Press release from Sabah Wildlife Department, Danau Girang Field Centre & Cardiff University. Post-logging conditions modify ambient temperature and impact banteng behaviour and habitat use.

Kota Kinabalu: The Bornean banteng is the most endangered large mammal in Sabah, highly threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation and heavy poaching. A recent study published last Friday in the Open Access journal PLoS ONE by a team of scientists and conservationists from Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Cardiff University, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz IZW) used camera traps to study the behaviours and habitat use of banteng in three secondary forests in Sabah, that were logged at different times. This work was supported by Houston Zoo, Malaysian Palm Oil Council, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Woodland Park Zoo, Yayasan Sime Darby, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Zoo Leipzig, and (now defunct) SOS Rhino.

“We monitored locations created by timber harvesting (e.g. abandoned roads) and dense forest in reserves that were logged 6, 17 and 23 years ago” explained Dr Penny Gardner, lead author and Programme Manager of banteng research at DGFC. “Over 500 captures of bantengs and temperature data were collected. We found that recently-logged forests were hotter (up to 44°C) for longer than forest that had regenerated for more years. High temperatures can suppress plant growth, slow forest regeneration, and increase the risk of forest fires,” said Gardner.

“Logging and high temperatures are also affecting the bantengs; limiting their activity and influencing how they use the habitat,” added Gardner. “Bantengs reduce activity and avoid degraded areas during hot hours in recently-logged forest, possibly to avoid thermal stress which can be fatal. However, bantengs continued to be active throughout the day in forest with more regrowth because it offered more shade and refuge, but also because internal forage was probably limited” concluded Gardner.

“In previous work we found that bantengs in mature forest were thinner. If forage is limited they may be drawn to forest boundaries that have more grass but also have a higher risk of mortality, because they are encroached by hunters,” said Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of DGFC and Reader at Cardiff University.

“Steps taken to reduce stress upon bantengs could include limiting disturbance during key times of activity and maintaining blocks of mature forest. These types of recommendations will be outlined in the Banteng Action Plan, which is currently being drafted,” concluded Goossens.

Citation: Gardner PC, Goossens B, Goon Ee Wern J, Kretzschmar P, Bohm T, Vaughan IP (2018) Spatial and temporal behavioural responses of wild cattle to tropical forest degradation. PLoS ONE 13(4): e0195444.