Ingei collection of amphibian samples.

"Sometimes species identification is not clear just by the morphology and genetics. Samples have to be taken and DNA has to be analysed (to confirm) the species," Grafe said.

The collection would help to signify Ingei's value as an area rich in biodiversity and will be "our contribution to the cause" of persuading authorities to further protect Ingei as a haven for wildlife.

The Standard Chartered Bank-funded Heart of Borneo project was carried out in stages, where the scientists camp out and do their study in Ingei for weeks at a time. The scientists are currently away from the project, but camera traps were left on suspected animal trails.The Brunei Times

Thursday, 4 August 2011

WWF official lauds Sg Ingei survey

WWF Heart of Borneo Network Initiative Leader Adam Tomasek participating in a jungle trek near the Topi Camp along the Sungai Topi during the second phase of the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey. Picture: BT/Ubaidillah Masli

(Top) A Bornean leaf-nosed bat caught by Dr David Lane of UBD during the second phase of the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey. (Above) A Harlequin Flying Frog caught by UBD postgraduate student volunteer Hanyrol HanyzanAhmadsah during the second phase of the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey. Pictures: BT/Ubaidillah Masli

Thursday, August 4, 2011

WORLD Wildlife Fund for Nature's (WWF) top official to the tri-nation Heart of Borneo (HoB) conservation pact has lauded the ongoing scientific project to document animals living in the remote, untouched forests of Sungai Ingei in Belait district.

"What I think is quite unique about this, is that this is a project that is set up specifically to better understand the biodiversity in a protection forest, and use that information and the science behind it to ideally improve both the understanding of why this is such a special area but also inform the type of management decisions that could be made in the future," said Adam Tomasek.

WWF's HoB initiative leader was among the "VIPs" invited to tag along for a weekend trip to Sg Ingei starting July 8, to observe an expert team led by Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) biologists for the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey.

The study, which also involved specialists from around the region, has been looking at a host of animals, from large cats to exotic birds and some yet-to-be-confirmed species, found living in the 18,000 hectares of protected forest.

Speaking to The Brunei Times during the visit, Tomasek said he had been comparing the wildlife study to "what is or isn't going in parts of Indonesia and Malaysia (HoB member countries), under the same Heart of Borneo types of programmes".

"I think it is a great example of setting up a research project, not just for research in itself, but to look at how you can apply the findings of that research to improve government policy, local community awareness, national awareness, and in other ways, use it to inform the other two countries of Indonesia and Malaysia the type of work the government of Brunei is supporting under the Heart of Borneo."

Tomasek said bridging the communication gaps between the scientists and the policymakers was an aspect that was incorporated in the design phase of the wildlife study, while also noting that "outreach" with government officials was carried out from the project's outset.

Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj YahyaBegawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar has been the most senior official to have joined the arduous expedition, which is supported by basic temporary facilities such as a makeshift basecamp made of local wood and toilets dug into the ground. Including the recent excursion, the minister has observed and participated in the faunal survey at least three times.

"By having Pehin Yahya join the trip, they're (the scientists are) specifically looking at trying to bridge that gap between field research and what it could mean to policy- or decision-making," Tomasek said.

"Bringing the two together helps both sides better understand each other's point of view."

The WWF leader, who is based in Jakarta, also saw British High Commissioner to Brunei Rob Fenn'sparticipation in the recent visit as well as Singaporean High Commissioner Joseph Koh's participation in another visit to Ingei in March 2011 as a form of international recognition of the HoB work being carried out in Brunei.

"When I compare this to Indonesia, it's extremely difficult to get ambassadors to go out to these far off project sites, let alone have them sit on a boat like we did for seven hours upriver. One, it shows a level of commitment and interest," he said.

"But I think it also shows the significance of projects like this means something to the country as a whole and that there is a high level of recognition that the variety of work that's falling under the umbrella of the HoB in Brunei is very well known and recognised by high commissioners from different countries."

Tomasek said such foreign interest could lead to greater regional cooperation, suggesting possible tie-ups between foreign missions assigned here and their sister offices in Indonesia.

"Trying to make those linkages and be able to have the discussions in the different countries, sort of connect the dots, between the different countries is important for the region itself.

"Whether or not that leads to greater or more direct contributions to this kind of work from those countries, that's always a matter of bilateral assistance, priorities and things like that," he said.

"Often times, what you need is a really solid grounding, something that is globally significant but is also something very relevant in a place. I think that these kinds of projects provide that."

The Brunei Times