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'Save the Banteng at all costs' call
Published on: Thursday, November 30, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) Director Dr Benoit Goossens hopes the State Government will adopt the Bornean Banteng Action Plan for implementation to save the species, which is threatened by heavy poaching, habitat loss, road development and forest fragmentation in Sabah.

Last month, three banteng were poached by hunters in three protected areas in Sabah within three days.

"At that rate of poaching, the species will not survive another 20 years and we will lose it like we lost our Sumatran rhinoceros," he said in a statement.

He said DGFC, in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and Sabah Forestry Department, had carried out surveys using camera traps in several protected and unprotected areas throughout the State.

"We currently have four, maybe five isolated populations of banteng, one on the West coast, one or two in central Sabah, one in the south-east and one in the north-east of Sabah.

"The total population is estimated to be around 400 to 500 individuals, making the Bornean banteng the most endangered large mammal in Sabah," added Goossens.

To get the effort moving, the final chapter of Yayasan Sime Darby's research conservation projects with the DGFC and the SWD will begin with a two-day workshop attended by subject matter experts aimed at conserving the Bornean banteng.

Dr Goossens said the workshop will see input from relevant stakeholders, including government department officers, representatives from NGOs, tourism and palm oil industries.

International and local scientists, governmental agencies as well as industry players will convene on Dec. 1 to save the iconic and endemic species to Sabah, months after proposing recommendations towards the conservation of two other species – the proboscis monkey and Sunda clouded leopard.

Recommendations will be proposed to protect the Bornean banteng based on findings of a five-year extensive state-wide survey conducted by DGFC and SWD.

The Bornean Banteng Action Plan for Sabah will then be drafted based on the proposed recommendations gleaned from the workshop. It will be validated by the IUCN Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group before being submitted to the State Government for approval.

Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) has been supporting the DGFC since April 2011, with a total commitment of RM3.96 million over a period of six years, to conduct research on three species – Proboscis monkey, Sunda clouded leopard and the Bornean banteng.

Earlier this year, DGFC and SWD organised a workshop and conference on the conservation of the proboscis monkey and Sunda clouded leopard, which saw recommendations proposed towards the drafting of a state action plan to conserve the endangered species.

State Action Plans for the conservation of both species are also being drafted. The three species' action plans will be ready for early 2018.

YSD Chairman Tun Musa Hitam said the Foundation will be waiting in anticipation for the submission of the three State Action Plans to the Sabah Government.

"YSD is proud to have supported the crucial work done in collaboration with DGFC, the Sabah state government and international scientists from all over the world on the proboscis monkey, the clouded leopard and the banteng.

"Only when we were approached to support the project had I known that the last species we started funding among the three, namely the Bornean banteng, was the most threatened animal species when compared to the proboscis monkey and the clouded leopard which were already very threatened species in Sabah."

"YSD believes in making a sustainable impact through the initiatives we support.

Therefore, we are not only looking forward to the successful launch of the three State Action Plans for the proboscis money, clouded leopard and the banteng; but also to the successful adoption and implementation of all three documents as part of the State Environmental Conservation Policy to save these species from extinction.

Only then would we have achieved our objectives in investing in all of these three important projects in Sabah," he added.

The Foundation has also sponsored one Malaysian student, Lim Hong Ye (aka Hugo), who pursued his Master's degree at Universiti Malaysia Sabah and graduated this year. Hugo will present his work on the banteng at the workshop today (Thursday).

Under its Environment pillar, to date, YSD has committed RM138 million towards the protection of high conservation value ecosystems, vulnerable and endangered species as well as initiatives promoting the preservation of the environment and biodiversity.

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