Eco-ethology of proboscis monkey, Nasalis larvatus, and assessment of its role in forest regeneration along the Kinabatangan River

Project Description

PhD Candidate: Valentine Thiry

Institution: Université Libre de Bruxelles

Supervisors: Martine Vercauteren, Roseline C. Benudel-Jamar, Benoît Goossens

Duration: October 2014 – October 2018

Valentine is studying proboscis monkeys, and their feeding ecology in particular. She makes her behavioural and ecological observations along the Kinabatangan riverside, and collects faecal samples every morning at sleeping sites. She will study proboscis monkey’s diet using the DNA metabarcoding methodology by comparing short chloroplast DNA sequences found in faeces to a plant DNA Database (a database she builds along the way for this purpose). Her aim is to identify proboscis monkey’s food items in the Kinabatangan fragmented landscape and to study the seasonal dietary variations throughout the year. Interested in the role proboscis monkeys could potentially play in seed dispersal, she will also investigate faecal samples for their content in seeds and set up different germination tests. Finally, she will study how the phytochemical composition of leaves varies between consumed and not-consumed plant species, with a gradient distance to the river.

The project aims to determine which the key plant species for N. larvatus are in the fragmented landscape of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and to contribute to the conservation of this endangered species.