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Concept: Borneo


New plantations can either cause deforestation by replacing natural forests or avoid this by using previously cleared areas. The extent of these two situations is contested in tropical biodiversity hotspots where objective data are limited. Here, we explore delays between deforestation and the establishment of industrial tree plantations on Borneo using satellite imagery. Between 1973 and 2015 an estimated 18.7 Mha of Borneo’s old-growth forest were cleared (14.4 Mha and 4.2 Mha in Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo). Industrial plantations expanded by 9.1 Mha (7.8 Mha oil-palm; 1.3 Mha pulpwood). Approximately 7.0 Mha of the total plantation area in 2015 (9.2 Mha) were old-growth forest in 1973, of which 4.5-4.8 Mha (24-26% of Borneo-wide deforestation) were planted within five years of forest clearance (3.7-3.9 Mha oil-palm; 0.8-0.9 Mha pulpwood). This rapid within-five-year conversion has been greater in Malaysia than in Indonesia (57-60% versus 15-16%). In Indonesia, a higher proportion of oil-palm plantations was developed on already cleared degraded lands (a legacy of recurrent forest fires). However, rapid conversion of Indonesian forests to industrial plantations has increased steeply since 2005. We conclude that plantation industries have been the principle driver of deforestation in Malaysian Borneo over the last four decades. In contrast, their role in deforestation in Indonesian Borneo was less marked, but has been growing recently. We note caveats in interpreting these results and highlight the need for greater accountability in plantation development.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Forestry, Forest, Borneo, Malaysia, Malay language


The approximately 300 (298, 95% CI: 152-581) elephants in the Lower Kinabatangan Managed Elephant Range in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo are a priority sub-population for Borneo’s total elephant population (2,040, 95% CI: 1,184-3,652). Habitat loss and human-elephant conflict are recognized as the major threats to Bornean elephant survival. In the Kinabatangan region, human settlements and agricultural development for oil palm drive an intense fragmentation process. Electric fences guard against elephant crop raiding but also remove access to suitable habitat patches. We conducted expert opinion-based least-cost analyses, to model the quantity and configuration of available suitable elephant habitat in the Lower Kinabatangan, and called this the Elephant Habitat Linkage. At 184 km(2), our estimate of available habitat is 54% smaller than the estimate used in the State’s Elephant Action Plan for the Lower Kinabatangan Managed Elephant Range (400 km(2)). During high flood levels, available habitat is reduced to only 61 km(2). As a consequence, short-term elephant densities are likely to surge during floods to 4.83 km(-2) (95% CI: 2.46-9.41), among the highest estimated for forest-dwelling elephants in Asia or Africa. During severe floods, the configuration of remaining elephant habitat and the surge in elephant density may put two villages at elevated risk of human-elephant conflict. Lower Kinabatangan elephants are vulnerable to the natural disturbance regime of the river due to their limited dispersal options. Twenty bottlenecks less than one km wide throughout the Elephant Habitat Linkage, have the potential to further reduce access to suitable habitat. Rebuilding landscape connectivity to isolated habitat patches and to the North Kinabatangan Managed Elephant Range (less than 35 km inland) are conservation priorities that would increase the quantity of available habitat, and may work as a mechanism to allow population release, lower elephant density, reduce human-elephant conflict, and enable genetic mixing.

Concepts: Borneo, Hunting, Elephant, Al-Fil, Malaysia, Asian Elephant, Elephants, Sabah


The zoonotic malaria species Plasmodium knowlesi has become the main cause of human malaria in Malaysian Borneo. Deforestation and associated environmental and population changes have been hypothesized as main drivers of this apparent emergence. We gathered village-level data for P. knowlesi incidence for the districts of Kudat and Kota Marudu in Sabah state, Malaysia, for 2008-2012. We adjusted malaria records from routine reporting systems to reflect the diagnostic uncertainty of microscopy for P. knowlesi. We also developed negative binomial spatial autoregressive models to assess potential associations between P. knowlesi incidence and environmental variables derived from satellite-based remote-sensing data. Marked spatial heterogeneity in P. knowlesi incidence was observed, and village-level numbers of P. knowlesi cases were positively associated with forest cover and historical forest loss in surrounding areas. These results suggest the likelihood that deforestation and associated environmental changes are key drivers in P. knowlesi transmission in these areas.

Concepts: Malaria, Borneo, Malaysia, Brunei, Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Kudat


The Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak are global hotspots of forest loss and degradation due to timber and oil palm industries; however, the rates and patterns of change have remained poorly measured by conventional field or satellite approaches. Using 30 m resolution optical imagery acquired since 1990, forest cover and logging roads were mapped throughout Malaysian Borneo and Brunei using the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System. We uncovered ∼364,000 km of roads constructed through the forests of this region. We estimated that in 2009 there were at most 45,400 km(2) of intact forest ecosystems in Malaysian Borneo and Brunei. Critically, we found that nearly 80% of the land surface of Sabah and Sarawak was impacted by previously undocumented, high-impact logging or clearing operations from 1990 to 2009. This contrasted strongly with neighbouring Brunei, where 54% of the land area remained covered by unlogged forest. Overall, only 8% and 3% of land area in Sabah and Sarawak, respectively, was covered by intact forests under designated protected areas. Our assessment shows that very few forest ecosystems remain intact in Sabah or Sarawak, but that Brunei, by largely excluding industrial logging from its borders, has been comparatively successful in protecting its forests.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Ecosystem, Forest, Borneo, Malaysia, Brunei, Sabah, Sarawak


We investigated why orangutans are being killed in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and the role of conflict in these killings. Based on an analysis of interview data from over 5,000 respondents in over 450 villages, we also assessed the socio-ecological factors associated with conflict and non-conflict killings. Most respondents never kill orangutans. Those who reported having personally killed an orangutan primarily did so for non-conflict reasons; for example, 56% of these respondents said that the reason they had killed an orangutan was to eat it. Of the conflict-related reasons for killing, the most common reasons orangutans were killed was fear of orangutans or in self-defence. A similar pattern was evident among reports of orangutan killing by other people in the villages. Regression analyses indicated that religion and the percentage of intact forest around villages were the strongest socio-ecological predictors of whether orangutans were killed for conflict or non-conflict related reasons. Our data indicate that between 44,170 and 66,570 orangutans were killed in Kalimantan within the respondents' active hunting lifetimes: between 12,690 and 29,024 for conflict reasons (95%CI) and between 26,361 and 41,688 for non-conflict reasons (95% CI). These findings confirm that habitat protection alone will not ensure the survival of orangutans in Indonesian Borneo, and that effective reduction of orangutan killings is urgently needed.

Concepts: Indonesia, Borneo, KILL, Bornean Orangutan, Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan


The origin of the elephant on the island of Borneo remains elusive. Research has suggested two alternative hypotheses: the Bornean elephant stems either from a recent introduction in the 17th century or from an ancient colonization several hundreds of thousands years ago. Lack of elephant fossils has been interpreted as evidence for a very recent introduction, whereas mtDNA divergence from other Asian elephants has been argued to favor an ancient colonization. We investigated the demographic history of Bornean elephants using full-likelihood and approximate Bayesian computation analyses. Our results are at odds with both the recent and ancient colonization hypotheses, and favour a third intermediate scenario. We find that genetic data favour a scenario in which Bornean elephants experienced a bottleneck during the last glacial period, possibly as a consequence of the colonization of Borneo, and from which it has slowly recovered since. Altogether the data support a natural colonization of Bornean elephants at a time when large terrestrial mammals could colonise from the Sunda shelf when sea levels were much lower. Our results are important not only in understanding the unique history of the colonization of Borneo by elephants, but also for their long-term conservation.

Concepts: Mammal, Indonesia, Borneo, Elephant, Ice age, Asian Elephant, Elephas, Quaternary glaciation


Aside from anecdotal evidence, terrestriality in orangutans (Pongo spp.) has not been quantified or subject to careful study and important questions remain about the extent and contexts of terrestrial behavior. Understanding the factors that influence orangutan terrestriality also has significant implications for their conservation. Here we report on a camera trapping study of terrestrial behavior in the northeastern Bornean orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus morio, in Wehea Forest, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. We used 78 non-baited camera traps set in 43 stations along roads, trails, and at mineral licks (sepans) to document the frequency of orangutan terrestriality. Habitat assessments were used to determine how terrestrial behavior was influenced by canopy connectivity. We compared camera trapping results for P. p. morio to those for a known terrestrial primate (Macaca nemestrina), and another largely arboreal species (Presbytis rubicunda) to assess the relative frequency of terrestrial behavior by P. p. morio. A combined sampling effort of 14,446 trap days resulted in photographs of at least 15 individual orangutans, with females being the most frequently recorded age sex class (N = 32) followed by flanged males (N = 26 records). P. p. morio represented the second most recorded primate (N = 110 total records) of seven primate species recorded. Capture scores for M. nemestrina (0.270) and P. p. morio (0.237) were similar and almost seven times higher than for the next most recorded primate, P. rubicunda (0.035). In addition, our results indicate that for orangutans, there was no clear relationship between canopy connectivity and terrestriality. Overall, our data suggest that terrestriality is relatively common for the orangutans in Wehea Forest and represents a regular strategy employed by individuals of all age-sex classes. As Borneo and Sumatra increasingly become characterized by mixed-use habitats, understanding the ecological requirements and resilience in orangutans is necessary for designing optimal conservation strategies. Am. J. Primatol. 9999:1-10, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Indonesia, Hominidae, Apes, Borneo, Orangutan, Sumatran Orangutan, Bornean Orangutan, Kalimantan


In the 200 years since the Sumatran rhinoceros was first scientifically described (Fisher 1814), the range of the species has contracted from a broad region in Southeast Asia to three areas on the island of Sumatra and one in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Assessing population and spatial distribution of this very rare species is challenging because of their elusiveness and very low population number. Using an occupancy model with spatial dependency, we assessed the fraction of the total landscape occupied by Sumatran rhinos over a 30,345-km2 survey area and the effects of covariates in the areas where they are known to occur. In the Leuser Landscape (surveyed in 2007), the model averaging result of conditional occupancy estimate was [Formula: see text] or 2,371.47 km2, and the model averaging result of replicated level detection probability [Formula: see text]; in Way Kambas National Park-2008: [Formula: see text] or 634.18 km2, and [Formula: see text]; and in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park-2010: [Formula: see text] or 819.67 km2, and [Formula: see text]. In the Leuser Landscape, rhino occurrence was positively associated with primary dry land forest and rivers, and negatively associated with the presence of a road. In Way Kambas, occurrence was negatively associated with the presence of a road. In Bukit Barisan Selatan, occurrence was negatively associated with presence of primary dryland forest and rivers. Using the probabilities of site occupancy, we developed spatially explicit maps that can be used to outline intensive protection zones for in-situ conservation efforts, and provide a detailed assessment of conserving Sumatran rhinos in the wild. We summarize our core recommendation in four points: consolidate small population, strong protection, determine the percentage of breeding females, and recognize the cost of doing nothing. To reduce the probability of poaching, here we present only the randomized location of site level occupancy in our result while retaining the overall estimation of occupancy for a given area.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Borneo, Rhinoceros, Landscape, Terry Gerin, Sumatra, Sumatran Rhinoceros


The marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata is a poorly known wild cat that has a broad distribution across much of the Indomalayan ecorealm. This felid is thought to exist at low population densities throughout its range, yet no estimates of its abundance exist, hampering assessment of its conservation status. To investigate the distribution and abundance of marbled cats we conducted intensive, felid-focused camera trap surveys of eight forest areas and two oil palm plantations in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Study sites were broadly representative of the range of habitat types and the gradient of anthropogenic disturbance and fragmentation present in contemporary Sabah. We recorded marbled cats from all forest study areas apart from a small, relatively isolated forest patch, although photographic detection frequency varied greatly between areas. No marbled cats were recorded within the plantations, but a single individual was recorded walking along the forest/plantation boundary. We collected sufficient numbers of marbled cat photographic captures at three study areas to permit density estimation based on spatially explicit capture-recapture analyses. Estimates of population density from the primary, lowland Danum Valley Conservation Area and primary upland, Tawau Hills Park, were 19.57 (SD: 8.36) and 7.10 (SD: 1.90) individuals per 100 km2, respectively, and the selectively logged, lowland Tabin Wildlife Reserve yielded an estimated density of 10.45 (SD: 3.38) individuals per 100 km2. The low detection frequencies recorded in our other survey sites and from published studies elsewhere in its range, and the absence of previous density estimates for this felid suggest that our density estimates may be from the higher end of their abundance spectrum. We provide recommendations for future marbled cat survey approaches.

Concepts: Population, Population density, Borneo, Felidae, Malaysia, Felis, Felinae, Marbled Cat


Combining protected areas with natural forest timber concessions may sustain larger forest landscapes than is possible via protected areas alone. However, the role of timber concessions in maintaining natural forest remains poorly characterized. An estimated 57% (303,525 km(2)) of Kalimantan’s land area (532,100 km(2)) was covered by natural forest in 2000. About 14,212 km(2) (4.7%) had been cleared by 2010. Forests in oil palm concessions had been reduced by 5,600 km(2) (14.1%), while the figures for timber concessions are 1,336 km(2) (1.5%), and for protected forests are 1,122 km(2) (1.2%). These deforestation rates explain little about the relative performance of the different land use categories under equivalent conversion risks due to the confounding effects of location. An estimated 25% of lands allocated for timber harvesting in 2000 had their status changed to industrial plantation concessions in 2010. Based on a sample of 3,391 forest plots (1×1 km; 100 ha), and matching statistical analyses, 2000-2010 deforestation was on average 17.6 ha lower (95% C.I.: -22.3 ha–12.9 ha) in timber concession plots than in oil palm concession plots. When location effects were accounted for, deforestation rates in timber concessions and protected areas were not significantly different (Mean difference: 0.35 ha; 95% C.I.: -0.002 ha-0.7 ha). Natural forest timber concessions in Kalimantan had similar ability as protected areas to maintain forest cover during 2000-2010, provided the former were not reclassified to industrial plantation concessions. Our study indicates the desirability of the Government of Indonesia designating its natural forest timber concessions as protected areas under the IUCN Protected Area Category VI to protect them from reclassification.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Statistics, Indonesia, Forestry, Borneo, Deforestation, Kalimantan, World Commission on Protected Areas