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  SOS Rhino : In the New: : News From The Field : MONTHLY FIELD REPORT FEBRUARY 2004


  SOS Rhino Borneo

February 2004 started with lots of rain. The flood situation has resided a little. One can see the effect of the gigantic flood on the riverbanks. Grasses and small samplings were bent with the water current, giving an idea of the swiftness of the current. There are many riverbank erosions especially along corners receiving the incoming water. Mud marks are clearly seen on tree trunks, reminder of the height of the flood.

Our field team continued to do the best they could during this trying moment. They continued to be vigilant and retrieve any good loose logs. Amazingly, the weather improved on the second week. The water level went down to normal level. The sun started to brighten the days and the soggy wet and muddy ground is gradually hardening. It will probably take several months to get the land surface hardened again especially those under the think forest canopy. The team found a small land tortoise along the plantation road and decided to release it at the campsite.

Showing the release of the land tortoise

Our popular volunteer program has been revised. We sent advise to Cindy in Chicago that the weather does not permit surveys to be conducted during the month of December till March 2004. With the weather improved, we have to time our movement in and out of the camp. Now the drains connecting the Segama river to Parit village and to the Tabin tributary are ankle deep, the boats need to be pushed. Traveling along these drains depends entirely on tidal movement.

An opportunity opened in the third week of the month for a survey. We decided to undertake a 6-day survey up the Tabin river called Sungai Burung (literally translated as Bird river). The team has previously found fresh tracks of rhino in November 2003. Dr. Edwin Bosi found old rhino tracks along the Tabin riverbank in Sungai Burung about October 2000.

Dr. Bosi led the team comprising of 6 field team members and Kate Mornement, an Australian volunteer. As expected the up river motoring was extremely slow due to sunken logs and fallen trees. One can feel the massive flooding, the mud marks on tall trees, the twisted vegetations and landslips along the riverbanks.

Showing Dr. Edwin, volunteer Kate and the other team members enjoying dinner at the base camp prior to the survey.

The team has to hack through these fallen trees with just machetes. A chainsaw could have made the process easier.

Showing field team hacking through fallen trees across the river. Note the soil erosion on the riverbank.

The water became shallower as we head south towards its source. The splendid clear water was very clean and inviting. The fishes were in abundance. We have at several points where we encountered shallow rapids littered with pebbles. Then again, we encountered many patches of deep pools, which we referred to as ŽlubukŪ. Here in the ŽlubukŪ those big freshwater fishes call home.

Showing a shallow rapid where the boat has to be pulled upstream.

We reached our intended survey site about 12.00 noon. The camp was immediate established on the bank of Tabin river.

Showing the camp along the Tabin river

The ground survey was intended for three days. One team was led by Sarinus and the other by France. Each survey covered at least 4 km. Sarinus team was more fortunate as they found two old rhino hoof prints. FranceŪs team found a likely rhino hoof print.

Showing volunteer Kate with field team members JJ and France during the survey.

While the survey team was working hard in the field, the COP team continued to improve the huts. Two huts have been renovated with plywood walling. A wooden walkway was also completed connecting each hut to the kitchen-cum-dining hall.

Showing the wooden walkway constructed on the COP base camp to facilitate movement.

After the flooding, the villagers are all busy catching prawns. They use a combination of prawn trap made from bamboo or ŽbubuhŪ and polythene bag and cast net. Chicken feed are used as bait. The prawn season can last for 6-8 months depending on the intensity of the harvesting. Prawns are a major source of income to the villagers here.

Showing Dr. Edwin with Justine displaying a big prawn caught by a fish hook.

Showing the prawn trap or ŽbubuhŪ ready to be deployed along the Segama river

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