Wild chimpanzee populations are still declining due to logging, disease transmission and hunting. The bushmeat trade frequently leads to an increase in the number of orphaned primates. HELP Congo was the first project to successfully release wild-born orphan chimpanzees into an existing chimpanzee habitat. A collection of post monitoring data over 16 years now offers the unique opportunity to investigate possible behavioural adaptations in these chimpanzees. We investigated the feeding and activity patterns in eight individuals via focal observation techniques from 1997-1999 and 2001-2005. Our results revealed a decline in the number of fruit and insect species in the diet of released chimpanzees over the years, whereas within the same period of time, the number of consumed seed species increased. Furthermore, we found a decline in time spent travelling, but an increase in time spent on social activities, such as grooming, as individuals matured. In conclusion, the observed changes in feeding and activity patterns seem to reflect important long-term behavioural and ecological adaptations in wild-born orphan released chimpanzees, demonstrating that the release of chimpanzees can be successful, even if it takes time for full adaptation.
We examined mitochondrial DNA control region sequences of 73 Kinabatangan orangutans to test the hypothesis that the phylogeographical structure of the Bornean orangutan is influenced by riverine barriers. The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary contains one of the most northern populations of orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) on Borneo and is bisected by the Kinabatangan River, the longest river in Sabah. Orang-utan samples on either side of the river were strongly differentiated with a high Phi(ST) value of 0.404 (P < 0.001). Results also suggest an east-west gradient of genetic diversity and evidence for population expansion along the river, possibly reflecting a postglacial colonization of the Kinabatangan floodplain. We compared our data with previously published sequences of Bornean orangutans in the context of river catchment structure on the island and evaluated the general relevance of rivers as barriers to gene flow in this long-lived, solitary arboreal ape.
Accelerometers enable scientists to quantify the activity of free-living animals whose direct observation is difficult or demanding due to their elusive nature or nocturnal habits. However, the deployment of accelerometers on small-bodied animals and, in particular, on primates has been little explored. Here we show the first application of accelerometers on the western tarsier (Cephalopachus bancanus borneanus), a nocturnal, small-bodied primate endemic to the forests of Borneo. The fieldwork was carried out in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. We provide guidelines for the deployment of accelerometers on tarsiers that might also be applied to other primate species. Our collected data on 2 females show levels of leaping activity comparable to those previously described using direct observation of wild or captive individuals. The 2 females showed different patterns of leaping activity, which calls for work to explore individual differences further. Our work demonstrates that accelerometers can be deployed on small primates to acquire body motion data that would otherwise be demanding to collect using classic field observations. Future work will be focused on using accelerometer data to discriminate in more detail the different behaviours tarsiers can display and to address the causes and consequences of individual variations in activity.
Riparian ecosystems are amongst the most biodiverse tropical habitats. They are important, and essential, ecological corridors, linking remnant forest fragments. In this study, we hypothesised that crocodile's actively select nocturnal resting locations based on increased macaque predation potential. We examined the importance of riparian vegetation structure in the maintenance of crocodile hunting behaviours. Using airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and GPS telemetry on animal movement, we identified the repeated use of nocturnal resting sites by adult estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) throughout the fragmented Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, Malaysia. Crocodile resting locations were found to resemble, in terms of habitat characteristics, the sleeping sites of long-tailed macaque; positioned in an attempt to avoid predation by terrestrial predators. We found individual crocodiles were actively selecting overhanging vegetation and that the protrusion of trees from the tree line was key to site selection by crocodiles, as well as influencing both the presence and group size of sleeping macaques. Although these findings are correlational, they have broad management implications, with the suggestion that riparian corridor maintenance and quality can have implications beyond that of terrestrial fauna. We further place our findings in the context of the wider ecosystem and the maintenance of trophic interactions, and discuss how future habitat management has the potential to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
The role that oil palm plays in the Lower Kinabatangan region of Eastern Sabah is of considerable scientific and conservation interest, providing a model habitat for many tropical regions as they become increasingly fragmented. Crocodilians, as apex predators, widely distributed throughout the tropics, are ideal indicator species for ecosystem health. Drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)) were used to identify crocodile nests in a fragmented landscape. Flights were targeted through the use of fuzzy overlay models and nests located primarily in areas indicated as suitable habitat. Nests displayed a number of similarities in terms of habitat characteristics allowing for refined modelling of survey locations. As well as being more cost-effective compared to traditional methods of nesting survey, the use of drones also enabled a larger survey area to be completed albeit with a limited number of flights. The study provides a methodology for targeted nest surveying, as well as a low-cost repeatable flight methodology. This approach has potential for widespread applicability across a range of species and for a variety of study designs.
The approximately 300 (298, 95% CI: 152-581) elephants in the Lower Kinabatangan Managed Elephant Range in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo are a priority sub-population for Borneo's total elephant population (2,040, 95% CI: 1,184-3,652). Habitat loss and human-elephant conflict are recognized as the major threats to Bornean elephant survival. In the Kinabatangan region, human settlements and agricultural development for oil palm drive an intense fragmentation process. Electric fences guard against elephant crop raiding but also remove access to suitable habitat patches. We conducted expert opinion-based least-cost analyses, to model the quantity and configuration of available suitable elephant habitat in the Lower Kinabatangan, and called this the Elephant Habitat Linkage. At 184 km(2), our estimate of available habitat is 54% smaller than the estimate used in the State's Elephant Action Plan for the Lower Kinabatangan Managed Elephant Range (400 km(2)). During high flood levels, available habitat is reduced to only 61 km(2). As a consequence, short-term elephant densities are likely to surge during floods to 4.83 km(-2) (95% CI: 2.46-9.41), among the highest estimated for forest-dwelling elephants in Asia or Africa. During severe floods, the configuration of remaining elephant habitat and the surge in elephant density may put two villages at elevated risk of human-elephant conflict. Lower Kinabatangan elephants are vulnerable to the natural disturbance regime of the river due to their limited dispersal options. Twenty bottlenecks less than one km wide throughout the Elephant Habitat Linkage, have the potential to further reduce access to suitable habitat. Rebuilding landscape connectivity to isolated habitat patches and to the North Kinabatangan Managed Elephant Range (less than 35 km inland) are conservation priorities that would increase the quantity of available habitat, and may work as a mechanism to allow population release, lower elephant density, reduce human-elephant conflict, and enable genetic mixing.
Southeast Asian deforestation rates are among the world's highest and threaten to drive many forest-dependent species to extinction. Climate change is expected to interact with deforestation to amplify this risk. Here we examine whether regional incentives for sustainable forest management will be effective in improving threatened mammal conservation, in isolation and when combined with global climate change mitigation.
Home range is defined as the extent and location of the area covered annually by a wild animal in its natural habitat. Studies of African and Indian elephants in landscapes of largely open habitats have indicated that the sizes of the home range are determined not only by the food supplies and seasonal changes, but also by numerous other factors including availability of water sources, habitat loss and the existence of man-made barriers. The home range size for the Bornean elephant had never been investigated before.
Behavioural observations suggest that orang-utans are semi-solitary animals with females being philopatric and males roaming more widely in search of receptive partners, leading to the prediction that females are more closely related than males at any given site. In contrast, our study presents evidence for male and female philopatry in the orang-utan. We examined patterns of relatedness and parentage in a wild orang-utan population in Borneo using noninvasively collected DNA samples from animals observed to defecate, and microsatellite markers to assess dispersal and mating strategies. Surprisingly, resident females were equally as related to other resident females (mean r(xy) = 0.303) as resident males were to other resident males (mean r(xy) = 0.305). Moreover, resident females were more related to each other and to the resident males than they were to nonresident females, and resident males were more related to each other (and resident females) than they were to nonresident males. We assigned genetic mothers to 12 individuals in the population, while sires could be identified for eight. Both flanged males and unflanged males achieved paternity, similar to findings reported for Sumatran orang-utans.
Plant recovery rates after herbivory are thought to be a key factor driving recursion by herbivores to sites and plants to optimise resource-use but have not been investigated as an explanation for recursion in large herbivores. We investigated the relationship between plant recovery and recursion by elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis) in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah. We identified 182 recently eaten food plants, from 30 species, along 14 × 50 m transects and measured their recovery growth each month over nine months or until they were re-browsed by elephants. The monthly growth in leaf and branch or shoot length for each plant was used to calculate the time required (months) for each species to recover to its pre-eaten length. Elephant returned to all but two transects with 10 eaten plants, a further 26 plants died leaving 146 plants that could be re-eaten. Recursion occurred to 58% of all plants and 12 of the 30 species. Seventy-seven percent of the re-eaten plants were grasses. Recovery times to all plants varied from two to twenty months depending on the species. Recursion to all grasses coincided with plant recovery whereas recursion to most browsed plants occurred four to twelve months before they had recovered to their previous length. The small sample size of many browsed plants that received recursion and uneven plant species distribution across transects limits our ability to generalise for most browsed species but a prominent pattern in plant-scale recursion did emerge. Plant recovery time was a good predictor of time to recursion but varied as a function of growth form (grass, ginger, palm, liana and woody) and differences between sites. Time to plant recursion coincided with plant recovery time for the elephant's preferred food, grasses, and perhaps also gingers, but not the other browsed species. Elephants are bulk feeders so it is likely that they time their returns to bulk feed on these grass species when quantities have recovered sufficiently to meet their intake requirements. The implications for habitat and elephant management are discussed.
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.
We investigated the genetic structure within and among Bornean orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus) in forest fragments of the Lower Kinabatangan flood plain in Sabah, Malaysia. DNA was extracted from hair and faecal samples for 200 wild individuals collected during boat surveys on the Kinabatangan River. Fourteen microsatellite loci were used to characterize patterns of genetic diversity. We found that genetic diversity was high in the set of samples (mean H(E) = 0.74) and that genetic differentiation was significant between the samples (average F(ST) = 0.04, P < 0.001) with F(ST) values ranging from low (0.01) to moderately large (0.12) values. Pairwise F(ST) values were significantly higher across the Kinabatangan River than between samples from the same river side, thereby confirming the role of the river as a natural barrier to gene flow. The correlation between genetic and geographical distance was tested by means of a series of Mantel tests based on different measures of geographical distance. We used a Bayesian method to estimate immigration rates. The results indicate that migration is unlikely across the river but cannot be completely ruled out because of the limited F(ST) values. Assignment tests confirm the overall picture that gene flow is limited across the river. We found that migration between samples from the same side of the river had a high probability indicating that orang-utans used to move relatively freely between neighbouring areas. This strongly suggests that there is a need to maintain migration between isolated forest fragments. This could be done by restoring forest corridors alongside the river banks and between patches.
The choice of a sleeping site is crucial for primates and may influence their survival. In this study, we investigated several tree characteristics influencing the sleeping site selection by proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) along Kinabatangan River, in Sabah, Malaysia. We identified 81 sleeping trees used by one-male and all-male social groups from November 2011 to January 2012. We recorded 15 variables for each tree. Within sleeping sites, sleeping trees were taller, had a larger trunk, with larger and higher first branches than surrounding trees. The crown contained more mature leaves, ripe and unripe fruits but had vines less often than surrounding trees. In addition, in this study, we also focused on a larger scale, considering sleeping and non-sleeping sites. Multivariate analyses highlighted a combination of 6 variables that revealed the significance of sleeping trees as well as surrounding trees in the selection process. During our boat surveys, we observed that adult females and young individuals stayed higher in the canopy than adult males. This pattern may be driven by their increased vulnerability to predation. Finally, we suggest that the selection of particular sleeping tree features (i.e. tall, high first branch) by proboscis monkeys is mostly influenced by antipredation strategies.
The origin of the elephant on the island of Borneo remains elusive. Research has suggested two alternative hypotheses: the Bornean elephant stems either from a recent introduction in the 17th century or from an ancient colonization several hundreds of thousands years ago. Lack of elephant fossils has been interpreted as evidence for a very recent introduction, whereas mtDNA divergence from other Asian elephants has been argued to favor an ancient colonization. We investigated the demographic history of Bornean elephants using full-likelihood and approximate Bayesian computation analyses. Our results are at odds with both the recent and ancient colonization hypotheses, and favour a third intermediate scenario. We find that genetic data favour a scenario in which Bornean elephants experienced a bottleneck during the last glacial period, possibly as a consequence of the colonization of Borneo, and from which it has slowly recovered since. Altogether the data support a natural colonization of Bornean elephants at a time when large terrestrial mammals could colonise from the Sunda shelf when sea levels were much lower. Our results are important not only in understanding the unique history of the colonization of Borneo by elephants, but also for their long-term conservation.
Strongyles are commonly reported parasites in studies of primate parasite biodiversity. Among them, nodule worm species are often overlooked as a serious concern despite having been observed to cause serious disease in nonhuman primates and humans. In this study, we investigated whether strongyles found in Bornean primates are the nodule worm Oesophagostomum spp., and to what extent these parasites are shared among members of the community. To test this, we propose two hypotheses that use the parasite genetic structure to infer transmission processes within the community. In the first scenario, the absence of parasite genetic substructuring would reflect high levels of parasite transmission among primate hosts, as primates' home ranges overlap in the study area. In the second scenario, the presence of parasite substructuring would suggest cryptic diversity within the parasite genus and the existence of phylogenetic barriers to cross-species transmission. By using molecular markers, we identify strongyles infecting this primate community as O. aculeatum, the only species of nodule worm currently known to infect Asian nonhuman primates. Furthermore, the little to no genetic substructuring supports a scenario with no phylogenetic barriers to transmission and where host movements across the landscape would enable gene flow between host populations. This work shows that the parasite's high adaptability could act as a buffer against local parasite extinctions. Surveys targeting human populations living in close proximity to nonhuman primates could help clarify whether this species of nodule worm presents the zoonotic potential found in the other two species infecting African nonhuman primates.
Identifying the consequences of tropical forest degradation is essential to mitigate its effects upon forest fauna. Large forest-dwelling mammals are often highly sensitive to environmental perturbation through processes such as fragmentation, simplification of habitat structure, and abiotic changes including increased temperatures where the canopy is cleared. Whilst previous work has focused upon species richness and rarity in logged forest, few look at spatial and temporal behavioural responses to forest degradation. Using camera traps, we explored the relationships between diel activity, behavioural expression, habitat use and ambient temperature to understand how the wild free-ranging Bornean banteng (Bos javanicus lowi) respond to logging and regeneration. Three secondary forests in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo were studied, varying in the time since last logging (6-23 years). A combination of generalised linear mixed models and generalised linear models were constructed using >36,000 trap-nights. Temperature had no significant effect on activity, however it varied markedly between forests, with the period of intense heat shortening as forest regeneration increased over the years. Bantengs regulated activity, with a reduction during the wet season in the most degraded forest (z = -2.6, Std. Error = 0.13, p = 0.01), and reductions during midday hours in forest with limited regeneration, however after >20 years of regrowth, activity was more consistent throughout the day. Foraging and use of open canopy areas dominated the activity budget when regeneration was limited. As regeneration advanced, this was replaced by greater investment in travelling and using a closed canopy. Forest degradation modifies the ambient temperature, and positively influences flooding and habitat availability during the wet season. Retention of a mosaic of mature forest patches within commercial forests could minimise these effects and also provide refuge, which is key to heat dissipation and the prevention of thermal stress, whilst retention of degraded forest could provide forage.
Understanding determinants shaping infection risk of endangered wildlife is a major topic in conservation medicine. The proboscis monkey, Nasalis larvatus, an endemic primate flagship species for conservation in Borneo, is endangered through habitat loss, but can still be found in riparian lowland and mangrove forests, and in some protected areas. To assess socioecological and anthropogenic influence on intestinal helminth infections in N. larvatus, 724 fecal samples of harem and bachelor groups, varying in size and the number of juveniles, were collected between June and October 2012 from two study sites in Malaysian Borneo: 634 samples were obtained from groups inhabiting the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS), 90 samples were collected from groups of the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary (LBPMS), where monkeys are fed on stationary feeding platforms. Parasite risk was quantified by intestinal helminth prevalence, host parasite species richness (PSR), and eggs per gram feces (epg). Generalized linear mixed effect models were applied to explore whether study site, group type, group size, the number of juveniles per group, and sampling month predict parasite risk. At the LBPMS, prevalence and epg of Trichuris spp., strongylids, and Strongyloides spp. but not Ascaris spp., as well as host PSR were significantly elevated. Only for Strongyloides spp., prevalence showed significant changes between months; at both sites, the beginning rainy season with increased precipitation was linked to higher prevalence, suggesting the external life cycle of Strongyloides spp. to benefit from humidity. Higher prevalence, epgs, and PSR within the LBPMS suggest that anthropogenic factors shape host infection risk more than socioecological factors, most likely via higher re-infection rates and chronic stress. Noninvasive measurement of fecal parasite stages is an important tool for assessing transmission dynamics and infection risks for endangered tropical wildlife. Findings will contribute to healthcare management in nature and in anthropogenically managed environments.
The development of GPS tags for tracking wildlife has revolutionised the study of home ranges, habitat use and behaviour. Concomitantly, there have been rapid developments in methods for estimating habitat use from GPS data. In combination, these changes can cause challenges in choosing the best methods for estimating home ranges. In primatology, this issue has received little attention, as there have been few GPS collar-based studies to date. However, as advancing technology is making collaring studies more feasible, there is a need for the analysis to advance alongside the technology. Here, using a high quality GPS collaring data set from 10 proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus), we aimed to: 1) compare home range estimates from the most commonly used method in primatology, the grid-cell method, with three recent methods designed for large and/or temporally correlated GPS data sets; 2) evaluate how well these methods identify known physical barriers (e.g. rivers); and 3) test the robustness of the different methods to data containing either less frequent or random losses of GPS fixes. Biased random bridges had the best overall performance, combining a high level of agreement between the raw data and estimated utilisation distribution with a relatively low sensitivity to reduced fixed frequency or loss of data. It estimated the home range of proboscis monkeys to be 24-165 ha (mean 80.89 ha). The grid-cell method and approaches based on local convex hulls had some advantages including simplicity and excellent barrier identification, respectively, but lower overall performance. With the most suitable model, or combination of models, it is possible to understand more fully the patterns, causes, and potential consequences that disturbances could have on an animal, and accordingly be used to assist in the management and restoration of degraded landscapes.
Non-human primates of South-East Asia remain under-studied concerning parasite epidemiology and co-infection patterns. Simultaneously, efforts in conservation demand knowledge of parasite abundance and biodiversity in threatened species. The Endangered proboscis monkey, Nasalis larvatus, a primate flagship species for conservation in Borneo, was investigated in the present study. Habitat loss and fragmentation are among the greatest threats to bachelor and harem groups of this folivorous colobine. Designed as a follow-up study, prevalence and co-infection status of intestinal parasites from N. larvatus in a protected area in Malaysian Borneo were analyzed from fecal samples using a flotation method. For the first time, the intestinal parasite co-infection patterns were examined using quantitative analyses. Overall, 92.3% of fecal samples (N = 652) were positive for helminth eggs. Five helminth groups were detected: (1) trichurids (82.7% prevalence) including Trichuris spp. (82.1%) and Anatrichosoma spp. (1.4%), (2) strongyles (58.9%) including Trichostrongylus spp. (48.5%) and Oesophagostomum/Ternidens spp. (22.8%), (3) Strongyloides fuelleborni (32.7%), (4) Ascaris lumbricoides (8.6%), and (5) Enterobius spp. (5.5%). On average, an individual was co-infected with two different groups. Significant positive associations were found for co-infections of trichurids with strongyles and S. fuelleborni as well as S. fuelleborni with A. lumbricoides and strongyles. This study shows a high prevalence of various gastrointestinal helminths with potential transmission pathways primarily related to soil and with zoonotic relevance in wild proboscis monkeys in their remaining natural habitats. Observed positive associations of trichurids with strongyles and Strongyloides spp. may result from the high prevalence of trichurids. Similarly, positive associations between Strongyloides and Ascaris were found, both of which typically occur predominantly in juvenile hosts. These findings should be considered when proposing conservation actions in altered habitats nearby human settlements and when managing captive populations.