Displaying all 15 publications

  1. Ruppert N, Mansor A, Sah SA
    Trop Life Sci Res, 2017 Jan;28(1):33-44.
    PMID: 28228915 MyJurnal DOI: 10.21315/tlsr2017.28.1.3
    Rattans (subfamily Calamoideae) are an important component of the forests of the Old World. However, few studies have been conducted on the distribution of these abundant palms within different habitats, specifically in Peninsular Malaysia. This study was aimed at assessing rattan diversity, abundance and biomass change across two different habitat types, namely, dipterocarp forests and fresh-water swamps within the Segari Melintang Forest Reserve, Perak, within two years. All rattan stems within five 100 m × 100 m sized study plots (A-E) of the two habitat types were counted in 2011 and 2013, and Shannon-Wiener diversity indices (H') and Bray-Curtis dissimilarity indices were calculated. A total of 11 species from 5 genera (161 stems ha(-1)) were sampled. Rattan abundance was higher in all swamp plots; however, rattan diversity (H') was highest in the dipterocarp plot (D: H' (2011)1.79; H' (2013)1.84). Bray-Curtis indices of rattan abundance (highest similarity in swamp: plot BC(2011) 0.484, BC(2013) 0.262) and biomass were highest for study plots with the same vegetation types in both years. For rattan biomass, the most similar plot pairs changed during the years: dipterocarp plots A and D were most similar in 2011 (0.509), and swamp plots B and C were most similar in 2013 (0.282). This study helped contribute information regarding the distribution and dynamics of rattans in a primary rainforest of Peninsular Malaysia.
  2. Liu K, Mansor A, Ruppert N, Fadzly N
    Plant Signal Behav, 2020 10 02;15(10):1795393.
    PMID: 32693670 DOI: 10.1080/15592324.2020.1795393
    Rattan spines are most often regarded as an identification trait and perhaps as a physical protection structure. In this study, we study the spinescence traits from five different species rattan: Daemonorops lewisiana, Daemonorops geniculata, Calamus castaneus, Plectomia griffithii, and Korthalsia scortechinii. We tested length, width, angle, strength, spine density, cross-section surface, spine color, and leaf trichomes (only for D. lewisiana, C. castaneus and D. geniculata). We also tested whether the spines were capable of deterring small climbing mammals (for Plectomia griffithii and Calamus castaneus) by using a choice selection experiment. Due to a variety of spine traits, we could not categorize whether any species is more or less spinescent than the others. We suggest that spines have a much more significant role than merely as a physical defense and work together with other rattan characteristics. This is also evidenced by our choice selection experiment, in which the spines on a single stem donot deter small climbing mammals. However, this is a work in progress, and we have outlined several alternative methods to be used in future work.
  3. Lappan S, Malaivijitnond S, Radhakrishna S, Riley EP, Ruppert N
    Am J Primatol, 2020 Aug;82(8):e23176.
    PMID: 32686188 DOI: 10.1002/ajp.23176
    The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in late 2019 and human responses to the resulting COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 have rapidly changed many aspects of human behavior, including our interactions with wildlife. In this commentary, we identify challenges and opportunities at human-primate interfaces in light of COVID-19, focusing on examples from Asia, and make recommendations for researchers working with wild primates to reduce zoonosis risk and leverage research opportunities. First, we briefly review the evidence for zoonotic origins of SARS-CoV-2 and discuss risks of zoonosis at the human-primate interface. We then identify challenges that the pandemic has caused for primates, including reduced nutrition, increased intraspecific competition, and increased poaching risk, as well as challenges facing primatologists, including lost research opportunities. Subsequently, we highlight opportunities arising from pandemic-related lockdowns and public health messaging, including opportunities to reduce the intensity of problematic human-primate interfaces, opportunities to reduce the risk of zoonosis between humans and primates, opportunities to reduce legal and illegal trade in primates, new opportunities for research on human-primate interfaces, and opportunities for community education. Finally, we recommend specific actions that primatologists should take to reduce contact and aggression between humans and primates, to reduce demand for primates as pets, to reduce risks of zoonosis in the context of field research, and to improve understanding of human-primate interfaces. Reducing the risk of zoonosis and promoting the well-being of humans and primates at our interfaces will require substantial changes from "business as usual." We encourage primatologists to help lead the way.
  4. Holzner A, Mohd Rameli NIA, Ruppert N, Widdig A
    Curr Biol, 2024 Jan 22;34(2):410-416.e4.
    PMID: 38194972 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.12.002
    Infant survival is a major determinant of individual fitness and constitutes a crucial factor in shaping species' ability to maintain viable populations in changing environments.1 Early adverse conditions, such as maternal loss, social isolation, and ecological hazards, have been associated with reduced rates of infant survivorship in wild primates.2,3,4 Agricultural landscapes increasingly replacing natural forest habitats may additionally threaten the survival of infants through exposure to novel predators,5 human-wildlife conflicts,6,7 or the use of harmful chemicals.8,9 Here, we investigated potential links between agricultural habitat use and high infant mortality in wild southern pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) inhabiting a mosaic landscape of rainforest and oil palm plantation in Peninsular Malaysia. Longitudinal data revealed that 57% of all infants born during the study period (2014-2023) died before the age of 1 year, far exceeding mortality rates reported for other wild primates.10,11,12,13,14 Importantly, prolonged time spent in the plantation during infancy decreased the likelihood of infant survival by 3-fold, likely caused by increased exposure to the threats inherent to this environment. Further, mortality risk was elevated for infants born to primiparous mothers and predicted by prolonged maternal interbirth intervals, suggesting potential long-term effects attributed to the uptake and/or accumulation of pesticides in mothers' bodies.15,16,17 Indeed, existing literature reports that pesticides may cross the placental barrier, thus impacting fetal development during pregnancy.18,19,20 Our findings emphasize the importance of minimizing anthropogenic threats to wildlife in agricultural landscapes by establishing environmentally friendly cultivation practices that can sustain wildlife populations in the long term.
  5. Holzner A, Balasubramaniam KN, Weiß BM, Ruppert N, Widdig A
    Sci Rep, 2021 May 14;11(1):10353.
    PMID: 33990658 DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-89783-3
    Human-induced habitat alterations globally threaten animal populations, often evoking complex behavioural responses in wildlife. This may be particularly dramatic when negatively affecting social behaviour, which fundamentally determines individual fitness and offspring survival in group-living animals. Here, we provide first evidence for significant behavioural modifications in sociality of southern pig-tailed macaques visiting Malaysian oil palm plantations in search of food despite elevated predation risk. Specifically, we found critical reductions of key positive social interactions but higher rates of aggression in the plantation interior compared to the plantation edge (i.e. plantation areas bordering the forest) and the forest. At the plantation edge, affiliation even increased compared to the forest, while central positions in the macaques' social network structure shifted from high-ranking adult females and immatures to low-ranking individuals. Further, plantations also affected mother-infant relationships, with macaque mothers being more protective in the open plantation environment. We suggest that although primates can temporarily persist in human-altered habitats, their ability to permanently adapt requires the presence of close-by forest and comes with a trade-off in sociality, potentially hampering individual fitness and infant survival. Studies like ours remain critical for understanding species' adaptability to anthropogenic landscapes, which may ultimately contribute to facilitating their coexistence with humans and preserving biodiversity.
  6. Liu K, Mansor A, Ruppert N, Lee CY, Azman NM, Fadzly N
    Plant Signal Behav, 2019;14(8):1621245.
    PMID: 31132922 DOI: 10.1080/15592324.2019.1621245
    Rattan is an important climbing palm taxon in Malaysian tropical rain forests. Many rattan species have unique structures directly associated with certain ant species. In this study, four rattan species (Daemonorops lewisiana, Calamus castaneus, Daemonorops geniculata and Korthalsia scortechinii) were inspected and documented in a field survey concerning their relationships with several ant species. We noticed that two rattan species (D. lewisiana and C. castaneus) were more likely to be associated with ants compared to their neighbouring rattan (Plectomia griffithii). However, D. lewisiana and C. castaneus did not directly provide shelters for ant colonies, but possessed unique structures: upward-pointing spines and funnel-shaped leaves, which are equipped to collect more litter than P. griffithii. To test our litter collecting hypothesis, we measured the inclination of spines from the stem. Our results showed the presence of ant colonies in the litter-collecting rattans (D. lewisiana and C. castaneus), which was significantly higher compared to a non-litter-collecting rattan (P. griffithii). We propose a complex and novel type of adaptation (litter-collection and provision of nesting materials) for rattans, which promotes interactions between the rattan and ants through the arrangements of leaves, leaflets, and spines. In return, the rattan may benefit from ants' services, such as protection, nutrient enhancement, and pollination.
  7. Mohd Rameli NIA, Lappan S, Bartlett TQ, Ahmad SK, Ruppert N
    Am J Primatol, 2020 03;82(3):e23112.
    PMID: 32083333 DOI: 10.1002/ajp.23112
    Citizen science-based research has been used effectively to estimate animal abundance and breeding patterns, to monitor animal movement, and for biodiversity conservation and education. Here, we evaluate the feasibility of using social media observations to assess the distribution of small apes in Peninsular Malaysia. We searched for reports of small ape observations in Peninsular Malaysia on social media (e.g., blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, iNaturalist, etc.), and also used online, radio, print messaging, and word of mouth to invite citizen scientists such as birders, amateur naturalists, hikers, and other members of the public to provide information about small ape observations made during their activities. These reports provided new information about the occurrence of all three species of small apes (Hylobates agilis, Hylobates lar, and Symphalangus syndactylus) in Peninsular Malaysia. Social media users reported observations of small apes in almost every state. Despite the fact that small apes are believed to occur primarily in the interior of large forested areas, most observations were from fairly small (<100 km2 ) forests near areas of high traffic and high human population (roads and urban areas). This suggests that most outdoor enthusiasts primarily visit well-traveled and easily accessible areas, which results in biased sampling if only incidental observations reported on social media are used. A more targeted approach specifically soliciting reports from citizen scientists visiting large, less-accessible forests may result in better sampling in these habitats. Social media reports indicated the presence of small apes in at least six habitats where they had not been previously reported. We verified the reported data based on whether reports included a date, location, and uploaded photographs, videos and/or audio recordings. Well-publicized citizen science programs may also build awareness and enthusiasm about the conservation of vulnerable wildlife species.
  8. Mohd Hanafiah K, Abd Mutalib AH, Miard P, Goh CS, Mohd Sah SA, Ruppert N
    Sustain Sci, 2021 Oct 15.
    PMID: 34667481 DOI: 10.1007/s11625-021-01052-4
    Palm oil (PO) is an important source of livelihood, but unsustainable practices and widespread consumption may threaten human and planetary health. We reviewed 234 articles and summarized evidence on the impact of PO on health, social and economic aspects, environment, and biodiversity in the Malaysian context, and discuss mitigation strategies based on the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The evidence on health impact of PO is equivocal, with knowledge gaps on whether moderate consumption elevates risk for chronic diseases, but the benefits of phytonutrients (SDG2) and sensory characteristics of PO seem offset by its high proportion of saturated fat (SDG3). While PO contributes to economic growth (SDG9, 12), poverty alleviation (SDG1, 8, 10), enhanced food security (SDG2), alternative energy (SDG9), and long-term employment opportunities (SDG1), human rights issues and inequities attributed to PO production persist (SDG8). Environmental impacts arise through large-scale expansion of monoculture plantations associated with increased greenhouse gas emissions (SDG13), especially from converted carbon-rich peat lands, which can cause forest fires and annual trans-boundary haze; changes in microclimate properties and soil nutrient content (SDG6, 13); increased sedimentation and change of hydrological properties of streams near slopes (SDG6); and increased human wildlife conflicts, increase of invasive species occurrence, and reduced biodiversity (SDG14, 15). Practices such as biological pest control, circular waste management, multi-cropping and certification may mitigate negative impacts on environmental SDGs, without hampering progress of socioeconomic SDGs. While strategies focusing on improving practices within and surrounding plantations offer co-benefits for socioeconomic, environment and biodiversity-related SDGs, several challenges in achieving scalable solutions must be addressed to ensure holistic sustainability of PO in Malaysia for various stakeholders.

    Supplementary Information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11625-021-01052-4.

  9. Liu K, Fadzly N, Mansor A, Zakaria R, Ruppert N, Lee CY
    Plant Signal Behav, 2017 Oct 03;12(10):e1371890.
    PMID: 28841358 DOI: 10.1080/15592324.2017.1371890
    Amorphophallus bufo is a rarely studied plant in Malaysian tropical rainforests. We measured the spectral reflectance of different developmental stages of A. bufo (seedlings, juveniles and adults), background soil/ debris and leaves from other neighboring plant species. Results show that the leaves of A. bufo seedling have a similar reflectance curve as the background soil and debris. Adults and juveniles of A. bufo are similar to other neighboring plants' leaf colors. We hypothesize that the cryptic coloration of A. bufo seedlings plays an important role in camouflage and that the numerous black spots on the surface of the petioles and rachises, may serve as a defensive mimicry against herbivores.
  10. Holzner A, Ruppert N, Swat F, Schmidt M, Weiß BM, Villa G, et al.
    Curr Biol, 2019 10 21;29(20):R1066-R1067.
    PMID: 31639346 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.09.011
    Conversion of tropical forests into oil palm plantations reduces the habitats of many species, including primates, and frequently leads to human-wildlife conflicts. Contrary to the widespread belief that macaques foraging in the forest-oil palm matrix are detrimental crop pests, we show that the impact of macaques on oil palm yield is minor. More importantly, our data suggest that wild macaques have the potential to act as biological pest control by feeding on plantation rats, the major pest for oil palm crops, with each macaque group estimated to reduce rat populations by about 3,000 individuals per year (mitigating annual losses of 112 USD per hectare). If used for rodent control in place of the conventional method of poison, macaques could provide an important ecosystem service and enhance palm oil sustainability.
  11. Holzner A, Rayan DM, Moore J, Tan CKW, Clart L, Kulik L, et al.
    PeerJ, 2021;9:e12462.
    PMID: 34993012 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.12462
    Deforestation is a major threat to terrestrial tropical ecosystems, particularly in Southeast Asia where human activities have dramatic consequences for the survival of many species. However, responses of species to anthropogenic impact are highly variable. In order to establish effective conservation strategies, it is critical to determine a species' ability to persist in degraded habitats. Here, we used camera trapping data to provide the first insights into the temporal and spatial distribution of southern pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina, listed as 'Vulnerable' by the IUCN) across intact and degraded forest habitats in Peninsular Malaysia, with a particular focus on the effects of clear-cutting and selective logging on macaque occupancy. Specifically, we found a 10% decline in macaque site occupancy in the highly degraded Pasoh Forest Reserve from 2013 to 2017. This may be strongly linked to the macaques' sensitivity to intensive disturbance through clear-cutting, which significantly increased the probability that M. nemestrina became locally extinct at a previously occupied site. However, we found no clear relationship between moderate disturbance, i.e., selective logging, and the macaques' local extinction probability or site occupancy in the Pasoh Forest Reserve and Belum-Temengor Forest Complex. Further, an identical age and sex structure of macaques in selectively logged and completely undisturbed habitat types within the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex indicated that the macaques did not show increased mortality or declining birth rates when exposed to selective logging. Overall, this suggests that low to moderately disturbed forests may still constitute valuable habitats that support viable populations of M. nemestrina, and thus need to be protected against further degradation. Our results emphasize the significance of population monitoring through camera trapping for understanding the ability of threatened species to cope with anthropogenic disturbance. This can inform species management plans and facilitate the development of effective conservation measures to protect biodiversity.
  12. Balasubramaniam KN, Kaburu SSK, Marty PR, Beisner BA, Bliss-Moreau E, Arlet ME, et al.
    J Anim Ecol, 2021 12;90(12):2819-2833.
    PMID: 34453852 DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13584
    Human population expansion into wildlife habitats has increased interest in the behavioural ecology of human-wildlife interactions. To date, however, the socioecological factors that determine whether, when or where wild animals take risks by interacting with humans and anthropogenic factors still remains unclear. We adopt a comparative approach to address this gap, using social network analysis (SNA). SNA, increasingly implemented to determine human impact on wildlife ecology, can be a powerful tool to understand how animal socioecology influences the spatiotemporal distribution of human-wildlife interactions. For 10 groups of rhesus, long-tailed and bonnet macaques (Macaca spp.) living in anthropogenically impacted environments in Asia, we collected data on human-macaque interactions, animal demographics, and macaque-macaque agonistic and affiliative social interactions. We constructed 'human co-interaction networks' based on associations between macaques that interacted with humans within the same time and spatial locations, and social networks based on macaque-macaque allogrooming behaviour, affiliative behaviours of short duration (agonistic support, lip-smacking, silent bare-teeth displays and non-sexual mounting) and proximity. Pre-network permutation tests revealed that, within all macaque groups, specific individuals jointly took risks by repeatedly, consistently co-interacting with humans within and across time and space. GLMMs revealed that macaques' tendencies to co-interact with humans was positively predicted by their tendencies to engage in short-duration affiliative interactions and tolerance of conspecifics, although the latter varied across species (bonnets>rhesus>long-tailed). Male macaques were more likely to co-interact with humans than females. Neither macaques' grooming relationships nor their dominance ranks predicted their tendencies to co-interact with humans. Our findings suggest that, in challenging anthropogenic environments, less (compared to more) time-consuming forms of affiliation, and additionally greater social tolerance in less ecologically flexible species with a shorter history of exposure to humans, may be key to animals' joint propensities to take risks to gain access to resources. For males, greater exploratory tendencies and less energetically demanding long-term life-history strategies (compared to females) may also influence such joint risk-taking. From conservation and public health perspectives, wildlife connectedness within such co-interaction networks may inform interventions to mitigate zoonosis, and move human-wildlife interactions from conflict towards coexistence.
  13. Marty PR, Balasubramaniam KN, Kaburu SSK, Hubbard J, Beisner B, Bliss-Moreau E, et al.
    Primates, 2020 Mar;61(2):249-255.
    PMID: 31773350 DOI: 10.1007/s10329-019-00775-4
    In primates, living in an anthropogenic environment can significantly improve an individual's fitness, which is likely attributed to access to anthropogenic food resources. However, in non-professionally provisioned groups, few studies have examined whether individual attributes, such as dominance rank and sex, affect primates' ability to access anthropogenic food. Here, we investigated whether rank and sex explain individual differences in the proportion of anthropogenic food consumed by macaques. We observed 319 individuals living in nine urban groups across three macaque species. We used proportion of anthropogenic food in the diet as a proxy of access to those food resources. Males and high-ranking individuals in both sexes had significantly higher proportions of anthropogenic food in their diets than other individuals. We speculate that unequal access to anthropogenic food resources further increases within-group competition, and may limit fitness benefits in an anthropogenic environment to certain individuals.
  14. Balasubramaniam KN, Marty PR, Samartino S, Sobrino A, Gill T, Ismail M, et al.
    Sci Rep, 2020 12 15;10(1):21991.
    PMID: 33319843 DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-78881-3
    Despite increasing conflict at human-wildlife interfaces, there exists little research on how the attributes and behavior of individual wild animals may influence human-wildlife interactions. Adopting a comparative approach, we examined the impact of animals' life-history and social attributes on interactions between humans and (peri)urban macaques in Asia. For 10 groups of rhesus, long-tailed, and bonnet macaques, we collected social behavior, spatial data, and human-interaction data for 11-20 months on pre-identified individuals. Mixed-model analysis revealed that, across all species, males and spatially peripheral individuals interacted with humans the most, and that high-ranking individuals initiated more interactions with humans than low-rankers. Among bonnet macaques, but not rhesus or long-tailed macaques, individuals who were more well-connected in their grooming network interacted more frequently with humans than less well-connected individuals. From an evolutionary perspective, our results suggest that individuals incurring lower costs related to their life-history (males) and resource-access (high rank; strong social connections within a socially tolerant macaque species), but also higher costs on account of compromising the advantages of being in the core of their group (spatial periphery), are the most likely to take risks by interacting with humans in anthropogenic environments. From a conservation perspective, evaluating individual behavior will better inform efforts to minimize conflict-related costs and zoonotic-risk.
  15. Gamalo LE, Ilham K, Jones-Engel L, Gill M, Sweet R, Aldrich B, et al.
    Am J Primatol, 2023 Sep 04.
    PMID: 37667504 DOI: 10.1002/ajp.23547
    In 2022, long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis), a once ubiquitous primate species, was elevated to Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. In 2023, recognizing that the long-tailed macaque is threatened by multiple factors: (1) declining native habitats across Southeast Asia; (2) overutilization for scientific, commercial, and recreational purposes; (3) inadequate regulatory mechanisms; and (4) culling due to human-macaque conflicts, a petition for rulemaking was submitted to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to add the species to the US Endangered Species Act, the nation's most effective law to protect at risk species. The long-tailed macaque remains unprotected across much of its geographical range despite the documented continual decline of the species and related sub-species and the recent IUCN reassessment. This commentary presents a review of the factors that have contributed to the dramatic decline of this keystone species and makes a case for raising the level of protection they receive.
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