We have had three main partners in Sabah since 2004;
1) Hutan which runs the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project and Elephant Conservation Unit as well as a number of other programs.
2) Danau Girang Field Centre which is a partnership of the Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University. They conduct field research with a focus on priority species that will lead to conservation management plans for the region.
3)The Sabah Wildlife Department itself.
The Houston Zoo has supported numerous conservation efforts in Sabah which include Orangutan, Elephant, Banteng, small carnivores, amphibians, and have assisted with projects ranging from education to ecotourism. The reason for this latest visit is to look at new priority projects to partner with over the next few years. Although we keep in constant email and SKYPE contact with our international conservation partners we try to visit thier sites and the people involved at least once a year to see how we can enhance our support.
Sabah is an amazing region and is considered a biodiversity hotspot. There are 10 species of primates including the Bornean Orangutan and Proboscis Monkey, 5 species of cats: Leopard cat, Clouded Leopard, Marbled cat, Flat-headed cat and the extremely rare Borneo Bay cat ( I can guarantee most people have only heard of one of those cat species). There are actually two dozen carnivores on the island ranging from otters and civets to Bornean Sun Bears. Bird life is just as diverse including 7 different species of Hornbills as well as pheasants, storm storks, and sea eagles. But all these species are threatened by fragmented habitat due to land use for agricultural purposes such as Palm Oil which is a blog unto itself one day. The species in the most trouble here is the Sumatran Rhino whose worldwide population us around 100-150 with potentially 20-25animals on the island of Borneo and the rest on the island of Sumatra. I was lucky enough to visit a young male Sumatran rhino named Tam in the Tabin Reserve a few years ago who had been rescued in a palm oil plantation, and it really was a special day for us.
The goal for conservation in this region is to protect as much of the remaining habitat as possible, and develop corridors between the fragmented forests, while keeping conflict between the local communities and wildlife to a minimum. Although I will spend time in meetings in the city, there will be time to hit the field so expect at least one note about leeches and or getting caught in a tropical downpours along the way. And no, I do not mind either, they are part of life here on the island and easy enough to work around.
If want to learn about how you can help our conservaiton partners in Borneo click here. Stay tuned for more updates from Peter in Borneo!