The end of 2015 marks the completion of the second year for Project Harimau Selamanya. The year 2015 has been more productive and eventful than we could have ever imagined when we started off! In the space of a year, we have continued deepening collaboration with state and federal government partners. Our field team has also strengthened their fieldwork and wildlife detection skills through professional training and field practice. Best of all, our camera trap efforts have paid off with important data to help with the conservation of Kenyir’s forests! All these were made possible with Perhilitan and the state government’s commitment to project collaboration, as well as the generous funding from Panthera and Woodland Park Zoo.
2015 saw a vibrant field team in Harimau Selamanya headed by Reuben, Wai Yee, Sri and Junn Kitt and staffed by our fantastic field assistants Puyee, Baki, Donos, Maslan, Landur and Rahmat. We were also joined by enthusiastic and conservation-driven research assistants Akmal, Zatul and Shu Woan.
The 2015 team oversaw three simultaneously-running major projects:
(1) Project Black Cloud 2.0, where we focused on intensive camera trapping in the Kenyir Wildlife Corridor (KWC). Readers might recall this is where Laurie’s Project Black Cloud was conducted. Indeed, we carried out an identical survey in 2015 to compare with the previous data, to gain a first leopard and clouded leopard population trend estimate for KWC!
(2) We continued installing camera traps in the Core Area like in Year 1. This continuous monitoring of tiger, leopard and clouded leopard individuals will help inform long-term conservation management of the area.
(3) We camera-trapped the large island of hilly forest at the centre of Lake Kenyir to find out what mammals live there.
We kick-started fieldwork in February 2015 with an intensive 5-day refresher course on tiger signs identification, taught by experienced Panthera (Dr. Rob Pickles) and Rimba (Lam Wai Yee) staff. The workshop was a success as it helped prepare our field assistants in determining the best locations for setting camera traps in the following months, as well as further establishing good rapport between Perhilitan and Rimba.
Our field team then spent the next three months setting up camera traps in the field. The camera traps were retrieved in the latter half of 2015. All in all, the field team has performed impressively and efficiently throughout the year. Although the sensitive nature of the data means we can’t divulge our findings to the public, we were very satisfied with the high quality of data obtained from the camera traps, which no doubt will be critical for the conservation of Kenyir’s forests.
Of course, some bumps are always to be expected when fieldwork is intensive though! One of the biggest bumps has to be our Field Manager Sri falling ill after fieldwork. Fortunately, our fieldwork ended right when it happened and we arrived in KL in time to seek medical treatment! It turned out he had contracted leptospirosis! We were very relieved when Sri finally recovered after several weeks of medical treatment. We have now added further preventative measures to our fieldwork protocol to avoid this in the future.
Meanwhile, good news has arrived for Kenyir (and Terengganu in general) with the declaration by Terengganu’s Fatwa Council that poaching of protected wildlife is illegal from the perspective of Islam. The fatwa declaration made waves both locally and internationally. Reuben commented on this development in local and international media too. Hopefully, the locals will gradually see value in wildlife beyond them being dead and in a cooking pot!
With the 2016 field season just around the corner, we have once again drawn up our plans. This year, we will continue monitoring the wildlife in the Core Area with camera traps. We will also further strengthen our collaborative work with Perhilitan and the Terengganu state government. Our continuous efforts in the field and the constant push to find new approaches to protect Kenyir’s natural heritage are moving the project forward in more significant ways than we originally expected. May 2016 takes us closer towards realising “Harimau Selamanya” (Tigers Forever)!