Thursday, October 31, 2013

From the Blank Park Zoo

Conservation Spotlight: Kinabatangan River Spirit Initiative

Kinabatangan River Spirit: Contributing to Freshwater Conservation & Sustainable Livelihoods in Northern Borneo

Although well known for its terrestrial biodiversity, Borneo Island is also a hotspot for aquatic diversity, with almost 40% of its freshwater fish species endemic to the island. The most isolated among the island’s watersheds, the Kinabatangan River has the highest levels of freshwater endemism on the island. Unfortunately, degradation of the river is experienced by local communities. Water critical for rural and urban populations is polluted and highly sedimented; and freshwater fish important for livelihoods have become scarce. Although river dwellers recognize the changes in the river, nothing has been done to document the loss in fish diversity or change in overall river health. Communities have had little role in the future of their river and have been left to adapt to the seemingly inevitable.

After spending 15 years in the United States, including a seven-year financial career in New York City, Tun-Min Poh discovered her passion for saving the fish and wanted to spread the word. She is now committed to marine and freshwater conservation, promoting sustainable fisheries in her home country of Malaysia. She runs the Kinabatangan River Spirit Initiative in Malayan-Borneo, a freshwater conservation project with a focus on fish and a community-based approach.

She spoke about this initiative at the Zoos and Aquariums Committed to Conservation Conference (ZACC) earlier this summer, hosted by Blank Park Zoo. The Kinabatangan River Spirit Initiative was conceived on the basis that community participation in research and management is critical for achieving a healthy river, and developed based on the needs identified by the local Kinabatangan community. The project envisages a healthy Kinabatangan river, which supports robust freshwater biodiversity, persistence of local culture, and sustainable development. The goals of this project include providing a baseline for fish diversity, gathering information on locally and globally threatened species, and strengthening the argument for sustainable development practices in the Kinabatangan catchment. Tun-Min Poh recently sent over pictures to the Zoo documenting their work.

Photo Captions starting at top:

Workshop hosted by community-based eco-tourism cooperative KOPEL with local communities in Batu Puteh and
Mengaris to present and discuss our project and freshwater fish conservation (September 7, 2013)

A total of 45 interviews were conducted in the villages of Batu Puteh and Mengaris to identify the value of the river to the community, determine the threats, and find solutions. Here is one of our interviewers, Mr. Abdul Rahman from the Mengaris community, presenting a t-shirt to an interviewee. The production of these t-shirts was made possible by the contribution of ZACC!
The kids from Batu Puteh and Mengaris were thrilled to see their home the Kinabatangan and its wildlife presented in a poster made by their peers in the United States!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Slow Loris Conservation - submitted by Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Join the Little Fireface Project in celebrating Slow Loris Outreach Week (SLOW) September 14-20, 2013.
The aim of Slow Loris Outreach Week is to bring attention to the conservation plight of wild lorises, which are threatened not only by the pet trade but also by habitat loss and hunting for use in traditional medicines. The hope is that educating the public about these amazing creatures, which include among them the world’s only venomous primates, will inspire efforts to project them, and to denounce “cute” videos depicting loris victims of the pet trade.

Slow lorises are small primates related to lemurs. These shy, nocturnal animals can be found across Southeast Asia, moving through the forests at night feeding on tree saps and searching for insect prey. Their endearing appearance hides a fascinating fact- they are the only known venomous primates.

Slow lorises face many threats to their survival, including habitat loss. Most recently these unique creatures have become internet stars in large part due to their cute appearance. This fame is helping to fuel a cruel, illegal and unsustainable trade that harvests lorises from their wild habitats to be sold in markets as pets. Not only is  this practice having devastating effects on slow loris populations, but these unfortunate animals suffer terribly as a result. Our conservation partners at The Little Fireface Project have recently published the first scholarly paper linking viral web videos of loris pets to the surging wildlife trade.

 Be a loris web defender…
·      Don’t “like” or support online videos of pet lorises.

Instead, direct viewers and friends online to resources that expose the truth about slow loris pets and the illegal wildlife trade.

·      Spread the truth online during Slow Loris Outreach Week (September 14-20)

·      Visit to learn more about you can help slow lorises and take action by signing petitions against slow loris trade and web exploitation.