By Andi Akbar –
Abandoned oil palm trees and local fruit trees such as the mango, durian and guava growing within our project site (TRLC – Merisuli) acts as a primary food source for wildlife.
In July 2015 during our team’s permanent research plot survey lead by Assistant Supervisor, Mr Rasit Abdul, we found fresh claws marks of a sun bear (Helarctos malayanus). The marks was found on one of the trees which is located within one of our permanent survey plots. The sun bear has a vulnerable status according to the IUCN Red List. However, we at TRCRC believe that they are currently facing a higher risk of population reduction due to the current rate of habitat loss and commercial hunting in the wildlife trade. In the image below is a fresh claw mark on a Pterospermum spp. tree trunk.
There are also traces of the sambar deer (Rusa unicolor) in our site. They leave tracks on the soil, damaged tree barks just like in the photo below from sharpening their horns or damaged and eaten seedlings. There are also wild boars in our site, and their footprints are similar in shape to a sambar deer so don’t be confused! The dew claws of a sambar deer is less visible (or less deep) than a wild boar.
TRLC-Merisuli is part of the Ulu Segama – Malua Sustainable Forest Management Project (USM SFMP) and one of its aims is to rehabilitate the Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) wild population density. In as recent as 10 years ago, the forests were fragmented due to land conversion to plantations. The absence of Orangutans within the area was due to a major habitat loss. The Sabah Forestry Department’s efforts of reforesting Bukit Piton and its neighboring sites was a good one, as the Orangutans now have access all the way to our project site! We can hear them and occasionally with luck, actually spot them! So far, we have encountered an adult male orangutan a few times when we are working out in the field as well as a young female. Photo below, an orangutan briefly spotted when climbing up a tree.
Last but not least, we believe that there are many more undiscovered wildlife in our site. We have yet to successfully obtain photos of animals such as the Oriental pied hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) which is regularly passing by or hanging on the highest trees in our site. At night, we have bumped into leopard cats, porcupine, owls and nightjars and snakes along the dirt roads of our site. This acts as a good indicator that TRCRC’s forest restoration project is vital in restoring native wildlife populations.
White-fronted falconet (Microhierax latifrons), a near threatened bird of prey endemic to Sabah.