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Borneo biodiversity field study centre opens

23 August 2008

Bornean elephant

A field study centre in the Borneo jungle is now operational, with researchers and students from the School of Biosciences carrying out wildlife studies in the surrounding area.

The Danau Girang Field Centre, located within the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, is a joint project between the University and Sabah Wildlife Department.

The Centre is surrounded by a mixture of forest types, bisected by the Kinabatangan river and is ideal for study of biodiversity. Ten types of primate are present, along with the Bornean elephant, clouded leopards and salt water crocodiles.

The Centre’s facilities include a laboratory, specimen preparation facility, presentation and discussion area and an accommodation block for 20 students.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Department and Cardiff University was signed in August last year. The centre received its first students from Cardiff last month.

So far, the 19 students have carried out research projects on small mammals, primates, crocodiles, butterflies, moths, frogs, insects, vegetation and bird life as part of their coursework.

Chloe Parker, a second year Zoology student carrying out a study on primates, said: "This place is amazing. We expected the most basic of facilities. After all, we are coming to a tropical jungle. But the hostel and other facilities are excellent."

Danau Girang director Dr Benoit Goossens, of the School of Biosciences, said that the centre aimed to run programmes for students for at least 20 weeks out of the year. "The rest of the year we will have researchers working on their projects," he said.

One project already under way involves the tracking of Bornean Elephants to better understand their social structure. PhD student Nurzhafarina Othman, leading the study, said: "Studies on the genetic aspects of the Bornean Elephant have been carried out in the past but we have yet to study their social structure, which is virtually unknown."

Sabah Wildlife Department’s director Laurentius Ambu said the collaboration with Cardiff had provided funds to upgrade the facility as well as equip the centre with equipment crucial for research.

A video diary following the recent second year undergraduate field course in the School of Biosciences at the centre can be found here.