There is a severe lack of wildlife survey information in Brunei – there may be species yet undiscovered and new to science. They may be vulnerable to extinction, in need of special managemet, important for science, important for ecotourism and/or of other economic significance.
To address this issue, a team from the Biology Department of Universiti Brunei Darussalam is leading an expedition to survey what appears to be one of the most biologically diverse sites in Borneo – The Sungei Ingei Protection Forest.
The 18, 491 ha site in the south of the country is a spectacular mosaic of three forest types – pristine mixed dipterocarp forest, areas of upland heath forest and patches of freshwater swamp – with and extremely rich fauna especially in the low-lying alluvial valleys. Very little is known about the wildlife in this undisturbed forest, yet its proximity to the Mulu World Heritage Site just accross the border in Sarawak underlines its importance for transboundary conservation and ecotourism potential.
What does the Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Suvey want to achieve?
Basic information and other scientific information is an absolute necessity for the sustainable management of any natural resource. Brunei is home to some of the most biologically diverse forest habitats in the world and with Borneo as a whole, it comprises a major hotspot for global biodiversity. Brunei’s natural habitats in the world need proper conservation management now and in the long-term, but the necessary scientific information is so far inadequate.
Over the period 2009-2012, with support from WWF, sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank, much of the vertebrate and invertebrate fauna is being surveyed with the following goals:
- To identify the species present through a comprehensive scientific report and specialist papers, with the results being made known to the people of Brunei and elsewhere through the media and education channels;
- To identify the conservation management needs of the area, taking into account the traditional values and uses of the forest by the local, longhouse-based communities;
- To provide information on Sungei Ingei’s potential for tourism and longer term scientific reserach;
- To provide information that will help to elaborate on the potential of Sungei Ingei/Mulu as a transboundary conservation area.
Key achievements so far
- While the data collected are not yet complete or fully analyzed, the records emerging from the faunal surveys show the rich diversity of wild animals that live within the extraordinary diversity of forest types. It is already clear that there are species new to Brunei and possibly new to Borneo;
- An array of camera traps that was set up has yielded the first photographic evidence that there is a melanistic (black) form of the Clouded Leopard living in Ingei. This illustrates how even the largest carnivore on the island is not fully known and underlines just how much effort is needed to document the riches of the rainforest in this area;
- A growing familiarity with the area has shown that it needs a management plan, plus total protection for the very valuable and vulnerable core area. The team has also engaged the local community in scoping the protection management needs and in formulating ideas for developing ecotourism in the buffer zone.
*This article is taken from Heart of Borneo Factsheet 2012