Publication update 21: Project Pteropus press release: Durian Industry May Suffer Without Endangered Fruit Bats

Flying foxes pollinate regionally important fruit crop

Kuala Lumpur, 19 September – Scientists here have discovered that Southeast Asia’s highly popular durian tree is pollinated by locally endangered fruit bats known as flying foxes.

By putting camera traps in durian trees on Tioman Island, Malaysia, researchers collected video evidence showing the island flying fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) pollinating durian flowers, leading to the production of healthy durian fruit. The study has just been published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

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Still shots from a video recording of a flying fox feeding on durian flower nectar.

The spiky tropical durian fruit is highly prized throughout its native region. A ubiquitous icon of Southeast Asian culture, it is also a lucrative industry, generating millions of US dollars in local and international trade. And these economic profits owe a huge debt to bats.

Commonly referred to as flying foxes, large fruit bats of the genus Pteropus are severely threatened by hunting and deforestation. They are often sold and eaten as exotic meat due to an unsubstantiated belief that consuming them can help cure asthma and other respiratory problems.

On top of this, they are also persecuted and killed as agricultural pests, as some people claim that the bats cause damage and economic loss by feeding on cultivated fruits. Consequently, these factors have led to severe declines in flying fox populations worldwide.

Yet these bats actually play very important roles as seed dispersers and pollinators in rainforests, especially on islands. The disappearance of flying foxes could thus have disastrous repercussions for tropical ecosystems. Now, this international team of researchers from Malaysia, France, India, and Thailand, in collaboration with Tree Climbers Malaysia, has found that Southeast Asia’s durian supply could be affected too. Continue reading

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Toolbox update 7: How to use Peninsular Malaysia’s first online map of limestone hills

For many years, scientists in Project Limestone have been frustrated by the lack of GIS information on limestone hills in Malaysia.  Till now, information on localities, shapes and sizes could only be obtained from books and journals, but not anymore…

Thanks to Liew and the team, Rimba has created Peninsular Malaysia’s first online map containing 445 hills.  This GIS map can easily be accessed by anyone who has Google Earth. This map is not a final product, but can be constantly improved by anyone who wants to add spatial or biological information on limestone hills. All the methods and data are available for anyone to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute.

With this map, we were finally able to conduct a simple conservation prioritisation exercise for limestone hills based on their size and the degree to which they are isolated and disturbed.

You can find our paper published here in the journal Tropical Conservation Science. Meanwhile, here are videos that explain the methodology, and how to update and use this map!

 

Project update 20: Harimau Selamanya year 2 in review

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.

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The 2015 Harimau Selamanya team

The 2015 team oversaw three simultaneously-running major projects: Continue reading

Project update 19, photo update 11, video update 6: Project Pteropus phase 1 in review

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It’s definitely been a crazy, roller coaster ride for Project Pteropus so far! Time flies when you’re having fun, and before we knew it, we’re already in the third and final year of Sheema‘s PhD. We’re due to start a tiny bit more of fieldwork over the next 3 months, then everything needs to be wrapped up pronto as she’ll be on her way to spend 6 months in Paris this June 🙂

So what has the project achieved so far? Some pretty exciting stuff, as it turns out. Almost all the data are in already, but some still need a bit of time to be analysed. We’ve decided to summarise our results so far into an interim report, which is why you’re getting this bumper post that serves as a compilation of updates, photos AND videos all at the same time! 😀

Also, HUGE thanks to Bat Conservation International for awarding us a small grant in September last year. Without this funding we definitely wouldn’t have been able to achieve as much as we have, and we’re deeply grateful. Click on the BCI logo below to find out more about applying for their small grants:

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Meanwhile, here’s what we’ve found out up to this point (if you’re just interested in the images and don’t need to read through the information, just scroll down further!): Continue reading

Publication update 18: Bats in the Anthropocene

Chapter 13

If you’d like to learn more about bats, don’t miss out on downloading this brand new, open-access book on bat conservation edited by Tigga Kingston and Christian Voigt‘Bats in the Anthropocene: conservation of bats in a changing world’. Thanks to partial funding from SEABCRU, this online book is completely free to download, either in whole or as separate chapters. Continue reading

Publication update 17: Kenyirus sheema – a new land snail species from an old rainforest

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Holotype of the new species Kenyirus sheema. Foon, Tan and Clements, 2015.

The Belum-Temengor Rainforest Complex (BTFC) in the State of Perak covers a cross section of Peninsular Malaysia’s terrestrial ecosystems from lowland rainforests at the foothills to tropical montane cloud forests in the highlands. This 300 sq km of wilderness is home to healthy populations of mammalian megafauna including the critically endangered Malayan Tiger, Panthera tigris jacksoni. In fact, the remarkable state of ecosystem preservation in BTFC makes it one of the most critical regions in Peninsular Malaysia for the conservation of almost every group of rainforest flora and fauna. However, it was a cherry-sized snail that particularly caught the attention of Reuben, during one of his routine mammal surveys in BTFC one morning in February 2009. Continue reading

Video update 5: Project Pteropus takes flight

Did you know that International Bat Night is taking place in a week’s time??? Sadly, the Asia-Pacific region isn’t participating, and Malaysia won’t be holding any bat-related activities for that (a situation that we need to change!).

However, we felt that in conjunction with this, it is particularly fitting for Rimba to release the official Project Pteropus video! Sheema publicly unveiled this video during her presentation at the 3rd Southeast Asian Bat Conference (SEABCO2015) in Kuching this month.

This video highlights our work on fruit bats, and also aims to spread awareness on the importance of flying foxes and why we should conserve them. We hope to come out with a shorter, more general version soon, and in different Southeast Asian languages too!

Share away and help to spread the message!