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Habitat occupancy, ranging behaviour and genetic diversity of Bos javanicus lowi in Sabah, Malaysia, Borneo.

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Habitat occupancy, ranging behaviour and genetic diversity of Bosjavanicuslowi in Sabah, Malaysia, Borneo.

Penny C. Gardner. Supervisors: Benoit Goossens (Danau Girang Field Centre, Sabah Wildlife Department & Cardiff University) & Michael W. Bruford (Cardiff University). Collaborators: Laurentius Ambu (Sabah Wildlife Department) and Marc Ancrenaz (NGO HUTAN).

Abstract: Knowledge of habitat occupancy, habitat use and home range sizes are a prerequisite for implementing conservation management techniques however the collection of data on cryptic species presents many tough challenges. Banteng are an elusive wild bovid that inhabit remote dense tropical forests in Borneo. They are endemic and in danger of extinction from accelerating rates of deforestation, forest fragmentation and conversion to agriculture, disease and illegal hunting. Their diurnal behavioural patterns, small population sizes and evasion of human presence impede research but a combination of non-invasive techniques will help yield the first baseline data on this unfamiliar species. Camera traps will identify activity patterns, areas of occupancy and resource use, GPS-satellite telemetry will document movement patterns, habitat occupancy and use, whilst molecular analysis of faecal samples will provide an estimate of genetic diversity. Amalgamation of ecological and molecular data will help determine the conservation status of the population and identify potential weaknesses which threaten to further diminish the population.

1) Introduction:

Bos javanicus lowi (common name: Banteng) are an IUCN ‘Endangered’ subspecies of wild cattle endemic to Borneo. The species has most likely undergone a massive decline in recent years >50% (circa 1970) consequential of hunting, disease, and deforestation causing the remnant populations to be confined to Sabah (Malaysia Borneo) and Kalimantan (Indonesia Borneo), within fragmented pockets of primary and secondary tropical dipterocarp forest reserves which have little connectivity. Banteng are very shy and highly elusive; they dwell in the most remote and dense parts of the forest and exhibit a diurnal behaviour pattern, foraging at night and in the twilight hours to avoid predation and human contact. Their social arrangement is thought to comprise solitary mature bulls, herds of (female) cows and calves dominated by a mature bull, mother and calf pairs, and bachelor groups. They are sexually dimorphic; mature bulls are black, immature males are dark brown, females are reddish brown to dark brown and calves are very light brown, and all have white buttocks and white socks. No research has been conducted on banteng because their elusive behaviour, remote inhospitable forest habitat and small population sizes have precluded any investigations. The species also has a very low profile and has been overshadowed by other charismatic large mammals in Borneo, which have received huge media and scientific attention.

Map of B. Javanicus distribution. Inset Study site in Sabah where B. j. lowi are currently found.

Juvenile (female) cow. Credits: A. wilting Mixed herd. Credits: A. Hearn & Dr. J. Ross Calves (approx 1-2 months) Credits: A. Hearn & Dr. J. Ross Mature (female) cow investigating camera trap. Credits: A. Hearn & Dr. J. Ross Mature (male) bull. Credits: A. Hearn & Dr. J. Ross

2) Overall Objective:

To ascertain the current status of two populations of banteng in Sabah, identify their movement patterns and use of habitat, and determine the influence of human activity and presence within their habitat.

  • 4) Methods:
  • Remote Camera Traps: Pairs of camera traps will be deployed at mineral licks to monitor activity and gather information on demography and habitat use relationship.
  • GPS Satellite Tracking Collars: Mature individuals will be fitted with tracking collars to identify home range sizes and habitat use, which will will be mapped using ArcMap and analysed using 95% Minimum Convex Polygon. Other topographical data on habitat characteristics such as mineral licks, waterholes, areas prone to human encroachment and prior observations of banteng will also be mapped.
  • Vegetation Surveying: The vegetation structure of known banteng habitat will be recorded central to each dung deposit using a 50m² quadrat and the following will be measured: Diameter Breast Height, canopy cover, canopy height and tree density.
  • Molecular analysis: Samples of dung will be collected from the field, and dried and stored for subsequent DNA extraction. Genotyping will be conducted using the Bovine 50,000 SNP chip to combat low sample size and ensure success of PCR.

3) Aims:

To estimate the home range size of male and female banteng in an open and in a closed forest reserve.

To ascertain the patterns of banteng movement and the habitat characteristics which influence their movement.

To ascertain if banteng movement is negatively influenced by the presence of humans and human activity within the forest and along the forest edge.

To genotype and estimate the level of genetic diversity in two disconnected forest reserves.

5) Outcome:

Home range and habitat occupancy data will identify suitable, unsuitable and potential habitat. Movement patterns will illustrate habitat use relationships and indicate areas where banteng are vulnerable to illegal activity and human presence.

An estimate of banteng conservation status, creating a platform for further more specific research.

A B. j. lowistatus report to coincide with the development of the IUCN SSC Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group regional action plan, and Sabah Wildlife Department management plan.

ReconyxHyperfire HC500 remote camera trap to be used to monitor banteng at mineral licks. Credits:

Key references:

1) Pedrono, M. et al. 2009. Status and distribution of the Endangered banteng Bosjavanicusbirmanicus in Vietnam: a conservation tragedy. Oryx 43(4), pp. 618-625.

2) Timmins, R. J. et al. 2008. IUCN RedList of Threatened Species: Bosjavanicus[Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 13/02/2009].

3) Pudyatmoko, S. and Djuwantoko, Y. S. 2006. Sex Ratio, Herd Size and Composition and Sexual Segregation in Banteng in the Baluran National Park, Indonesia. Journal of Biological Sciences 6(2), pp. 370-374.

4) Hoogerwerf, A. 1970. UdjungKulon the Land of the Last Javan Rhinoceros. Brill Archive.

5) Tobler, M. W. et al. 2008. An evaluation of camera traps for inventorying large and medium sized terrestrial rainforest mammals. Animal Conservation 11(3), pp. 169-178.

This project is kindly sponsored by: Houston Zoo, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council Wildlife Conservation Fund.