Monday, 30 April 2012

Visitors hamper Sungai Ingei survey

Sg Ingei is pristine and largely untouched by man that any excessive human interaction with the virgin forests could spoil the environment and wildlife habitat.Picture: BT/Rasidah HAB
Monday, April 30, 2012
VISITORS keen to see Brunei's rich biodiversity have been urged to steer clear of Sungai Ingei after experts cited the negative impact on the study currently being conducted.

Recently two camera traps were stolen from the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey field site together with months worth of data, the survey leader, Dr Joseph Charles disclosed to The Brunei Times

Dr Charles explained during a field visit to the Sg Ingei base camp from April 13 to 15, that the camera traps were placed at several places in Sg Ingei aimed at gathering data of faunal biodiversity. So far, around 15,000 pictures had been collected.

Project Administrator of the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey, Dr Ang Bee Biaw said, "the most important message to Bruneians us that we want to say is if they can please avoid Sg Ingei (for six moths to one year) because of the effect they have on the team's survey project".

We have reports that local tourist approaching our boatmen to go to Sg Ingei. Of Course, they (the boatmen) need the additional income and they will take the tourists to Sg Ingei, she said.

"Unfortunately they also throw rubbish and that inevitably affect whatever survey that we do here. Sg Ingei has been here for centuries. They can avoid Sg Ingei for six months to a year and they can always visit Sg Ingei after our expedition," she said.

Dr Charles raised his suspicion that many people who come and take a boat to Sg Ingei are actually (reccing) the place for poaching.

"Not everybody comes (to Sg Ingei) to enjoy. They recce the place, walking through the forests and familiarise themselves with the place. Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR) has stopped ecotourism entering Sg Ingei for two years, but people are still sneaking in," he added.

"It (Sg Ingei) is a good forest, but we have good forest in other parts of Brunei too. You cannot see wildlife, tropical wildlife is very difficult to be seen," he said.

Dr Ang added that the tourists wanted to use the facilities in the base camp for their trip.

"Our boatmen told us that the tourists want to use our facilities. But one of the boatman said they cannot, as this is a government property. If anything is damage, they would have to be responsible," she said.

Dr Charles shared her sentiments.

"There are many other places to go to, Ulu Temburong National Park (for example) is open for ecotourism, and it is good to place to enjoy. We want Sg Ingei to be a wildlife sanctuary for Brunei. People have to be proud of this national heritage," he said.

Scientists working under the survey are vying to convince the Brunei government to convert the 18,000 hectares of protected forests of remote Sg Ingei into a wildlife sanctuary, with the establishment of a buffer area that can be zoned for ecotourism and other activities.

"There are areas that we have to zone for ecotourism. One of the zones will be Kg Melilas where you can have ecotourism and lots of activities over there. There are other places which we can identify for ecotourism, but there will still be places inside the extension zone that you cannot allow ecotourism," Dr Charles said. He added, "If we find endangered species in a certain area, we will say don't come and disturb that place. Ecotourism if not properly handled can be very disruptive. There are so many case studies in the world where ecotourism has literally removed a species".

Dr Ang added, "Most of us are volunteers, the paramedic will always come, they don't mind working together as a team. "There are not many places in Brunei that are still pristine, and Sg Ingei is last threshold of that." She stressed that Brunei should maintain and preserve its wildlife and not exploit it. "What if 20 years from now we only have Sg Ingei, at least we still have Sg Ingei that we can be proud of," she said.The Brunei Times

Sanctuary will aid survival of Brunei's diverse bat species

A bat being inspected at the Sg Ingei base camp. Picture: BT/Rasidah HAB
Monday, April 30, 2012
ENSURING Sungai Ingei's forest remains pristine will aid the survival of its bat species.

Associate Professor David JW Lane, a lecturer in the Faculty of Science (Biology) at the Universiti of Brunei Darussalam (UBD), said this following a recent trip into the depths of the 18,000-hectares of Sg Ingei in the interior of Belait District.

The rich diversity of bats found in Sungai (Sg) Ingei is a good indicator of the quality of the pristine forest, where approximately 26 bat species have been found.

Lane was with a team of scientists conducting a two-year faunal diversity study on Sg Ingei's jungle led by UBD in hopes to push the protected forest into a wildlife sanctuary, when they discovered Sg Ingei's rich diversity of bats.

Using his research on bats as an indicator to determine the quality of the forest, David said other indicators may be used as well, such as bird and small mammals.

Although Sg Ingei does not have as many bat species found in Temburong forest, Lane said the species found in Sg Ingei as "much richer than some of the coastal forest areas in Brunei, particularly the horse-shoe bats".

In fact, Sg Ingei is now home to the Rhinolophus Philippinensis bat when Lane discovered it during his first expedition to Sg Ingei in 2010.

The species was a new record for Sg Ingei and the only example found so far in Brunei.

According to Lane, his research on bats helps to show a connectivity between parts of the Heart of Borneo (HoB) forests in different countries when bats fly between the forests.

"It shows a link with the other parts of Heart of Borneo because they are a connected forest, it is contiguous. Meaning the forests are touching and joining up," he said.

He explained that bats adapted and revolutionary designed to fly and search for food in enclosed dense foliage.

"They cannot survive in degraded or heavily logged forest because they cannot survive in open space," he said.

He added that Sg Ingei forests are in "very good condition so the habitat is very good."

As such, Lane remarked it is important for Sg Ingei to be a wildlife sanctuary because ensuring the forest remains pristine secures the survival of the bats.

When asked on his thoughts on the study which is nearing its end later this year, Lane felt there is more to be done.

"I think there is scope to do more because we only really look at certain key groups. There are plenty still, particularly insects like butterfly and spiders," he said.

Lane hopes to achieve further testimonial on the pattern of the richness, uniqueness and quality of the environment of Sg Ingei from his findings.The Brunei Times

A talk on Sungai Ingei Faunal Expedition for PBioBD

PBioBD Holds General Meeting

Bandar Seri Begawan - The Brunei Darussalam Biology Association (PBioBD) held its general meeting to share with its members the association's activities and financial report, as well as to vote for the new council members for the term July 2012-June 2015.
The general meeting was then followed with a public lecture on 'Sungai Ingei Faunal Expedition' presented by UBD researcher Dr Ang Bee Biaw, who is also the coordinator for the Biodiversity Conservation Programme (BIOCOP) under the Brunei Nature Society and project administrator for the Brunei Heart of Borneo Sungai Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Expedition.
Among those in attendance were PBioBD's President, Associate Professor Dr Zohrah Hj Sulaiman, its council members and ordinary members, as well as members of the public.
According to Dr Ang, the Sungai Ingei Protected Forest, located in the Belait District, is the hotspot for fauna and flora biodiversity. She shared with the participants amazing pictures and videos on the journey in setting up the base camp with the help of local people from Kg Sukang and Kg Melilas.
The base camp enabled her and her fellow researchers, both locally and internationally renowned scientists, to stay in the Sungai Ingei Protected Forest and conduct research on the fauna and flora found there, she added.
Dr Ang also shared with the participants some beautiful pictures of some of the fauna found in Sungei Ingei Protected Forest, which include bats, mammals, fishes, spiders and many more, some of which were even newly discovered species.
Before she ended her lecture, Dr Ang also thanked the relevant government agencies especially the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources and UBD, as well as non-government agencies, for their continuous support.
Dr Ang expressed hope that, given the great number of fauna and flora biodiversity found in the protected forest, it will one day be upgraded to become a wildlife sanctuary
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Wait continues for Sg Ingei sanctuary

The Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, YB Pehin Dato Hj Yahya (2nd L) speaking to Singapore High Commissioner to Brunei HE Joseph Koh (L), as the survey leader of the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey, Dr Joseph Charles (2nd R) and Stephen Hogg (R), a professional photographer-cum-videographer look on. The minister was on his fifth visit to Sg Ingei base camp from April 13 to 15. Picture: BT/Rasidah HAB
(Top) One of the frog species that can be found at Sg Ingei. (Above) A decomposing carcass of a crocodile was sighted on a riverbank, on the boat ride back to BukitSawat Jetty from Sg Ingeibase camp. The Brunei Times was invited to cover the progress of the Sungai IngeiFaunal Biodiversity Survey from April 13 to 15.  Pictures: BT/Rasidah HAB
Thursday, April 19, 2012
TURNING the Sg Ingei conservation forest in the interiors of Belait into a sanctuary is still under consideration as the government has identified some issues that needs to be resolved before proceeding with the idea.

"The idea of a sanctuary is a good one in ensuring that Sg Ingei's flora and faunal will be protected," said Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri SetiaHj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar.

Scientists working under the survey are vying to convince the Brunei government to convert the 18,000 hectares of protected forests of remote Sg Ingei into a wildlife sanctuary, with the establishment of a buffer area that can be zoned for ecotourism and other activities. This is so that protection can be focused in the core area, where the team are currently working.

The minister was one of the VIPs invited to Sg Ingei from April 13 to 15, on the invitation of the survey team together with The Brunei Times.

The trip also saw the participation of WWF special adviser to the Heart of Borneo Dato' Dr Mikaail Kavanagh, British High Commissioner to Brunei His Excellency Rob Fenn, Singapore High Commissioner to Brunei His Excellency Joseph Koh and spouse who were no strangers to the trip, as well as Australian High Commissioner to Brunei His Excellency MarkSawers.

When asked about the status of wildlife management and wildlife enforcement in the country, YB PehinDato Hj Yahya said a multi-pronged approach taken by the ministry and government showed that they were serious on preserving and conserving the environment.

The management of wildlife in the country has recently been transferred to the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR). His Majesty has also consented to the transfer of wildlife matters to the ministry, and with that MIPR is working on establishing Wildlife Authority to protect both faunal and flora and the environment as a whole.

There is no timeline set yet for its establishment, but the work was in progress, YB Pehin Dato Hj Yahyasaid.

"We wanted to do this as soon as possible. There is a lot of administration work to be done, the legal matter (that has to be amended), financing as well as manpower (that needs to be look into)," he added.

One of the multi-pronged approaches that the minister talked about in the interview was establishing honourary or voluntary forest rangers (for Sg Ingei).

Sg Ingei Survey a community project

YB Pehin Yahya elaborated that the honourary rangers, once put in place, will comprise locals from Kg Melilas and Kg Sukang. However, a change in regulation or law (from the ministry) is needed to enable the honourary rangers to perform their duties and responsibilities.

"We are working with the locals (from Kg Melilas and Kg Sukang) to gather information, to listen to them but as of now, they still do not have the (authority) to perform official duties (similar to forest rangers who are officially appointed)," he said.

The Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey, since its conception in 2010, has always been a community project. Locals from Kg Melilas and Kg Sukang were hired as guides due to their knowledge and expertise of the area as well as boatmen for the researchers.

The trip from Bukit Sawat jetty (in Belait) to the Sg Ingei base camp can range between five hours to eleven hours depending on the river's water level.

The locals feel a strong sense of belonging and pride on Sg Ingei, and this is shown by their involvement in the survey process.

"We need to take advantage of this, so that our efforts can be consolidated, to make our efforts more effective and synergise. It is beneficial for both sides," YB Pehin Dato Hj Yahya said.

Poaching issues

A major challenge that continues to be an issue in Sg Ingei is poaching, not only by intruders but also allegedly to have been executed by the locals, the minister pointed out, and the plan to create honourary rangers was driven by this issue.

The minister called on all members of the public including the grassroots leaders, heads of communities and associations as well as Legislative Council members to stress on the importance of environmental protection to their people, and to help in curbing poaching.

"If there is no demand, there will be no supply. If anyone is caught poaching or selling (wildlife), please report this matter (to the authority) so that the demand will decrease. We are working with the locals to prevent poaching here," he said.

A Community Outreach Programme (COP) slated within this year is also aimed at increasing public awareness on this matter. The COP, part of the ministry's multi-pronged approach, will talk with locals around Sg Ingei area who are not directly involved with the survey on the importance of preserving the area.

The programme was supposed to be organised last month but was postponed due to high water level.

"This will also teach the younger generation on the importance of environment, to make them more responsible and our efforts more effective," said the minister.

Call for Funding

Environmental preservation and conservation is not only a government effort as it concerns all, YB Pehin Dato Hj Yahya said, and this means funds from sponsors are most welcome.

"We hope the involvement of the private sectors and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) will continue and more will come forward," he said adding that he was grateful for the involvement of Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) Brunei and HSBC as sponsors for projects under Heart of Borneo (HoB).

The minister expressed his wish for the two-year survey, due to end by this year, to continue but this depends on the availability of funding, and sponsors who wished to contribute or sponsor the survey.

"This is a thankless job. We may not be able to see the benefit now, but over the long run, it is rewarding. Many new species of faunal were discovered, and we have not yet look into the flora or microbes. The findings are worth the funding. If there are no sponsors, then the government would have to think of ways how we can preserve the area before this area is affected by poaching and illegal logging," he said.

The presence and support of the minister at the base camp was seen as a boost to the team, moral support to the researchers as well as the local residents.

"We know that this job is not easy. We really appreciate the work done by the researchers in UBD and the funding from SCB. Mingling with the locals is one way to tell them that the government care for them," he said.

The visit was YB Pehin Dato Hj Yahya's fifth visit to Sg Ingei. He had joined the team to various field trips and research sites.

Last weekend, the minister joined four members from the survey team as they trekked the deep interior of Sg Ingei jungle to set up camera traps as well as continue with the research work.

"The experience was one that we cannot gain from hearing stories or reading book, we must see it for ourselves," the minister commented.

Previously, he joined some members of the team to salt lick areas where animals congregate as well as joined an Indonesian researcher who specialises in the Ecology of the Western Tarsier, Indra Yustian, to check his net (trap) at midnight.

"(Even in the base camp), once the light is out, you can hear the animal calls (sounds). This is hard for us to get from books. Even the boat ride to come here, we need to experience that so that we can appreciate the beauty of this place and the works done by the researchers," he said.

The Brunei Times

Sg Ingei new faunal species undergo DNA analysis

File photo shows survey leader of the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey, Dr Joseph Charles (R) briefing the Standard Chartered Bank Brunei (SCB) members. Picture: BT file
Monday, April 9, 2012
DNA works are currently on-going for the data collected for the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey, said the survey leader Dr Joseph Charles in an interview with The Brunei Times.

"There are some DNA work being done, that information won't be available for the public yet until we have the proper thing analysed and identified," said Dr Charles.

Initial findings of the Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey indicate that there are evidence of new species at Sg Ingei, but more work, including DNA analysis, needs to be done.

Dr Charles and his team, a multinational team of researchers from Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), are currently in Sg Ingei until April 24 to continue their survey work. The two-year survey which began in 2010 hopes to document and compile data on elusive animals and convince to authorities to protect the area as a sanctuary.

At present, the area is known as the Sg Ingei Protection Forest situated in the remote interior of BelaitDistrict.

"We are hoping that when the sanctuary is made, part of it (a buffer zone) will be used for recreation and eco-tourism, showcasing the skills of the local people."

He added in many cases (in such researches) the public comes in giving them more data. "For example, most data on birds was gathered by the layman," he said.

People think of forests as merely trees growing, it is more than that as it provides habitation, he said.

"There is hardly any information on the Borneoan Bay Cat, and we are getting information on the Bay Cat from the Sg Ingei project," he added.

The Borneoan Bay Cat is one of the world's rarest wild cats, an elusive creature once thought to be extinct. The Borneoan Bay Cat is a long-tailed reddish or grey feline the size of a large domesticated cat.

Poachers are a major concern for the team hence the decision to limit the release of survey findings.

Dr Charles said, "Poaching is done now not only by intruders but also our local people. Hunting for survival is different from hunting for commercial (purposes). Poaching takes away the resources from the local people/natives who greatly depend on forest produce."

Cases of poaching at the survey area were published by The Brunei Times during an invitation by the team to cover the survey's progress last October. The cases were reported by the locals in Kg Sukangand Kg Melilas, alleged to have been executed two weeks before the Survey team returned to their base camp in Sg Ingei.

"We have lots to be proud of. Brunei (has) got so much to be proud of, that pride must be felt by everyBruneian. If you feel that pride you wont hunt, poach (and) you will protect. To protect the forest in Brunei is a task. A lot of things depend on how they do it. We are doing our part, other have to do their part also." he added.

The Brunei Times