Following on from our meeting with the Rector of the Muhammadiyah University of Palangka Raya (UMP), our Mungku Baru Education Forest research expedition began last month. Due to the site’s remoteness, communications are difficult, but we have received reports that a number of important findings have been made and important forest and wildlife species documented. We have also been delighted to work with a total 11 UMP students so far on the expedition and to be accompanied by the University of Exeter’s Professor Frank van Veen.
Dr Mark Harrison, BNF Co-Director and one of the expedition leaders, says “the forest here is incredible: largely undisturbed, with possibly the most variations in habitat types that I have seen and an abundance of wildlife already spotted. These characteristics suggest that this forest is likely to be important habitat for many threatened flora and fauna species”.
As expected, both the (now Critically Endangered) Bornean orangutan and southern Bornean gibbon have been identified as present in the area, and intensive population density surveys are underway. These surveys will identify ape population densities in the myriad of different forest types found in the Education Forest, which in turn will help us better assess population size over the wider Rungan landscape. Other species sightings to date include long-tailed porcupines, colugos (or flying lemurs), red langur monkeys, 12 fish species, 76 tree species, plus numerous other birds, mammals and reptiles.
Dr Harrison explains that “we expect the wide diversity of forest types in the area, ranging from tall to medium kerangas (heath forests), to peat swamps and riverine forest, to help support high biodiversity levels in the area. It will be fascinating to see which other new species we document during the remainder of the expedition and to learn more about the factors driving this diversity”.
Despite these exciting findings, the expedition hasn’t been without its challenges, most notably of which has been the almost complete flooding of camp! Two consecutive very heavy rains led to the river alongside camp bursting its banks and flooding the communal camp areas, making life in camp “interesting” and providing some amusing moments as most of us took our turn falling off the new raised walkways into the flood waters!