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 woke up this morning to what sounded like a helicopter outside my screen window but it was only the largest bee I had ever seen and he was not happy that it was 5:30am and I was still asleep. When he finally went away I could hear a pair of gibbons calling from across the river. Although difficult to see, they can be heard for miles, usually in the very early morning, and it would have been a great sound to wake up to, if not for the bee.
Everything seems to fly here; Proboscis Monkeys and Red leaf Monkey fly overhead as they jump from tree to tree, there are flying snakes, flying frogs, flying giant squirrels and the little seen colugo which is also called the flying lemur.
So when walking here, your eyes have to be on the trail as well as in the trees as witnessed this morning by two research students walking to the station when an orangutan mother and baby decided to drop things from above we will not talk about here and just miss them by a few feet. By the time I arrived on the trail a minute later, dung beetles were already busy at work “cleaning up”. How did they know so quickly? They must have a poo alert early warning system. The forest is alive in Borneo, as are the skies.
There is a fairly straightforward routine here for everyone except the nocturnal prosimians researcher who spends her time looking for slow loris and tarsier from midnight to 6am. Whether you are a crocodile researcher or checking cameras for bears, you get up early and either hit the trail or grab a boat and head out to your site, some of which overlap. Hopefully you return by lunch and then repeat or work on projects at the centre before dinner, then try and get a working Internet signal to catch up with the outside world and the lights out when generator goes off at 11pm. Some of these projects go on for years and everyone genuinely enjoys being here despite what would seem like difficult conditions at times.
Outside of the projects, there is another initiative here managed by local staff called River Keepers who patrol the Kinabatangan to make sure there are no illegal activities in the reserve here ( hunting, logging, etc.). They are as much part of the team and live here at the centre along with all the visiting students and guests. I mentioned the other day there were 6 countries represented here thus year (so far) which include Canada Malaysia, France, US, Spain, UK, Belgium and Mexico – okay, that’s 8 countries.
These, along with wildlife health units, are part of a larger network to look at how to protect this region on a landscape level. That is, not simply focus on one species at a time but understand how all these species interact within their habitat and what is needed to support everything together.
Stay tuned for more from Peter in Borneo.