Lest We Forget

DOWN MEMORY LANE WITH BORNEO BULLETIN ARCHIVES

Compiled by Chan Chee Khiong

Rare species found in Brunei

Danial Norjidi

March 12, 2011 – Photographic evidence has surfaced in Brunei Darussalam proving the existence of a melanistic (dark) form of the endangered Clouded Leopard.

This was announced yesterday by professor at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) Dr J K Charles who along with other scientists made the discovery through the use of an array of camera traps, which yielded the first photographic evidence that there is a melanistic form of the Clouded Leopard living on Borneo.

The camera traps were placed in strategic locations around the Sungai Ingei area as part of the Sungei Ingei Faunal Survey Expedition, which commenced in July 2010 in the Sungai Ingei Protection Forest in Belait District.

The expedition was aimed at documenting the wildlife of the area for science and to provide a basis for conservation management, and is a project of UBD, contributing to the national effort to conserve the ‘Heart of Borneo’.

According to notes obtained from Dr Charles, Ang Bee Biaw, Samhan Nyawa, Simmons Benalai and Mikaail Kavanagh, the Bornean Clouded Leopard, neofelis diardii ssp.borneensis, is genetically different from the mainland species, N nebulosa.

Clouded Leopard in Labi. PHOTO: ADI AIZAL

“While it is not one of the big cats, it is the largest predator on Borneo, having dagger-like canine teeth that are the largest of any cat in relation to body size,” they said, adding that normally, it has a light tan coat with distinct, large, irregularly shaped ‘cloud-like patterns with dark edges.

According to them, very rare sightings have suggested that a dark (melanistic) form occurs in the population, but until now this has not been confirmed with hard evidence.

Speaking to the Weekend Bulletin, Dr Charles said that many biologists have claimed that they had seen a dark Clouded Leopard, but that he and his colleagues were the first to prove that melanistic Clouded Leopard exists.

“I’m releasing this story because before this discovery, there was no proof of the melanistic Clouded Leopard’s existence,” he said.

“The Bornean Clouded Leopard is already an endangered species, so to have found a melanistic form of this leopard is huge,” he proclaimed.

Explaining the camera traps used, he said, “The camera trap functions when there’s a difference between ambient temperature and body temperature, meaning we can only get photographs of mammals, and not reptiles.”

He added that over 60 camera traps had been deployed in the Sungai Ingei area, and that the photograph was obtained as part of three-and-a-half months’ worth of data.

Reverting back to Dr Charles’ written report, the camera trap photograph that was taken in the Sungai Ingei Protection Forest in Brunei in July 2010 is described as “indistinct but it definitely shows this dark animal approaching the camera, uphill at a distance.

“The animal, as can be seen in the enlarged picture, is very dark with patterned markings. All pictures of Clouded Leopards in other parts of Borneo, including Brunei Darussalam, show the usual (tanned) colour form”.

Dr Charles said that this record of the melanistic form has important implications for Brunei, and that out of their many findings, this finding is extremely rare, and shows how important it is for the Sungai Ingei Protection Forest to be protected.

To date, Borneo has 24 carnivore species of which 11 are in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with four being endangered.

The Clouded Leopard is endangered throughout in Borneo, and under the Brunei Wildlife Protection Act (1984) it is a protected species. Dr Charles, however, pointed out that poachers were common in the Sungai Ingei area.

Dr Charles said that the report had been sent to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), which will be publishing it as an article soon.

As for what is next, he said that he and the team would be returning to Sungai Ingei on July 2 for Phase 2 of the expedition, where they will be replacing the cameras in the forest with new memory cards and continuing their study on the fauna in the area, with focus on amphibians, reptiles, birds, large and small mammals, bats, fish and selected insect groups.

Temburong’s live-in thieves

Achong Tanjong

March 12, 2001 – Several people living at the National Housing Scheme in Kampong Rataie in the Temburong District have voiced their concerns over frequent break-ins by thieves.

Most of them don’t live there permanently because they are either working in the capital or in other districts. Some of them go back to their houses in Kampong Rataie once a month or during holidays.

And when they do, they find some of their household items and other belongings missing from the house. The thieves, who reportedly enter the house through the kitchen door, sometimes even spend time inside without being noticed by neighbours.

Some of the residents said that the thieves also take the opportunity to cook noodles inside the house. A few unlucky owners have returned home to see plates and spoons used to eat the noodles strewn on the carpet.

In short, the thieves break in, eat their heart’s content and leave the house carrying anything that they want.

One of the victims told the Bulletin that she lost a hi-fi set, a video player and a few cassettes recently.

The cassettes were reportedly stolen from the car that was parked inside the house. A police report was lodged at the Temburong Police Station.

“We still live in fear of another break-in. My neighbour’s house has also not been spared. They also lost several items including electrical goods,” she said.

Some of the residents said that the thieves often targeted one house and broke into it many times. They wanted the relevant agencies concerned in the district to patrol the area in order to curb such incidents.