Guest post by Badrul Azhar
Several months ago, our first attempt to set up trail cameras at the northern part of the North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest (approximately 77,000 ha, but it is shrinking in size) in Peninsular Malaysia was hampered by forest clearing (obviously to establish new oil palm plantation). This unexpected event forced us to rework the sampling plan.
My field team is blessed with a number of determined postgraduate students (namely, Fatin Adila, Sasidharan, and Saifulnizam Hamdan) that routinely inspect the cameras. There are things that we need to consider carefully – logistics, vandalism or theft, prior to setting up the trail cameras anywhere in the wilderness. Trekking in the peat swamp forest is not really comfortable as in relatively dry lowland rainforest due to water-logged environment and unforgiving wasp attack in the former.
Now, after inspecting the cameras three times, we consistently have seen Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus), Melanistic Leopard or Black Panther (Panthera pardus), and Tapir (Tapirus indicus) at 15 sampling sites. This forest although a disturbed one, is still busy with wildlife activities. Unfortunately, no Tigers (Panthera tigris) or Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) was recorded since March 2013.
After nearly six months we are operating inside the peat swamp forest, no footprints were found to confirm their presence. Does the hyper abundance of Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) is an ecological sign that Tiger is locally extinct in that particular area of the forest? We have seen signs of animal predator-human conflict inside the forest. This conflict has been caused by free-roaming cattle that wandered into the forest at night and consequently attract predator (e.g. Panther). Since we can set up only a camera at each site, individual identification is going to be difficult.
With respect to circadian rhythm, Sun Bear and Tapir are nocturnal animals, while Panther is crepuscular, active at dusk and dawn. Besides the common Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), we also recorded the rare Bearded Pig (Sus barbatus). The monsoon season has arrived. This may slow down our field work for at least two months, but we also have high hope that ‘the king of the jungle’ will show up soon in front of our cameras. Finger crossed until next time.
A pair of Sun Bears
Tapir browsing on shrubs
Black Panther, the only top predator (so far) in the peat swamp forest
Solitary walk of a Sun Bear