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Monday July 26, 2010

Endangered otter resurfaces in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana) – the world’s most endangered otter species – has been “rediscovered” in the Deramakot Forest Reserve in Sabah.

It was assumed to be “non-existent” in the state for the last 100 years.

The species was rediscovered via trap cameras in the forest, giving fresh hope in the conservation of critically endangered wildlife in the state.

Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said the discovery showed how fortunate they were in terms of wildlife and nature.

“This is great news for Sabah. These findings boost the conservation of this endangered otter internationally, as historically, this otter was distributed throughout large parts of South-East Asia,” he said in an interview.

The last confirmed record of the hairy-nosed otter in Sabah is a museum specimen collected over 100 years ago.

“Even over the whole island of Borneo, the last record – a road-kill from Brunei – was 1997, over 10 years ago. Therefore, it was unknown to scientists if this species could be still found on Borneo,” Andreas Wilting, the project leader of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), said.

The German-based Leibniz collaborated with Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) in researching the wildlife in Dermakot, situated in central Sabah.

In 2008, IZW initiated the Conservation of Carnivores in Sabah (ConCaSa) project with the collaboration of SWD and SFD to study carnivores such as the Sunda clouded leopard, civets and otters in the state.

The ConCaSa project used automated camera traps that were set up in Deramakot and the surrounding forest reserves during the last two years.

As the different otter species look similar, the hairy-nosed otter pictures had first to be verified by a number of experts before they were published recently by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission journal.

In addition to capturing camera trap pictures of the endangered hairy-nosed otter, the study also confirmed the presence of all five Bornean cat species, and 13 other small carnivores such as the Banded civet and sun bear.

“These results mean that out of 25 known carnivore species in Borneo, our project, together with a Japanese researcher Hiromitsu Samejima, confirmed (there are) 20 in Deramakot. This makes Deramakot outstanding for being extremely rich in itsdiversity of carnivores,” Wilting said.

Since 1997, Deramakot Forest Reserve has been managed as a sustainable logged forest with the coveted Forest Stewardship Council certification.

State Forestry director Datuk Sam Mannan said: “These findings show that long-term sustainable forest management is of great importance for the protection of some of this country’s most threatened species and of the unique biodiversity of the forests of Borneo.”


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