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.
Presbytis chrysomelas chrysomelas endemic only in Sarawak and Kalimantan was categorized by IUCN as a critically endangered primate that require special attention from research and conservation perspectives. A qualitative study on ranging patterns of P. c. chrysomelas was conducted in the Samunsam Wildlife Sanctuary, Sarawak. The study was conducted over a period of 13 months from December 2004 to December 2005 with 213 days of observation. Behavioural observation covered 17 groups with special emphasis on two main groups and 1 subadult group. Scanning and focal sampling were employed as the observation methods. Results indicated that P. c. chrysomelas had vertical, straight horizontal, and cross-horizontal types of movement patterns. P. c. chrysomelas was recorded to have a short movement distance (31.8-54.3 m). Distribution, abundance types, and food resources might be the factors that shaped the patterns of movement and distance in P. c. chrysomelas.
With less than 3200 wild tigers in 2010, the heads of 13 tiger-range countries committed to doubling the global population of wild tigers by 2022. This goal represents the highest level of ambition and commitment required to turn the tide for tigers in the wild. Yet, ensuring efficient and targeted implementation of conservation actions alongside systematic monitoring of progress towards this goal requires that we set site-specific recovery targets and timelines that are ecologically realistic. In this study, we assess the recovery potential of 18 sites identified under WWF's Tigers Alive Initiative. We delineated recovery systems comprising a source, recovery site, and support region, which need to be managed synergistically to meet these targets. By using the best available data on tiger and prey numbers, and adapting existing species recovery frameworks, we show that these sites, which currently support 165 (118-277) tigers, have the potential to harbour 585 (454-739) individuals. This would constitute a 15% increase in the global population and represent over a three-fold increase within these specific sites, on an average. However, it may not be realistic to achieve this target by 2022, since tiger recovery in 15 of these 18 sites is contingent on the initial recovery of prey populations, which is a slow process. We conclude that while sustained conservation efforts can yield significant recoveries, it is critical that we commit our resources to achieving the biologically realistic targets for these sites even if the timelines are extended.
Habitat destruction and overhunting are two major drivers of mammal population declines and extinctions in tropical forests. The construction of roads can be a catalyst for these two threats. In Southeast Asia, the impacts of roads on mammals have not been well-documented at a regional scale. Before evidence-based conservation strategies can be developed to minimize the threat of roads to endangered mammals within this region, we first need to locate where and how roads are contributing to the conversion of their habitats and illegal hunting in each country. We interviewed 36 experts involved in mammal research from seven Southeast Asian countries to identify roads that are contributing the most, in their opinion, to habitat conversion and illegal hunting. Our experts highlighted 16 existing and eight planned roads - these potentially threaten 21% of the 117 endangered terrestrial mammals in those countries. Apart from gathering qualitative evidence from the literature to assess their claims, we demonstrate how species-distribution models, satellite imagery and animal-sign surveys can be used to provide quantitative evidence of roads causing impacts by (1) cutting through habitats where endangered mammals are likely to occur, (2) intensifying forest conversion, and (3) contributing to illegal hunting and wildlife trade. To our knowledge, ours is the first study to identify specific roads threatening endangered mammals in Southeast Asia. Further through highlighting the impacts of roads, we propose 10 measures to limit road impacts in the region.
The eagle ray Aetobatus flagellum (Bloch & Schneider, 1801) is redescribed based on new material from the Persian Gulf (Kuwait), Indonesia and Malaysia. A related but distinct species of Aetobatus from the western North Pacific, previously referred to as A. flagellum, is reported. Aetobatus flagellum is a medium-sized eagle ray which attains about 900 mm DW; males mature at approximately 500 mm DW. Aetobatus flagellum appears to be uncommon and restricted to estuary-influenced waters of the Indo-West Pacific. It is caught as gillnet bycatch where its habit of schooling, combined with probable small litter size, may make it particularly vulnerable to impacts from fisheries.
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.
Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) are documented from various locations along Borneo's coast, including three sites in Sarawak, Malaysia, three sites in Sabah, Malaysia, three locations in Kalimantan, Indonesia and the limited coastal waters of the Sultanate of Brunei. Observations in all these areas indicate a similar external morphology, which seems to fall somewhere between that documented for Chinese populations known as S. chinensis, and that of Sousa sahulensis in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Sightings occur in shallow nearshore waters, often near estuaries and river mouths, and associations with Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) are frequently documented. Population estimates exist for only two locations and sightings information throughout Borneo indicates that frequency of occurrence is rare and group size is usually small. Threats from fisheries by-catch and coastal development are present in many locations and there are concerns over the ability of these small and fragmented populations to survive. The conservation and taxonomic status of humpback dolphins in Borneo remain unclear, and there are intriguing questions as to where these populations fit in our evolving understanding of the taxonomy of the genus.
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.
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.
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.
Molecular techniques involving the application of DNA based molecular markers for the conservation and management of endemic and endangered species have assumed significance as
genome sequencing projects have generated an extensive database which can be mined for informative genomic regions. Scientific approaches towards conservation involve several stages, which encompass determination of appropriate genomic regions for characterization, design and testing of specific molecular markers, screening of multiple populations and statistical treatment and
interpretation of data. Population data can be utilized to develop controlled breeding and relocation programs aimed at ensuring that genetic diversity within populations of endangered species is
sustained within the context of an overall conservation program. The information derived as a result of this approach can be applied to establish a scientific and legal framework for the conservation of endemic species. Species specific genomic markers can be applied to enforce the implementation of CITES within the guidelines of a national biodiversity conservation policy.
Orangutan survival is threatened by habitat loss and illegal killing. Most wild populations will disappear over the next few decades unless threats are abated. Saving orangutans is ultimately in the hands of the governments and people of Indonesia and Malaysia, which need to ensure that habitats of viable orangutan populations are protected from deforestation and well managed to ensure no hunting takes place. Companies working in orangutan habitat also have to play a much bigger role in habitat management. Although the major problems and the direct actions required to solve them-reducing forest loss and hunting-have been known for decades, orangutan populations continue to decline. Orangutan populations in Sumatra and Borneo have declined by between 2,280 and 5,250 orangutans annually over the past 25 years. As the total current population for the two species is some 60,000 animals in an area of about 90,000 km(2) , there is not much time left to make conservation efforts truly effective. Our review discusses what has and has not worked in conservation to guide future conservation efforts.
A century ago, tigers (Panthera tigris Linnaeus, 1758) were so common in parts of Southeast Asia as to be considered pests, and governments sponsored their killing. Habitat loss and fragmentation, market-driven poaching and loss of prey have since led to the disappearance of Indochinese tigers from most their former range. Despite 15 years of dedicated tiger conservation funding, national estimates of Indochinese tiger subpopulations can at best only be roughly approximated. The future for the subspecies appears grim unless very focused efforts can be applied to stabilize and recover subpopulations. On a regional scale, the 2 proposed subspecies Panthera tigris corbetti and P. tigris jacksoni are effectively managed as separate conservation units. Evaluating where to place conservation efforts should consider the vulnerability (likelihood of extinction) and irreplaceability (likelihood that an area contributes uniquely to regional conservation) of tiger subpopulations. Only 1 site in Thailand supporting <200 individuals (Huai Kha Khaeng-Thung Yai) is considered low vulnerability, and is irreplaceable. Five sites in Lao, Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia are medium vulnerability and irreplaceable. Priorities at these 6 sites are to double tiger numbers within 10 years through protection and monitoring. Seven sites in Lao, Thailand and Myanmar are high vulnerability and irreplaceable, and might be recovered if government commitment to tigers, staff capacity and legal frameworks for tiger protection are established. Tigers are extremely vulnerable or even extinct in Cambodia's Eastern Plains and the site is irreplaceable for tigers because it represents the only large (>10,000 km(2) ) block of dry forest habitat available in the region. A reintroduction program is the only option to recover tigers there.
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.
With only 5% of the world's wild tigers (Panthera tigris Linnaeus, 1758) remaining since the last century, conservationists urgently need to know whether or not the management strategies currently being employed are effectively protecting these tigers. This knowledge is contingent on the ability to reliably monitor tiger populations, or subsets, over space and time. In the this paper, we focus on the 2 seminal methodologies (camera trap and occupancy surveys) that have enabled the monitoring of tiger populations with greater confidence. Specifically, we: (i) describe their statistical theory and application in the field; (ii) discuss issues associated with their survey designs and state variable modeling; and, (iii) discuss their future directions. These methods have had an unprecedented influence on increasing statistical rigor within tiger surveys and, also, surveys of other carnivore species. Nevertheless, only 2 published camera trap studies have gone beyond single baseline assessments and actually monitored population trends. For low density tiger populations (e.g. <1 adult tiger/100 km(2)) obtaining sufficient precision for state variable estimates from camera trapping remains a challenge because of insufficient detection probabilities and/or sample sizes. Occupancy surveys have overcome this problem by redefining the sampling unit (e.g. grid cells and not individual tigers). Current research is focusing on developing spatially explicit capture-mark-recapture models and estimating abundance indices from landscape-scale occupancy surveys, as well as the use of genetic information for identifying and monitoring tigers. The widespread application of these monitoring methods in the field now enables complementary studies on the impact of the different threats to tiger populations and their response to varying management intervention.
Over half of globally threatened animal species have experienced rapid geographic range loss. Identifying the parts of species' distributions most vulnerable to local extinction would benefit conservation planning. However, previous studies give little consensus on whether ranges decline to the core or edge. We built on previous work by using empirical data to examine the position of recent local extinctions within species' geographic ranges, address range position as a continuum, and explore the influence of environmental factors. We aggregated point-locality data for 125 Galliform species from across the Palearctic and Indo-Malaya into equal-area half-degree grid cells and used a multispecies dynamic Bayesian occupancy model to estimate rates of local extinctions. Our model provides a novel approach to identify loss of populations from within species ranges. We investigated the relationship between extinction rates and distance from range edge by examining whether patterns were consistent across biogeographic realm and different categories of land use. In the Palearctic, local extinctions occurred closer to the range edge than range core in both unconverted and human-dominated landscapes. In Indo-Malaya, no pattern was found for unconverted landscapes, but in human-dominated landscapes extinctions tended to occur closer to the core than the edge. Our results suggest that local and regional factors override general spatial patterns of recent local extinction within species' ranges and highlight the difficulty of predicting the parts of a species' distribution most vulnerable to threat.
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.
The number of endangered coral species is increasing over the past decades due to multiple stresses and threats. Euphylliidae corals are among the species heavily targeted for the marine aquarium trade due to their colourful appearance and aesthetic importance. However, their distribution in Peninsular Malaysia has not been thoroughly investigated. Present study aims to investigate the diversity and abundance patterns of euphylliid species at 36 reef sites in Marine Protected Areas of Tioman, Redang and Payar Islands. Video transect surveyed a total of 671 euphylliids individuals belonging to six species from three genera. The diversity and evenness indices of euphylliids were significantly higher (P
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.
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.