In 2008, the IUCN threat status of the Asian tapir (Tapirus indicus) was reclassified from 'vulnerable' to 'endangered'. The latest distribution map from the IUCN Red List suggests that the tapirs' native range is becoming increasingly fragmented in Peninsular Malaysia, but distribution data collected by local researchers suggest a more extensive geographical range. Here, we compile a database of 1261 tapir occurrence records within Peninsular Malaysia, and demonstrate that this species, indeed, has a much broader geographical range than the IUCN range map suggests. However, extreme spatial and temporal bias in these records limits their utility for conservation planning. Therefore, we used maximum entropy (MaxEnt) modeling to elucidate the potential extent of the Asian tapir's occurrence in Peninsular Malaysia while accounting for bias in existing distribution data. Our MaxEnt model predicted that the Asian tapir has a wider geographic range than our fine-scale data and the IUCN range map both suggest. Approximately 37% of Peninsular Malaysia contains potentially suitable tapir habitats. Our results justify a revision to the Asian tapir's extent of occurrence in the IUCN Red List. Furthermore, our modeling demonstrated that selectively logged forests encompass 45% of potentially suitable tapir habitats, underscoring the importance of these habitats for the conservation of this species in Peninsular Malaysia.
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.
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.
The flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) is one of the world's least known, highly threatened felids with a distribution restricted to tropical lowland rainforests in Peninsular Thailand/Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra. Throughout its geographic range large-scale anthropogenic transformation processes, including the pollution of fresh-water river systems and landscape fragmentation, raise concerns regarding its conservation status. Despite an increasing number of camera-trapping field surveys for carnivores in South-East Asia during the past two decades, few of these studies recorded the flat-headed cat.
A clear understanding of population structure is essential for assessing conservation status and implementing management strategies. A small, non-migratory population of humpback whales in the Arabian Sea is classified as "Endangered" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, an assessment constrained by a lack of data, including limited understanding of its relationship to other populations. We analysed 11 microsatellite markers and mitochondrial DNA sequences extracted from 67 Arabian Sea humpback whale tissue samples and compared them to equivalent datasets from the Southern Hemisphere and North Pacific. Results show that the Arabian Sea population is highly distinct; estimates of gene flow and divergence times suggest a Southern Indian Ocean origin but indicate that it has been isolated for approximately 70,000 years, remarkable for a species that is typically highly migratory. Genetic diversity values are significantly lower than those obtained for Southern Hemisphere populations and signatures of ancient and recent genetic bottlenecks were identified. Our findings suggest this is the world's most isolated humpback whale population, which, when combined with low population abundance estimates and anthropogenic threats, raises concern for its survival. We recommend an amendment of the status of the population to "Critically Endangered" on the IUCN Red List.
The endangered proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) is a sexually highly dimorphic Old World primate endemic to the island of Borneo. Previous studies focused mainly on its ecology and behavior, but knowledge of its vocalizations is limited. The present study provides quantified information on vocal rate and on the vocal acoustics of the prominent calls of this species. We audio-recorded vocal behavior of 10 groups over two 4-month periods at the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, Borneo. We observed monkeys and recorded calls in evening and morning sessions at sleeping trees along riverbanks. We found no differences in the vocal rate between evening and morning observation sessions. Based on multiparametric analysis, we identified acoustic features of the four common call-types "shrieks," "honks," "roars," and "brays." "Chorus" events were also noted in which multiple callers produced a mix of vocalizations. The four call-types were distinguishable based on a combination of fundamental frequency variation, call duration, and degree of voicing. Three of the call-types can be considered as "loud calls" and are therefore deemed promising candidates for non-invasive, vocalization-based monitoring of proboscis monkeys for conservation purposes.
The continuing development of improved capture-recapture (CR) modeling techniques used to study apex predators has also limited robust temporal and cross-site analyses due to different methods employed. We develop an approach to standardize older non-spatial CR and newer spatial CR density estimates and examine trends for critically endangered Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) using a meta-regression of 17 existing densities and new estimates from our own fieldwork. We find that tiger densities were 47% higher in primary versus degraded forests and, unexpectedly, increased 4.9% per yr from 1996 to 2014, likely indicating a recovery from earlier poaching. However, while tiger numbers may have temporarily risen, the total potential island-wide population declined by 16.6% from 2000 to 2012 due to forest loss and degradation and subpopulations are significantly more fragmented. Thus, despite increasing densities in smaller parks, we conclude that there are only two robust populations left with >30 breeding females, indicating Sumatran tigers still face a high risk of extinction unless deforestation can be controlled.
Unsustainable exploitation of natural resources is increasingly affecting the highly biodiverse tropics [1, 2]. Although rapid developments in remote sensing technology have permitted more precise estimates of land-cover change over large spatial scales [3-5], our knowledge about the effects of these changes on wildlife is much more sparse [6, 7]. Here we use field survey data, predictive density distribution modeling, and remote sensing to investigate the impact of resource use and land-use changes on the density distribution of Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). Our models indicate that between 1999 and 2015, half of the orangutan population was affected by logging, deforestation, or industrialized plantations. Although land clearance caused the most dramatic rates of decline, it accounted for only a small proportion of the total loss. A much larger number of orangutans were lost in selectively logged and primary forests, where rates of decline were less precipitous, but where far more orangutans are found. This suggests that further drivers, independent of land-use change, contribute to orangutan loss. This finding is consistent with studies reporting hunting as a major cause in orangutan decline [8-10]. Our predictions of orangutan abundance loss across Borneo suggest that the population decreased by more than 100,000 individuals, corroborating recent estimates of decline . Practical solutions to prevent future orangutan decline can only be realized by addressing its complex causes in a holistic manner across political and societal sectors, such as in land-use planning, resource exploitation, infrastructure development, and education, and by increasing long-term sustainability . VIDEO ABSTRACT.
The proboscis monkey, Nasalis larvatus, is an endemic species to the island of Borneo. It is listed in the IUCN Red List as Endangered with a decreasing population trend. Nevertheless, biological information, especially on the genetic diversity of the species, is still incomplete. Its fragmented distribution poses difficulties in gathering genetic samples along with its widespread distribution across Borneo. This study aims to determine the genetic variation and structure of N. larvatus with an emphasis on Malaysian Borneo populations to elucidate its gene flow. The genetic variation and structure of N. larvatus were examined using 50 sequences of the 1,434-bp cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) gene region of mitochondrial DNA. The COI sequences revealed low genetic variation among N. larvatus populations in Malaysian Borneo. This low genetic variability could be the result of inbreeding pressure that may have occurred due to the absence of population expansion in this species over the last 30,000 years. This is supported in our analysis of molecular variance, which showed that groups of N. larvatus are significantly differentiated possibly due to natural geographic barriers. This study provides baseline information on the genetic diversity among proboscis monkey populations in Borneo for the future genetic assessment of the species.
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.
Geographically isolated populations of endemic orchids have evolved and adapted to an existence within specifi c ecological niches. These populations are highly susceptible to anthropogenic
infl uences on their microhabitats. The primary objective of conservation programs is the restoration of endangered populations to their ecologically sustainable levels, and the fi rst stage in the process of conservation involves estimation of molecular diversity at the level of the population. The approach described in this article involves the application of RAPD, Microsatellites and Chloroplast DNA markers for the characterization of the genetic structure of Paphiopedilum rothschildianum and Phalaenopsis gigantea, two endangered and endemic orchids of Sabah. This study has isolated a total of 96 microsatellite loci in P. rothschildianum and P. gigantea, 42 specifi c primer pairs have been designed for amplifi cation of microsatellite loci and are currently being applied to screen the breeding pools. The Chloroplast DNA regions amplifi ed by the primer pairs trnH-psbA and trnL-trnF exhibit distinct polymorphisms and can be used to establish phylogenetic
relationships. The ability of microsatellite loci to cross-amplify selected varieties of orchids has been determined. The molecular markers developed will be applied to estimate population diversity
levels and to formulate long-term management strategies for the conservation of endangered species of orchids of Sabah.
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 jerantinine family of Aspidosperma indole alkaloids from Tabernaemontana corymbosa are potent microtubule-targeting agents with broad spectrum anticancer activity. The natural supply of these precious metabolites has been significantly disrupted due to the inclusion of T. corymbosa on the endangered list of threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This report describes the asymmetric syntheses of (-)-jerantinines A and E from sustainably sourced (-)-tabersonine, using a straight-forward and robust biomimetic approach. Biological investigations of synthetic (-)-jerantinine A, along with molecular modelling and X-ray crystallography studies of the tubulin-(-)-jerantinine B acetate complex, advocate an anticancer mode of action of the jerantinines operating via microtubule disruption resulting from binding at the colchicine site. This work lays the foundation for accessing useful quantities of enantiomerically pure jerantinine alkaloids for future development.
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.
Confiscated slow lorises (Nycticebus spp.) at Bangpra Water-Bird Breeding Center (BWBC) in Thailand provided an opportunity to demonstrate the application of noninvasive genetic approaches for species identification when morphology of the animals was ambiguous. The slow lorises at BWBC had been assigned to either N. bengalensis or N. pygmaeus, based on body size. However, the morphology of N. bengalensis is highly variable and overlaps with that of N. coucang (sensu stricto). Phylogenetic analysis of cytochrome b and d-loop mitochondrial regions placed all confiscated N. pygmaeus with the published sequences of N. pygmaeus and distinguished them from other Nycticebus. All other confiscated individuals formed a monophyletic clade, most individuals grouping with published N. bengalensis sequences from wild populations in Vietnam and distinct from Peninsular Malaysian and Sumatran N. coucang, Javan N. javanicus and Bornean N. menagensis. Six individuals within the N. bengalensis clade formed a separate subgroup that did not group with any reference material as indicated by phylogenetic and haplotype network analyses. Whether these trafficked individuals are undiscovered wild populations will require further investigation. Additional genetic studies of wild slow loris populations in different regions are therefore urgently required for reference to aid the protection and conservation of these threatened species.
Climatic differences across a taxon's range may be associated with specific bioenergetic demands and may result in genetics-based metabolic adaptation, particularly in aquatic ectothermic organisms that rely on heat exchange with the environment to regulate key physiological processes. Extending down the east coast of Australia, the Great Dividing Range (GDR) has a strong influence on climate and the evolutionary history of freshwater fish species. Despite the GDR acting as a strong contemporary barrier to fish movement, many species, and species with shared ancestries, are found on both sides of the GDR, indicative of historical dispersal events. We sequenced complete mitogenomes from the four extant species of the freshwater cod genus Maccullochella, two of which occur on the semi-arid, inland side of the GDR, and two on the mesic coastal side. We constructed a dated phylogeny and explored the relative influences of purifying and positive selection in the evolution of mitogenome divergence among species. Results supported mid- to late-Pleistocene divergence of Maccullochella across the GDR (220-710 thousand years ago), bringing forward previously reported dates. Against a background of pervasive purifying selection, we detected potentially functionally relevant fixed amino acid differences across the GDR. Although many amino acid differences between inland and coastal species may have become fixed under relaxed purifying selection in coastal environments rather than positive selection, there was evidence of episodic positive selection acting on specific codons in the Mary River coastal lineage, which has consistently experienced the warmest and least extreme climate in the genus.
The genetic diversity of the endangered crocodile Tomistoma schlegelii was characterized using the protein coding ND 6-tRNA(glu)-cyt b and the cytochrome b-control region (cyt b-CR) markers. Concatenate data revealed six haplotypes with an overall haplotype diversity of 0.769 ± 0.039; nucleotide diversity was 0.00535 ± 0.00172. A nearest-neighbor analysis showed that all individuals clustered with four geographic regions (Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak, and East Kalimantan) and were genetically differentiated. With the exception of the individuals from haplotype H2, which occurred in both Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak, all other haplotypes were geographically distinct. The H4 lineage, which was found to be the most divergent, clustered exclusively in the basal clade in all phylogenetic trees, and the haplotype network was unconnected at the 95% reconnection limit, suggesting further investigation to establish its possible status as a distinct evolutionary significant unit or a cryptic species.
The Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus) is the largest among the four tapir species and is listed as an endangered species. Ultrasound examination and description of the external anatomy of the female reproductive system of three adult females were performed, whereas the internal anatomy was investigated in necropsied samples of four adult females and one subadult female. Descriptions of the male external genitalia were conducted on one adult male. Gross examination revealed the presence of a bicornuate uterus. The uterine cervix is firm and muscular with projections towards its lumen, which is also evident on ultrasonography. The elongated and relatively small ovaries, which have a smooth surface, could not be imaged on ultrasonography, due to their anatomical position. The testes are located inside a slightly pendulous scrotum that is sparsely covered with soft, short hairs. The penis has one dorsal and two lateral penile projections just proximal to the glans penis.