A banteng-less Sabah in 20 years if annual hunt continues

Census reveals only 320 of unique wild buffaloes left in 2017, captive breeding may not be enough

KOTA KINABALU : Researchers have predicted that the Bornean banteng (Bos javanicus lowi) will face imminent extinction 21 to 39 years from now if 5% of its already sparse population is hunted annually.

A Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) census revealed that only 320 of the unique wild buffaloes were left in 2017.

The centre’s researchers have proposed captive breeding of the buffalo, but it may not be enough.

With the animal facing immense and constant threat from poachers, the authorities have demarcated its sprawling natural habitat into four management units, all of which are geographically connected, for ease of monitoring and management.

The areas are determined from findings made with the help of trap camera surveys. They comprise the north-east (Paitan and Sugut forest reserves), west (Sipitang forest reserve), central (Deramakot Kuamut, Malua, Tangkulap and other forest reserves) and south-east (Kulamba and Tabin wildlife reserves).

A banteng-less Sabah in 20 years if annual hunt continues
The Bornean banteng (Bos javanicus lowi) will face imminent extinction if 5% of its already sparse population is hunted annually. – Danau Girang Field Centre pic

According to DGFC conservation officer and research fellow Penny C. Gardner, who led a state-wide banteng survey project for the centre and Sabah Wildlife Department, all the areas require active management to prevent further population decline and extinction.

In a paper published in the Endangered Species Research journal, scientists and wildlife managers from the centre, department and Cardiff University collected the first population parameters for the species by developing population models to simulate the effect of different hunting off-take rates.

“A population viability modelling exercise carried out at an international workshop on the conservation of the Bornean banteng that we organised in 2017, showed us that if only 1% of the animal’s population is hunted in Sabah, its growth will cease in the smallest north-east and Sipitang management units,” said DGFC director Benoit Goosens.

In the case of the central and south-east units, growth will cease if 2% to 4% of the animal are hunted, he said.

Department enforcement officer Mohd Soffian Abu Bakar said an action plan drafted by the state on June 29 has received a five-year funding for study and conference.

Photos of poaching events that happened between 2017 and 2018 in protected areas in Sabah. – Danau Girang Field Centre pic, August 2, 2021
Photos of poaching events that happened between 2017 and 2018 in protected areas in Sabah. – Danau Girang Field Centre pic

“As a follow-up to the plan, Yayasan Sime Darby has continued its support by funding Protect – a boots-on-the-ground enforcement team under the department.

“In another boost to wildlife enforcement, the United States State Department, via its International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Bureau, has also funded for us in 2019 to set up our own intelligence and forensic units.

“This funding has bolstered our efforts in fighting poaching and illegal trade, and will enable us to implement the action plan for the banteng and other wildlife.”

Department director Augustine Tuuga said they are seriously looking to end poaching activities in Sabah.

“Hunting of Schedule 1 species like the Banteng has to stop. We cannot afford to lose them.”

According to the department’s Bornean Banteng Action Plan for Sabah published in December 2018, the banteng is listed as “Totally Protected” in Schedule 1 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, and is banned from being hunted down.

The buffalo is also classified as “endangered” on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, due to its collective small population size and declining trend across their distribution.

By : JASON SANTOS – THE VIBES

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