Vice-President of Conservation, Peter Riger is visiting Borneo to find out how the Houston Zoo can be of further assistance in the race to save Asian wildlife.
I think my favorite part of Borneo is the river, but first you have to get to the river. The paved roads out of the capital, Kota Kinabalu, literally wind their way out of town towards Mount Kinabalu and then up and around. It is about a 5 1/2 hour drive to the village of Batu Puteh and the boat that will take us 30 minutes downriver to the field site. Half of this is getting up, around and then down the mountain and at no point during this portion of the trip are you driving straight for more than 50 feet. The whole time on a two lane road with trucks in front and cars trying to pass from behind.
Once we get to Batu Puteh, after a lunch stop in the town of Ranau and The Double Luck Restaurant, a place I have eaten at least a dozen times so clearly I am owed 24 lucks, it is time to head down the Kinabatangan River. This always seems to occur around 5pm and it rains on this side of the mountain daily between 4pm and 6pm so our timing is always perfect for rain while in an open top boat.
The river is a good place to see wildlife, especially this part where there are so few people except a few prawn fisherman. On this short trip we watched long-tailed macaque, silvered langurs which can be difficult to see downriver, and a group of Proboscis Monkeys made of one large male, a number of females and their offspring. The latter two species are both folivores which means they eat mostly leaves but will also eat fruit when available. It is a little early for crocodiles which can be seen here at night ranging in size from juveniles to over 12 feet long. We did see a pair of Oriental hornbills and a trio of Black hornbills. Seven of the regions eight hornbill species can be found along this river.
The trip ends at the jetty for the field centre which houses students (from no less than 6 countries on this trip) working on numerous field projects we will highlight if and when we can get a working Internet signal. These projects include Nocturnal Primates (Slow Loris and Tarsier), Crocodile, Proboscis Monkey, Small Carnivores, Clouded Leopard, Banteng, Sun Bear, Monitor Lizard and of course Elephant.
The field centre opened in 2005 and has come a long way in a few short years to being one of the premier places for Masters and PhD research focusing on assisting the wildlife department in determining potential management plans for a number of regionally important species. The centre also hosts tropical biology workshops for universities, courses on primate field work, volunteers and other students as space is available.
The best part: every room I have stayed in seems equipped with it’s own gecko to eat any insects that find their way in the door or screened windows.Unless of course it is a Tokay Gecko which is really big and they just stare at you all night. The facility runs on generator, due to it’s isolation, which shuts down around 11pm and is back up by 8am in time for everyone to get ready to head into the field by boat or on foot. Apparently I have a 8am appointment with a number of Bornean Sun Bear “traps” (more like an open baited and enclosed over-sized bear crate) tomorrow to check for signs of interest with the local bears, or possibly a bear in a crate as one of the projects here is to radio collar sun bear and collect data on their use of the forest.