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Official opening of the Wildlife Health Genetic and Forensic Laboratory 


Monday 9th December 2013 marked a momentous day with the official opening of Sabah’s first Bio-security 2 (BSL2) Wildlife Health, Genetic and Forensic laboratory (WHGFL) in Lok Kawi, Sabah. The setting up of this lab is a joint initiative between Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) and Cardiff University's Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC). The WHGFL opening was officiated by US Ambassador to Malaysia HE Ambassador Joseph Yun. 

Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department commented “This is indeed a proud day for Sabah Wildlife Department as it has always been our goal to set up a Laboratory to not only look into wildlife health and genetic research but also to assist our Wildlife Enforcement Division in analyzing the confiscated illegal bushmeat to determine species and origin, using genetic tools”. “Capacity building within my department has also been enhanced by the setting up of a new unit, the Wildlife Health Unit in collaboration with EHA and DGFC, which is part of SWD’s Wildlife Rescue Unit. While the WRU conducts wildlife rescue and translocation activities, the WHU will be responsible for leading the physical and diagnostic evaluation of rescued and relocated wildlife across the state as well as conducting sampling trips to trap and sample free ranging wildlife and assess wildlife in protected and unprotected areas," added Ambu. 

Location of WHGF lab

Director of Danau Girang Field Centre, Dr Benoit Goossens said “It is a great honour to be part of this historic moment, after two years of hard work with Dr Sen Nathan from SWD and Mr Tom Hughes from EHA, my two colleagues with whom we have shared sweat, tears and joy! Thanks to EHA support and the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) Program we have been able to set up this incredible tool which will allow us to carry out wildlife health work that will in return benefit conservation and land use planning for a better management of Sabah landscape, both agricultural and forest," added Goossens.

Tribute to Excellence Award for Danau Girang Field Centre

DGFC award

The School of Biosciences Danau Girang Field Centre has been recognized by the Malaysian State Government of Sabah for its contribution to the conservation effort of its most valued areas of natural beauty. Organised by the State government of Sabah, the "Sabah Tourism Awards 2013, a Tribute to Excellence" are held every two years to "honour individuals and organizations for their outstanding contributions to the development of the tourism industry in the State". 

This year, the seventh Edition of the Tourism Awards consisted of 12 categories encompassing 34 awards. The ceremony was officiated by Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, Sabah's Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment. The Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary was awarded the Best Natural Destination in Sabah. Special Awards were given to organizations that are involved in the conservation of the natural wonders of this area, namely WWF-Malaysia, HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme, Homestay Associations of Abai, Batu Puteh, Bilit and Sukau villages and Cardiff University's Danau Girang Field Centre. Lead researcher Dr Benoit Goossens, who attended the award ceremony, said “The Danau Girang Field Centre team is very proud that their efforts to study and preserve Kinabatangan's fragile ecosystems and wildlife are acknowledged by the State government.” 

First satellite collaring of civet

Meaghan Harris setting up the satellite collar on the civet's neck while Dr Sergio Guerrero Sanchez is checking the civet's heartbeat
Meaghan Harris (left) setting up the satellite collar on the civet's neck while Dr Sergio Guerrero Sanchez (right) is checking the civet's heartbeat

On the 26th of October, a male Malay civet was trapped and fitted with a GPS collar in Lot 5 of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS) as a collaboration between the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the Kinabatangan Small Carnivore Project (KSCP), Cardiff University (CU), and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC). The project is led by Cardiff University’s PhD student Meaghan Harris and is assisted by DGFC’s wildlife veterinarian Dr. Sergio Guerrero Sanchez. It is funded by Houston Zoo (Meg Harris' PhD scholarship) and Sime Darby Foundation.

Despite heavy habitat degradation within the Kinabatangan, a widely diverse small carnivore guild persists, which includes six species of civets, three species of small felines, and two confirmed species of otters. The KSCP therefore strives to understand the influences of habitat fragmentation on the spatial ecology and ecotoxicology of small carnivores residing within the wildlife sanctuary.

The 5.5 kgs Malay civet was captured within the wildlife corridor of Lot 5 of the LKWS during the night. In the early morning, the KSCP team safely sedated Tenang and conducted the sampling on site. Morphometric measurements, such as total body length and height at shoulder, were recorded, and blood, saliva, faecal, and hair samples collected. The project hopes these samples will help determine the health of the small carnivore guild within the landscape of the LKWS.

Since then we have collared two more Malay civets, another male and one female, in the same area.

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