Monday, June 17

Symposium reveals carnivore conservation needs urgent

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TUARAN: Very little is known of Bornean carnivores.

According to Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu at the closing of the first Borneo Carnivore Symposium at a resort near here yesterday, this fact had surprised even experts in the field.

“It was only in 2002 that the first photograph ever taken of a free-ranging Borneo Bay Cat, a species exclusive to this island,” he told the conference participants.

And while a lot has been achieved since then, the seven-day conference also revealed that there was still so much to do and to find out, Ambu said.

“In particular, research with a focus on conservation management is more necessary than ever. But the conservation needs of Bornean carnivores are urgent and cannot wait until we know everything that we need to know of,” he stressed.

Therefore, practical consideration of conservation issues and evaluation of key landscapes and areas for carnivore conservation were at the centre of the discussion during the conference, he said.

“I believe that these discussions have been very helpful in that they are a first, huge step on the road towards co-ordinated action in implementing carnivore conservation.

“This is important for our stated aim to achieve the conservation of carnivores and other flagship animals whilst at the same time following the path of sustainable development in each of our three countries (which are Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia),” he said.

Commenting on the symposium, Ambu said carnivores have neither been at the forefront of interest nor of conservation concern in Borneo.

Nevertheless, the time came that carnivores became the centre of attention and a whole week was spent by the participants and delegates to assess their distribution, habitat requirements and their conservation status and priorities.

He also expressed pleasure that Sabah could host the symposium as a tri-nation event involving Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia.

“Like other animals, carnivores do not know when they cross borders or trans-national boundaries,” he said.

It was thus fitting that the conference considered the conservation issues of carnivores in all three countries and specifically addressed related trans-boundary issues, he said.

The conference brought many carnivore and conservation specialists from the three countries, with more than 160 local and international delegates having attended it.

“During the symposium, we have seen several insights presented, stimulating discussions and a deeper understanding of many key issues faced by the three governments in the context of carnivore conservation,” he said.

Firstly, several contributions reviewed neglected areas of carnivore conservation, including the issues of wildlife trade, the conservation implications of infectious diseases and the contribution of captive breeding to carnivore conservation.

Secondly, seven presentations critically discussed and reviewed the state-of-the-art research methods and how they could be applied in the context of research and conservation of carnivores in Borneo.

Thirdly, the results of the analysis of the data on 23 species of Bornean carnivores were presented. These data were compiled by the organizers in preparation for the conference and the analysis was designed to understand the distribution and habitat requirements of each species using computer modeling methods.

Fourthly, four working groups covering the regions of Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam and Kalimantan respectively, summarized the results of the data analysis by identifying key areas for Bornean carnivore conservation.

Finally, working groups reviewed the conservation issues of carnivores in each of the four regions and the options for possible trans-boundary conservation projects.