Sunday, July 25, 2010

Danau Girang Field Centre, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia, welcomes its third batch

Group picture of Cardiff University students and lecturers at the Danau Girang Field Centre recently.

Cardiff University lecturer, Dr. Ian Vaughan shows student Stephanie Johnson how to ring a bird during a recent study visit to Danau Girang Field Centre.

Cardiff students observing elephants from a boat during the field course.

Cardiff students using a big shot to set up butterfly traps in the canopy at Danau Girang Field Centre.

Kinabatangan, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia : 26 July 2010: Sabah Wildlife Department’s (SWD) field centre located in the Lower Kinabatangan floodplain welcomed its third batch of Cardiff University’s students since the centre opened its doors in July 2008.

Twenty-one second year biology students embarked in a two-week field course focusing on primate communities, bird ringing, butterfly ecology, amphibian and small mammal diversity, and forest ecology.

“Danau Girang is the first field centre set up by the Sabah Wildlife Department, with support from Cardiff University, and it starts to attract more attention from overseas academic institutions,” said SWD Director Dr Laurentius Ambu.

One of the highlights of the field course was the bird ringing activity led by Dr Ian Vaughan, a lecturer and ornithologist at Cardiff University. Since 2008,167 understorey birds were captured and 131 individuals from 30 different species were ringed.

“The main aim is to reveal the assemblage of bird species that use the forest floor and understorey, and to provide some information about their relative densities and movements within the forest,” said Vaughan.

“During the second week of the field course, the students designed their own project and worked in pairs or trios in the forest, looking at butterfly density, comparing density of small mammals in riparian forest, semi-inundated forest and oil palm plantation, looking at abundance and species richness of lizards and amphibians in riparian and semi-inundated forest, and investigation distribution of primates along the river in relation to the proximity of oil palm plantations,” said Dr Benoit Goossens, director of Danau Girang Field Centre and one of the lecturers involved in the field course.

“A troop of 50-60 elephants which stayed in the vicinity of the field centre for several days were the cherry on the cake for the students”, added Goossens.

“The Cardiff students were so lucky to visit Danau Girang as part of their degree, they loved all the different activities on offer: bird ringing, primate survey, frogging, - even facing their fears on the new canopy viewing platform! They were treated with many incredible wildlife sightings – from tarsiers to elephants – and I thoroughly enjoyed showing off this amazing place to them!,” said Jennifer Shepperson, a Cardiff University student and volunteer at DGFC.

The 21 students went back to Europe with plenty of wonderful souvenirs and their head full of images of the rich biodiversity that Sabah harbors in its forests: “My expectations were massively exceeded... just goes to show how incredible this place really is,”

“Memories that will last a lifetime...amazing place, amazing people,” “The landscape is breathtaking, the experience one-of-a-kind, and the people have been wonderful and extremely friendly,” “From baby elephants to a tarsier I am very lucky to have experienced this wonderful place,” and “A truly inspirational 2 weeks. I have seen so much wildlife and have learnt so many new things and just generally had so much fun!” were the few quotes from the students before they left the Kinabatangan.

“These field courses aim at providing yearly assessment on biodiversity present in the highly degraded forests of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and help the Sabah Wildlife Department to manage it”, concluded Goossens.

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