Malaysia: Bornean wild cattle under threat

The Star 19 Mar 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s endangered Bor­n­ean banteng (wild cattle) is becoming highly threatened due to habitat loss, fragmentation and heavy poaching, according to a study.

The Endangered Species Research by a team of scientists and conservationists from Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department, studied herd demography, sexual segregation and the effects of forest management using camera trap photographs from six forest reserves in Sabah.

The findings were published last Thursday in the Open Access journal.

The centre’s Bornean Banteng Conservation Officer Dr Penny Gardner said bantengs needed large forest space to avoid anthropogenic (pollutants caused by human activity) disturbances and maintain herd sizes, which were crucial for breeding.

“We found that when the forest boundary is not far away, banteng herds become smaller, and when the population is in decline, herd sizes also become smaller.

“So, we have multiple factors at play here that are all driving the decline of the banteng,” she said in a statement yesterday.

A total of 43,344 night camera traps and 832 independent banteng events were captured at 93 spots in the six reserves.

They identified 183 bantengs which included 22 herds and 12 solitary bulls, with herd sizes ranging from two to 21.

“Interestingly, we found that forest regeneration age, type of site within the forest reserve, presence of salt licks, habitat vegetation and distance to the nearest forest border had significant effects upon banteng herd sizes,” Dr Gardner said.

She said there was a need to work together to find a suitable strategy to maintain forest productivity and ensure that the banteng population thrived and not just survived.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said the study would help in mapping out an effective 10-year-year management strategy aimed at providing a suitable habitat for re-population.

Dr Goossens, who is an adviser to the Sabah Wildlife Department, said an international workshop on the conservation of the Bornean banteng will be held later this year.