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  SOS Rhino : In the News : News From The Field : Monthly Field Report for July 2005
July 2005
Dr. Edwin Bosi

Progress report for July 2005
by Dr. Edwin Bosi

It is interesting when someone says the time is moving fast. Some says time flies by so fast that we do not notice. Indeed time detects almost all things – from conception to death. Do we have a time limit or time frame to go to heaven or otherwise? Let me leave this spiritual question here and then. But we do have time and its 24 hours in a day, not a second more not a second less.

It is July, the month of excitement and action. On 1st, I dropped by at the Forestry Department Office in Lahad Datu to pay a courtesy call on the Mr. Jurimin Ebin, the District Forestry Officer. I missed him by 24 hours, as he was on an aerial survey over Tabin reserve. I saw his deputy instead and I briefed him on the rhino survey which is starting in July. Well, the news that the Forestry Officer is in the air was music to my ears. I love the attention Tabin reserve is showered by the authorities.

As habitat is secured, one of the most revealing indicators is the ‘coolness’ of wild animals towards the presence of humans. One will be able to get very close to many of the ungulates and birds, at night or in the daylight. One of the most fascinating experience and observation in the tropical rainforest of Tabin in this case, is the quick exit by the Borneon gibbons when one approaches their feeding tree. They will also distance themselves from that tree if they know you are camping below or in close proximity. I wonder if they have reacted the same, when big mammals are around, say elephants, tembadau or rhinos.

I love to throw this type of question to my field staffs and volunteers. I must say the answer from Liza Hawley, a Sydney-based volunteer merits lots of points. She thinks that these gibbons must have a bad experience with human during the logging of Tabin forest in the eighties. The sound of heavy machines, thundering sounds of falling timber, gunshots probably and the noises and smell of humans may have a lasting impact on this ape. Let us see if the return of forest tranquility will once again revive the ecological balance and co-existence of man with the wildlife community.

Having met Cathy Dean, the Chairperson of Save the Rhino International UK early last month, I have an opportunity to show her and Kenneth Donaldson, her husband and a photographer friend, Nick Garbutt SOS Rhino (Borneo)’s activity in Tabin. After a 30 minutes boatride, Cathy and other arrived at our base camp in Dagat on 2nd July. I introduced her to my field teams and then, briefed her on Tabin reserve and our work namely the rhino surveys, community outreach program and research. A lunch prepared by the field teams impressed our visitors including their tour guides.

Picture shows Dr. Edwin Bosi briefing Cathy and her entourage on Tabin reserve and SOS Rhino (Borneo)’s conservation work.

Picture shows Cathy and husband, Kenneth Donaldson about to sample SOS Rhino (Borneo)’s field team cooking.

Cathy, Kenneth and Nick then joined me to an hour boat cruise along the Tabin river. Again, the wildlife did not disappoint them. We saw proboscis monkeys and long tail macaque eating the fruits of Nipah palms, monitor lizards, egrets and heron, mud skippers, hornbills, oriental darters, Brahminy kites and Kingfishers.

Picture shows Cathy, Kenneth and Nick on a boat cruise along the Tabin river

Picture shows Cathy and her entourage making a tour of Dagat village.

Cathy and her entourage then took time to tour the village. I briefed her on the village development and security committee and its function. She was impressed with the cleanliness. Unfortunately, the village chief was away in Sandakan to attend to some official duties. However, true to the warm and generous British heart, Cathy presented two t-shirts for the village chief and his wife to team leader Suzali Jaya, the grandson of the chief. Cathy also presented a set of soccer uniform to the field team and a rugby ball.

Picture shows Cathy presenting a set of soccer uniform to Dr. Edwin Bosi at SOS Rhino (Borneo)’s base camp in Dagat.

Cathy and others were witnessing our community outreach program and volunteer program in action. Here, she met UK volunteers, Andrew and David who have spent over a month in Dagat teaching English to our field team and the villagers. She also met Liza Hawley, another volunteer from Australia who has just returned from a rhino survey in Tabin reserve.

Picture shows Cathy having a chat with Liza Hawley, SOS Rhino volunteer from Sydney, Australia.

On 3rd July its time for the field team to move out of Dagat and re-settled at Tabin base camp, which is on the western part of the reserve. Tagging along were volunteers, Andrew and David. The chance to experience the tropical rainforest has arrived. They were assigned to RPU 1 and RPU 2 respectively and the job assignment – to prepare the KM22 transect. We also have Simon from TrekForce who has come to do a recce. TrekForce has been assigned to prepare the KM12 transect.

RPU 3 is led by Amit Pilik. His team headed for the southeast part of Tabin reserve where we are going to build a permanent base camp. The site has been identified and work will begin as soon as the team is out of the forest. RPU3 assignment was to prepare the KM52 transect. I followed RPU 3 together with volunteer Liza Hawley. The purpose of my trip is to checkout the hotspring which we did. It was about 6km from base camp trekking through three ridges, waterfall and flat riverine forest. It took us about 5 hours to cover the distance. Along the way we saw at least five wild pigs and screaming away from us, orangutan nests and a moose deer. We camped for a night along the Lumerau river, and took our dinner under heavy shower. A few of our flysheet appeared overused, and leaking was obvious. It was a night to remember.

The next morning we trekked about an hour to the hotspring. Indeed, the oozing point is just about two meters from the Mangaris tree. The sulphur-laden water flows into the Lumerau river. The temperature is about 80 degree celcius and the vapor can be dangerous to asthmatic persons. Some distance from this hotsping, there are several spots in the river where gas bubbling occur. The water is hotter than normal and when contained, the water can be bluish black in color. The smell is obviously sulphur.

Picture shows the hotspring that flows into the Lumerau river.

Picture shows Team Leader, Amit pointing to the hot sulphur-smelling bluish black pool along the Lumerau river.

Picture shows Dr. Edwin Bosi with Amit Pilik, Milton Sat, Helter Haam and Liza Hawley on a Mangaris tree at the side of the hotspring. Notice the craving of initials on the tree by unknown persons.

Picture shows the view of the rainforest on the eastern part of Tabin reserve taken from a campsite sited 530 meters above sea level.

The number of leeches increased as we trekked through the lowland riverine forest. The leeches are good indicator of density of ungulates namely wild pigs, sambar deer, barking deer, tembadau, elephants and rhinos. Hunters have some likings for them, for obvious reason. We saw big hoof prints of a tembadau and dung of elephants. The elephants were in the area about 2 months ago. This area is quite close to the oil palm estates and we noticed a fair number of signs of encroachments. I see a good forest for the rhino but there is no sign of them. If we do see rhino evidence in this area, it means lots of patrolling, surveillance and monitoring in this part of the reserve. It also means making contacts with all the plantation managers around the southeastern part of Tabin reserve.

For Leader Frederic and his team, they have been assigned to accompany the TrekForce expedition team to KM12, as requested. While there, the RPU 1 will be focusing on rhino survey at the same time to provide logistical assistance. RPU 2 is focused on KM2 transect while RPU 3 continues with transect in KM52. RPU 3 has also started to build their base camp on the southeastern part of the reserve. Trekforce team comprising of about 20 boys and girls came in to Tabin on 24th. However, on the 18th Dr. Edwin Bosi has gone over to their jungle training school in Kiulu to brief them on Tabin and the rhino survey. The power point presentation will give them tips on how and what to expect in Tabin reserve.

Dr. Edwin giving a talk on Tabin rhino survey to the TrekForce team.

SOS Rhino Chairman Dr. Jayendran and Dr. Nan came over to Sabah to look at the progress of the project. For Dr. Jay, it is his first visit and was actually taken aback on how develop this country is. All along Dr. Jay was thinking of vast jungle and wild animals running about. We have prepared a very elaborate itinerary where both of them met several key people in Sabah. Dr. Jay also visited Sepilok and the pair of rhinos before flying back to the States o 22nd July. However, many days were spent on meetings with the Board of Directors of SOS Rhino (Borneo) and staffs. The management plan has been done after slogging for few days with Nan, who stayed on until the 28th July.

Dr. Jay in the meeting of the BOD of SOS Rhino (Borneo)

Dr. Jay and Nan listening to a briefing by Prof. Datin Maryati Mohamed, Director of the Institute of Tropical Biology and Conservation, University Malaysia Sabah.

Dinner meeting with YM Tengku Adlin ( 2nd left), Chairman of the Sabah Tourism Board

Lunch meeting with Ms Margaret Fung (center), CEO of Sabah Energy Corporation and also Chairperson of Tabin Wildlife Sdn. Bhd.

Courtesy call on Mr. Khoo Eng Min, Managing Director of PPB Oil Palms Berhad at his office in Sandakan.

Taking time to meet up with James Kapis (2nd right), Wildlife Ranger in charge of the rhino breeding center at Sepilok.

Dr. Jay and Nan enjoying the king of fruits – the Durian.

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