September 18, 2008

Rare Images Captured in the Wild

By Roy Goh

KOTA KINABALU: Scientists doing research in the jungles of Sabah have recently returned with some exciting photographs.

One was a picture of the rare Sumatran rhinocerous captured with a motion triggered camera, while the other was a series of images of two adult elephants helping a month-old calf across a river.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Laurentius Ambu said both achievements would go a long way in efforts to preserve the two rare and endangered species in the Sabah jungles.

"Monitoring and protection of the animals through the research work done by scientists can boost their number as it helps deter poachers and secure habitat from further degradation and illegal encroachment."

The image of the Sumatran rhino, taken from its rear, is the second made in the wild and this time it was by scientists Ross Jo and Andrew Hearn who are studying the Bornean-clouded leopard under the Global Canopy Programme, which is based in the UK.

The first image was captured in 2006, of a young male, while the recent one was that of a female.

Meanwhile, Conservation Biologist Nurzhafarina Othman, from the Danau Girang Field Centre in Kinabatangan said the photographs provided valuable details on the family structure and group dynamics of the Bornean pygmy elephants.

Nurzhafarina, who is working together with the Elephant Conservation Unit (co-founded by French NGO HUTAN and Sabah Wildlife Department) in the study said the data collected in turn would assist the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) in managing the Kinabatangan elephant population.

"These photographs for example, show a lot about the caring behaviour of the elephants as the mother, and another female assumed to be related to the baby, working very hard to protect and safely bring the baby over to the other side of the bank."

The series of pictures were taken by Nurzhafarina's PhD supervisor, conservation geneticist Dr Benoit Goossens.

"Because the group was tracking the three elephants with satellite collars on the animals in July, we knew that the elephants were in the area, so I was able to track them from the river," he said.

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