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