Author - marina

New efforts to monitor carbon launched at Regrow Borneo sites, and more!

New efforts to monitor carbon launched at Regrow Borneo sites, and more!

The second phase of Regrow Borneo’s carbon monitoring study began with the arrival of Dr TC Hales (Cardiff University), a leading scientist in the field of carbon sequestration and co-Chair of the UK-registered registered charity, Regrow Borneo.

Assisted by Maz, one of Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC)’s Senior Research officers, they began collecting above and below-ground material for analysis from two of the original reforestation plots, Laab Swamp and Kaboi Lake. Both plots are over 30 minutes by boat from DGFC and were cleared and planted, in early 2021, by our project partners and community-based cooperative, KOPEL, based in the local village of Batu Puteh.

Sampling involves the collection and measurement of the below-ground biomass of the roots and the carbon content of the soil by excavating regular-sized pits, while above-ground biomass is measured from collected leaves and deadfall. This work is both hot and heavy going given the tropical heat and near 100% humidity and each site can take a day to complete! Sampling will be carried out each year across all the Regrow Borneo sites with the aim to determine the volume of carbon sequestered per hectare against time.

Along with Prof. Benoit Goossens, Dr TC Hales is also Maz’s PhD supervisor whose project is to evaluate the impact of reforestation within the Regrow Borneo initiative.

The Regrow Borneo Project is not only looking at the benefits of reforestation regarding improved carbon absorption but also the benefits to wildlife.

Biological surveys involve regular visits to the Regrow Borneo sites, during the night and very early morning, to undertake the following surveys:

  • Transect walks to identify the presence and species of frogs
  • Setting traps for the safe capture, identification, and release of small mammals
  • Checking pitfall traps for insects (especially dung beetles, a key indicator to a healthy micro-habitat ecosystem)
  • Mist-netting to identify the visiting birds

These surveys are further supported by using acoustic monitoring, a relatively new introduction to wildlife surveillance, which can identify the presence of frogs, birds and other animals thus complementing these more conventional methods.

The Regrow Borneo project offers a more holistic approach rather than simply growing trees to store carbon. It seeks to understand how community-based tropical forest restoration can improve biodiversity, sustain local livelihoods, and improve our scientific understanding of the environmental, economic and social impact.

The project is primarily sponsored through the generous donations we receive via the UK- registered charity ‘Regrow Borneo’. Please consider making a gift by donating here, perhaps to offset your carbon from taking a recent flight, and/or if you would like to learn more about this fascinating study, please watch the Regrow Time series on YouTube.

Adapted, by John Robertson, from the project update that first appeared in Jungle Times Issue #144 (September-October 2022).


Based full-time at: Sabah Wildlife Health, Genetic and Forensics Laboratory, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Danau Girang Field Centre invites applications from suitably qualified Sabahans/Malaysians for the position of Laboratory Technician, to be based at the Sabah Wildlife Health, Genetic and Forensics Laboratory. This is a contract appointment, from January 2023 to October 2024, with the possibility of an extension into a full-time employment with us. 

The successful candidate will be aiding our projects ranging from conservation genetics to DNA wildlife forensics, and in day-to-day laboratory operations.


  • Data collection and analyses;
  • Sample and reagent storage in accordance with safety and other requirements;
  • Laboratory cleaning and maintenance activities; ordering and sourcing of supplies;
  • DNA extraction from a variety of sources, and DNA amplification and detection;
  • Report writing, and maintaining equipment records and daily work logs.

The candidate must be able to work closely with multiple collaborators and personnel from different disciplines and follow established SOPs.


Indispensable requirements are a Bachelor’s degree in life sciences or related fields, and knowledge of molecular biology techniques, particularly DNA extraction, amplification and visualization. Knowledge of population genetics is preferred including familiarity with biosafety. Preference will be given to applicants with knowledge of population/conservation genetics and with a passion for wildlife conservation. 

Fluency in English is compulsory. The successful candidate should have a strong sense of team spirit, work ethics, excellent communication skills and diplomacy.

Closing date for applications: 15th November, 2022, and will remain open until filled.

The successful applicant is expected to commence employment in January 2023.

Applications are to be sent by email, with (1) a letter of interest, (2) a CV with contact information for at least two work references to: Scientific Advisor: Dr Milena Salgado Lynn (, and Senior Conservation Geneticist: Dr Nurhartini K. Yahya (

Only shortlisted candidates will be notified and called for an on-site interview, inclusive of a practical exercise.

Asian elephants prefer habitats on the boundaries of protected areas

Asian elephants prefer habitats on the boundaries of protected areas

Issued by Danau Girang Field Centre

18 October 2022, Kota Kinabalu: New research, offering the most comprehensive analysis of Asian elephant movement and habitat preference to date, finds that elephants prefer habitats on the periphery of protected areas, rather than the areas themselves. The findings were published yesterday in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology.

An international team of researchers have analysed the movement and habitat preferences of 102 Asian elephants in Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo (Sabah), recording over 600,000 GPS locations. They found that the majority of elephants spent more than half of their time outside of protected areas, preferring slightly disturbed forests and areas of regrowth.

However, protected areas still played an important role, with the elephants’ biggest preference being for areas within three kilometres of protected area boundaries.

It’s thought that the preference for disturbed forest is related to food habits. Elephants like to eat grasses, bamboo, palms and fast-growing trees, which are common in disturbed environments, but relatively scarce under the canopy of old-growth forests.

Dr Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden and the University of Nottingham in Malaysia, and one of the lead authors of the study said: “Our results show that protected areas are very important, but not enough as an overall strategy for Asian elephant conservation.

“Given their preference for habitats outside the protected areas, elephants will inevitably come into conflict with people. This highlights the importance of promoting human-elephant coexistence around protected areas.”

The authors make clear that their findings do not diminish the importance of protected areas, a cornerstone of global conservation strategies. Professor Benoit Goossens from Danau Girang Field Centre and Cardiff University, the other lead author added: “We believe protected areas are the most effective tool for biodiversity conservation in general. In the case of Asian elephants, protected areas provide long-term safety and represent the core areas for elephant conservation.

“Our results show that elephant conservation strategies need to be realistic and acknowledge the nuances of elephant habitat needs and preferences, integrating holistic human-elephant coexistence approaches outside protected areas.”

“Based on our findings, added Goossens, we make three key recommendations for Asian elephant conservation:

  1. Include large protected areas with core areas where elephants can find safety
  2. Incorporate ecological corridors to connect networks of protected areas
  3. Mitigate against human-elephant conflict, especially around protected areas, with emphasis on protecting people’s safety and livelihoods, as well as promoting tolerance towards elephant presence.”

The Sundaic region, where the research took place, is a global hotspot for biodiversity. However, it is estimated that only 50% of the region’s original forest remains and less of 10% (but almost 30% in Sabah) of it is formally protected. Asian elephants are endangered and live in highly fragmented landscapes in this region.

Because of the extensive home ranges of Asian elephants, they can often find themselves in human dominated landscapes, which inevitably leads to human-elephant conflict.

In the study, the researchers analysed the movement of 102 Asian elephants, recording over 60,000 GPS locations across the Malay peninsula and Borneo. The data was compiled from over a decade of fieldwork by three research groups.

The researchers then compared this data with the locations of formally protected areas to see how much time elephants spent in these areas and the areas around them.

Protected areas can range dramatically in the level of protection they receive. In this study the authors only included protected areas listed in the World Database of Protected Areas in their analysis. They did not include exploited forest reserves which are used for logging.

Speaking on the next steps for research in this area and Asian elephant conservation, Dr Antonio de la Torre, first author of the study, said: “Human-elephant conflict is now the main threat for Asian elephants, yet we know surprisingly little about the effectiveness of different mitigation strategies and how to promote long-term and sustainable human-elephant coexistence.

“Understanding how we can reduce the costs of this conflict for both people and elephants, and how to increase people’s tolerance towards elephant presence, should be the top research priority in the area.”

The paper is Open Access and can be downloaded at the following link: .



For more information on this press release, please contact:

Dr Benoit Goossens
Danau Girang Field Centre

Collared female elephant crossing a tributary in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Malaysia. Photo credit: Rudi Delvaux/DGFC


Closeup of orangutan in Borneo

Half-Earth doubles gains for orangutans

Half-Earth doubles gains for orangutans

A joint press release from HUTAN and Danau Girang Field Centre

16 October 2022, Kota Kinabalu: A new study in Oryx—The International Journal of Conservation assesses what would happen to Bornean orangutans in the next decade under different management assumptions. 

The study looks at three scenarios: Business As Usual (BAU), which is the continuation of on-going management practices; the Half-Earth vision, a concept launched by E.O. Wilson in which half of the land and sea would be protected to manage sufficient habitat to reverse the species extinction crisis and ensure the long-term health of our planet; the Whole-Earth approach, also known as “Sharing the Planet” vision, which advocates the global integration of conservation agenda with other societal goals.

The group of 20 experts from Malaysia, Indonesia and overseas participating in the study concluded that under current management practices orangutan populations may decline by around 27% between now and 2032 in Borneo. This would represent several hundreds of orangutans for Sabah alone.

Professor Benoit Goossens, Director of Danau Girang Field Centre and affiliated with the Sabah Wildlife Department, commented that “business-as-usual in orangutan conservation is clearly insufficient to support the protection of the species. Luckily there appear to be better strategies, with especially a Half-Earth approach to conservation predicted to strongly reduce orangutan declines in the next decade”.  

Half-Earth, with a goal of protecting at least half of Borneo, would be comparatively easy to achieve and would reduce the decline in the orangutan population by 2032 by at least half compared to current management. “Indeed, 65% of Sabah’s landmass is forested, and Sabah is committed to ensuring that at least 50% of its landmass is designated and protected for sustainable forest exploitation, environmental protection, biodiversity conservation, and socio-economic well-being,” added Goossens.

The Whole-Earth approach, a fundamentally different approach to conservation focused on equitable land management, finance, and governance, was, however, foreseen to lead to greater forest loss and ape killing and a 56% population decline within the next 10 years across Borneo. Whole-Earth approaches are valuable but may not be workable for the short-term orangutan conservation needs, because of political and economic realities on the ground.

Dr Marc Ancrenaz, HUTAN Scientific Director and also affiliated with the Sabah Wildlife Department, said “the good news is that this analysis predicts that, if orangutan killing and habitat loss were stopped, orangutan populations could rebound and reach 148% of their current size by 2122. The recent surveys by the Sabah Wildlife Department and their partners show that the size of most orangutan populations is stabilizing in the State. Despite large population declines over the past 20 years, we start to see glimmers of hope for orangutans. Indonesian and Malaysian deforestation rates are down, as are expansion rates of oil palm and other crops.”

However effective conservation investment and management are needed to ensure that orangutan habitats would remain permanently forested, and that the other key threat – unsustainable killing – is effectively addressed. To prevent killing, more effective engagement with rural communities on Borneo is urgently needed, and this is where elements of the Whole-Earth approach are helpful – particularly in prompting a long-term overhaul of orangutan conservation’s scientific, ethical and funding models. 

The authors encourage both the Indonesian and Malaysian government to build on their commitments to setting aside at least half the land area of their countries for conservation, while enforcing the policies that ensure forests are conserved and orangutan killing is halted and the degradation of its habitat is halted and reversed. They also call on the Global North to match these commitments from the tropics by restoring natural areas. At the same time, they highlight the importance of adopting more holistic, equitable Whole-Earth style approaches when designing long-term strategies for orangutan conservation.

It is not an easy path ahead, but solutions exist that can ensure the long-term survival and even population recovery of the Asian red ape.

The article Restoring the red ape in a whole- or half-earth context is available in Oryx—The International Journal of Conservation. Publication of this article was sponsored by the SSC–Oryx Partnership Fund.

The paper is available at


For more information on this press release, please contact:

Dr. Benoit Goossens
Danau Girang Field Centre


Poster on Protecting orangutans requires a new vision for human-orangutan coexistence

Poster with the question, What is needed to recover orangutan populations?

Close up of orangutan in Borneo

Justice for Silent Victims X: Investigation, Prosecution and Courtroom Training

Justice for Silent Victims X: Investigation, Prosecution and Courtroom Training

A joint press release from Sabah Wildlife Department, Danau Girang Field Centre, Justice for Wildlife Malaysia and the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ)

22–26 August 2022, Kota Kinabalu: 32 representatives of nine state departments, law enforcement agencies and NGOs gathered this week to participate in the Justice for Silent Victims X: Investigation, Prosecution and Courtroom Training. Jointly organized by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office (USDOJ) of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT), Justice for Wildlife Malaysia (JWM), and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), the participants gained experience on arrests, interviewing, prosecution and court decorum methods and techniques through a mix of presentations and practical exercises. 

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) funded the course through the project “Boosting Enforcement and Forensic Capability to Deter Wildlife Trafficking in Sabah,” coordinated by the SWD and DGFC, and through OPDAT. Poaching, hunting, illegal killing and trade, are real threats to the many endangered species in Sabah and have been at the forefront of wildlife enforcement agenda, more so in recent years. 

“We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Justice and to Justice for Wildlife Malaysia for partnering with the Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre to deliver this training,” said the SWD’s Deputy Director, Mr. Mohd Soffian Abu Bakar. “It is important to establish strong cases in order for the prosecution to successfully convict criminals. We have been strengthening our investigation capacity but we still need to improve on consolidating the results of investigations into convincing prosecutions; in the SWD and other state agencies, our officers are not formal lawyers, our prosecutorial capacity is derived from trainings such as this one. We couldn’t do it either without the support of members of the Malaysian Judiciary, especially Sabah’s Judiciary office,” he concluded.

For her part, Ms. Sylvia Shweder, USDOJ’s OPDAT Regional Resident Legal Advisor for Counter Wildlife Trafficking in Southeast Asia, said that “the United States supports workshops like this so the global community can work together to dismantle wildlife trafficking criminal organizations that are endangering our world’s treasured animals.”

Working together with the U.S. Department of Justice and the NGO PANTHERA, Justice for Wildlife Malaysia has been organizing the Justice for Silent Victims workshops, mostly in Peninsular Malaysia. “We are very excited to finally engage with officers from Sabah, in Sabah, for our crime-scene-to-courtroom training. We are happy to see the enthusiasm of the participants and we look forward to working with them in addressing transboundary wildlife crime and fostering a good prosecution network to make sure wildlife criminals can be put behind bars,” commented Dr. Nor Arlina Amirah Ahmad Ghani, Director and Co-founder of Justice of Wildlife Malaysia.

Dr. Milena Salgado Lynn, who is the coordinator of the INL project for DGFC said, “The INL-funded project has allowed us to support a strong inter-agency network that has been training together in several topics including Crime Scene Investigation, Biosafety, and Online Investigations. This prosecution and courtroom training is another next step on the ladder to reach convictions after prosecution cases are presented in court. We are encouraged to keep up with the work when we see the participants fully engaging in the courses and also supporting each other during real-life cases.”

The program “Boosting Enforcement and Forensic Capacity in Sabah to Deter Wildlife Crimes” will enter its final year in October 2022 and it is expected to continue supporting similar trainings until its conclusion.


For more information on this press release, please contact:

Dr. Milena Salgado Lynn

Danau Girang Field Centre

Protecting all remaining forests and abandoning the Sukau bridge project crucial for the future of Kinabatangan elephants

Protecting all remaining forests and abandoning the Sukau bridge project crucial for the future of Kinabatangan elephants

Press release from Danau Girang Field Centre, Forever Sabah, HUTAN and Seratu Aatai

1 August 2022, Kinabatangan, Sabah: Protecting all remaining forests and abandoning plans for a public road through the Kinabatangan elephant range is of prime importance if we want to safeguard this highly threatened population. A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports also stresses out that effectively managing areas outside of protected areas is also necessary for the long-term survival of the Kinabatangan elephant population.

In this study, the authors used GPS collared data for 14 elephants and developed land use/land cover data to assess how these elephants use the oil palm dominated landscape in the Kinabatangan floodplain. “With these data, we identified the distribution and hot spots of 11 females and three males living in the Lower Kinabatangan from 2010 to 2020. We also estimated the proportion of time spent within differing land use categories within the elephant’s hot spots and compared this with their known ranges,” explained Dr Nicola Abram, from Forever Sabah. “We also looked at time spent by elephants in different oil palm estates to identify where better management strategies are needed to improve habitat permeability and reduce human-elephant conflicts,” said Abram.

“Moreover, identifying the location of hot spots, or areas most frequented by the elephants, is essential in designing appropriate management practices in collaboration with land users and identifying the best location for elephants corridors; something that all our organisations, HUTAN, Seratu Aatai, Danau Girang Field Centre and Forever Sabah, together with Sabah Wildlife Department and Sabah Forestry Department have been working on for several years,” said Dr Nurzhafarina Othman, Senior Lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sabah and founder of Seratu Aatai.

In the Lower Kinabatangan, 49 km 2 of unprotected forest being on state land and various land titles are at risk of being converted.

“Protecting these forests is an essential and efficient way to secure key elephant habitat since all collared individuals were using these forest fragments in their entire range. On average, 24% of time was spent in unprotected forests within hot spots. In fact, five females had large proportions of their hot spot extents in unprotected forests, spending substantial periods of their time (33-61%) within these threatened areas,” added Othman. “It is therefore critical for the survival of the elephant population in the Kinabatangan that these unprotected forests are preserved and acquire protection status as soon as possible,” stressed Othman.

“Another significant issue faced by these elephants is the threat from the controversial Sukau bridge and road/highway that is set out in the Sabah Structure Plan, said Professor Benoit Goossens from Cardiff University, and director of Danau Girang Field Centre. “Currently, a new road is under construction on the northern bank of the village of Sukau, and this has already cleared areas of unprotected forest. This public road could link to a potential new bridge that would cross over the Kinabatangan River, cutting through unprotected forest and a protected area (Lot 3 of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary), before going through palm oil estates,” added Goossens. “For the Kinabatangan, creating a public highway will cut the elephant population range into two parts. All collared elephants use this area, as it is a key bottleneck and the only alternative option to pass around Sukau village. Our analyses suggest that if the road/highway (and the bridge) goes ahead it will have a significant impact on the elephants’ behaviour. By disturbing their ranging patterns and segmenting the entire elephant range, there will be dire consequences for these animals and their family groups. The existing road in Batu Putih has already proven to be an impassable barrier for this population. It is our hope that this study illustrates the importance of protecting all forested habitats, effectively managing areas outside of protected areas and completely abandoning the plan for a new cross-Kinabatangan bridge
as stated in the recent Cabinet-approved Bornean Elephant Action Plan 2020-2029,” concluded Goossens.

The collaring of the elephants in the Kinabatangan was mainly supported by Houston Zoo, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Elephant Family, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong, US Fish and Wildlife Service Asian Elephant Conservation Fund and the Asian Elephant Foundation.


For more information on this press release, please contact:

Dr. Benoit Goossens
Danau Girang Field Centre

Course on Monitoring and Detecting Illegal Wildlife Trade Online or Through Social Media Platforms and Procedures for Seizing Digital Equipment and Digital Evidence to boost enforcement efforts against wildlife crimes

Course on Monitoring and Detecting Illegal Wildlife Trade Online or Through Social Media Platforms and Procedures for Seizing Digital Equipment and Digital Evidence to boost enforcement efforts against wildlife crimes

A joint press release from Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre

23 January 2022, Kota Kinabalu: Members of the Wildlife Crime Interagency Working Group comprising of representatives of various state departments, law enforcement agencies and NGOs recently completed a two (2) day course earlier last week on how to monitor social media platforms and seize digital equipment and evidence applicable to wildlife trafficking and illegal trade.

Jointly organised by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), the training provided an opportunity for the working group to improve their knowledge on theoretical and practical aspects related to information gathering using open-source techniques, "First Responder Activity" and also "Data Preservation" that will be used during raid activities carried out against the criminals involved who use Social Media as a platform for criminal conduct.

This course is the 14th in a series funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), through the project “Boosting Enforcement and Forensic Capability to Deter Wildlife Trafficking in Sabah” coordinated by the SWD and DGFC. Poaching, hunting, illegal killing and trade, are real threats to the many endangered species in Sabah and have been at the forefront of wildlife enforcement agenda, more so in recent years.

Mr Augustine Tuuga, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department explained: “recently the illegal trade of Wildlife species is often carried out virtually or through social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram and so on. This presents a huge challenge to enforcement personnel, especially in collecting digital evidence. Cases of departmental arrests involving online sales are still few and often arrests are made when it is ensured that protected wildlife is under the possession of the suspect. Furthermore, under the existing law it is not an offense for a person to display animals that are protected or fully protected on his/her social media platform.”

Meanwhile, DGFC has been working intensely with SWD to combat these criminal activities by organising and facilitating trainings like this one, and also by setting up an Intelligence Unit and a Forensic Unit at the SWD.

Dr. Milena Salgado Lynn who is the coordinator of the INL project for DGFC said, “We are very grateful to MCMC for agreeing to form a close cooperation with the SWD in providing the training courses last week for the Interagency Working Group also set up during this Programme. The feedback from the participants has been very positive. Although for many it was a new topic, they mentioned feeling more confident in doing this type of online investigation. It is the commitment and response of the participating agencies that has enabled us to successfully deliver previous courses, despite the COVID-19 pandemic constraints.”

“It was very encouraging when INL offered to fund the continuation of the project for two more years, after the original end date of October 2021. We look forward to the next two years and seeing the impact it can do to curb these illegal activities,” she concluded.

Almost RM8 million have been funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the US State Department towards this enforcement and forensic program which has been running since October 2019.


For more information on this press release, please contact:

Dr Benoit Goossens
Danau Girang Field Centre