Fisheries bycatch is a widespread and serious issue that leads to declines of many important and threatened marine species. However, documenting the distribution, abundance, population trends and threats to sparse populations of marine species is often beyond the capacity of developing countries because such work is complex, time consuming and often extremely expensive. We have developed a flexible tool to document spatial distribution and population trends for dugongs and other marine species in the form of an interview questionnaire supported by a structured data upload sheet and a comprehensive project manual. Recognising the effort invested in getting interviewers to remote locations, the questionnaire is comprehensive, but low cost. The questionnaire has already been deployed in 18 countries across the Indo-Pacific region. Project teams spent an average of USD 5,000 per country and obtained large data sets on dugong distribution, trends, catch and bycatch, and threat overlaps. Findings indicated that >50% of respondents had never seen dugongs and that 20% had seen a single dugong in their lifetimes despite living and fishing in areas of known or suspected dugong habitat, suggesting that dugongs occurred in low numbers. Only 3% of respondents had seen mother and calf pairs, indicative of low reproductive output. Dugong hunting was still common in several countries. Gillnets and hook and line were the most common fishing gears, with the greatest mortality caused by gillnets. The questionnaire has also been used to study manatees in the Caribbean, coastal cetaceans along the eastern Gulf of Thailand and western Peninsular Malaysia, and river dolphins in Peru. This questionnaire is a powerful tool for studying distribution and relative abundance for marine species and fishery pressures, and determining potential conservation hotspot areas. We provide the questionnaire and supporting documents for open-access use by the scientific and conservation communities.
A new species of Bent-toed Gecko, Cyrtodactylus gunungsenyumensis sp. nov. of the sworderi complex, is described from Hutan Lipur Gunung Senyum, Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia and is differentiated from all other species in the sworderi complex by having a unique combination of characters including a maximum SVL of 74.7 mm; low, rounded, weakly keeled, body tubercles; 34-40 paravertebral tubercles; weak ventrolateral body fold lacking tubercles; 38-41 ventral scales; an abrupt transition between the posterior and ventral femoral scales; 20-23 subdigital lamellae on the fourth toe; enlarged femoral scales; no femoral or precloacal pores; no precloacal groove; wide caudal bands; and an evenly banded dorsal pattern. Cyrtodactylus gunungsenyumensis sp. nov. is a scansorial, karst forest-adapted specialist endemic to the karst ecosystem surrounding Gunung Senyum and occurs on the vertical walls of the limestone towers as well as the branches, trunks, and leaves of the vegetation in the associated karst forest. Cyrtodactylus gunungsenyumensis sp. nov. is the seventh species of karst forest-adapted Cyrtodactylus and the sixteenth endemic species of karst ecosystem reptile discovered in Peninsular Malaysia in the last seven years from only 12 different karst forests. This is a clear indication that many species remain to be discovered in the approximately 558 isolated karst ecosystems in Peninsular Malaysia not yet surveyed. These data continue to underscore the importance of karst ecosystems as reservoirs of biodiversity and microendemism and that they constitute an important component of Peninsular Malaysia's natural heritage and should be protected from the quarrying interests of foreign industrial companies.
Malayan box turtle (Cuora amboinensis) has been a wildlife-protected vulnerable turtle species in Malaysia since 2005. However, because of its purported usage in traditional medicine, tonic foods and feeds, clandestine black market trade is rampant. Several polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays for the taxonomic detection and classification of turtle species have been proposed. These assays are based on long-length target amplicons which are assumed to break down under compromised states and, hence, might not be suitable for the forensic tracing and tracking of turtle trafficking. For the first time this paper develops a very short-amplicon-length PCR assay (120 bp) for the detection of Malayan box turtle meat in raw, processed and mixed matrices, and experimental evidence is produced that such an assay is not only more stable and reliable but also more sensitive than those previously published. We checked the assay specificity against 20 different species and no cross-species detection was observed. The possibility of any false-negative detection was eliminated by a universal endogenous control for eukaryotes. The assay detection limit was 0.0001 ng of box turtle DNA from pure meat and 0.01% turtle meat in binary and ternary admixtures and commercial meatballs. Superior target stability and sensitivity under extreme treatments of boiling, autoclaving and microwave cooking suggested that this newly developed assay would be suitable for any forensic and/or archaeological identification of Malayan box turtle species, even in severely degraded specimens. Further, in silico studies indicated that the assay has the potential to be used as a universal probe for the detection of nine Cuora species, all of which are critically endangered.
Agarwood is a resinous part of the non-timber Aquilaria tree, which is a highly valuable product for medicine and fragrance purposes. To protect the endangered Aquilaria species, mass plantation of Aquilaria trees has become a sustainable way in Asian countries to obtain the highly valuable agarwood. As only physiologically triggered Aquilaria tree can produce agarwood, effective induction methods are long sought in the agarwood industry. In this paper, we attempt to provide an overview for the past efforts toward the understanding of agarwood formation, the evolvement of induction methods and their further development prospects by integrating it with high-throughput omics approaches.
Balancing economic development with international commitments to protect biodiversity is a global challenge. Achieving this balance requires an understanding of the possible consequences of alternative future scenarios for a range of stakeholders. We employ an integrated economic and environmental planning approach to evaluate four alternative futures for the mega-diverse island of Borneo. We show what could be achieved if the three national jurisdictions of Borneo coordinate efforts to achieve their public policy targets and allow a partial reallocation of planned land uses. We reveal the potential for Borneo to simultaneously retain ∼50% of its land as forests, protect adequate habitat for the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis), and achieve an opportunity cost saving of over US$43 billion. Such coordination would depend on enhanced information sharing and reforms to land-use planning, which could be supported by the increasingly international nature of economies and conservation efforts.
BACKGROUND: Asian slow lorises (Nycticebus spp.) are one of few known venomous mammals, yet until now only one published case report has documented the impact of their venomous bite on humans. We describe the reaction of a patient to the bite of a subadult Nycticebus kayan, which occurred in the Mulu District of Sarawak in 2012.
FINDINGS: Within minutes of the bite, the patient experienced paraesthesia in the right side of the jaw, ear and right foot. By 40 minutes, swelling of the face was pronounced. The patient was admitted to Mulu National Park Health Clinic/Klinik Kesihatan Taman Mulu Tarikh, at which time he was experiencing: swollen mouth, chest pain, mild abdominal pain, nausea, numbness of the lips and mouth, shortness of breath, weakness, agitation and the sensation of pressure in the ears due to swelling. The blood pressure was 110/76, the heart ratio was 116 and oxygen saturation was 96%. The patient was treated intramuscularly with adrenaline (0.5 mL), followed by intravenous injection of hydrocortisone (400 mg) and then intravenous fluid therapy of normal saline (500 mg). By 8 h10 the next day, the patient's condition had significantly improved with no nausea, and with blood pressure and pulse rate stable.
CONCLUSIONS: A handful of anecdotes further support the real danger that slow loris bites pose to humans. As the illegal pet trade is a major factor in the decline of these threatened species, we hope that by reporting on the danger of handling these animals it may help to reduce their desirability as a pet.
Plants play a crucial role in foodstuff, medicine, industry, and environmental protection. The skill of recognising plants is very important in some applications, including conservation of endangered species and rehabilitation of lands after mining activities. However, it is a difficult task to identify plant species because it requires specialized knowledge. Developing an automated classification system for plant species is necessary and valuable since it can help specialists as well as the public in identifying plant species easily. Shape descriptors were applied on the myDAUN dataset that contains 45 tropical shrub species collected from the University of Malaya (UM), Malaysia. Based on literature review, this is the first study in the development of tropical shrub species image dataset and classification using a hybrid of leaf shape and machine learning approach. Four types of shape descriptors were used in this study namely morphological shape descriptors (MSD), Histogram of Oriented Gradients (HOG), Hu invariant moments (Hu) and Zernike moments (ZM). Single descriptor, as well as the combination of hybrid descriptors were tested and compared. The tropical shrub species are classified using six different classifiers, which are artificial neural network (ANN), random forest (RF), support vector machine (SVM), k-nearest neighbour (k-NN), linear discriminant analysis (LDA) and directed acyclic graph multiclass least squares twin support vector machine (DAG MLSTSVM). In addition, three types of feature selection methods were tested in the myDAUN dataset, Relief, Correlation-based feature selection (CFS) and Pearson's coefficient correlation (PCC). The well-known Flavia dataset and Swedish Leaf dataset were used as the validation dataset on the proposed methods. The results showed that the hybrid of all descriptors of ANN outperformed the other classifiers with an average classification accuracy of 98.23% for the myDAUN dataset, 95.25% for the Flavia dataset and 99.89% for the Swedish Leaf dataset. In addition, the Relief feature selection method achieved the highest classification accuracy of 98.13% after 80 (or 60%) of the original features were reduced, from 133 to 53 descriptors in the myDAUN dataset with the reduction in computational time. Subsequently, the hybridisation of four descriptors gave the best results compared to others. It is proven that the combination MSD and HOG were good enough for tropical shrubs species classification. Hu and ZM descriptors also improved the accuracy in tropical shrubs species classification in terms of invariant to translation, rotation and scale. ANN outperformed the others for tropical shrub species classification in this study. Feature selection methods can be used in the classification of tropical shrub species, as the comparable results could be obtained with the reduced descriptors and reduced in computational time and cost.
The Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island (OUI) Foundation has been conducting behavioral and veterinary research on orangutans as an attempt at ex situ conservation. Since 2010, the Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University has been collaborating with OUI to promote environmental enrichment and infant rearing by biological mothers in addition to the continuous efforts of refining the veterinary management of the endangered species. In 2011, three Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) were released on an island, called BJ Island, adjacent to OUI. This island is approximately 5.6 ha in size, and 635 trees belonging to 102 plant species were identified prior to their release. Behavioral monitoring of the released individuals has been conducted to evaluate their behavioral adaptation to the new environment. Two of the three released orangutans were born in the wild, whereas the youngest individual was born on OUI and expected to learn forest survival strategies from the two older individuals. One of the orangutans was pregnant at the time of release and subsequently gave birth to two male infants on BJ Island. The behavioral monitoring indicated that these orangutans traveled more and spent more time on trees following their release onto BJ Island. However, resting was longer for two females both on OUI and BJ Island when compared to other populations. The orangutans consumed some natural food resources on BJ Island. The release into a more naturalistic environment may help the orangutans to develop more naturalistic behavioral patterns that resemble their wild counterparts.
This study explored the conservation values of communally reserved forests (CRFs), which local indigenous communities deliberately preserve within their area of shifting cultivation. In the current landscape of rural Borneo, CRFs are the only option for conservation because other forested areas have already been logged or transformed into plantations. By analyzing their alpha and beta diversity, we investigated how these forests can contribute to restore regional biodiversity. Although CRFs were fragmented and some had been disturbed in the past, their tree species diversity was high and equivalent to that of primary forests. The species composition of intact forests and forests disturbed in the past did not differ clearly, which indicates that past logging was not intensive. All CRFs contained unique and endangered species, which are on the IUCN Red List, Sarawak protected plants, or both. On the other hand, the forest size structure differed between disturbed and intact CRFs, with the disturbed CRFs consisting of relatively smaller trees. Although the beta diversity among CRFs was also high, we found a high contribution of species replacement (turnover), but not of richness difference, in the total beta diversity. This suggests that all CRFs have a conservation value for restoring the overall regional biodiversity. Therefore, for maintaining the regional species diversity and endangered species, it would be suitable to design a conservation target into all CRFs.
Mammalian carnivores play a vital role in ecosystem functioning. However, they are prone to extinction because of low population densities and growth rates, and high levels of persecution or exploitation. In tropical biodiversity hotspots such as Peninsular Malaysia, rapid conversion of natural habitats threatens the persistence of this vulnerable group of animals. Here, we carried out the first comprehensive literature review on 31 carnivore species reported to occur in Peninsular Malaysia and updated their probable distribution. We georeferenced 375 observations of 28 species of carnivore from 89 unique geographic locations using records spanning 1948 to 2014. Using the Getis-Ord Gi*statistic and weighted survey records by IUCN Red List status, we identified hotspots of species that were of conservation concern and built regression models to identify environmental and anthropogenic landscape factors associated with Getis-Ord Gi* z scores. Our analyses identified two carnivore hotspots that were spatially concordant with two of the peninsula's largest and most contiguous forest complexes, associated with Taman Negara National Park and Royal Belum State Park. A cold spot overlapped with the southwestern region of the Peninsula, reflecting the disappearance of carnivores with higher conservation rankings from increasingly fragmented natural habitats. Getis-Ord Gi* z scores were negatively associated with elevation, and positively associated with the proportion of natural land cover and distance from the capital city. Malaysia contains some of the world's most diverse carnivore assemblages, but recent rates of forest loss are some of the highest in the world. Reducing poaching and maintaining large, contiguous tracts of lowland forests will be crucial, not only for the persistence of threatened carnivores, but for many mammalian species in general.
The Sumatran orangutan is currently listed by the IUCN as critically endangered and the Bornean species as endangered. Unless effective conservation measures are enacted quickly, most orangutan populations without adequate protection face a dire future. Two main strategies are being pursued to conserve orangutans: (i) rehabilitation and reintroduction of ex-captive or displaced individuals; and (ii) protection of their forest habitat to abate threats like deforestation and hunting. These strategies are often mirrored in similar programs to save other valued and endangered mega-fauna. Through GIS analysis, collating data from across the literature, and combining this information within a modelling and decision analysis framework, we analysed which strategy or combination of strategies is the most cost-effective at maintaining wild orangutan populations, and under what conditions. We discovered that neither strategy was optimal under all circumstances but was dependent on the relative cost per orangutan, the timescale of management concern, and the rate of deforestation. Reintroduction, which costs twelve times as much per animal as compared to protection of forest, was only a cost-effective strategy at very short timescales. For time scales longer than 10-20 years, forest protection is the more cost-efficient strategy for maintaining wild orangutan populations. Our analyses showed that a third, rarely utilised strategy is intermediate: introducing sustainable logging practices and protection from hunting in timber production forest. Maximum long-term cost-efficiency is achieved by working in conservation forest. However, habitat protection involves addressing complex conservation issues and conflicting needs at the landscape level. We find a potential resolution in that well-managed production forests could achieve intermediate conservation outcomes. This has broad implications for sustaining biodiversity more generally within an economically productive landscape. Insights from this analysis should provide a better framework to prioritize financial investments, and facilitate improved integration between the organizations that implement these strategies.
The identification of Aquilaria species from their resinous non-wood product, the agarwood, is challenging as conventional techniques alone are unable to ascertain the species origin. Aquilaria is a highly protected species due to the excessive exploitation of its precious agarwood. Here, we applied the DNA barcoding technique to generate barcode sequences for Aquilaria species and later applied the barcodes to identify the source species of agarwood found in the market. We developed a reference DNA barcode library using eight candidate barcode loci (matK, rbcL, rpoB, rpoC1, psbA-trnH, trnL-trnF, ITS, and ITS2) amplified from 24 leaf accessions of seven Aquilaria species obtained from living trees. Our results indicated that all single barcodes can be easily amplified and sequenced with the selected primers. The combination of trnL-trnF+ITS and trnL-trnF+ITS2 yielded the greatest species resolution using the least number of loci combination, while matK+trnL-trnF+ITS showed potential in detecting the geographical origins of Aquilaria species. We propose trnL-trnF+ITS2 as the best candidate barcode for Aquilaria as ITS2 has a shorter sequence length compared to ITS, which eases PCR amplification especially when using degraded DNA samples such as those extracted from processed agarwood products. A blind test conducted on eight agarwood samples in different forms using the proposed barcode combination proved successful in their identification up to the species level. Such potential of DNA barcoding in identifying the source species of agarwood will contribute to the international timber trade control, by providing an effective method for species identification and product authentication.
Pangolins are scale-covered mammals, containing eight endangered species. Maintaining pangolins in captivity is a significant challenge, in part because little is known about their genetics. Here we provide the first large-scale sequencing of the critically endangered Manis javanica transcriptomes from eight different organs using Illumina HiSeq technology, yielding ~75 Giga bases and 89,754 unigenes. We found some unigenes involved in the insect hormone biosynthesis pathway and also 747 lipids metabolism-related unigenes that may be insightful to understand the lipid metabolism system in pangolins. Comparative analysis between M. javanica and other mammals revealed many pangolin-specific genes significantly over-represented in stress-related processes, cell proliferation and external stimulus, probably reflecting the traits and adaptations of the analyzed pregnant female M. javanica. Our study provides an invaluable resource for future functional works that may be highly relevant for the conservation of pangolins.
Tor tor is an important game and food fish of India with a distribution throughout Asia from the trans-Himalayan region to the Mekong River basin to Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia. A new cell line named TTCF was developed from the caudal fin of T. tor for the first time. The cell line was optimally maintained at 28°C in Leibovitz-15 (L-15) medium supplemented with 20% fetal bovine serum (FBS). The propagation of TTCF cells showed a high plating efficiency of 63.00%. The cytogenetic analysis revealed a diploid count of 100 chromosomes at passage 15, 30, 45 and 60 passages. The viability of the TTCF cell line was found to be 72% after 6 months of cryopreservation in liquid nitrogen (-196°C). The origin of the cell lines was confirmed by the amplification of 578- and 655-bp sequences of 16S rRNA and cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) genes of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) respectively. TTCF cells were successfully transfected with green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter plasmids. Further, immunocytochemistry studies confirm its fibroblastic morphology of cells. Genotoxicity assessment of H₂O₂ in TTCF cell line revealed the utility of TTCF cell line as in vitro model for aquatic toxicological studies.
Ten polymorphic microsatellite markers have been developed for Gonystylus bancanus (Ramin), a protected tree species of peat swamp forests in Malaysia and Indonesia. Eight markers were also shown to be polymorphic in other Gonystylus species. The markers will enable assessing the amount of genetic variation within and among populations and the degree of population differentiation, such that donor populations can be selected for reforestation projects. They may be used for tracing and tracking of wood in the production chain, so that legal trade in this Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora-protected timber species, derived from specifically described origins, can be distinguished from illegally logged timber.
A total of 1951 species of freshwater and marine fishes belonging to 704 genera and 186 families are recorded in Malaysia. Almost half (48%) are currently threatened to some degree, while nearly one third (27%) mostly from the marine and coral habitats require urgent scientific studies to evaluate their status. Freshwater habitats encompass the highest percentage of threatened fish species (87%) followed by estuarine habitats (66%). Of the 32 species of highly threatened (HT) species, 16 are freshwater and 16 are largely marine-euryhaline species. Fish extinctions in Malaysia are confined to two freshwater species, but both freshwater and marine species are being increasingly threatened by largely habitat loss or modification (76%), overfishing (27%) and by-catch (23%). The most important threat to freshwater fishes is habitat modification and overfishing, while 35 species are threatened due to their endemism. Brackish-water, euryhaline and marine fishes are threatened mainly by overfishing, by-catch and habitat modification. Sedimentation (pollution) additionally threatens coral-reef fishes. The study provides recommendations to governments, fish managers, scientists and stakeholders to address the increasing and unabated extinction risks faced by the Malaysian fish fauna.
The endangered Asian tapir (Tapirus indicus) is threatened by large-scale habitat loss, forest fragmentation and increased hunting pressure. Conservation planning for this species, however, is hampered by a severe paucity of information on its ecology and population status. We present the first Asian tapir population density estimate from a camera trapping study targeting tigers in a selectively logged forest within Peninsular Malaysia using a spatially explicit capture-recapture maximum likelihood based framework. With a trap effort of 2496 nights, 17 individuals were identified corresponding to a density (standard error) estimate of 9.49 (2.55) adult tapirs/100 km(2) . Although our results include several caveats, we believe that our density estimate still serves as an important baseline to facilitate the monitoring of tapir population trends in Peninsular Malaysia. Our study also highlights the potential of extracting vital ecological and population information for other cryptic individually identifiable animals from tiger-centric studies, especially with the use of a spatially explicit capture-recapture maximum likelihood based framework.
Two Unionida (freshwater mussel) families are present in the Northern Hemisphere; the Margaritiferidae, representing the most threatened of unionid families, and the Unionidae, which include several genera of unresolved taxonomic placement. The recent reassignment of the poorly studied Lamprotula rochechouartii from the Unionidae to the Margaritiferidae motivated a new search for other potential species of margaritiferids from members of Gibbosula and Lamprotula. Based on molecular and morphological analyses conducted on newly collected specimens from Vietnam, we here assign Gibbosula crassa to the Margaritiferidae. Additionally, we reanalyzed all diagnostic characteristics of the Margaritiferidae and examined museum specimens of Lamprotula and Gibbosula. As a result, two additional species are also moved to the Margaritiferidae, i.e. Gibbosula confragosa and Gibbosula polysticta. We performed a robust five marker phylogeny with all available margaritiferid species and discuss the taxonomy within the family. The present phylogeny reveals the division of Margaritiferidae into four ancient clades with distinct morphological, biogeographical and ecological characteristics that justify the division of the Margaritiferidae into two subfamilies (Gibbosulinae and Margaritiferinae) and four genera (Gibbosula, Cumberlandia, Margaritifera, and Pseudunio). The systematics of the Margaritiferidae family is re-defined as well as their distribution, potential origin and main biogeographic patterns.
For many threatened species the rate and drivers of population decline are difficult to assess accurately: species' surveys are typically restricted to small geographic areas, are conducted over short time periods, and employ a wide range of survey protocols. We addressed methodological challenges for assessing change in the abundance of an endangered species. We applied novel methods for integrating field and interview survey data for the critically endangered Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), allowing a deeper understanding of the species' persistence through time. Our analysis revealed that Bornean orangutan populations have declined at a rate of 25% over the last 10 years. Survival rates of the species are lowest in areas with intermediate rainfall, where complex interrelations between soil fertility, agricultural productivity, and human settlement patterns influence persistence. These areas also have highest threats from human-wildlife conflict. Survival rates are further positively associated with forest extent, but are lower in areas where surrounding forest has been recently converted to industrial agriculture. Our study highlights the urgency of determining specific management interventions needed in different locations to counter the trend of decline and its associated drivers.