Rudi is a Belgian citizen who’s passionate by nature. From 1998 he enjoys wildlife photography. He learned first the basics of photography and went out in nature as much as possible. Travel destinations were chosen with opportunities to take pictures. Not only capturing the wild nature is important but also the fact to be there with respect to the environment. Especially tropical environments attracted him and so he went to e.g. Madagascar, Peru, Gabon and Tanzania. Meanwhile, because of his wildlife photography, Rudi got more interested in Biology. After 17 years of working as an employee he decided to quit temporarily his job to study again. Five years later Rudi got a Master’s degree in Biology: Biodiversity, Conservation and Restoration at the University of Antwerp.
He found out that Dr. Benoit Goossens, who he encountered in the Republic of Congo in 2003, runs a field center in Sabah. During his study time he had the opportunity to go to Danau Girang Field Center in 2009 and 2010 to take pictures of the wildlife around Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, especially focusing on the Borneo elephant. In 2012 he came back for collecting data for his master’s thesis. Rudi’s pictures are non-commercially available for Danau Girang Field Center, Sabah Wildlife department and Cardiff University.
Currently Rudi is back at DGFC carrying out a research project. He started investigating three different methods for detecting frogs and if combined can augment detection of frogs, especially those in the canopy. Fieldwork includes placing and collecting camera traps in trees at different heights; climbing trees and walking the corresponding transects at night. The general question in this research however is whether limestone outcrops provide unique habitats that support species and assemblages that differ from the surrounding lowland and do they provide refuge for some anuran species, either due to the limestone per se or due to the presence of less disturbed forest in and around the Kinabatangan River.
Rudi expects that the outcome of his latest project will help with protecting limestone outcrops in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, and eventually in Sabah. Many primary rainforests have already been lost, so remnant secondary forests can help in mitigating biodiversity loss and may have a role to play in the long-term rescue of many threatened forest species. Secondary forests might be crucial for the conservation of biodiversity in tropical areas and the conservation value is expected to increase over time, so a long-term management plan is essential. Most of the limestone outcrops are covered with less degraded secondary forests as the surrounding area. Therefore he expect that the karsts will play a role in holding some high anuran diversity. Unfortunately a lot of limestone outcrops are just small islands in a larger area, so diversity is more prone to decrease. The first action is to keep the outcrops intact and protecting from further destruction. Land-use planning must be improved to consider the welfare of poorer communities. Secondly given the lack of baseline data on karst biota and their extinction rates, it’s important to collect much more data about biodiversity to proof these landscapes are worth protecting. Preserving relatively larger outcrops is recommended, especially larger karsts within groups of karsts bisected by geographical barriers.
At last combining research and nature photography can give awareness to a broad audience in order to protect our precious biodiversity.