Banteng next on extinction list after rhino in Sabah?


KOTA KINABALU: The recent published images of a group of armed hunters posing with the carcasses of two banteng (Bos javanicus) and a range of other large mammals raises questions on the extent of the poaching problem that is ravaging Sabah of its unique wildlife.

Penny Gardner, a doctorate student at Cardiff University who is doing research at the Danau Girang Field Centre here, said she was shocked to read about the incident in a local newspaper, quoting Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan.

“The Bornean banteng is also known as the tembadau or sapi hutan, and is a very rare species of wild cattle that lives only within the remote and dense forests of Borneo,” she said in a statement here today.

The Danau Girang Field Centre (in partnership with the Sabah Wildlife Department) has been engaged in a long-term study of the Bornean banteng for the past five years, mostly funded by Sime Darby Foundation, Houston Zoo and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

Banteng are only found on the island of Borneo and are one of the rarest species, following closely behind the Sumatran rhinoceros, which is on the verge of going extinct in the wild. The population size of the Bornean banteng numbers only a few hundred individuals.

Gardner said over the past 30-40 years, the banteng has suffered catastrophic events, which had caused the local extinction of some herds, a story similar to many other species in Sabah, such as the Sumatran rhino, orang-utan, sun bear and elephant.

Meanwhile, Dr Benoit Goossens, the Director of Danau Girang Field Centre and advisor to the Sabah Wildlife Department, said the loss of the two mature banteng shown in the images (one bull and one cow) from the Lahad Datu district had a devastating consequences for the species.

“We have been monitoring the banteng population in this area for over four years and they are exceptionally sensitive to human presence and vehicle noise.

There is a small breeding population, and the survival of every individual and new calf is crucial.

“Sadly we are aware of at least three banteng deaths in Sabah from hunting, neither of which resulted in publicity or prosecution under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, until a few days ago,” added Benoit.

He praised Sam Mannan for sharing evidence of the ugly banteng killings with the public.

According to Benoit, they had evidence that such killing was going on and that it was time for the public, the government and NGOs to work together and put a stop to poaching of endangered species in Sabah.

“Will we need a banteng’s captive breeding program similar to the Sumatran rhino one in Tabin to save the species? I hope not!” concluded Benoit. – BERNAMA