How are Raleigh helping to support biodiversity in Borneo?

28th July 2016

Handling birds, upgrading forest trails, building steps, watching beautiful sunsets, living in the heart of the jungle and getting to know one another have been just some of the highlights experienced by Zulu 2 during our time at Coupe 1. However, finding a Rufous Tailed Shama in our mist net and sighting a Masked Palm Civet during a night walk have to top these as star moments of the project.

Coupe 1 is located in the north of Sabah, an area that was heavily logged during the 1970s. After areas of previously logged land were divided up by the government, organisations like the Asian Forestry Company Sabah have embarked on ventures to explore the possibility of sustainable forestry. Whilst some of this area is now being logged sustainably, over a quarter is also being preserved for conservation purposes. Zulu 2 have been working in one of these conservation zones for the past 3 weeks, conducting bird, mammal and amphibian surveys to monitor the level of biodiversity currently present.

What have we seen?
The Rufus tailed Sharma was found during one of our routine mist net checks. The nests are checked five times daily and any birds caught are identified before being released back into the forest. We recognised the Shama by the short white stripe over its eye and its distinctive black tipped tail. It is an uncommon resident in the lowland forests of Borneo and is ‘strictly confined to primary forest’ (according to our reference books). They are shy creatures, usually solitary, and rest in concealed tree hollows.


A Rufous Tailed Shama spotted in Coupe 1.

As well as seeing the forest during our daily mist net checks we have had the opportunity to explore it at night time. The team were really excited when the masked palm civet was spotted at the end of our final night time excursion. The flash of the white tipped tail, the white face and the reddish tinge of its fur made it easy to identify. Masked Palm Civets are resident in the Primary Rainforest throughout North Borneo but are scarce. They spend their days sleeping in tree holes or high up in forks in the branches, and their diet includes fruit and small animals.
One of our most exciting finds came when we spotted two Sun Bears when reviewing our camera trap footage. A camera trap is a camera which is placed in the forest, allowing us to record footage of any animal activity. Sun Bears are classified as a vulnerable species by the IUCN Red List. It is estimated that over the last 30 years the Sun Bear population of South East Asia has declined by over 30% predominantly as a result of deforestation through the reduction of the Bear’s habitat. Seeing the Sun Bears on our camera trap footage provides significant evidence to suggest that the AFCS’s work in forest regeneration and conservation is working.

What does it mean?
Finding these rarely seen species has been inspiring for the members of Zulu 2, but what does it mean for Coupe 1 and the work the AFCS are doing in conservation? This is the first time a Rufus Tailed Shama has been seen in the Coupe network and indicates that the bird has a food resource available in this area. If there are any further sightings of this species then it would suggest they have become resident here. The Masked Palm Civet has been seen in other Coupes previously, but the sighting in Coupe 1 suggests that the civets are using the network of wildlife corridors that link up the coupe conservation areas. Most significantly, sightings of species like the Sun Bear in Coupe 1 strongly suggests that the efforts of the AFCS in allowing areas of secondary rainforest to regenerate is encouraging a return of biodiversity and thus reversing the effects of deforestation. We can’t wait to see what’s spotted next time Raleigh visit Coupe 1!

Climate and Conservation Malaysian Borneo